What To Do When Everything Sucks
A Guide to Transcending Existential Depression
Yes, everything is pointless.
Yes, everything sucks.
That doesn’t mean you have to be depressed about it 🙂
DEPRESSION = 🙂
First of all, depression isn’t an inherently bad thing.
The idea that depression is “bad” and that you need to be “cured,” is the only thing that makes it into a “problem.”
If you are a depressed human organism, you’re just as natural and beautiful as a thunderstorm over the ocean or a vast expanse of sandy desert or a lazy panda, napping in a patch of bamboo. Except instead of napping in a patch of bamboo, you’re lying in a bed (or sitting on the floor, or wallowing in a quagmire of misery of some kind), reading about depression.
Maybe the Universe IS pointless. Maybe everything IS garbage. From a certain perspective, these things are obviously true. If you feel like indulging your depression, giving up on life, and saying “fuck everything, everything sucks,” that’s fine too.
But, if, for some reason, you’d rather not be depressed right now — I don’t know, maybe you’d rather do something exciting / fulfilling / responsible / fun with your life instead of just lying in bed all day — then read on. These are the dark-arts secrets — well, actually, they’re more like the well-known common-sense habits — for how to naturally rise above your depression.
Right now, your mind may be focused on things like “pointlessness,” “meaninglessness,” and what I like to call “everything is garbagishness.”
Now, a lot of “positive thinking” advocates might tell you to “look at the bright side” or “think positive.” But the truth is, you’re right. Everything is pointless, meaningless, and garbage. It would feel fake to try to deny that. For people who care about “truth,” it’s almost not worth it. It almost feels better to be depressed than to be intentionally naive.
Instead of trying to “think positive,” just try to enjoy the fact that everything is pointless. Smile about it. Haha, everything is garbage!
Alright then. Now we’re in a place where we can start moving forward.
Part of why we get so tired when we’re depressed is that we spend way too much energy trying to fight it… trying to resist the idea that everything is pointless. “No,” we shout into the void, “it’s not pointless! I shouldn’t be depressed! What’s wrong with me?” Stop doing that. Give up on that fight. When we let go of that resistance to the obvious truth of reality, we reclaim a lot of our natural energy.
The Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama — arguably the greatest psychologist of all time — tried to explain this to the people of India over 2,500 years ago.
According to the Buddha, if we want to be “awake” in life, we must come to terms with three “noble truths.”
1. Dukkha (roughly translated: “everything sucks”)
2. Anicca (roughly translated: “the Universe is basically just particle soup”)
3. Anatta (roughly translated: “not only will you one day die, but you don’t even really exist now; everything, including you, is just part of the Universe-soup”)
When we stop struggling against these obvious truths, we can finally relax, and just let reality be as it is. We can breathe a sigh of relief. We can even smile, and laugh about it. How silly… we were making ourselves depressed by trying not to be depressed 🙂 The Universe is meaningless! Hooray!
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, and we’ve reclaimed some of our energy, we can actually start moving the body.
Yes, that means getting out of bed, off the couch, and actually moving around. Ugh. Sounds like garbage. I know. Why in this pointless Universe would we ever want to do that?
Well, what if I told you it could actually feel good after a few minutes? Would that change your mind?
If you want to go on feeling depressed, be my guest. Just stop reading right here, lie down and take a nap. No problem 🙂 Nothing wrong with being depressed, after all.
If you do have some urge to get un-depressed and live a more fun and enjoyable life, then get up and do something.
Go for a walk outside (put on clothes if you have to). Try to get a peek at the sky, if you can. Maybe even some trees, or animals, or other human beings. You don’t have to interact with them, just go out and see them.
Try to move your body as much as you can.
You can start off just by getting out of bed and walking around a little bit. That will help. If that’s as much as you can do right now, that’s great. Take it easy. Baby steps. But if you can, try to increase your movement as you go along. Try walking farther. Faster. Maybe even try going to the gym. Work out longer, and harder.
Get your body moving. Get your blood flowing.
Behaviorally, being “depressed” means lying around and being inactive. If you’re running around and actively doing things — especially healthy things that are good for your body — are you actually even depressed anymore?
Moving your body has a way of changing your whole outlook on life. Who knows… maybe you’ll even start to feel like doing other things again 🙂
Before reading on, stop here, and actually get up and do something. Even if it’s just a short walk.
Seriously. Stop reading, move your body, and go outside.
If your mindset is good and your body is moving, you’re already pretty much out of the depression zone. But if you want to take it up a notch and really be a happy MF, take a few minutes to get your heart in the right place 🙂
It’s healthy to have peace of mind and movement of body… but without a warm, loving heart, you’ll still feel cold and disconnected.
In order to be fundamentally happy and healthy, you’ll need to generate love toward yourself and toward the people around you. You can do this by cultivating a kind heart within yourself.
Smile warmly at everyone you see (or if there’s nobody around, just smile at them in your mind for now).
Wish them well in your heart.
Recognize that they are, like you, just doing their best in life, trying to make it work, and figuring it out as they go along.
Recognize that they too have pain in their lives.
Try to help people who are sad or hurting. Try to cheer them up and make them feel better 🙂
Be glad for people when they are happy.
Finally, don’t forget to treat yourself with this same kind of love.
This all may feel weird and unnatural at first. Lifelong habits — especially mental/emotional ones — are hard to change. If you’ve been cultivating coldness/callousness/etc for your whole life, you’ve literally wired your neurons in a way that makes it hard to generate love.
Keep trying anyway. Just like with any new skill, it may be difficult at first, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes as natural as taking a shit. Or riding a bike. Whatever.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR OTHER NEEDS
Part of being depressed is languishing away in a hopeless, pointless, meaningless situation, where you feel unfulfilled in some way or another.
By getting your body moving and working on your physical health, you’re already moving in the right direction. You’re doing something productive, something healthy, something that is moving you forward.
But there are other parts of life that are important too, and if you neglect them, you’re gonna have a bad time.
Food. Shelter. Sex. Independence. Financial security. Being respected by the people around you. Feeling a sense of fulfillment from doing something awesome. All that crap on Maslow’s pyramid of human needs.
Start with the stuff on the bottom, and work your way up from there. The higher you climb on the pyramid, the happier and healthier you’ll be.
Get what you need. It’s not as hard as you might think. You can do it if you put some effort into it.
By taking care of all that stuff — mind, body, heart, etc — you’ll be as healthy and happy as pretty much anybody around you.
The problem is, as the Buddha so eloquently said… nothing lasts forever. You may get into a good place, but then — after a few days/weeks/months — fall out of it and get depressed again. Happens all the time. That’s just how life goes.
For that, we have a couple of solutions.
The first, and most obvious solution, is to cultivate a routine, a system of habits, a “spiritual practice,” if you will. Meditation works really well. If you meditate every morning, it clears all the BS out of your mind, and lets you focus on the important things. Like staying happy and healthy. HERE’S A LINK TO AN ARTICLE ABOUT HOW TO MEDITATE, in case you were wondering.
In my case, I also started writing little “reminders” for myself, to remind me of the important things in life, to keep up my healthy mindset, and to make sure I stay on a good path. I wrote down all my reminders in a little journal, and I read them every morning. I recently compiled them into a digital version, which you can have for free 🙂 You can download the PDF by clicking HERE 🙂
Until next time, brothers and sisters of the depressive mind.
I love you all.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Meditation Magazine.