Shiny happy people speak out
June 19, 2010 6:07 PM   Subscribe

Sometimes it feels like everyone on MeFi is depressed, including me. I'd like to hear from the happy ones.

What's your secret? What's your philosophy in life? What do you think of the prevalence of depression seemingly everywhere you turn? What do you do when you're close to the blues? Do you read all the depression-related questions here and think WTF? Seriously, how do you do it?
posted by scuza to Human Relations (94 answers total) 122 users marked this as a favorite
I distract myself and don't take my emotional temperature all the time. I also don't think about stuff.
posted by anniecat at 6:10 PM on June 19, 2010 [21 favorites]

Let me be the first to say that therapy helps a lot.
posted by Jon-o at 6:10 PM on June 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

I'm just a happy guy. Always have been.
posted by unixrat at 6:15 PM on June 19, 2010

I have a history of clinical depression, but I haven't needed medication in at least 4 years. And honestly, I'd like to think I'm pretty happy most of the time. I tend to focus on the small things that go right, and the big things I have in my life going for me, than focusing on being unhappy because of some ridiculous thing. I have a hard time remaining friends with people who focus entirely on the tiny negatives in their lives rather than enjoy their decent jobs, nice houses, and supportive loved ones. I'm happy with a candy bar and terrible TV. I also realize that I subconsciously set my wants at absolutely attainable levels, which helps.

But when you're depressed, you're depressed, there's not a lot of lifting yourself up by your bootstraps you can do. I've now realized when it's happening and I have to quickly decide if it's a stressful few weeks or if I'm sliding into depression again, and act accordingly (by booking a doctor's appointment).

I surmise as well that perhaps because you're depressed, you only focus on the negatives and depression everywhere else, as well.
posted by kpht at 6:16 PM on June 19, 2010

Drugs help. Really. Prescribed or otherwise.

On the other hand check out 14,000 Things to Be Happy About.

Chat and vent with family and friends.

As M. Scott Peck wrote in his book 'The Road Less Traveled:' "Life is Difficult." Move on from that premise.
posted by ericb at 6:17 PM on June 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Good exercise, good food, good friends, and the ability to keep my eyes on what matters in life.
posted by smorange at 6:19 PM on June 19, 2010 [6 favorites]

I have a dog who adores me and is really fucking happy to see me every time I walk in the door (even if all I did was take out the trash).

I have a great relationship with my parents and enjoy talking with them on the phone each week.

I deal with sadness, loneliness, or frustration by working my ass off at a job I love. It keeps me too busy to wallow in misery.

For $15, I can take a bus to NYC and visit my best friend/practically adopted sister for a weekend and escape the local bullshit.

Also, wine and chocolate help.
posted by olinerd at 6:20 PM on June 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

I'm not consciously into the zen thing, but I do think it has something to teach us. Seems like a lot of silly catch-phrases and weird thinking on the surface, but if you pay attention long enough, you see an anodyne to the major thing corrupting us which leads to depression and anger - our egos. If we can step away from our pride and our vanity sometimes, we can see the futility and downright silliness of being so worked up about some things.

I think depression is directly related to a self-centered, naval-gazing outlook on life (which is why I don't really identify myself with the kind of people who often identify as "zen"). I don't know if it's more prevalent than it used to be, really; melancholy was fairly epidemic in the 1800s when war and disease made it pretty unlikely the average person, especially a man, would live to 60, but I do think the modern expectation that everything's going to be peachy all the time and if it doesn't feel that way, take a pill. If you can figure out you're not really all that, it seems more natural that some days are better than others.

On a more mundane level, I nearly got permanently killed in a motorcycle accident a couple years ago. I made a more-or-less full recovery, but as a result I think I now have a perspective on things that I've heard expressed by combat veterans, not that my self-induced troubles are worthy to be compared with theirs: every day is a gift. Nothing I am likely to face* at work today is likely to be like that time I was laying in bed unable to walk with tubes sticking out of me.

*unless it's a truck
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:22 PM on June 19, 2010 [8 favorites]

posted by milarepa at 6:23 PM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Live for the day. Focus on the wonderful things in your life. Pay attention to the beauty around you. Savour your food. Care about other people. Laugh.
posted by Go Banana at 6:23 PM on June 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

IS that everythings going to be peachy...
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:23 PM on June 19, 2010

I find humor in the absurd, generally don't obsess over things I have no control over, and try to spend as much time as possible doing things I like.

Which is not to say that I don't occasionally freak out or get depressed, I totally do. But I also always try to remember the previous times that I freaked out or got depressed, and how it ended up being ok those times.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 6:24 PM on June 19, 2010

For me, it's a series of fake-it-til-you-make-it attitude that do it. They boil down to, almost entirely, these steps:

When you recognize yourself feeling contempt for a human being, stop.
When you recognize yourself judging or ridiculing a human being, stop.
When you recognize yourself boiling human matters down to black and white, consider the gray areas.

Stay away from people who do the above things. Seriously. I avoid serially snarky people like the god-damn plague. Yes, there's always room for a bit of viciousness and sarcasm in humor, and I can accept that. What I can not abide by an individual who cannot open their mouth without some sort of judgmental remark coming out of it. All the more when they shrink up/blow up when that sort of treatment is reversed upon the.

One more thing: the universe entitles you to nothing. You are not entitled to happiness, prosperity, wealth, anything at all. Any suffering you feel, or have felt does not mean you get any more of a break in life than anyone else. You are not owed a damn thing in this world. Do not ever act as if you are. Avoid people who do.

That being said: be kind. The only time you will catch a break is from someone who goes out of their way to be kind to you. Do so yourself, regardless of the above fact. This isn't about fate or karma or any such mystical claptrap. It is about knowing you are, as much as you can, doing the right thing.

Also: Taking my medication. Yeah. That's a big 'un.
posted by griphus at 6:26 PM on June 19, 2010 [107 favorites]

Sometimes it feels like everyone on MeFi is depressed...

Mefi is not any sort of firm example of all of humanity. Go outside and play.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:27 PM on June 19, 2010 [5 favorites]

Lucky brain chemistry? I have no idea, really. I don't think it's anything special that I do, because that would sort of presuppose that other people's depression is something that can just be lifted by living a certain way or doing certain things.

I did make a conscious decision in my mid-twenties, after a phase of (self-diagnosed) anxiety and panicky behavior to stop being so damned introspective. So I often deliberately do not examine my thought processes. Happy but shallow?
posted by gaspode at 6:27 PM on June 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

EXERCISE! Really, it makes an incredible difference for me. If I go a week or so without any sort of activity, I start to feel sluggish and blue. Regular exercise works wonders for me.

Also, if I'm having a horrible day and find myself feeling incredibly anguished, sad, depressed, mad, etc., I consciously remind myself that I am feeling an emotion (or multiple emotions), and emotions pass. I remind myself that I won't always feel this way, and in fact, I may feel much better the very next morning.
posted by pecanpies at 6:27 PM on June 19, 2010 [9 favorites]

Love, sex, good drinks, changes, the sunset, the string lights in my apartment, moving forward on my creative projects, my cat curled up beside me, sleeping in.

I've had moments of darkness, but I'm essentially an optimist. I also try to be very perceptive of the world around me. When I go to bed, and lie down under the open window, smell backyard fire pits smoldering in the distance and hear insects calling out for their mates, I turn my husband and say: "Do you hear that and smell that and see that and feel that?" Often, he says no. And he doesn't have nearly as rosy an outlook as I do.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:28 PM on June 19, 2010 [17 favorites]

What's your secret? What's your philosophy in life?
Don't care about what other people/things in the world want from you; just try to do your best according to your own lights. Trying is the point; doesn't matter if you achieve it or not. But you've gotta try.

p.s. This only works if you already have a well-developed sense of right, wrong, and appropriateness that meshes with ideals the world claims it wants, not what it actually encourages. May not be effective for narcissists, sociopaths, and other non-standard people. Guarantee void in Tennessee ;-)
What do you think of the prevalence of depression seemingly everywhere you turn?
I think it's symptomatic of people existing in a world at odds with my first point.
What do you do when you're close to the blues?
Remember point 1.
Do you read all the depression-related questions here and think WTF?
Yes ;-)
posted by Pinback at 6:29 PM on June 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

I keep a scrapbook of sorts (and yes, I'm male). I have a folder for every year, in which I keep mementos -- birthday cards, postcards, important ticket stubs, programs. I even sometimes print out e-mails and Word docs and add them to the folders.

