How I Cured My Depression: Part 2 Constructing A Future

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“Depression is the inability to construct a future.” Rollo May

Most people with depression are lacking two important things: 

  1. A goal for your life (a future)
  2. A daily routine that is set up to help you accomplish that goal

I can’t choose your future for you – that is up to you. The part I can help you with is creating a routine that will help you accomplish whatever goal you choose.

Why A Routine?

I recently read a book called Daily Rituals – How Artists WorkThe book  outlines the daily routines and work schedules of history’s greatest novelists, poets, painters, philosophers, scientists, and musicians. (like Charles Darwin, Andy Warhol, Benjamin Franklin and William Faulkner)

Read my post: 5 Books That Will Make You Smarter

Reading the book taught me two things:

  1. Most of the Masters were quite insane
  2. All of them lived by some sort of daily schedule that they repeated every day

“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.” – Albert Einstein

Your Current Routine

Whether you realize it or not you’re life is already running on a routine. The time you wake up, the way you brush your teeth, the time you go to sleep. All of these things are repeating day after day and probably have been for years.

If you find yourself in a bad state of mind on a regular basis it could be being caused by a negative routine that was installed in you a long time ago. Identifying and  changing these negatives routines will transform your life and wipe out depression much faster than you think.

It’s simple – You are what you do with most of your time:

  • If you lift weights every day – you’re a weight lifter
  • If you write poems every day – you’re a poet
  • If you get drunk every day – you’re a drunk

“The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.” Mike Murdock

To demonstrate – let’s take a look at my old routine.

My Old Routine

  • 8:30am Wake up at the last possible minute feeling horrible
  • 8:31am Curse the day (“F#ck this sh#t” was my morning Mantra)
  • 8:40am Consider quitting my job so I can go back to bed
  • 8:45am Road rage on the drive to work
  • 9:00am Annoyed by everyone at work
  • 9:30am Decide to do no work today
  • 12:00pm Eat a hamburger for lunch
  • 1:00pm Drink coffee or soda to try to wake up
  • 2:00pm Nod off at desk for 3 hours
  • 5:00pm Leave work feeling exhausted
  • 5:15pm Road rage on the drive home
  • 6:00pm Sit on the couch and watch reality shows
  • 7:00pm Microwave Hot Pockets for dinner
  • 9:00pm Go out drinking
  • 2:00am Decide to stay out too late
  • 4:00am Eat gas station hamburgers
  • 5:00am Finally go to sleep
  • 8:30am Wake up at the last possible minute feeling horrible

True Story, and obviously a pretty sad way to live my life. But I’ve spent the last several years focusing on getting better at Life and creating a new routine has been one of the most helpful experiments I’ve tried.

Credit to Asian Efficiency and Charles Ngo for sharing a lot of great info on this stuff.

My Current Routine

  • 6:00am Wake up and Thank the Universe for another day of Life
  • 6:05am Use the bathroom, brush teeth and record my weight
  • 6:15am Drink large glass of cold water
  • 6:17am Put the dishes from yesterday away
  • 6:20am Make coffee
  • 6:22am While coffee is brewing do morning stretches
  • 6:30am Read a book for 15–20 minutes
  • 6:45am Watch the Sun Rise
  • 7:00am Begin 3 hours of work
  • 10:00am Go to gym
  • 11:30am half an hour of work
  • 12:00pm Prepare an ultra-healthy breakfast by hand
  • 12:15pm Eat breakfast (intermittent fasting)
  • 1:00pm Work or take 30 minute nap
  • 2:00pm 3 hours of work and/or writing for blog
  • 5:00pm Stop working, clear desk of clutter
  • 5:15pm Prepare and eat my 2nd ridiculously healthy meal
  • 6:00pm free time
  • 7:00pm Final meal of the daily, make sure my macros targets are met
  • 10:00pm Bed time
  • 6:00am Wake up and Thank the Universe for another day of Life

See the difference?

