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12 Actions to Counteract Depression

Updated: Sep 2, 2021

Action #8: Take out a piece of paper, and draw a line down the middle. On the left side you write, “Things that make me Happy” on the right side you write, “Things that make me Sad.” Populate the list with as many actions you can possibly think of and keep a copy of this list on your phone so you can add to it whenever you stumble upon any new actions that make you happy or depressed.

For example:

Things that make me Happy:

Working out, getting eight hours of sleep, having a good routine that enables personal growth, having a 3 month-plan, being creative and working on something higher than myself, adopting responsibility, talking to family, journaling, meditation, eating as healthy as I can and keeping my blood glucose levels steady throughout the day by eating regularly. Reading, learning, hiking, being outside, getting sunlight, being social, working a job, maintaining a clean house, petting a cat, petting a bunny, taking care of animals, challenging myself, taking on new experiences every month or week, whether that be new recipes, new activities or new skills, cleaning up or mending bad relationships, watching TED talks with breakfast, picking up trash, saying “yes” to life and being a "Yes Man," sharing, still being a kid even though I legally reached the age of adulthood long ago...

Things that make me Sad:

Worrying about the past, obsessing about the future, living too much in my head or just thinking too much in general. Having unrealistic expectations about myself that don’t map onto reality, having unrealistic expectations about the world that don’t map onto reality, judging other people, playing the losing game of comparison (comparing myself to others), falling out of a good routine, excessive social media, eating foods I know to be bad for me, stress eating, having a messy or disorganized home, not eating regularly, being in debt, not being grateful for the things I do have, lying to myself or others, acting out lies, not speaking up when I have something to say, ignoring responsibilities, procrastinating, hiding, running away, cutting people out of my life and choosing to punish others instead of choosing forgiveness. Excessive drinking, excessive smoking, excessive TV, being addicted to something and feeling powerless under its control, being a “No man," being overly lazy, not getting sunlight, staying inside too much, not getting enough human interaction, being selfish, overly focusing on myself—I hope you’re seeing a pattern here—not working towards something of value, giving into hedonistic pleasures, squandering my potential!!!

And now I present, the 12 Actions to Counteract Depression

(in sequential order)

Hey guys, so I’m making this blog post because earlier this year I stumbled upon the Universal Reason Why People Get Depressed and after 15 separate visits to the darkest part of my psyche I decided I never wanted to go back there again.  The following morning, I started writing out the best tips & tools I’ve ever come across after 15+ episodes of recurrent major depressive disorder, and this is that list.

Now, let it be known that this list should not be taken in lieu of therapy, more like, this is something to help supplement your therapy, because truth be told…no one should ever have to go through this experience alone.

That said, if you are wanting a few achievable actions to help you or someone you know start climbing out of depression, here are a few tips and tricks that have helped me.  

Where do these tips come from?

These come from training to be a re-evaluation counselor, group therapy sessions, solo therapy sessions, support groups, leadership camps, emotional intelligence courses, lectures, Eastern Medicine practices, Western Medicine practices, Amazonian Medicine practices, and Native American practices. Basically, I’ve been around the block, and after fifteen years of studying psychology…these seem to be the most tried and true tickets for climbing out of depression. However, the point of this list isn’t to overwhelm, it’s to show a clear-cut path with achievable milestones.  So start where you are, do what you can, bite this off in chunks if you have to because it's definitely not an all or nothing thing.  Having said all that, if you do perform all twelve of these actions—and you really take them seriously—I don’t see how depression could stand a chance. Largely because what follows is an action-based approach, and from my experience, just being on the right path is enough to keep most of the symptoms at bay.

 The reason we started off with Action #8 is, once you start to structure your day with more actions that make you happy while slowly phasing out the actions that make you sad, the symptoms of depression start to fade.  


Because in many ways we are what we do.  We are what we eat; what we think; and what we believe.  Therefore, if we want to change our internal state, all we really need to do is start changing our external state (what we surround ourselves with and how we structure our day). 