When I go through the folders at various times throughout my life (often just one or two at a time because I now have 20 of them), I always get a pleasant surprise: "Hey, I forgot about that. That was a good time."

I realize now, after all these years, that the folders are a way of talking to myself. I sound like Clarence the Angel:

"You see, Flying Saucer? You really do have a wonderful life."
posted by Flying Saucer at 6:33 PM on June 19, 2010 [22 favorites]

I've got quite a history with depression, but I'm pretty happy these days.

Regular exercise, maintaining an excellent relationship with my SO, regular forays in to nature, daily meditation, good conversations with friends, doing a small creative thing (painting, playing violin, writing poems) every day or nearly every day, a few intense meditation retreats per year, taking very good care of my physical health, and, more than pretty much anything else, finding out-of-the-ordinary nice things to do for others. Really - something incredibly small and insignificant like giving a small gift to a child or buying a sandwich for a homeless guy I know makes me feel so much happier and more welcome on the planet than any kind of me-centered strategy. Having done something small and anonymous to make somebody's life a little nicer produces an amazing high.
posted by Cygnet at 6:33 PM on June 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

Here we go: "Always his course had been swayed by what he thought he should do and never by what he wanted with his whole soul to do... His ideals? ...It might be that to surrender to happiness was to accept defeat, but it was a defeat better than many victories." W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage.
posted by smorange at 6:33 PM on June 19, 2010 [28 favorites]

Sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll.

This is a serious answer.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:35 PM on June 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

There were three things that I had to accept in order to set myself free of that Young People's Angst that can hang on so very long....

1) Control what you can control. Acknowledging what is within your control and what is not makes life SO much easier. The guy trying to read the entire Starbucks menu to decide what will best go with his mood and palate that morning, while you just want a coffee? Not under your control. The only thing you can control is how you react to the situation, which will determine your emotional temperature for the day.

2) Life is not fair. Yeah, sometimes you get screwed. Sometimes life sucks. Sometimes you work really hard and nothing comes of it, while some scumbag wins the lottery. Sometimes you treat another person with respect and kindness, and you only get maltreatment in return. Well, that's life. The universe doesn't care about us enough to play favorites. Accept what is for what is, and make your decisions from there.

3) The world will not change to make me happy. I learned this when I moved to Japan and had to adjust to all the things that freaked me out here. Japan is not the United States, and a lot of cultural ideas that I had taken for granted needed to be re-examined. Eventually I realized that, if I wanted to keep living here, I was going to have to make some changes. And I did, and I'm happy here. The same goes for wherever you are.

Do I slip sometimes? Of course. But I have come to a point where, when I start to get miserable or angry or depressed, I can take a step back and assess the situation and climb back out with much less Sturm und Drang than when I was 20.
posted by MShades at 6:35 PM on June 19, 2010 [18 favorites]

Figuring out how to see the humor in any situation. Everything is funny from the right angle. A nightmare job interview can be funny from a "Fuck, my life is ridiculous" type of angle and it will make for an entertaining story one day.

Also, learning to use a less critical inner-voice. So I'm backed up in laundry? I'm not a failure, I just didn't feel like doing it. At least I have two pairs of underwear left!
posted by joeyjoejoejr at 6:39 PM on June 19, 2010 [5 favorites]

I ask myself what's the worst thing that could possibly happen. Then it doesn't happen.
posted by box at 6:39 PM on June 19, 2010 [10 favorites]

I accept occasional sadness because if I were never sad, I could never be happy. But there's a difference between temporary sadness with a reason (e.g., I'm sad because my cat is sick) and long-term, corrosive depression. My life is good, for all that it's not perfect. I can focus on all that is right and be happy, or on the wrong things and be miserable.

I've found that I tend to reflect the dominant emotional temperature, as it were, of people around me (both IRL and online). Now that I know this, I make an effort to spend my time with happy people, or at least to limit my exposure to unhappy people. Being around people who are constantly miserable drags me to their misery level, so I walk away from miserable situations or try to avoid them. For instance, if there are threads on the blue that I know will really hack me off or upset me because of content or because people are arguing in upsetting ways in the comments, I don't read them, or I remove them from recent activity. Instead I try to replace those activities with things that make me happier, like watching Doctor Who or reading a good book. This is how I distract myself when I'm pointlessly upset, or upset out of proportion to whatever's bothering me.

I didn't figure this out overnight. It took me years to clue into how to increase my maintenance happiness level, as it were. Now I consider it part of my health routine, just like taking my vitamins and brushing my teeth and trying to get enough exercise. I have chronic health issues that are associated with depression (anything that causes chronic pain increases your likelihood of being depressed), so it's important to me not to stress out and allow myself to get depressed.

As far as other people's depression questions, I do believe there's a lot of chemical depression out there and some of that can be treated with medicine. There are also a lot of people who are helped by therapy, for all that my experiences with therapy ranged from OK to awful. I think people don't pay enough attention to keeping themselves on an even keel, and some depression questions read to me like "how do I make my head stop hurting when I'm banging it against a wall all the time?". I'm not a trained professional, though, so I limit myself to offering practical advice. I certainly can't tell from a question on the internet who's situationally depressed/stressed and can benefit from changing circumstances (e.g., DTMFA, quit the job, step back from the friendship) and who really needs drugs or therapy.
posted by immlass at 6:40 PM on June 19, 2010

I'm happy, more or less. What makes the more?

1) physical activity (I like to rock climb or swim or hike or almost anything that gets me moving)
2) vitamin D in the winter (damn that lack of light).
3) Diet. I need enough fat+protein as compared to straight sugar, especially for breakfast, and I'm much happier when there are lots of veggies in my life.
4) People. I've got some awesome people in my life, and mostly I don't keep in touch with the poisonous ones. I support my friends, they support me, it all works out.

What makes the less? Mostly things I can't control. I'm still trying to work on the approach of other commenters above, that is to accept those things I can't change. But honestly I'm still pissed about some of them-- I'm mad that I'm single, I'm mad that my chosen job means I won't live in a stable city for about another decade, heck I'm mad about U.S. immigration policy and about the oil spill and homophobia and xenophobia and anti-intellectualism and the sorry state of science education and and and..

And for that I have distractions, like the internet. Thanks, metafilter, for helping to keep me sane.
posted by nat at 6:46 PM on June 19, 2010

Getting enough sleep. Seriously, just about everything tempramentally that I don't like about myself kicks in worst when I don't get enough rest.

Enjoying the moment. Not constantly second-guessing or over-analysing.
posted by rodgerd at 6:46 PM on June 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Keep working on it. I have been depressed since I was 12. I have tried medication, herbs, seminars/self growth events, self help, yoga, meditation, etc. I just didn't give up. Everyone is different and are going to respond differently. What worked for me, so surprisingly, was herbs, various seminars, and, the most important thing was to recognize my personal trigger: being overwhelmed. Too much to handle, too many responsibilities, what I 'should' be doing to save the world, too much personal stuff, all weighed heavily on me.

I found a site online that talked of suicide and overwhelm. When I found that site, it was like a lightbulb went off. I wish I could find it again, as I am so grateful for that simple awareness that changed everything.

Also, rest. (dr. claire weekes' Hope and Help for you Nerves, really allowed me to rest and recover, guilt free)

Everyone is different. Just try various avenues.

Now, I haven't been depressed in years. I would never believe it could happen, but it can. True, every now and then I feel myself starting to sink back, but I can recognize it and get back on track in a matter of days, weeks at the most, on rare occasions...
posted by Vaike at 6:47 PM on June 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Make big plans. Be willing to change your plans.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 7:02 PM on June 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think depression is directly related to a self-centered, naval-gazing outlook on life

It's a fucking medical condition caused by broken brain chemistry. Do you think heart attacks are caused by a reluctance to let go and fully accept love?
posted by DarlingBri at 7:09 PM on June 19, 2010 [75 favorites]

No secret: I don't take medication, I rarely exercise, and I don't diet. Right now, everything in my life happens to be great, and I'm happy. All the time. I've got perfect health in a body I'm very fond of, a great job with lots of challenges, a fantastic future (knock on wood), an upcoming marriage to a wonderful guy, an excellent sex life, a terrific home in a city I love, personal involvement in good causes locally and globally, and decent amounts of disposable income.

