How to fill time during depression
May 16, 2016 7:32 PM   Subscribe

My question is depression-related, but I am *NOT* looking for advice about getting out of it (like meds/therapy/exercise). I simply do not know what to do with my time aside from lie in bed and occasionally attempt my usual favorite activities (art and writing). Again, I am not looking for health tips as I have those angles covered. More inside.

Most of my depression right now is situational because I'm living with my mom, who's gone a lot, in a very rural area, and I don't have a driver's license right now. So I get stuck alone in the house a lot, which means going for a drive or even sitting in a coffee house are pretty much out. (I can occasionally get rides into town.) I only have a few local friends, but they all work a lot, whereas I am on disability and don't work.

I'm hoping to move by the end of June and have that to prepare for, but there are still a lot of blank hours.I could always or journal or watch bad tv /Netflix, but I'd love more suggestions for activities that are manageable when depressed. Again, this is all about filling my time, not changing meds or kind of therapy or whatever. Thank you for respecting that.
posted by mermaidcafe to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I suggest a craft of some kind, especially knitting.
posted by redfishbluefish at 7:34 PM on May 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

Any musical instruments around? Noodling around on a mandolin, banjo, or guitar is nice. YouTube videos can show you some easy lessons to get started, 5 min at a time, and you can just hold them while you sit or lay down and pluck at them.

Sometimes in a low or quiet mood I can spend hours sorting and tagging photos and music tracks on my computer, and later on I'm glad I did that because things are more organized.
posted by Miko at 7:35 PM on May 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

Do you have enough money for some cheap box wine, fruit, and the energy to prepare snacks? I would try to leverage the few local friends -- find a Fri/Sat night they're free, tell them their partners/kids (if applicable) are welcome, make sangria and hors d'oeuvres. Since you're in a rural area I'm guessing you have a good whack of yard to do this in. All you need are places to sit. I have a collection of old blankets to pass out for these sorts of evenings if people stay late, nice but not necessary. A freecycled fire pit was just the thing for s'mores for the kids who attend, to.

It gives me something to look forward to and forces me out of any moodiness come Friday. And you really don't need a crowd for a good time -- mark it down as a success if one person stops round.
posted by kmennie at 7:41 PM on May 16, 2016 [6 favorites]

You don't mention reading, so maybe you don't enjoy that, but I like getting lost in Wikipedia / internet wormholes about very specific things and reading my brains out.

If you have fun with artsy stuff, I get a lot of enjoyment from messing around on my Instagram. Take a photo of the landscape or the sunset and play around with filters and settings in VSCO and other photo editing apps, look up some local or otherwise interesting hashtags.
posted by sallybrown at 7:45 PM on May 16, 2016

I can't tell you how much joy I get from feeding my wild birds and critters.
I hung feeders and a few boards very close to my window. I put out just about any stale nut or soft fruit. I clean the bottom of the peanut butter jar and smear it out there and put seeds, too.

I really enjoy seeing who likes what and the different personalities of different species.

How about a little garden? A few easy flowers or plants?

How about just being outside in nature a bit? A short walk gathering interesting leaves, stone, petals, etc might be inspiring for your art.
posted by ReluctantViking at 7:46 PM on May 16, 2016 [13 favorites]

Sometimes when I am in the mood to do nothing, not even move, I can find myself sucked into puzzles like crosswords or sudoku for hours. Or simple smartphone games that don't require reflexes, like Slay or Drop 7.
posted by ejs at 8:03 PM on May 16, 2016

Best answer: I used to ride my bike a lot when I was depressed. I get if you aren't able to physically or if you don't live in a place where it's safe to do so, but it wasn't so much about "exercise" as it was just getting out and doing something (I'd ride pretty leisurely). It gave my brain time to just chill and ponder things (and it often inspired me creatively).

If bike riding doesn't work for you, walking can also be good. Walks don't have to be long.

I like making lists and tackling them. Movies I need to see? On a list and then I watch them. Music I should listen to? Same thing. It makes me feel productive even if it's mostly a passive thing to be doing.

If you like music, make mixes! They can be about anything -- genre, subject matter, keyword. Spotify/etc. makes it easy to do now. That always stimulates the part of my brain that wants to be creative but can't quite get it together otherwise.

(And, depending on what it is, I think even binge-watching shows can be beneficial. This was way before Netflix streaming, but being able to watch two episodes of Buffy on FX every day gave my life some structure and made me feel like I was doing something.)