Action #1:

Admitting you're depressed. Sounds simple but it’s important.  Omission and repression are both acts of deceit, so the first action you need to take is telling someone else.  Jordan Peterson once said, "When you have something to say, silence is a lie," and I couldn't agree more with this point. There’s no shame in being depressed. We all fall down. We all trade places in the sun…we’re all just humans trying figure this whole thing out.  

Action #2:

You have to decide if you have free will or not. I realize this may sound like a Zen Koan, but asking yourself the question, “Do things just happen to me or am I responsible for my actions?” is the first step to healing.  If you don’t have free-will then there’s nothing I or anyone else can do to help the situation. On the other hand, if you’re choosing to play the responsible game, where you’re responsible for your own thoughts, feelings and actions then depression is very treatable. In fact, all you need is to take an action-based approach. So the action I have for you is to go grab a journal and on the first page write the words:

“I am responsible for my own thoughts, feelings and actions.”

Underneath that, sign your name.

This is an acknowledgement that you and only you are ultimately in charge of how you feel.  And when you do this, what you’re actually doing is taking back control of your life. You’re choosing to be the author of your future not a "puppet of the past" as the philosopher Alan Watts might say. Instead of choosing to be just a helpless victim of circumstances, you’re choosing to own the way you feel and this idea permeates every kind of healing program out there, which should probably tell you something about its utility.

Why is this practice so ubiquitous?

It’s because accepting responsibility for your life is the opposite of running away. It’s the opposite of fear. When you accept responsibility, you reclaim the power, and when you reclaim your power, you start to intuit what the underlying issue really is.

Action #3:

Climbing out of the hole.

Depression feels like you’re trapped inside your own life. Like you’re a prisoner of your own thoughts, but to make it physical, let's imagine that depression is like you’re stuck in humongous sinkhole.

From way down in the pits of despair, the view is a stark one and it always "seems" like there’s no way out—no one’s doubting that—but if you actually want climb out of the hole there are only two ways I know.

(i) You call out for help (i.e., you go to therapy) or (ii) You dig yourself out.

3a: If you’re calling out for help, you have to remember, you’re in a twelve foot hole and the only person at the top has a three foot rope. If you’re not willing to show up and put in the work—meeting them halfway—they cannot help you.

3b: The only other way out of a hole is to dig yourself out in a direct line. If you start digging a little bit over here and a little bit over there…your odds of ever reaching the surface decrease dramatically. To dig yourself out of a hole your efforts cannot be scattered, they have to be focused. You have to choose the best path you know and then stay on that path no matter what. Granted, you may run into rocks and limestone along your path and have to alter your trajectory a little, but ultimately you’re going to have to maintain your direction as you build the incremental stairs you need to walk your way out.

Action #4:

Deciding that you actually want to get out. Let’s keep in mind that “deciding” is not the same thing as “wanting.” People want things all the time. They want things they’ve been told to want. They want things their friends want. They want things they think they want.  And here lies the problem with "wanting" because wanting takes zero cognitive effort.

You don’t have to think through wanting something you just "want" it.

On the contrary, “deciding” to do something means you’ve chosen to sacrifice something in pursuit of something else. It could be time, it could be money, it could food, attention, sleep, comfort--it could be all of these things--the point is, whenever you choose to do something there will always be a price to pay.

And in case that sounds ominous... consider that even if you don’t decide to do something, there still will be a price to pay.

There is a consequence to action, just as there is a consequence to inaction and there’s just no getting around that fact; we live in a world where our actions have consequences. As you might have already guessed, climbing out of a hole is never easy...but it’s a hell of a lot better than just doing nothing as the sinkhole gets worse and worse.