  • Sleep: I know for a fact that if I don’t get 7–8 hours of sleep I feel awful. So instead of staying up all night I’m in bed by 10pm.
  • Wake Up Thankful: The first thing I do is get out of bed, put my feet on the floor and say “Thank You”. I am thanking the Universe for another day of Life. Sounds silly – but it’s life altering.
  • Track Weight: I weigh myself every morning because I have a long-term goal of gaining 10 lbs of lean muscle this year. It’s something I work towards every day and by December 2014 I will hit my goal. Read my Intermittent Fasting and Leangains Transformation post to learn more.
  • Watch sun rise: I watch the sun rise very morning. Why? Because it is real hard to be depressed when you’re watching the sky explode with light. If you can’t remember the last time you watched the sun rise – set an alarm and do it soon.
  • Find out when the sun rises in your area at TimeandDate.com. If you live in a small town, look for the nearest larger city.

Every item in my daily routine helps keep my head out of depression’s darkness while helping me accomplish my long term goals. And it works.

If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.  – Lawrence J. Peter

What You Can Do

If you want to give this a try, you just need to do two things:

  1. Document your current daily routine
  2. Edit it to make your life better

I’ve posted my daily routine for you to use as a guide. (Click the little black arrows to read my notes)

Copy it and make a schedule of your own and then detail out what you do today and tomorrow.

Then – take some time and think of a goal you’d like to accomplish and we’ll adjust your routine to help you do it.

Example Goal: “I want to lose 20 lbs this year “

Steps to accomplish goal:

  • Set calorie goal and track food with MyFitnessPal
  • Exercise 3 days a week
  • Get 8 hours sleep per night

Now fit those things to your daily routine and start doing them repeatedly. The momentum you create will help reduce the Depression you feel. It’s exciting to be heading in a new direction, to have a goal and work towards it every day.

The results: I realized I was no longer writing music. This was something very important to me that had slipped through the cracks. I wanted to change that. So I scheduled the first hour of my day for writing and recording sessions.

In 30 days I wrote 38 songs.

These sessions resulted in the ‘Sad Robot Finally Sees The Sun’ EP – which I consider to be one of my best recordings.

The key difference is that instead of just saying “I’m going to start writing more music!” I added it to my daily schedule at a specific time and did it every day without fail.

“Goals are dreams with deadlines.”  – Diana Scharf Hunt

There is nothing wrong with living on a routine – the key is that it’s a routine created by you. A routine forced upon you by your boss, your parents or your teachers sucks. But this is you – mapping out what you want to do every day and then doing it.

Get Started

So it’s time to get started. I’ve outlined your assignment again below. Let’s see what you can do!

Action List:

  1. Copy my daily routine spreadsheet
  2. Document Your Current Routine
  3. Choose a Goal
  4. Create a new routine to accomplish your goal
  5. Do it every day

Read the next post in this series ‘Exercise The Demons‘ and learn to feel like the Champion of The Universe.

  • http://blogprofitmedia.com/ Andy Baker

    Out of curiosity, how long does it take you to get to sleep? You’ve got 8 hours sleep in the schedule, but you’re not going to get all of it as a benefit. So you find that it’s enough?

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      Andy – It takes me about 20-30 minutes to go to sleep most nights, especially if I watch Netflix in bed. I’m experimenting with stuff like Zzzquil, Melatonin and breathing exercises to help me go to sleep faster. (some nights I aim for 20 deep breaths and am asleep before I get to 15)

      7+ hours I feel great. 6 hours I feel off.

      Most nights I’m in bed by 10pm, but some nights I get into bed as early as 9pm or 9:30pm. Same with waking up. Some mornings I wake up at 6:30am and others at 5:00am (I don’t use an alarm).

      The schedule is a guideline – definitely not the law.

      • http://blogprofitmedia.com/ Andy Baker

        Thanks for the reply, not too far off what I’m doing now.

        Need an alarm though. When I was about 6 I could pick an arbitrary time and wake up to within a few minutes. Always wondered if the brain’s just got a really accurate timer, or if you’re picking up on environmental hints.

        I’ve tried 5HTP before and I find that gives me improved sleep, but do the breathing thing sometimes as well.

        • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

          I’m not sure on the brain timer. One thing that helped me is not having curtains. I have floor to ceiling windows and when the sun starts to rise the entire room lights up. It’s hard to sleep through it.