I find myself much less happy whenever a single one of the things I listed feels less than adequate. Some I can fix, others – not so much. Combine any two or more, and I get what some might consider "depressed". I wouldn't label it as such, however, as I am of the opinion that it's perfectly normal to feel melancholy and upset when things just aren't working out.
posted by halogen at 7:10 PM on June 19, 2010

The reason is seems so many here are depressed is that no asks a question like "I'm too damn happy, what can I do to bring myself down?"

I used to be incredibly (and clinically) depressed, now I can't find anyone who I've met recently believes it when I tell them.

A little medicine helped get me out of the hole, but making dramatic lifestyle changes helped. And by lifestyle I don't mean going gluten free or anything I mean choosing to be happy actively in everything that I do, getting haters and unnecessary skeptics out of my life, putting a lot of effort into reducing and reversing negative behaviors.

And in short trying to love myself and do every damn thing to keep that love alive and healthy. (Though, you know, not as narcissistic as that sounds. Actually a big jump in my happiness came when I started helping others with true selflessness.) I've taken control of huge things in my life, put my focus on experiences and people, not things or achievements. I've embraced failure, and learned how to do it really well. (ie: learn a lesson and make sure it's not a costly failure.) That makes me try new things, and new experiences are important when the old ones aren't making you happy.

And the hell with anyone who doesn't agree with that. I'm living to make myself happy, not critics, external or internal.
posted by Ookseer at 7:12 PM on June 19, 2010 [7 favorites]

1. Be lucky--genes, circumstances, etc. (In other words, being sunny all the time is a gift rather than a virtue.)
2. Realize that you are incredibly lucky. cf Pollyanna.

If that doesn't work, go outside and take a walk and get some sun. If you can't, read the book you keep around to remind you of the beauty of life.

This is incredibly counter-intuitive, but somehow the thought that one day I will actually be dead always wakes me up to the magnificence of being alive.
posted by sallybrown at 7:17 PM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I love my job and work my ass off, resulting in more respect (& $) than I probably deserve.

I love my wife and spend as much time with her as possible.

I have a serious non-work activity that takes a good deal of my time but for which I get a certain amount of recognition.

I reject pessimism and cynicism on principle ("If it all sucks, why bother? If I'm willing to bother, it must not all suck." It's a sort of bonehead version of the Camus-Sisyphus move).

I indulge myself a lot--drinks, good food, taxis when I'm not up to the slog of rush-hour subway--and am very generous with my friends, but I don't have very many friends.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:21 PM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Although I'm probably reiterating what wiser people than I have said above:

1. (try to) find something -- anything -- in every situation for which to be thankful. I don't care who you thank: God, the universe, karma. Just be grateful and focus on that emotion.

2. read quotes, religious verses, fiction or nonfiction that encourages you to see the positive in things and reinforces the idea that life is more than just our individual problems; there's beauty in everything; life is long; life is short. Surround yourself with people who are attempting to live out this philosphy, too.

3. Help other people. Listen to them. Like them. Be kind and assume other people are trying to be kind.

4. Be active. Exercise. Wash the kitchen floor. Dance. Take a walk, preferably in the rain. Clean out your closet. Deal with any and all things you have been avoiding. Try not to deal with your unhappiness with substances or activities that will make you feel bad in the morning.

5. Try not to feel to bad about feeling bad. There's a large probability that it's chemical or genetic or habitual or something else very ingrained in Who You Are. Not that change isn't possibly (I firmly believe it is, whether through medicine or therapy or other means), it just might take that much more work for you. I applaud anyone who sees the need for change, wants it, and works for it.

I sometimes feel guilty, because I really do just wake up happy most days. I do all of the above, but I seem to reset at "happy" and really? I don't know why.
posted by bluestocking at 7:25 PM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wonder if your outlook is flavoring what you see. I've been reading MetaFilter regularly since The Russian Incident (only scatteredly before that) and I don't get the impression that everyone is depressed. Indeed, I get the impression that a lot of people are pretty balanced.

Here's an example for ya. I made a post about pain and serious restriction due to disability. (My one AskMeFi so far.) Perhaps someone whose outlook is already low might read that as a question from someone who's down and depressed (someone did, in fact, suggest such a thing, though that comment went foom). But, you see, I am not depressed. I've got a lot of problems, and they make life complicated and a challenge, indeed. Sometimes the challenges are way complicated, sure. But my problems do not define me nor my outlook.

I've got a lot of good things going for me, and I can see them. Someone who doesn't know me might find it hard to believe that I'm a pretty cheerful person, when so much of what I have is pain and frustration--but I am entirely cognizant of the good things, and I am entirely content with the good I do have, while striving to make it ever better.

Seeing the good around you is hard to do when you're depressed; I think one of the main characteristics of depression is an outlook where it's just hard to see things in a positive light.

So yeah, I don't think MetaFilter is populated with depressives. But I suspect that if one is depressed, it's a lot easier to interpret posts/comments as depressed, even if they're not. Text-only communication likely enhances this effect.
posted by galadriel at 7:29 PM on June 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

As much as I hate to admit it, prescription drugs are pretty awesome. Now that my ADHD is under some semblance of control, I actually can't remember the last time I felt anything remotely approaching depression. It's kind of irritating to realize that I could very well have felt this way all my life if I'd been properly diagnosed 20 years ago.

I think depression is directly related to a self-centered, naval-gazing outlook on life

This is inspiring me to feel many things, most of which involve rage and punching. Please stop being a jerkface.
posted by elizardbits at 7:38 PM on June 19, 2010 [8 favorites]

The number one thing that helped me become a much happier person was to be Selfish (with a capital s) - meaning to really, truly, dig deep past all of the cultural inoculation in my head and get to the real me. The real me, for example, never really cared much about fancy cars. Never wanted to make that much money or keep up with the Joneses. Never wanted to watch the news, etc. All of this, I realized, was essentially just accumulated brainwashing and fear-based thinking.

I find that the moment I think, "I should" is very often the moment that triggers depression. "I should be a better American citizen" "I should work on making more friends" "I should improve my personality" "I should make my mom happy" Blah, blah, blah.

I think people have this fear that if they don't run that inner voice, they'll destroy their own life through over-indulgence or hurt people they love or won't "measure up" or some such silly fear. Nonsense. I found that if you trust yourself and your instincts, they almost always help you and others in the end. I think of it as organic, as natural. Learning that you can trust that natural selfish voice to be altruistic and rational is very soothing.

Learning how to do that, and that is was okay to do that, changed my life.

In other words: Be selfish. Be indulgent. Do exactly as you please. This does not mean, "Go do something "naughty" mom wouldn't approve of, like cocaine, because that is just the voice of society once again that you are rebelling against. Dig deeper than that. Just keep asking yourself, "What do I really want?" "Am I doing what I really want to do?" "Is this really important to me?" etc.
posted by Nixy at 7:46 PM on June 19, 2010 [37 favorites]

MeFites seem more depressed, perhaps, because the happy types don't have questions that need answering. They've found their answers.

For me: good books, loving friends and family, hard work I care about, the pleasures of food and sleep and the natural world, wonder in God and feeling God's presence. When I'm feeling blue, I hold my sadness, I examine it, and I consecrate it to Christ.

I do think "WTF?" but that's because I've never struggled with clinical depression.
posted by lucy.verdad at 7:47 PM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Selection bias. No one posts a question "Hi MeFi, I'm super happy and have a wonderful life, help me make it a mess."

I'd judge the overall happiness of MeFi users by the responses rather than the questions, and by that measure MeFites are typically smart enough to improve their own lives when possible and know when to get help otherwise. So, generally happier than the general population.
posted by TeatimeGrommit at 7:51 PM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Well, scuza, I guess I'd call myself a pretty happy person. Most of the time. However, my Dad (my best friend, 24/7 savior, #1 expert in all things mechanical and most other things as well) passed away on June 9th, and in the days afterward, couldn't understand why I wasn't getting out of bed until 2pm and still felt exhausted, and it finally hit me - hey, I'm depressed! I know that sounds idiotic, but I'm fairly non-emotional and matter of fact, and thought I was handling it fine, but I really wasn't.

This is what I did to feel better:

1. I do nice things for people. This includes thank you notes, random (pleasant) surprises, small displays of thoughtfulness, compliments, etc... Sometimes I don't even tell them I did it.

