“Enjoy life. There’s plenty of time to be dead.” – Hans Christian Andersen
In 2008, movie-goers shuddered in the haunting echoes of The Dark Knight’s most famous line. With a painted smile and an iconic wardrobe eerily matured, the deranged Joker (Heath Ledger), surged dreadful words into our nightmares. “Why so serious?”
Couldn’t such a character be a depiction of mental illness? The very monster that fuels the darkness mocks our fears with a horrifying push toward light-heartedness. The irony is haunting. Indeed, any suggestion of lessening seriousness in the face of depression can feel just as appalling as the Joker slitting smiles. How can a depressed person not be serious? And, how can a man in darkness enjoy life? Even if just for a moment.
To force myself to get up and choke down a dose of actual fun, I started putting a timer to certain activities. I tap it up to ten minutes, let it count down, and then engage in the moment until I hear it beep, not thinking, checking the web, or worrying excessively. Doing so helps me to take positive strides in directions I want to go, like being a dad that plays with my son, but am too often weighed down by the overwhelming prospect of the even simplest movement. Held in the past by depression or doomed for the future by anxiety, when the mind is immobilized, using a timer assists with focusing on the present. The foreseeable end the timer provides motivates me to get up, out of my head, and into the world, or at least onto the floor. I may not earn Dad Of The Year, but by committing to my son ten minutes at a time, maybe I’ll have a shot.
Setting a time-limit is a worthwhile and effective strategy for anyone with a mental illness. We need to remember to have moments of fun, especially in bouts of depression or anxiety. Give yourself ten minutes to roll around with your child, wrestle with the dog, tickle a stranger, play a game, go bowling, watch a funny YouTube video, ride a bike, or just enjoy life. You can worry again or reflect on your depression when the timer goes off. But for at least ten minutes, let yourself have fun, and see where it might take you. Throw the proactive fist of Batman in the face of depression. Force the Joker to swallow his words.
Read more about transforming difficulty into fun in my post Featured Resource: Superbetter.