      • Paul

        “7+ hours I feel great. 6 hours I feel off.”

        Yes, me too. If I get any less than 6.5 hours I start feeling drowsy during the day and have to take a nap (the brain’s way of telling you you need more rest I guess).

        I need curtains/blinds where I am, because in the height of summer the sun doesn’t set till 9-10.30 pm.

        Your sample routine is similar to the one I saw on Charles Ngo’s blog – great minds think alike!

        Before I had a routine, I had a massive todo list which never got done. Now, I just need to plan 3-4 of the most important tasks the night before.

        • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

          Paul – credit where credit is due. I’ve known Charles since about 2009 and have been borrowing his spreadsheets for years. I took my crude routine spreadsheet and adapted it after seeing his super minimal and clean version.

  • Rick

    Thank you! Very helpful. Looking forward to the rest of the series!

  • MimiB

    I’m at a very low point in life right now. I started documenting my time yesterday and today and having a tangible view of the time I waste is a great start. I can foresee my problems are going to be with the goals. I have waaaaay too many things I want and need to accomplish but I’ve wasted so much time that I have let basic necessities fall by the wayside and have no clue where to begin.
    I’ll sit down and get my list together though, from the most mundane to my wildest dream.
    Thanks for sharing… It’s a great start

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      great Mimi, good luck and if you have any questions – ask away. hope you’re feeling better

  • C4

    Hi malan, during the time of when you were cured, did you actually live in a house by yourself or with other members? because I know that being isolated also causes depression

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      hey C4. First let me say that “cured” is a strong word. I would say something more like “learned to manage”. Because I’m not sure you’re ever cured, you just learn to deal with it better over time.

      I was living alone at the time. I think for some people, myself included a period of solitude can be helpful. Not in an extreme hermit-y way, just enough personal time to be able to focus on yourself.

      • Frankie

        Why then is your article entitled “How I cured my depression”? I love the idea of constructing your own future, but for some people the word ‘cured’ could be misleading and setting them up to fail. Failure in the eyes of the severely depressed could be fatal.

      • Justin

        You used “cured” in the title of your article though…

  • Serena

    Hi Malan, I just want to say thanks for this post. I have suffered from depression for years and hate how it keeps recurring, mainly because I keep switching back to bad habits (food & alcohol and no exercise). I know I will never be ‘cured’ but like you want to be able to manage it without the massive lows I sometimes get, right now I am very angry and life but just starting on this routine tracker has made me a bit more positive. Small steps I guess. Thank you

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      you’re welcome Serena, thanks for stopping by.

  • Ran

    The 8:40’s quitting my job part – yep me too!

  • Steph

    This helped me more than you will ever know. You are doing amazing things and the positive energy you are releasing is much appreciated! The sad robot EP is also pretty dope. Cheers!

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      thanks Steph, glad you enjoyed it.

  • Nu Bodhi

    Hey, thanks so much for this. It inspired me to take a good look at how I was fueling a self-propagating cycle of depression and change it. Getting stronger each day. Bless you mate. Best of luck with everything 🙂

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      thanks Nu Bodhi – glad it helped. Good luck 🙂

  • fearlesscorinne

    Hi, I’m a junior in college and I came across your article. I don’t believe I am depressed but my current routine matches your old one. I am nearing the end of my semester and realized that I’ve done nothing. I’m looking back on the past two months and could probably count the homework assignments I’ve done one two hands. I feel like I progressively get worse each semester. I am involved in a lot of clubs and have leadership positions in most and have a part-time job. But even with all of that, I still have plenty of time to do my school work. But I’m just lazy, unmotivated and now I’m on the verge of failing an easy class but of course I’m past the late-drop deadline.

    This issue isn’t recent however, I have been like this as long as I can remember. I have always been lazy and unmotivated. I’m a mess, I’m late to everything and I don’t get my shit done. I don’t know what I am going to be after college. I feel like I’m spoiled and it’s probably true. True that I get what I want and have rarely suffered consequences. I always just get by. I feel like there is something wrong with me and that I’m going nowhere. I just want to say that I’m responsible and on top of things and have urgency to get things done. But that’s not true. I want to be able to say, a year from now, that I got my life together but every time I try, I fail.