2. I mess around with old photos and have fun trying to figure out where they came from, or who the people were in them.

3. I do spend a lot of time "thinking about stuff," but - I usually make a conscious decision to let myself have a good crying bout when I need to, but I don't dwell on sad stuff throughout the day.

4. I lay out in my hammock and read Conan novels or comic books. Sometimes I just stare up at the clouds.

I have lots of examples like this - but having been though periods of depression before, I can sympathize with where you're coming from. When I was depressed in earlier years, it was like the whole would was covered in a grey film, but I didn't know it. Even when I did fun things, they weren't quite right somehow. Keep plugging away, though - when the curtain finally lifts, whammo! The sun comes right out.

Right now, I don't feel that grey film, thank God. I miss my Dad terribly, but I know what he'd want me to do, so I keep on doing it. He loved that quote from Shawshank Redemption, "You got to get busy living or get busy dying." So I got busy with the former.

Please take extra good care of yourself. Some immediate suggestions that might help, though I know they may be trite, they've worked for me in the past :

Therapy/Life Coach (I've used both)
Goof off for at least an hour a day on whatever tickles your fancy

Flying Saucer : "I have a folder for every year, in which I keep mementos -- birthday cards, postcards, important ticket stubs, programs. I even sometimes print out e-mails and Word docs and add them to the folders."

I am so doing this, starting tonight!
posted by HopperFan at 7:58 PM on June 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

Yeah, this would be an odd place if people were always asking for solutions to their over-abundance of happiness - the nature of a site like this that involves advice-seeking is that it's about problems. That said, the vast majority of questions aren't about depression - maybe it'd help you to not click through on the ones that do, unless they seem like they might have truly helpful answers for You.

That said, exercise, volunteering, getting outside more, Good therapy (the bad therapy didn't help), nurturing the relationships I truly care about, seeking out the healthy little pleasures in life every day, trying to be my authentic self... all of these things have helped make me a much happier person overall. Good luck finding the things that will most help You.
posted by ldthomps at 8:00 PM on June 19, 2010

First off, get yourself checked for allergies. Allergies can cause depression, and you won't necessarily be aware that you have allergies. Dairy is a big culprit. Now, after that's out of the way:

I don't worry about what anyone else thinks about me. Yes, I fuck up sometimes, but when I do, I'm my own worst critic. I don't care what other people think. They're not living my life, I am. Not everyone is going to like me, and it doesn't matter.

Don't sweat the small stuff. And it's all small stuff.

When things are going badly, remind yourself that in 5 years, this won't matter at all.

I don't allow myself to wallow in self pity. If I'm depressed, I remind myself that this, too, shall pass, and I just get on with things.

I always have goals. I think that's a big, big part of it. Being depressed generally involves feeling like everything sucks, and it's never going to change. I'm always working towards changing things. This ties in with not wallowing in self pity - if you wallow in it, then it's not going to change. You have to actively change it.

If you find that being around certain people makes you unhappy, stop being around them. If it's a coworker and you have no choice, then see above about not caring what other people think of you.

Make yourself into the kind of person you'd like to fall in love with. Then when you get there, go find someone to love unconditionally. When you have that person and they love you back unconditionally as well, then you'll find that nothing else seems very bad.

Understand that no one is happy all the time. There are bad things in the world, and those things will depress you. Thinking about the horrible things some people do to animals depresses me, and it should. If it didn't, there would be something wrong with me.

If you go to a doctor about your depression, find a doctor that looks for a cause for your depression, not one that just throws medication at you. There are lots of different physical things that can cause depression, and it's better to eliminate the cause than to cover up the symptoms.

Take care of your health. Don't eat any junk food.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:05 PM on June 19, 2010 [13 favorites]

I live a joyous life. The life itself isn't all that different to the people I know, but I seem to take a particular kind of joy from it. Others have commented on that, and I've since recognised it and cultivated it in myself.

Firstly, I think it's important to say that I'm quite fortunate in many ways. I've never suffered abuse beyond mild schoolyard bullying. My family was never rich, but we never went hungry (though at the time I thought having second hand clothes was horrendously embarassing). I'm white, male, middle class, and therefore am not exposed to some of the world's ugliness that others see.

That being said, I know many equally priviledged people who aren't happy. The difference, as far as I can tell, is that I choose to lead a joyful life. That's it. It's not quite as trite as 'when life gives you lemons, make lemonade', but that's surprisingly close. I simply choose to find the joy in things. When I'm travelling or with friends or doing things that I enjoy, I seek out and relish every moment and every laugh because I think they're impredibly precious. Seeking out these moments means I'm often an instigator of things, which then makes the joyous life a self-fulfilling prophesy of sorts.

When I'm not in a particularly exciting moment, or away from the people I love, or in a bit of a slow patch, then it's just a matter of finding something beautiful about that moment you're in. Often it's simply recognising that I'm experiencing loneliness, or loss, or confusion, and that these things are a vital part of being human. I'd never choose a life without those aspects in it as well. I want a life with the pulp left in, with the skin on, with the dust and the grit and the gristle and everything that comes with it. So though I may not be overjoyed when these moments come, I can still take solace in the fact that life without them would be boring. This means that my sorrow is always aided by a sense of completeness, that my loneliness is softened by a renewed appreciation for my loved ones, that my despair is allayed somewhat by the knowledge that I would not choose to avoid it, if it were in my power.

Oh, and I've devoted a large amount of time to cultivating my vices. They're fun. Drink lots of wine, stay up late, sleep on the beach.
posted by twirlypen at 8:09 PM on June 19, 2010 [15 favorites]

I was depressed, suicidally depressed, for a large part of my life. I'm not at all, now. I really grieve those lost years sometimes, wonder what the hell I was thinking and have sadly little insight there; mostly, I wonder why I didn't just pull my shit together?

Anyway, having the depression gone is in part responsible for making me very, very grateful for life, and very, very happy about all the great things in it. There was a time I would've spent a summer drinking and complaining; now, I'm going 'Wow! Look at how many cool festivals there are to go to!' and hustling my daughter off to plays in parks. I have a little vegetable garden that cheers me immensely. Life is so full of festivals and gardens; isn't it a nice thing, living? And have you looked at your computer lately, like really looked at it? The stuff it can do is amazing! And it's this thing in your own house!

Admittedly not all life is pleasant stuff. But, I've been through so much crap that it takes a phenomenal amount to rattle me. I'm at a loss to explain people who can work up a bad mood over trivia like traffic, or even run-of-the-mill larger hassles (fence needs expensive repair, whatever) -- my take is sort of "Anybody suffering terminal disease? Out of food? Homeless? No? Okay, we're great!"

Also, I was a shit while I was depressed, of course, and I grieve that, too, and now I actively try to be a meaningfully good person. One part of that is looking for the best in people and trying to understand why they do the things they do; one ends up much more empathetic, and so much less irritated by jerks. And if you are nice to people and can brush off jerks without upset, the world is a very pleasant place.

When I am approaching anger I try to focus on what I'm really angry about, and how unimportant it might be. Most of the time it is nonsense that doesn't deserve a second thought, never mind anger.

My young daughter is a daily reminder that one sometimes just has to go back to basics, and make sure you are keeping yourself rested, well fed, exercised, and loved.
posted by kmennie at 8:10 PM on June 19, 2010 [9 favorites]

I tend to have a middle of the road temperment. I don't get too excited about anything. I try to keep it all in perspective. We're only given time in this life. What we do with it is up to us. I could choose to dwell on what I can't change (the past) or I can use my limited time to make my present and future better.

Of course in practice, it's not that easy, but it's a good start.
posted by inturnaround at 8:25 PM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

20 minutes of exercise a day and my meds. No matter how good everything else was-- fairly stable job, excellent marriage, regular food and water, nice apartment-- there were some things that didn't shake until my doc hit on the right medication.

Also, I try to at least hit a concert or similar (live podcast taping, Henry Rollins spoken-word gig, special movie screening) every month or so. It also helps to have a bunch of small, random pick-up-and-put-down hobbies-- photography, crochet, ukulele, whatever-- to mess with so you don't get too bored.

And don't underestimate the impact of having a clean and well-organized living area. Seriously, it helps more than you'd think.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 8:28 PM on June 19, 2010

Best answer: What's your secret? No secret! I don't think happiness is a selfish, secret thing.

What's your philosophy in life? The three laws of thermodynamics applied to life go something like - 1) you can't win, 2) you can't break even and 3) you can never get out of the game. So my philosophy is something like: 1) have fun, 2) keep the stakes low and 3) don't cheat others.