Simple crafts can also be good -- things like friendship bracelets or other "kids" crafts (simple knitting is good -- I never went much beyond doing scarves/etc., personally). But just anything where I felt like "I made something!" (I'm not against the whole "adult coloring" thing, but things like that can be fun -- what about paint by numbers?) I get money can be a factor there, though.
posted by darksong at 8:04 PM on May 16, 2016 [6 favorites]

Plants from the kitchen? Carrot, pineapple, avocado, potato...or any actual seeds you may have lying around.

Learn a language? Practicality really doesn't matter here, so go for it.

Mechanical Turk?

Become a listener at 7 Cups of Tea?
posted by 8603 at 8:05 PM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Cooking/finding recipes/memorizing recipes - this is something with a good immediate reward that will serve you well after you move, and for the rest of your life. Plus, good for Mom.

Fixing things - again, helpful lifelong skill, nice for your hostess too.
posted by amtho at 8:09 PM on May 16, 2016

Clicker train any pets in the house.
posted by amtho at 8:09 PM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I find baking bread to be a good way to swim through a low day. Especially hand kneading dough.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:46 PM on May 16, 2016 [6 favorites]

Jigsaw puzzles are pretty mindless and show slow progress which is satisfying.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:54 PM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Have you ever played video games? Do you have a computer or game console? There are a lot of really interesting games that cover different topics, and you can find them as easy or hard as you want.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 9:19 PM on May 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

poffin boffin got me hooked on the Dragon Age video game series back when I was in a similar situation. It's nice to have a purpose for existing and friends, even if they're all fictional.

And once you're done playing through each of the games several different times with several different characters, there's the novels, comics, fanfic, fanart, fandom drama, etc... becoming a Dragon Age fan can easily occupy 1,000+ hours of your life.

posted by Jacqueline at 9:34 PM on May 16, 2016 [8 favorites]

I really enjoy learning other languages, especially with courses that feel like a game - Duolingo (free), Rosetta Stone (not free), Frantastique (less expensive than Rosetta), lernu (free), etc.

Esperanto is fun because you can learn very quickly, there are lots of free and fun resources, and a quirky culture associated with the language.
posted by congen at 10:28 PM on May 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

I obsessively indulged in two different hobbies when I was long term dysthymic on two separate occasions. The first was making bead earrings. The second was making websites. In retrospect both hobbies gave me a few distinct therapeutic benefits. Both involved hand-eye coordination and finger work. Both involved colour, and combining colour. And both allowed me to make something or solve a problem every single day, not matter how low I was feeling. This gave me a small sense of achievement to sleep on each evening and something to look forward to the next day. Due to my obsessiveness - I think I often made 40 - 70 different pairs of earrings in one sitting - I was able to make some side money from selling earrings cheap and making websites for small clients and the odd friend. Eventually, the colour therapy, finger therapy and the collection of small successes helped carry me through until I was able to make bigger changes. Good luck.
posted by Thella at 10:36 PM on May 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

A pack of cheap origami paper and endless YouTube videos. It's meditative, precise, and also funny if you've never done much before, because for how enjoyable the process is of pausing and playing and rewatching a "simple" get to shrug and laugh at the twisted glob of paper you make. And then you start over.
posted by missmary6 at 11:22 PM on May 16, 2016

If you are physically up to the task, gardening can take up tons of time. There is always something you can be doing to help a garden and a bunch of plants in pots to grow. And seeing them turn into food and flowers can be quite satisfying.

Perhaps a really good video game that doesn't have an ending, like Cities:Skylines. I've also wasted a lot of time watching two very beautiful goldfish swim around in a pretty little tank I made for them. Maybe you can make a garden nook for yourself to read and watch nature at the same time.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:11 AM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding the fandom suggestion. I can imagine video games are particularly good because the source material itself is very time consuming, but there are fandoms out there for pretty much any piece of media you could think of, and they provide community and even friendships, emotional distraction, the feeling of being part of something, and a creative outlet if you feel like writing your own fanfic or drawing your own fanart- there'll be a ready-made audience primed to love anything you produce, which is really fun and validating. Captain America fandom pretty much saved my bacon when I was in a similar position to you last year, and it's still an important part of my life. Bonus, I really improved my art skills and confidence by posting fanart.

On looking at your history, I see you have an Etsy business. If that's still a thing for you, this is a perfect time to work on growing that! Having a bit of extra income would allow you to be more materialistic in filling your time as well- more money for video games or Amazon orders or what have you.
posted by mymbleth at 1:07 AM on May 17, 2016 [6 favorites]

Cooking. If you're unable to get to a grocery store, maybe your mom can help you out by bringing home ingredients for time-consuming dishes. I don't even like cooking, but it is something that passes the time.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 1:50 AM on May 17, 2016

How about dyeing fabric? Its really cool, messing around in the kitchen with some old t-shirts and some indigo and boom! new old shirts (or table cloths or bags..or..)!