Action #5:

Grab a pen and paper, go sit in a quiet place and ask yourself the question, “How can I be better?” Of all the steps, this one is probably the most crucial, because to ask yourself “How I can be better?” is tantamount to asking yourself, “What’s the best way to get out of this hole.” The depressed mind is a loopy mind, I'll give you that, generally overpopulated with thoughts of worthlessness and sound bites of failure, so you're going to have to use your intuition about what’s right and true.  With this in mind, you may may need to keep asking yourself, “How can I be better?” or “What can I do differently?”

“How am I wrong?”

“What can I give up to get out of this funk?”

If you keep asking yourself variations on questions like that, an answer will definitely come to you, but it’s probably not going to be the answer you want. Remember what we want to hear and what we need to hear are hardly ever the same thing.

So you ask yourself, “How can I be better?” and then you write down the answer and make a commitment: I’m going to give up _________ to climb out of this hole.  (Smoking...or whatever it happens to be).

If you choose one thing to give up, that’s the equivalent of having one good digging hand, unless of course it’s a large enough sacrifice, like smoking. If you choose two things to give up--and they’re significant negative behavior patterns--effectively you'll have two good hands to dig with.

Needless to say, but having two hands means you can climb out a lot faster, and see more progress daily, but I would heavily advise against trying to give up more than two things at once. All or nothing type thoughts (dichotomous thinking) is not a good route to go down.  

You have to be reasonable about which negative behavior patterns you’re choosing to give up, so don’t try to give up nine things at once, just pick one or two things that would ultimately make your life better anyway and then try going two or three weeks without them...just as an experiment.

Then, once your confidence is up and you see how you feel, maybe you try giving up that next thing.

Action #6:

Choose your direction.

To get out of a hole, you cannot be scattered with your efforts, you have to be focused. You’ve already chosen to accept the tragedy of your life, you’ve already chosen to be responsible for your actions, to dig yourself out AND you’ve already chosen the things you’re going to give up: I’m giving up this addictive drug or I’m giving up this addictive behavior (fast food, tobacco, lying, binge-watching) whatever the thing happens to’ve already chosen the part of yourself that needs to die off, that’s Part I of choosing your direction [up].

Part II is choosing ‘what’ you’re going to focus on [your angle].

In other words, what’s the reason you’re going to keep going when the sand gets in your eyes and you backslide 10ft?

In Japanese, they have a lovely concept for this called ikigai, which roughly translated means “life-purpose” but this really is a shallow translation of the word because what “ikigai” really means is a reason for living.

The thing that gets you up in the morning.

This might sound trivial but you really need to know the future you’re fighting for, in your bones, otherwise you’re liable to just get knocked down. Your ikigai is the thing that ignites you. It may not be the thing that pays, but it’s the thing you could talk about endlessly. The thing that lights a fire in your soul and gives you chills on the back of your neck.

When you’ve discovered what your ikigai is, effectively you’ve chosen the second coordinate in your direction (it isn’t just “up” vaguely…it’s “up” in a specific direction).

“I’m going to dig in the direction that the sun rises and only that direction.”

Your ikigai is likely to change over the course of your life, so don’t worry if you don’t know what you really really want to do yet, the point is to at least pick something worth fighting for and commit to it.  

If you’re seriously struggling with this...helping other people is always a good ikigai.

Action #7:

Stay on the path by setting daily goals.

As a general point, brains are highly susceptible to misremembering biases, confirmation biases and when it comes to depression, a severe pessimism bias to which people cannot seem to shake. In sum, our brains can’t always be trusted to remember what’s quantifiably true.

In science, we know our senses can’t be trusted to accurately report reality, which is why use precise measurement devices, control groups, double-blind placebo controlled trials, and in the same spirit, one of the ways we can begin to combat the feelings of depression is by quantifying our wins and our losses.

Right after you brush your teeth at night, either in video diary form, or in journal form, you need to ask yourself the question, “If today was a game, did I win it?”