Doing this makes me happy without being too involved in myself, and being happy makes me open to the community of others - one that is not built on common fear but on common values. Finding community (be it with a single other person, a bunch of dogs or in a continued 'doing' of something with others) is the most wonderful thing. Keeping the stakes low (trying not to do things which, when they end or if they go wrong, would have a negative impact on myself or others - especially others) is a very liberating thing. Together those are the hardest two things to do, but when I don't try, I get sucked up my own asshole. So trying, as someone has said above, makes me happy.

What do you think of the prevalence of depression seemingly everywhere you turn? That as individuals we are limited, and that our social systems of teaching selfhood are terribly fucking broken.

What do you do when you're close to the blues? Try to pay attention. Try to be kind. Try to be mindful. Indulge. Not make a big deal.

Do you read all the depression-related questions here and think WTF? No. I'm often answering those questions, mostly trying to encourage people to trust themselves and not take things too personally.

Seriously, how do you do it? As sallybrown said above, a large part of it is luck (I'm not indebted, I have healthy genes, I'm an optimist and I like being alone) and being aware of the ways in which I am lucky. I think different things make different people happy so it's crucial to know what makes you happy (Nosce temet). For me it goes something like... wisdom + detachment: the wisdom to know how to act and detachment from what will come out of it. This is a pretty ancient idea but if we don't make a big deal out of that, it makes ridiculous amounts of sense. I don't think it means any kind of sainthood - I am an anxious perfectionist and I am always worried about how what I might do will affect or come across to others. The point, I think, is to try to let that anxiety be without letting it get in the way: to divorce action from outcome and to marry it to intent. And to intend good - which brings me back to wisdom. Speaking of which:

"I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.'" (Kurt Vonnegut)
posted by mondaygreens at 8:42 PM on June 19, 2010 [17 favorites]

At this point in my life, I've had clinical depression probably for more years than I haven't. Still, I'd consider myself a generally happy, positive person, and people who slog around in depression and misery really bug me. Yes, of course, that's one of the qualities of depression -- feeling like things are hopeless and you can't pull yourself out. But I know a lot of people who are much worse off than me and still have the wherewithal to keep a good attitude about the world, while I also know many others who function in society while dragging those around them down with them. There's a sense of denial or dishonesty apparent with a lot of people in the latter group, and I think that makes the biggest difference.

Compassion means a lot to me. It's easier to be good to myself if people are being good to me and I'm being good to them. I remember that other people in the world have really tough times, and it helps me get less angry at people. Not "Oh, there are starving people in Africa," but "You know, this guy is being kind of brusque with me, but it's not because I'm a bad person -- what if he's having a bad day, or has some tough things going on with people in his life? I have tough things with people in my life, so clearly other people have these issues. I hope people are easy on me when I'm having a tough time."

I take pleasure in the simple things. I got through my first years of college by saying, "There's chili in the dining hall! Yay!" I let myself laugh at stupid jokes and take time to play with my partner.

I enjoy things when I know I can. I touch my partner a LOT, both because I didn't get a lot of it in some other relationships and because I have no way of knowing when things will cool down between us. Maybe one or both of us will die, get lazy or get too busy to do it as much as we might want. So I stockpile the love now, and that has the added benefit of keeping me in the practice of caring and being gentle to someone else so it's natural and easy to act that way.

If I run around saying, "Oh, I'm so stupid! Everybody thinks I'm so stupid!" -- well, that's a self-fulfilling prophecy, isn't it?

I let myself let things out. I get angry when it's appropriate to be angry, and I let out my irrational and petulant feelings when I have someone trusted around to listen to me. It's not a matter of hiding these feelings; it's a matter of being clear on when it's okay to feel and express them. That makes it easier to recognize and sort out when I'm feeling weird things, and I know I can let them slide until I'll be in a place where it won't make a difference to be cranky.
posted by Madamina at 9:09 PM on June 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

You can't expect to be happy all the time but if you get a therapist who'll help you deal with the small daily stresses, they won't build into giant clouds of anxiety that make you cry in bathroom stalls.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:12 PM on June 19, 2010

I think positively. I believe if you're positive, good things will happen to you. Cheesy, but there you go.
posted by canadia at 9:38 PM on June 19, 2010

This is an interesting thread that reveals not everyone on metafilter is depressed.
posted by salvia at 9:39 PM on June 19, 2010

This is going to sound silly: I text and email myself. I tell myself that I rock and awesome, just every once in a while. Actually, here is one of the emails:

"dear beepbeepboopboop,

i think you are awesome. awesome, indeed. keep doing that great work you've been doing.

don't worry, things will get better/continue to stay awesome.

keep your head up, champ!"

I know it sounds (well, actually it is) extraordinarily silly. But sometimes making yourself think good thoughts about yourself makes you realize that, hey, you do deserve to think good thoughts about yourself.
posted by beepbeepboopboop at 10:02 PM on June 19, 2010 [5 favorites]

I am very happy because life, and the world, is wonderful.

I haven't been depressed but I have been snappy when dealing with a lot of intense pain (my last labour comes to mind). I know I didn't have the energy to upbeat then because most of my energy was devoted to getting through the pain. I imagine depression is much like that where so much energy has to be focused on getting through that moment or that day that there isn't extra to give to yourself or others.

I know a lot of people struggling with depression, it is really awful how misunderstood the disease is. Even calling it depression is such a misnomer, too often I hear "how can that person be depressed? She is always so happy!"
posted by saucysault at 10:10 PM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am one happy motherfucker, but I had to get old first. Prior to being old I was happy sometimes sad sometimes. Now, mostly happy. Your future is bright. Stupid crap that makes you sad when you are young doesn't even bother you when you get aged. The bad part of being old though is people around you start kicking off. That makes you sad.
posted by caddis at 10:12 PM on June 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

Exercise. Nothing works as good for me.
posted by nestor_makhno at 11:34 PM on June 19, 2010

I am grateful for literally everything in my life. Even the struggles, even the challenges, even outright pain -- I'm grateful for it all. I am alive when I could be dead; I am surrounded by people who love me when I could be alone; I am reminded every day that the world is filled with basically good people who are trying to do their best often under difficult circumstances. I have two dogs at my feet, the smell of jasmine out the window, a little chocolate in front of me, a good meal in my belly, memories of a great evening tonight spent with family and some brand-new friends.

What's not to feel content about?
posted by scody at 11:36 PM on June 19, 2010 [7 favorites]

(Oh, and I don't think WTF when I read any of the depression questions at all; I struggled with depression most of my life. I struggle with it sometimes still. I'm even grateful for that, because I think it was the first step on the road to learning compassion.)
posted by scody at 11:38 PM on June 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Ugh, I should clarify my statement above. (I'm not that mean!)

I know a lot of people who are much worse off than me in the clinical depression department, including those who have been on permanent disability for years due to it, and still have the wherewithal to keep a good attitude about the world, while I also know many others who function in society while dragging those around them down with them and refuse to seek help (who may or may not have depression, but won't deal with it either way). There's a sense of denial or dishonesty apparent with a lot of people in the latter group, and I think that makes the biggest difference.
posted by Madamina at 12:00 AM on June 20, 2010

John Lennon said "Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans". Instead, I think it should rather be "Life is what happens while you are busy doing stuff."

If you don't like what you do, it's unlikely that you're going to like your life. Find something to do that makes sense to you.
posted by w.fugawe at 12:30 AM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I found a gratitude blog, cultivating some sense of spirituality, asking myself hard questions like "what is the meaning of life" until I got the answer and CBT (in pretty much that order) to be helpful.

I managed to drag myself out of a twenty year depression by doing this. I never really tried exercise, because I generally can't be bothered, sadly. Or medication, for that matter.

For me, my depression was partially about attitude, partially about determination and partly about brain chemistry. Working how to change the first and create the second seemed to cure the third problem.
posted by Solomon at 12:39 AM on June 20, 2010

For a long time I thought it was about your personal attitude, but then I got to know my boyfriend. He didn't want to be that way, and has rallied against it for his whole life, but there it is. Depression is not something that you ask for, or precipitate. I think that there are a lot of ways that we are not rezlly adapted to our current state - we evolved as humans over thousands of years in small simple societies, and now there are so many new ways that our brains have to adapt, a lot of us can't quite keep up. New technologies, new ways that society is constructed, it means that a lot of individuals have to retract, to fall back to a more defensive positions in order to cope. So much of what we are exposed to on a daily basis is really disturbing, it's a lucky person that doesn't get dragged down by it.