And totally for exploring the area (with a camera?), especially dawn/dusk (catch deer and stuff?) Ooh and love picking up big rocks and seeing all the creepy crawlies that chill out down there
posted by speakeasy at 2:02 AM on May 17, 2016

I find a big difference between just filling time and filling time with something to show at the end of it. I've always found the first easy, but the second helps to lift my mood and means I'm not just looking back on a series of blank days.

I loved beading and knitting, but for both stocking up on materials can be quite expensive, and probably not a good idea if you're planning on moving fairly soon. I would strongly second the recommendation above for Duolingo to learn a language. It's not just that it's free, but that the setup emphasizes doing a little every day, with a lot of reinforcement of every small step. If you ever studied a language at school, then going back over it on Duolingo can really bring it back; if you decide to study one you've never learnt before, then there's a big range to choose from.
posted by Azara at 2:20 AM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't like aimless walking - it makes me more depressed. So I like to give myself a job while walking, mostly taking pictures of things.
Take ten close ups of flowers.
Stick googly eyes on ten random places (and take pictures)
posted by Omnomnom at 2:34 AM on May 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

Turning out cupboards and drawers is amazingly therapeutic, if your mom is cool with it. I mean emptying the drawer/cupboard, cleaning the inside, throwing away anything that's obviously rubbish, and putting the contents back in a more orderly arrangement. Oooh, so satisfying.
posted by Grunyon at 3:24 AM on May 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

I'm surprised adult coloring books haven't been mentioned yet! They're trendy so there are oodles of them available at craft stores and book stores, and you can get all sorts of pretty colored pencils and pens to color with. (My personal favorite are Gelly Roll Stardust, which have glittery ink. You deserve glitter!)

And also, yeah, video games. Playing video games may not be as productive as making shit or cleaning the house or whatever, but they're such a good distraction and eat up time wonderfully well. I once went through a six-month stretch of depression and unemployment, and playing through every Final Fantasy game I owned made it suck a whole lot less.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:34 AM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Go get some juggling balls and a book or youtube and learn how to juggle. It focuses the mind most impressively.
posted by jtexman1 at 5:13 AM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

I use Second Life for exactly this purpose. I wanted time to go by without thinking about how miserable I was. I can hide in bed with the laptop and do meaningless things that feel quasi-meaningful. It's not really a game. You go in and explore a entirely user-created world. Create an avatar. Live somewhere. Do game-like things (role play, etc.). Build stuff and sell it. There are lots of things to buy. Lots.

One of the most absorbing activities I've found in SL is breedable animals. You buy animals and food and when they "grow up" (about a week in real time) you breed them and see what traits are carried over and keep breeding to get rare traits, and then selling them to other breeders. I've done this with rabbits, cats, dogs, horses, dragons, birds, butterflies and (yes, seriously) fairies. There is real money needed to do it. I spend about $20 a month (about $5K in SL "lindens"). The money I make in selling animals usually pays for the "rent" to live in a castle or in outer space or whatever crazy place I want, along with my pixelated critters. My goal is always to make enough to pay for animal food and whatever I want to buy.

Real life benefit? Not much. I have rarely made extra money selling things "in world" but have learned software like Blender to build stuff and have improved my Photoshop skills. It's totally absorbing but not competitive. You can do it hermit-like (I rarely talk to other users) or it can be a opportunity to socialize and meet others interested in the same things you are.
posted by bluemoonegg at 10:57 AM on May 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

So I like to give myself a job while walking

Oh! Yes, this. I pick up litter in my neighborhood during my walks.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:13 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Podcasts! When I'm feeling down and need the time to pass without sinking too deep into my own head, I turn on a podcast. Favorites right now are Night Vale and the Flop House although there are tons of great ones; I gravitate toward comedy. Combined with a physical activity (chores, walking, or just something to keep my hands busy like crochet or a quiet semi-mindless game) it works really well for me - if not to snap me out of a funk, at least to keep me floating along without thinking too much until the clouds lift a bit.
posted by beandip at 1:50 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, just thought of another thing that helped me not spend all day in bed when I was really depressed: cross stitch while listening to audiobooks. Cross stitch from a kit is great because it lets you create something pretty without having to think up something creative on your own. And taking a picture of my progress at the end of each day to post on Facebook and/or Tumblr made me feel like I was actually accomplishing something.

If you want to try cross stitch but can't afford to but a kit and other supplies, MeMail me your address and I'll send you something from my stash. I can also help you find some good audiobooks to listen to.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:50 AM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

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