If the answer is yes, you write down why you won the day. If the answer is no, you also need to write down why you didn’t win the day. Every morning, before you brush your teeth, you review last night’s entry about why you didn’t win the game or why you did, which can be painful, but the point isn’t to beat yourself up, the point is to overcome the pessimism bias with quantifiable data. Broadly speaking, life can be thought of as one giant game. Each day, a miniature game or skirmish. To win the game of life all you really have to do is win more days than you lose. Implying that if we can start keeping track of the days we win vs. the days we lose, we can (a) figure out the winning strategies a lot faster (b) actually get a handle on our progress and (c) track our wins and celebrate them.

If you win four days or more, you’ve already won the week.

If you win over two and half weeks, you’ve already won the month.

Every morning you review the reasons about "why you won the day" or "why you lost the day" and then you use the emotions you see on the page, or the emotions you see on your face to motivate you to be a little bit better than you were yesterday.

That's all we're really after be a little bit better than we were yesterday.  

Action #8

We already did, writing down “Things that make me Happy” vs. “Things that make me Sad” but I’d like to make an addendum to that which is, make your own list and tell me if you see any recurrent themes. A lot of things that are on my list (working out, volunteering, meditating, seeking out new experiences) they’re not all instant gratitude type things, but they do end up resulting in a happier me. Volunteering can be a pain at first but it's extremely rewarding, because the truth is...the getting is in the giving.

I must admit though. When I was 21 and my first doctor told me to write out a list like that, I thought to myself, “What a stupid exercise…what’s the point?” It took me years of suffering to realize how genius her idea was because once you start filling your day with more of things that make you happy, and phasing out the things that make you sad, the cloud of depression starts to go away.

Try filling your days with more things on the right side of the page than the left and tell me you don’t feel better.

At the end of the day, it is our actions, not our words, that define us.  

Action #9

Stay in the present moment & focus on what matters.

9a: Depression and Anxiety, are both problems with attention, fundamentally. From a scientific standpoint, they’re both underpinned by the same problem (a hyperactive Default Mode Network) which, in plain English, equates to an inability to stay in the present moment. People who are depressed tend to score higher on tests about rumination.

But what is rumination?

In its simplest definition, rumination is replaying an event over and over in your mind’s eye. The depressed person replays that stupid thing they said or that stupid thing they did over and over. Thoughts of worthlessness, sound bites of failure, horrible memories they replay to reinforce the belief that they don’t matter…all these little video clips play on repeat inside the theater of consciousness as their brain engages in recursive negative feedback loops, pushing them deeper into the hole.

So what’s the antidote?

Break the pattern. Stay in the present moment. Torturing yourself about something that happened twenty years ago or about something that might happen twenty hours from now doesn’t do anyone any good, in fact it only makes things worse.

To climb out of depression, and stay out, you have to adopt some form of focus practice. Meditative walks, cycling, playing music, writing, yoga, meditation, highly engaging sports, martial arts, working out…all these practices share one thing in common, which is, they force you to stay in the present moment.

You have two hemispheres of your brain—both of which are independently conscious to some extent—and the psychological literature is rather robust with the concept that the human psyche is composed of multiple sub-personalities. In short, parts of your brain want different things and this incongruity often leads to unhappiness which means we should work towards unionizing the Self whenever possible; not dividing it.

Unionizing the selves means adopting goals and actions that please all parts of your psyche, not just what your ego wants or what your parents want. You need to work towards something that aligns all of your capital “B” Being. To find your ikigai means to have found the something that pleases all sides of your psyche; actions that please your Remembering Self, your Experiencing Self, your Future Self and so forth.

9B: Focus on what matters.

When you’ve truly found your ikigai, or your direction out—and you're truly focusing on it—what happens is your spotlight of attention starts to focus in a more outwardly direction. As you’re climbing out of depression, you should consider letting the words “Focus out” become your mantra because it’s only when we are focused on the needs of others that we stop focussing on ourselves. Conscious attention is sometimes likened to the “spotlight of attention” and in order to get out of those negative feedback loops, we need to start pointing our spotlight away from ourselves and re-focus on what truly matters.