Sorry, I would probably be able fo explain it better, but I've had some drinks - they help keep me from getting bummed out , y'know?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:26 AM on June 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: What's your secret? Obliviousness and perhaps some amount of hyperactivity. I think through elementary, middle and high school I didn't even really realize that I was supposed to care what other people thought. Up until high school I lived in my own little world (not the imaginary-friend type of world, more BOOKS!), and in high school I managed awesome friends who apart from some high school Relationship Drama were pretty awesome and generally non-judgmental and supportive. Now I am pretty alone sometimes in Faraway Lands, and I just keep myself occupied all of the time, with classes and activities and such. Also I totally look in the mirror sometimes and go "YOU LOOK TOTALLY AWESOME! YOU ARE AWESOME!"

What's your philosophy in life? You know, I don't really have one. In some ways I would say that I live in the moment, but I also ponder the future pretty often. I actually rarely ponder the past, however. I have a pretty spotty memory of past events, and I don't think that is actually a bad thing most of the time.

What do you think of the prevalence of depression seemingly everywhere you turn? It completely bewilders me. I can't possibly get my head around suicidal tendencies, even though intellectually I understand that some people feel that committing suicide is an appropriate response to things.

What do you do when you're close to the blues?
This doesn't really happen that often. A number of years ago I got stuck in the hospital for about a week due to a secondary infection from an emergency surgery. People were really awesome and I had visitors almost all of the time I was there, except for the one day when all of my regular visitors were taking the same final exam. I thought I would enjoy the peace and quiet, but the loneliness really hit me hard. I ended up crying and feeling lonely and then . . . I got better. It was total crap luck that I ended up in the hospital (twice), right before Christmas, and I had to miss a couple final exams etc etc, but you know, that one day I was left alone was really the low point of the whole ordeal.

Do you read all the depression-related questions here and think WTF? Kind of, but I know other people aren't like me, and so their problems should be taken seriously as well!

Seriously, how do you do it? Looking up at that hospital story I just wrote, I think I do it by just having it in my head that things happen and then they happen. I get upset when things go wrong and I had control over them, but if I don't have control, I don't really let myself get upset. So I got an infection, oh well, that's just the way things are. I could try to be angry at the doctors or whatever for something they may or may not have done wrong during the surgery, but I came out okay in the end and I'm still doing pretty well for myself. If I don't have control over something, no use getting upset (although I still get a little scared every time I ride an airplane). My worth is not set by anyone but me, and I work to make sure that I am happy. Being happy is pretty great.

Oh, and I sing stupid little songs to myself all the time. Perhaps this is the true secret to my happiness.
posted by that girl at 2:47 AM on June 20, 2010 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Mefi is not any sort of firm example of all of humanity. Go outside and play.

Geez dude. I know. I'm not sitting over a computer comparing myself to all the folk here 24/7. I just noticed that there is a lot of mention of depression here and I wanted to hear from the happier folk who don't see a need to question why they're cheerful.

Oh I'm pretty OK right now everyone, I was just curious about this, and call it a preemptive strike for when the black dog comes. Or something.

Thank you all so much for your responses, really and truly.
posted by scuza at 2:52 AM on June 20, 2010

Response by poster: Plenty of best answers here by the way. I just highlighted the one that happen to address each of my questions directly. It seemed like the right thing to do.
posted by scuza at 2:54 AM on June 20, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you, that girl. I think you are awesome.
posted by scuza at 3:39 AM on June 20, 2010

Is it too late to join in? If not -

I do think I'm inordinately lucky in a lot of ways so I am happy most of the time anyway, but nature never fails to make me even happier. In the UK we have a TV series called Springwatch which has just finished - every day for three weeks you get to watch little birds hatching, otters swimming about in rivers, roe deer fawns leaping about in long grass and things like that, and for some reason it brings me unspeakable joy (as do all the newly-fledged birds in our garden, flapping about and being patiently fed and looked after by their parents, and I never get tired of watching them). Something about the way nature just keeps on going gives me a kind of sense of wonder that makes me really happy - not just in the spring and summer, but in the autumn and winter too. We had an unusually large amount of snow this winter (snow makes me ridiculously happy), and when it finally melted and the little violets in my front garden were still beaming away I was truly amazed.

Well, it works for me, anyway...
posted by raspberry-ripple at 3:51 AM on June 20, 2010

If you think about it, being depressed and not being depressed are just so . . . different . . . that it's hard for someone like me to really say what I'm doing in particular.

I realized that my answer to "What do you do when you're close to the blues?" wasn't really an answer, and I kind of want to rectify that.

If I'm feeling lonely, I go out and do something. I go shopping or somewhere I can interact with people, even if it's on the most superficial level. I also do the preventatives of giving myself lots of activities to keep myself from getting lonely. Sometimes, like in the hospital, I have no recourse, and those times, sometimes, I just cry.

I get grumpy sometimes, and then I just hole up and stare at the internet, sometimes I snap at people (sorry people!), but I try not to because that's not very nice.

But I don't think I really ever get just kind of blue. There's always some reason for me to be feeling bad, I think knowing that reason why I feel bad is what keeps it from getting too bad. Maybe I was upset because I did crap on a test or paper. Okay, well, that's something that was my fault and I know how to keep it from happening again. Maybe I'm frustrated because someone I really care about is suddenly treating me like total crap and I can't figure out the reason why. I'll obsess over the why, but in the end, I know that I can't control other people, and that there are still other more wonderful people out there and all sorts of things that make me happy.

I would suggest when you get unhappy, try to figure out the source of that feeling, and figure out what you can do, and if you can't do anything, then let it go and get yourself to something that makes you happy.
posted by that girl at 4:01 AM on June 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

What do you think of the prevalence of depression seemingly everywhere you turn?

Okay, so, disclaimer: I'm not a consistently happy person, but I am a fairly happy person with the occasional depressive episode and a history of anxiety and depression problems. But I don't actually feel like I see depression everywhere I turn, at least, not outside of AskMe. I feel like most of my friends are generally satisfied with their lives, or at least, they're active and dedicated to doing things that have meaning for them, and when we get together, it's really rare for us to talk about how depressed we all are. Mostly we talk about what we're doing in this nice summer weather, our next demo or fundraiser, and the kind of world we want to live in someday, etc. I think that on sites like AskMe, people with depression have more questions to ask about their mental health and how to cope than people without depression, and thus have greater visibility, although non-depressive people hold the silent majority.

Human beings are generally amazingly resilient creatures, emotionally. I know people who've fled violent persecution in their home countries to build amazing communities in countries where they are refugees. I know people who survived years of domestic violence and continue to love others with all their hearts. It takes strength to live in the world we live in, whether you're depressive or not, and everybody handles it differently, whether they are depressive or not - I think that constructing a binary between "depressed and miserable" and "shiny happy people" might be a bit... I don't know. I just don't think it's the best way to frame the issue.
posted by ellehumour at 7:55 AM on June 20, 2010

Oh, and I forgot one thing. In spite of what they tell you, money can buy happiness. It's not so much that money alone will make you happy, but lack of money can make it impossible for you to get out of the problems that are causing your unhappiness. When I went from "barely scraping by, can't afford to buy my kid a Happy Meal at McDonald's"* to "actually able to get an oil change when I'm supposed to, and holy shit, I actually own a car now!", my happiness most definitely increased.

*Not that I let her eat that garbage. But I couldn't have afforded to if I wanted to.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:25 AM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

What's your secret?
I try to structure my life in a way that maximizes the amount of time I spend doing things that make me happy. I've found a job that is challenging and satisfying after working towards it for a long time. I have a SO that makes me happy on a daily basis. During any given season, I'm pursuing a passion of mine. I avoid doing things out of sheer social obligation (networking dinners, I'm looking at you) or out of boredom (bad TV).

What's your philosophy in life?
I'm not sure that I have one, but I suppose it would be trying to pare things down the basic question of "Am I better off / happier with or without doing X"

What do you think of the prevalence of depression seemingly everywhere you turn?
This has not been my experience.

What do you do when you're close to the blues?
Go kayaking. Talk to my SO. Play video games.