    • Angie

      You sound just like me a couple years ago when I was in college (except the clubs thing – I’m not very social). And looking back on that time, I can clearly see now that I had depression. It’s funny how you don’t notice it when you’re in the middle of it. I had plenty of time to do my schoolwork – I just… didn’t. Toward the end of the semester, i was skipping classes for any reason and no reason. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew it wasn’t what I was majoring in, or any other major at that school. So I dropped out after that semester. I thought I wanted to do something “computer-y” and transferred to DeVry (don’t do that!). Once I realized that I hated DeVry and working on computers stressed me out, I said to my self “screw it, I’m going to major in English. Don’t know what career I’ll have and I don’t care, but I like English classes and just want to get a degree already.”
      While getting my English degree I discovered how great checklists are. Write down all in one place, on a whiteboard, everything you have to get done by the end of the week and you’ll probably do it.
      It wasn’t until after graduating that I realized my passion.

      And now I’m realizing that, to achieve my passion, I need a schedule. I need a routine and I need to stick to it. Depression ebbs and flows, for the most part, and now that I know what’s been dismotivating me, I can see it rearing it’s head again and try to stop it, rather than spending all day playing video games or scrolling through twitter to try to shut it out.

      Tl;dr: You might have depression and not recognize it as being depression, and some sort of organization in your life will definitely help you.

  • Tony

    Hello Malan. Can I please ask that how long have you been having the old lifestyle for? Before you moved onto the new habit

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      10-15 years

      • Tony

        Wow, that’s so much longer than I thought, does this means that you’ve been living with depression for 10-15 years?

  • Jack

    Hello Malan. Do you mind if I ask your age, just wandering if your heart rate is still capable to support you to do weight trainings if you are over 50, because you wake up so early

  • Javier Perez

    Wow. This is exactly what I have been searching for, someone to actually map out a routine that I can follow and adjust to. Thank you very much for this article. You have Inspired me. And your music is great as well. Keep up the great work.

  • Rabeya

    Thank you. I am inspired. will try them

  • Chiereme Fortune

    You’re post is giving me life! I never thought about my routine as a means to help cure my depression. I usually just thought of it as crappy, uninspiring and in need of multiple facelifts. I’d tried a few ways to change it to be more productive, but the underlying motivation that my routine can help change my mood and overall happiness is such a recharge to the usual, ‘I need to do this,’ speech I give myself daily.

    Thanks so much for your vulnerability and story.

    Best,
    Chiereme

  • Zara Malik

    Thanks malan….ur post is amazing…but much depress coz i have nthng to do in my life …as am student and i have many goals but dnt knw how to accomplish that.i spent my whole day sleeping and whole night using net (fb) and no interest in this life…aww no hope 😐

  • Ang

    This article has uplifted me… Gave me some hope! ..going to try making some changes & a different daily routine. Its hard as I have 3 little children to cope with also… I am very much ready for a change!

  • Routine Beginnings

    I’m so happy I found this article. Thank you!!

  • Anantha RamaKrishnan

    Great article thanks….

  • Patricia Smitth

    as according to Consumer Health Digest, A great life means a good mental health care, Following this routine is like following a mantra, A more positive way to look at life 🙂 This is really a good blog post to live by 🙂

  • Alex

    Just so you know, when your email subscription ad blurb picks up, the options are to accept the offer, or, and I quote: “No, I reject you.”

    If you’re going to blog about how to deal with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, maybe a guilt-trippy ad isn’t the best way to get people on board with your blog. That said, I know that sometimes site creators/blog owners don’t have total control over their ads – so you may be unaware of it.

    But I really think that you should try to change this option, as there’s nothing that turns me off quicker than an ad guilt tripping me while I’m trying to read an article about how to move past my depression and anxiety – both of which cause me to guilt myself over every little thing.

  • Amy Frost

    Great article, thank you! I thought I had the right goals, but now I’ll be mending my schedule to reach more productive.