If you really want to know more about feedback loops, try hooking up a microphone to PA system and pointing the microphone at the speaker.

As long as you’re pointing your microphone at the speaker, a deafening howl will be pretty much all you can hear, but when you start focussing that spotlight of attention on something other than yourself, the howling begins to stop. How curious?

So what does this look like in practice?

Often this means giving something away.  It could be something physical, but it doesn’t have to be, you could give give someone good attention, where you’re truly listening to them intently and non-judgmentally. You could spend some quality time with someone else during their time of need or you could grab a box and go donate some of your belongings.

Volunteering at a soup kitchen, cleaning up trash at a local park, surprising your roommate with a thoughtful gift or a hand-written note…whatever action you decide to do...try to make giving and “focusing out” a part of your daily practice. Give away what you wish you got. Give away something, register the look on their face when you give it to them, and then simultaneously try to frown. It simply cannot be done.

Action #10:

Own your past.

Consider that there are the stories you own and there are the stories that own you. To climb out of depression, one way or another you’re going to have to confront your past, let go what you're holding onto, forgive yourself, and forgive other people.

Not too long ago, I used to think that forgiveness was something you either could or couldn’t do. Whatever gene people needed to forgive, I didn’t think I had it, because for the first twenty-six years of my life I never forgave a single person. Not one.

You wronged me, I cut you out, it was that simple. I gave zero second chances to anyone and yet somehow, I expected other people to give me at least five chances. Then, somewhere around my twenty-seventh birthday, I realized something very true about forgiveness. Namely, that forgiveness isn’t something you do, it's something you practice.

Kind of like an instrument, forgiveness is a choice you may have to recommit to every day. Every time those feelings of being hurt pop back up, you have to acknowledge them, re-commit to the decision you've already made and tell yourself, “I’ve already chosen to forgive this person…remember?”  Then you take a deep breath, and recommit to that decision.

Or if it’s yourself, you say, “I’ve already chosen to forgive myself,” and then you stick to that decision.

Just like your decision to climb out of the hole, forgiveness is something you may have to re-decide to do over and over because climbing out of the hole ultimately means leaving a part of yourself behind. The same way a snake sheds its skin, you’re going to have to shed a layer of your ego and that need to be right.

To not be owned and operated by the past means you’re going to have to confront your shadow, assimilate your story, and purge all of your secrets because as it turns out…the brain doesn’t like keeping secrets. Dr. James Pennebaker and his studies at the University of Texas, Austin, have demonstrated that writing down secrets in a journal actually decreases the level of stress hormones in your body.

Keeping them a secret, however has the opposite effect.

So if you have a memory that won’t leave you alone, consider that that memory hasn’t been fully processed. Biologically speaking, we have to keep in mind that we are “feeling creatures that think, not thinking creatures that feel.” This quote comes from Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s book, My Stroke of Insight, but the key idea is that when you look at how the brain is set-up (neocortex encapsulating the mammalian brain, mammalian brain encapsulating the reptilian brain...) we’re only able to think about something after we feel it.

We have feelings and then we reflect on them.

That’s just how the way the brain works.

Taking this into account, just because you were present for an event, doesn’t mean you fully processed it. There's an emotional component to everything we do, so if you never fully discharged about the event, it’s likely the memory was never properly stored.

To own your past means to complete the cycle.

The first part is obviously something terrible happens to you or because of you.

The second part would entail you taking ownership of the event which often means accepting responsibility and forgiving the other party. You either figure out how you’re responsible for the event…or you figure out how to make it your doing.

And then the third and most important part would be discharging about the event, either through laughing, crying, yawning, shaking, shouting, trembling or non-repetitive talking. You ever notice how if you tell a story enough times, the literal memory of the event starts to fade?  And after a while of telling the same story over and over…the words start to become the only thing you can remember? In essence, what this means is, you’ve finally owned, processed and assimilated the story.