Do you read all the depression-related questions here and think WTF?
Not really; I realize that many people are affected with a chemical imbalance that I don't seem to suffer from.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:21 AM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Check out Positive Psychology which takes a scientific approach to analyzing happiness and covers a number of suggestions above.

also here is something interesting:

In my view what is tricky for humans is having enough strength to make healthy choices and minimize short term happiness.

For example,

- healthy food will make you happier than junk food even though junk food tastes better
- a solid relationship will make you happier than short term affairs that are perhaps hotter
- studying hard and learning will make you happier than consistently avoiding the work and partying
- exercising will make you happier than sitting on the couch watching TV

What stops us from doing the thing we all know is right? There is some inertia to overcome.

A true alcoholic does not have much strength to make that choice.

With the right motivation, the impossible can happen.
posted by simpleton at 9:38 AM on June 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Geez dude. I know. I'm not sitting over a computer comparing myself to all the folk here 24/7. I just noticed that there is a lot of mention of depression here and I wanted to hear from the happier folk who don't see a need to question why they're cheerful.

I dunno, it still seems like you're using Metafilter as some of comparison stick for depression, which probably wouldn't be healthy. Food for thought or not, I comment, you decide!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:03 AM on June 20, 2010

I am very happy. I've been told I'm a nihilist, and I think that's connected.
posted by mad bomber what bombs at midnight at 10:41 AM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I literally giggled sheepishly out loud when I read your question. I often fake it, or at least downplay my happiness. I guess this is me coming out of the closet!

Since you ask... about seven years ago I found myself in a really bad place. Bad city, bad job, bad finances, bad friends, just a bad life. Unsurprisingly, I was miserable.

This was not how I wanted my life to be. I made a conscious decision to turn things around. I wanted to be happy. I had never been happy, but other people were happy, so why shouldn't I have some of that?

Don't kid yourself: it's a long and difficult road. And like everything that's worthwhile in life, it requires a considerable amount of ongoing effort. But it's totally worth it.

I would break it down into two parts: mental and practical. On the practical side you have the bit where you structure your life the way that makes you happy. This is tricky, because we don't always know what's going to make us happy. You have to keep trying stuff, and using your best guess.

Like, maybe owning a home won't actually make you happy. But if you think that owning a home will make you happy, then that's your best guess, and you should work towards that goal.

Don't get suckered into thinking The American Dream is what's going to make you happy, by the way. What you want has to come from inside you. Other people can't tell you what you want, but boy that doesn't stop them from trying.

In my case I found that having less actually makes me happy. De-cluttering, de-stashing, simplifying, living frugally - turns out I'm actually happier living on 1/3rd the salary. Sure I don't have all the flashy neat stuff all the cool kids have, but my bills are minimal, and I can cover them by doing a surprisingly small amount of work per month.

Mentally, I'm sure the other 78 comments (and counting!) have offered the same resources. I keep perspective (how will I feel about this annoying incident in 5 years?) and gratitude. A million things can and do go wrong in your life, but don't overlook the million things that are going right.

Life is pretty awesome. Just the fact of being alive is an amazing gift. Being alive and free of the grip of depression is even more amazing.
posted by ErikaB at 11:15 AM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh and let's be clear about our terms.

There's "depression" in the casual, informal sense of "my life sucks and is lame."

And then there's "depression" in the sense of "I have a biochemical disorder which disrupts my sleeping patterns, affects my appetite and sex drive, and sucks all the joy out of life."

I would never - NEVER - tell someone suffering from the latter form of depression that "you just need to set some goals and work hard to achieve those." People who suffer from clinical depression need medication. Just like people who suffer from any other form of medical condition.

I assume you meant the former kind of depression.

For those with clinical depression the answer is to get medical help, and THEN look at restructuring your life.

The opposite of clinical depression is not happy. The opposite of clinical depression is "baseline normal." Once you get to baseline normal (most likely with the help of a prescription medicine), you can work on getting to "happy" from there.
posted by ErikaB at 11:33 AM on June 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm pretty happy. I get frustrated, wistful, but things are pretty damn good despite the drama of the world.

The biggest things which improved my life and outlook:

1) getting out of abusive/dysfunctional relationships - family, friends, whomever
2) embracing my passions without shame, being ok with who I am
3) being aware of while letting go of what I can't control, and enjoying/handling what I can control

If you're not dealing with biochemical issues, long term depression (as opposed to a sad mood for a few days), is usually tied to one those things.
posted by yeloson at 1:14 PM on June 20, 2010

I keep busy. I have lots of interesting things I want to do, and not enough time to do them all. I have good friends that I spend time with regularly, and I don't hang out with people who complain all the time.

It's also important to me to have time alone where I can do whatever I feel like doing (even if that's just sitting around in my pajamas drinking coffee and reading trashy novels).

The times in my life where I've felt "depressed" (that is, not in the clinical sense, but generally bummed out) have been when I was bored and didn't have enough things to occupy my time, or when I was doing a job that I hated.

I have a job I enjoy, but it's not the center of my life. I specifically chose a job with a lot of variety, and no "homework" because that's what I like. I don't make a huge amount of money, but I have enough to be comfortable and I don't have to worry about being able to pay the bills. On the other hand, I live in a 500 sq ft house and my car is 12 years old.

However, these things may or may not work for you. Maybe you want a high-pressure job where you travel all the time, or you'd rather live in a very isolated place where you have hours and hours to contemplate the universe.

I think the main thing is to listen to yourself and figure out what kind of lifestyle appeals to you and then find a way to do that. Focus on what's important, and what's not. You will have to make tradeoffs, but you'll find they're not that painful.
(Would I like a nicer car? Sure. Do I need one? Not really.)
posted by exceptinsects at 2:38 PM on June 20, 2010

Feeling depressed about work and the job market, I did some personal inventory and realized that I am terrible at compartmentalizing and drawing boundaries.

E.g., a coworker, who seems depressed herself and, as a school therapist, has the job of inflicting guilt on her clients, made me feel guilty for intending to quit my job at the end of the summer, and for being able to live at home with my parents until I find a better job. Before I managed to compartmentalize this person, I literally felt that I should keep a job that doesn't pay me well and that has a highly stressful environment.

Now I see her as one of the crabs that try to pull down the other crabs that attempt to climb out of the boiling pot.

Or I envisioned Human Resources anywhere as equipped with the superhuman discernment of St. Peter or the god Anubis, weigher of souls. When I was applying to college I felt the same way about college admissions committees.

Now I envision HR as a bubble-headed probationary hire desperately trying to make quota on candidates to accept or reject in order to please her superiors, in between texting about marriage plans to her boyfriend. (Or, not to be sexist, a distracted male probationary hire exhausted from playing WoW in secret all night after work.)

It may be that I'm going too far in being dismissive of people, but I have to keep my sanity.
posted by bad grammar at 3:36 PM on June 20, 2010

Response by poster: I dunno, it still seems like you're using Metafilter as some of comparison stick for depression, which probably wouldn't be healthy.

God. I've been on Metafilter for years, now on a new more anonymous account. The amount of depression-related questions that pop up every day made me wonder about how the other half live - simple curiosity. I see/read/hear how a depressed mind can work, I want to see/read/hear how happy minds can work. I'm here because so many people give inciteful, thought out answers. Unhealthy? Whatever dude. You are the only here who's been kind of unhelpful.

The amount of people weighing in here and via Mefi mail has been so, so great. Thank you all, I really appreciate it.
posted by scuza at 4:42 PM on June 20, 2010

I've been depressed for significant portions of my adult life, but I have been feeling much better in the past few years. The dark hours add depth to your soul.

Eventually, I just got sick and tired of being miserable, and allowed myself to be open to new changes. Growing older helps define those things in life which are reasonable compromises, and those things which are specific boundaries.

The most important thing for happiness is having coherent long-term goals that you can work towards.

Another important thing is spending time with someone who shares your visions, but achieving that requires luck.
posted by ovvl at 5:08 PM on June 20, 2010

I think that part of the sense of having lived a full and rich life comes from the ability to continually take things seriously -- but not too personally. Of a willingness, even determination, to become deeply involved in what you are doing, but not obsessed by it.
--Frank Oppenheimer
posted by phage! at 6:53 PM on June 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Creating miniature adventures every day.
Knowing that whatever comes along, I have the skills to handle it.
(Some of the skills that helped a great deal were Dialectical Behavorial Treatment -- or DBT).
Letting go of my parents and what they did to me. It's never too late to have a happy childhood.
posted by Prairie at 7:33 PM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hang up the internet and do something with your life. Take up a vocational trade. Learn to cook. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Donate a bit of extra money to a good cause. Do something exercise-like that's fun.

