Cadillac News: “Finding Happiness”

by Kayla Kiley

It’s late winter and we’re living in a depressed economy, but that doesn’t mean your emotional well-being has to suffer.

Val Bishop, chief operating officer at Northern Lakes Community Mental Health for six regional counties, offers simple ways to enhance your happiness while living in a bad economy:

• Connect with someone. Everyone needs that human connection in some way, whether it’s with a family member, friend or neighbor. Having human connections will help you feel less isolated and alone. But if you’ve made connections and still find it difficult to pull yourself out of a rut, you may need to seek professional help.

• Get out of the house. Get involved with something – whether it’s a support group, church program, senior center, library, volunteering or simply walking around the store or school hallways – get yourself out of your cocoon. Figure out what would be helpful and therapeutic for you, and do it. If you’re scared to take that first step, ask a friend or relative to come with you.

• Do things for yourself. Eat healthily, exercise, take a bubble bath, relax, meditate or pray. These activities can make you feel better, and they can be very low cost or free. You don’t have to join a health club or have excellent physical mobility in order to exercise – go for a walk or try stretching and chair exercises.

• Get creative. Finding a creative outlet to express yourself can be a great way to lift your spirits. Paint, knit, write poetry, journal, bake, or listen to or play music in an environment where you don’t feel criticized. People who think they don’t have any creative energy are misguided – everyone has creativity, and releasing it can be therapeutic. Feeling the value of what you’ve made has a tremendous, positive effect on self-esteem and general happiness.

• Break it down. Instead of taking on a big task at once, break it down into little goals. If you’ve been cooped up in the house with no desire to go out, take baby steps to get yourself out of the house. Try short walks around your neighborhood before taking on a task such as heading to a department store on its busiest day. Taking little steps will increase your chances of succeeding a task, and you’ll likely feel more productive and less down.

• Allow others to help you. When it comes to getting out of a depressive rut, you may need a family member or friend to push you in the right direction. Many times, people are willing to support you, but they don’t know how. Allow people to assist by taking the hope that they’re extending – you could see a change for the better in your state of mind. If you stay closed up, your depression may continue; however, if you take somebody’s hand, that action could be a positive turning point in your life.

• Natural mood uplifters. More sunlight can make a big difference in your happiness, as well as foods with antioxidants, such as dark chocolate, vegetables and fruits can uplift your mood. As long as you don’t eat foods in excess, they can give you an energy boost and a bit of a lift.

• Turn negatives into positives. We can’t change what comes at us – but we can change the way we react to it. If you can find better ways to respond to change, it’ll give you a better ability to deal with adversity. Think about negatives as opportunities for new doors to open; this outlook will take you much further than being stuck in a negative state of mind.

• Get a pet. Pets help give people a sense of purpose, which can make people happier. Pets can help take your mind off your troubles. Pets need you – you take care of them, and they give you unconditional love in return. It’s a good feeling to be needed and loved.

• Seek support. If you’re changing unhealthy patterns and need support, seek that support. A support system can offer encouragement, and you can better learn how to make changes. Ask a friend to do activities with you because if you plan to do activities alone, you might find reasons to not do them

• Help others. Helping someone else can be very therapeutic; it can make you feel useful. When you’re helping people, you’re not only making a connection with people but you are also learning things from the person you’re helping.


Northern Lakes Community Mental Health offers free programs, which are open to everybody:

• Recovery Learning Community
– About: A chance for the community to come together to learn about mental health.
– When: 1 to 3 p.m. Friday; second Friday of the month
– Where: 527 Cobbs St., Cadillac
– Information: Call Val at 876-3309

• Pathways to Recovery
– About: An in-depth peer-led course on using your personal strengths in your recovery journey.
– Where: 527 Cobbs St., Cadillac
– Information: For details, call Val at 876-3309

• Art Groups
– About: Learn a dynamic process to lead a less stressful life. No experience needed.
– Where: 527 Cobbs St., Cadillac
– When: 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday; first and third Tuesday of the month


If you have a family member or friend who is depressed, it’s not always easy to know how to help them. Val Bishop, chief operating officer at Northern Lakes Community Mental Health for six counties, offers advice on how to help pull people out of the depths of depression:

• Keep reaching out. If the depressed person is continuously turning you away, keep trying. Don’t just ignore depressed people who have pushed you away – they may really want your help but just don’t know how to accept it. Keep in contact with the person, listen to them and try not to judge them.

• Talk. The key is to try to talk to them and encourage them to get help. If you walk away and don’t do anything to help them, they’ll probably feel worse.

• Think of things that they may want to do that will help pull them out of depression. Try to be helpful and meet them on their terms. If you’ve invited them out to lunch and they turn you down, don’t automatically give up – the person may not feel like leaving their house. Instead, offer to bring lunch to their home or to visit. Try a little harder if the person pushes you away without being demanding or obnoxious about it.

• Know when the person is at risk. Look for signs of serious depression: they’re not taking care of themselves, their personal care deteriorates, not dressing, not bathing, not eating – they may need to get immediate professional help.

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