On the contrary, when your mind is torturing you with images of faces or emotional reactions to whatever happened, it’s rather safe to say that story isn’t over yet.  

You really want to get out of the hole fast?

Make a list of all the people you’ve wronged. Every friendship or relationship that ended on bad terms and then you call those people. Each day you pick one person off the list and you try to make amends. But before you call them, you have to set your intention:

“I’m going to call _____ (Brian) and take 100% responsibility for how things turned out.

Mouthing the words won't be actually have to mean what you say.

You’re not calling them to explain your side of the story, give them excuses, or explain why you felt justified at the time…you’re calling them to own the situation, and take full responsibility. Then, after you’ve owned the situation, you ask them, "If there’s anything they’d like to say or get off their chest so you both can close the door on this event." Again, let us remember that the brain doesn’t like to keep secrets. It doesn’t like bad blood or to hold grudges, the brain wants catharsis. If you’re still holding onto something, chances are, it's what's holding onto you.

Holding you back from becoming the next iteration of yourself.

If you truly want to be free from past hurts, karma, or whatever you want to call it, forgiving yourself and forgiving others is the only way.  "Hurt people, hurt people" is the phrase that comes to mind because clinging to that need to be right, or that desire to punish other people and exact revenge is a breeding ground for resentment, self-hatred, depression and anxiety.  

Action #11:

Practice good emotional hygiene.

At the current moment, this term is rather esoteric, but I suspect that in the same way “working out” and “eating healthy” have really entered into the public zeitgeist over the past twenty years, practicing good mental and emotional hygiene will eventually be a household word.

What does this mean?

It means having regular check-ins with your emotional self and being more conscious about how you take care of your mind and body. The same way you’d wash a car or clean up your house, you have to clean up your mind. If your desktop is cluttered with icons and folders and your hard drive is crowded with gigabytes of old documents, your computer is never going to run very smoothly.

In its simplest definition, mediation is all about lowering the density of thoughts that pass between your ears. For twenty minutes a day, all you’re trying to do is just sit with yourself and be aware of as little as possible. By focusing on an object like your breath or a mantra—something like “Oh well peace”—you send away the thoughts that appear inside the theater of consciousness and in doing so you (a) grow your prefrontal cortex (b) enhance your ability to direct focus and attention (c) notice the kinds of thoughts that keep popping up and most importantly (d) you start to develop an honest relationship with your unconscious mind, which is to say your highest self.

Walking around all day, you’ll find no shortage of people “swiping up” on their phones as they close apps running in the background. People take the time to close the seventeen internet browsers they have open in the background because they intellectually know this frees up their RAM, and the same could really be said about the benefits of meditation. Despite whatever the word sounds like you’re not trying to levitate off the floor, you’re not trying to become such an elitist you look down on everyone around you…all you’re really trying to do is off-line the Narrative Self for about twenty minutes, so you can give your brain a much needed break.

At the current moment, there are now over a thousand studies on meditation, performed all over the world (600 on the Transcendental Meditation technique alone), so at this point, the cognitive and physical benefits are rather undeniable.

But don’t just take my word for it.

Pick any study you want, go read about the particular cognitive benefits they happen to be studying at the time, and what you’ll find is that our ability to direct focus and “control” our thoughts is not only attainable, it’s almost essential for living a healthy balanced life.

“Data dumps” is something you’ll hear a lot of in the Tech industry and it seems that being embodied emotional creatures that have brains...we need to regularly employ something similar. One of the reasons talk-therapy is such a wide-spread phenomenon is because people need to talk out their emotions. Talking is really just another form of thinking, therefore, to turn a story that owns us into something that made us, we can’t keep running away from problems. Paradoxically, in order to be free of the pain, we have to walk towards it. Confronting our demons and facing down the jaguar.

To complete the cycle, we have to discharge and purge.