Or, alternatively, simply balance your life. Get some social time, some academic time, some vocational time, and some exercise time in any given week. If you fit those together and still have time for the internet, go to town.

Both of those have worked wonders for me. That, and the ability to say "tomorrow will be better".
posted by talldean at 7:58 PM on June 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think I fall on the happy side of the fence more often than not, but I'm not naturally inclined towards happiness. So I thought it might be worthing sharing my thoughts here, even though this is already something of a monster thread...

What's your secret?
There's no secret switch to flick - personally I've got to work at being happy.

What's your philosophy in life?
Every choice is a good choice. I realised that the times when I'm most unhappy are also the times when I feel like I have no control over my life. If I have a choice between two bad options, then at least I can take ownership of the option I do choose. And of course, sometimes there really is a third option, if you're willing to look for it. Realise that you have control over your destiny and you can work progressively towards a better life. Don't expect miracles over night.

What do you think of the prevalence of depression seemingly everywhere you turn?
Well, there's misery and there's depression, and they can blur into one, but one is an emotion that's often contextual to your life situation and one's a physical illness that's a chemical imbalance in your brain. I'd say more people are miserable than depressed, but unfortunately we have this ambiguity in english between the two terms. I think genuine depression is best treated with the correct drugs, but equally the drugs companies have something of a vested interest in widening the definition of depression to include things like everyday misery and anxiety that are either just normal emotions that come and go or are best sorted by making practical life changes rather than medicinally.

What do you do when you're close to the blues?
In terms of feeling miserable, indulge misery every so often, it's a perfectly valid human emotion, but remember that you don't have to define your identity in terms of your emotions, so move on when misery is no longer useful to you. In terms of depression, keep active both physically and mentally, eat well, sleep well, get enough sunlight.

Do you read all the depression-related questions here and think WTF?
Not really, I think it's great that so many people have the strength to make the first steps to improve their lives. It's one reason I love the supportive Metafilter community so much.
posted by iivix at 3:30 AM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm at a low point at the moment and it's made me see very clearly the things I need to be happy. A support network is really, really important. I'm introverted and I love my own space but three years in a huge impersonal city with few opportunities for low-level, quiet interaction has made me feel terribly adrift. I've never been a homebody but I find I miss the proximity of friends and family more and more. I'm planning to go back to a smaller town where dropping in for coffee or sitting in a neighbours garden are easy things to do. I also need to do work that matters to me, with time enough to study and think on the side. Decent, fresh food helps and regular exercise that forms part of my day (eg cycling to work) is really important too. Money, it turns out, matters very little to me beyond covering the basics.

And, I'm another low-bandwidth type with the propensity to be easily overwhelmed. Over-stimulation can be as bad as boredom in the long-term and many people are just simply burnt out by the demands of modern life. I was swimming in a river in Devon yesterday morning, in bright sunshine, amongst the damsel-flies, and I felt calm for the first time in months. Now, back in London, it feels like a wake-up call. The older I get the simpler I need life to be. For me, happiness requires space.
posted by freya_lamb at 6:09 AM on June 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

Something that really helps me, and in fact changed my whole life about 2 years ago is gratitude. I start every morning with a prayer, asking for a positive mind and a positive attitude today. I end the day with a small prayer/meditation saying Thank you. If I get into a rut, I stop and think of 5 things I am grateful for, sometimes jotting them down onto a piece of paper. It almost instantly turns my thinking around.
posted by heatherly at 1:44 PM on June 21, 2010

What I have to say is so important (at least to me) that I finally paid my 5 bucks so I could add to this word:

--> FLOW <>
Basically, having a creative outlet is essential to my happiness. My job is scientist/academic so I get a good dose of creative activity through work (dreaming up experiments, writing papers, etc). In my spare time I write and record music. This gives me a feeling that my time on earth is not totally wasted, I've contributed to humanity and created something that will be around after I'm gone.
posted by 2cynykyl at 7:36 PM on June 21, 2010

The advice from Awareness has worked wonders in my life. But a couple particularly helpful ideas I've gotten from it for staying happy would be, first of all, the only reason you're not in bliss at this moment is because you're thinking about the things you don't have. Basically, just try not to take all your good fortunes for granted, because we've all got a lot of great things going for us that we seldom take the time to appreciate. Having goals is great, but don't make your happiness depend upon them. Don't insist that you can only be happy if this or that happens for you; too often do people do this, only to find once they get what they thought they wanted, that it isn't quite so great as they thought it would be. Anticipated outcomes are often illusions, mirages; all you can guarantee is this moment, so find the good in it and savor it.

Secondly, when negative thoughts and feelings arise in you, as they will in all of us from time to time, don't identify with them. Rest assured, your feelings will change; the only constant is change. Don't say "I am depressed," but rather, "there is depression there." You are not your depression. Observe the negative feelings, question and try to understand them objectively, and let them pass.
posted by Ryogen at 11:21 AM on June 22, 2010

It's really hard to say no, but to be happy, you have to learn how to say no. The following really helped me with the skills I needed to say no to the things I don't want to do.
posted by seanyboy at 6:55 AM on June 23, 2010

Routines saved me! I live a routine life, but I made up routines I love. Getting a daily 15-20 minute nap in mid afternoon after work, is great! Hiking with my dogs on a nature trail, great! Sewing or cooking gives me focused escape pleasure. And then the evening glass of wine on my deck chit chatin' with the hubby, Wonderful!
I don't have to think about what I'm "supposed to do" next, I just do it. Everything has it's time. I'm on a slow paced schedule that works for me.
posted by WendaJune at 9:26 AM on June 25, 2010

What's your secret?
Everyone has their burden to bear. I may not be doing my best to lighten theirs, but I try not to add to it.

What's your philosophy in life?
Don't focus on the petty stuff. Everything is passing, so focus on the happier things in (your) life.

What do you think of the prevalence of depression seemingly everywhere you turn?
Bad news travels farther and faster than good. People take the good for granted, and complain about the bad even when it's not that bad.

What do you do when you're close to the blues?
Listen to happy or ridiculous music. Sing along (often in falsetto).

Do you read all the depression-related questions here and think WTF?
Nope. They can make me sad, as I feel like I don't have enough good things to say. And people ask for help, they don't ask about being happy, so you'll see a lot of questions from/about depressed people.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:13 PM on June 25, 2010

What's your secret?

Happiness is a temporary state of being.

That's it. That's all it is, ever was, or ever will be. Temporary. Consider the root word, from Middle English: "hap." Same root for "happenstance," or our more modernly common "happen" or "mishap." In other words - something completely out of our control, and left to chance, should you choose to believe in such a thing as chance.

But throughout our collective little history here, we've managed to twist a belief around happiness that realistically makes no sense. America's founding fathers wisely called "the pursuit of happiness" (emphasis mine) a fundamental human right, but we rashly read that to assume that the actual state of happiness itself is in fact the right. In fact, we were only promised the chase. Consider:

Thomas Jefferson was so convinced that the pursuit of happiness is an inalienable human right that he wrote it into the Declaration of Independence and called it a self-evident truth. But Christians have this to add: those who pursue happiness never find it. Because joy and peace are extremely elusive, happiness is a will-o'-the-wisp, a phantom, and even if we reach out our hand to grasp it, it vanishes into thin air. God gives joy and peace not to those who pursue them but to those who pursue him, and strive to love. Joy and peace are found in loving and nowhere else. - John Stott

Joy and peace. Not happiness. You might find happiness from time to time, when it, by chance, finds you. But true joy and peace are something so much better, more permanent, more deep and settling than a passing shadow of happiness. As I strive to love those around me I find them in my soul and am made more (or, as scripture puts it, my "cup runneth over").

Now, I've dabbled into a bit of this Christianity mumbo-jumbo that isn't very popular round these parts, but consider this: I'm not very good at loving others, not nearly as good as a number of people I know, and good deal of those who I know who are so much better than me at it are *not* Christians. They are, however, people of fantastic joy and emanating peace - so I remain rather convinced that regardless of your faith, the principal remains.

tl;dr - Aim for happiness and you'll mostly miss. Aim for joy and peace - find it by loving those around you. and a real smooth bourbon every once in a while rounds it out nicely.
posted by allkindsoftime at 8:46 AM on April 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

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