What practicing good mental and emotional hygiene really means is to construct a life where you have systematic way of purging your emotions and feelings, whether that be to a friend who lets you vent, a journal where you can purge all of your deepest darkest secrets, a therapist, a re-evaluation counselor or maybe for you personally...exercise, yoga, or a meditative practice could be enough to help you purge all that pent up energy and accept where you are.

Whatever your pressure release valve happens to be, purgative acts seem to be a necessity for a proper functioning and healthy brain. You can’t move forward if you don’t know where you’ve been, and you can’t know where you’ve been if you keep distracting yourself with meaningless activities and drowning out your thoughts with numbing chemicals.

Action #12:

Recognizing what this life is and what this life isn’t.

Life isn’t you get what you want all the time.

Life isn’t some people are just luckier than others and I’m forever doomed to suffer.

Life isn’t whatever you expected.

Life is pain. Life is suffering...but, life is also beautiful. We can choose to focus on the tragedy or we can choose to focus on the beauty, just keep in mind that whatever we choose to focus on changes what we see. Sometimes I’ll talk about the importance of gratitude and watch people roll their eyes, but you really can’t overstate the benefits of being thankful for what you do have because truth is, you just never know how bad things can get.

Unfortunately, for me, I had to see the view from the bottom a few times before I started realizing the utility in appreciating all the little things. For being thankful for what I did have instead of continuously focusing on what I didn't.   

Everywhere you go there are pockets of perfection. Moments of laughter, instances of kindness, it may not always be easy to spot, but the more we can train our brains to be aware of “the good” the less we’ll focus on the bad.

Jordan Peterson once said something to the effect of:

If you do nothing you will suffer. If you do something you will suffer. Basically, those are your only two options. So you might as well do something that would justify your miserable existence. Something that makes the tragedy of life worth it.

—Until recently, I used to take all the suffering of the world personally. I used to think it was all happening to me. That everyone else had it easy and there was no one else who was suffering like I was, but then I realized something. I realized that suffering wasn’t an emergent phenomenon of life but that it was fundamental.

That somehow suffering was built into the fabric of existence.

This revelation eventually led me down the path of realizing that everything in this life exists on a dipole. You can’t have up without down, life without death, light without dark or North without South.

An old Irish Proverb says, “Life is like licking honey off a knife.”

A very poignant point because it addresses both the positive and the negative aspects of Being in one little sentence. So if you’re suffering right now...basically what that means is, you’re alive. And your pain--as unbearable as it may be--is trying to tell you something.

A wise woman once told me, “Everything good comes with a little pain,” and with this realization, riding sidecar, is the importance of relationships and interdependence. Sunny days are only “good” in relation to cloudy days. You can’t have an experience of “hotness” without something to compare it to. You can’t know what it is to be comfortable without knowing what it is to be uncomfortable, and in-turn you cannot have self without other.

Self implies other. Order implies chaos. If you were always happy, how would you possibly know? You need sadness to know what happiness is, because happiness is only preferential in relation to its opposite, so opposites in fact go together.

Truth of the matter is, if you’re depressed right now, it means you’re alive and you’re feeling a particular range of human emotions that aren’t very enjoyable--I’ll give you that. But let's keep in mind that depression isn’t all there is. There is an entire spectrum of human emotions that are possible and when you’re on the right path, which means choosing to let go of that need to be right and choosing to forgive…you’ve opened yourself up for growth. Once you’ve opened yourself up for growth, you’ve opened yourself up to create, to love, to adapt, to grow, to focus out and make things better. In essence, you’ve chosen to live.

Choosing life means being a willing participant in the game and not just sitting on the sidelines or stuck down in the hole. Our actions, what we do on this Earth, can be thought of as something like mind-body currency, and honestly, it’s the only coin that matters. So when you’re choosing how to spend your limited time on this planet and you’re consistently choosing actions that tear you down and make things worse, your body tells you.

But when you’re choosing actions that make you and the world around you a better place...your body tells you too.

The question is…which path do you want to choose?

The path of pain?  Or the path of listening?

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Written by Jay Nelson

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