young woman smiling while holding her dog

Feeling Down? You Might Need a Dopamine Menu or a Depression Kit

01.04.2024 — Luiza Bargo

If you are someone who struggles with Seasonal Affective Disorder or just depression in general, it is likely that you are intimately familiar with how difficult it is to find any motivation when you are going through those times. In turn, this becomes a cycle of wanting to do things that will make you feel better, not having the energy to do them, feeling worse because you feel you can’t even do things that should be easy because you enjoy them, and so on.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for this – you might need to talk to a professional about getting medication or having regular therapy, for instance – but there are ways of making it a little easier for yourself. Here are some ideas that may help.

Look for the glimmers

Originally coined by social worker Deb Dana in 2018, a glimmer stands in direct opposition to a trigger. This refers to moments where you find joy or peace or feel otherwise at ease in your life. It’s easy in a society that values money and things and “the grind” to go about life without paying attention to the smaller moments of happiness.

Conversely, when everything feels like “too much,” even a small trigger can feel incredibly overwhelming. And while focusing on one more than the other doesn’t necessarily mean that will stop, it can serve as a reminder that there are equally as many things to feel positive about. 

If this is an idea that appeals to you, we highly recommend starting to keep a look out for glimmers in your day-to-day. And if your brain likes to forget all about those when things aren’t going well, consider journaling the ones you find so you can keep a record of all the things that have brought you some joy. As with anything, the more you do it, the more you’ll find!

Create a dopamine menu

The concept of a dopamine menu has grown in popularity online over the past year, but if you’re still not sure what that means, we’re here to break it down for you. At its core, a dopamine menu is a list of things you keep adding to that can provide you with, as the name suggests, a nice dose of dopamine.

Naturally, different people will need different things, but there are plenty of premade lists you can find on Pinterest or even TikTok to help you gather inspiration when creating your own. And while we love journaling, we do suggest keeping a version of this list on your phone so you always have it close by when you need it.

Dopamine menus are also really good for people with ADHD who need to feel that sense of accomplishment at the end of a task and therefore need to give themselves a little treat. Breaking your list down into how easy things are to do can also help when you’re feeling down and just need a quick little boost. 

Your list can include getting a snack, finishing a small chore, going to an event, getting a spa treatment, having a bath, hugging your pet, lighting a new candle, etc. (Our Being Frenshe Reset candles are great for this, btw.) Having a good variety of things you can do means no matter how much effort you’re willing or able to give a task, you’ll still get a little something in return. 

Build a depression kit

Anyone familiar with depression probably knows by now how difficult it can be to accomplish even the smallest of tasks, especially when you have to be functional for things like work or parenting that take up a lot of energy you already don’t have. When you’re in that headspace, it’s hard to remember what you even enjoy doing, let alone getting around to it.

The idea of creating this kit comes courtesy of TikTok user @loonarun, who got the suggestion from her therapist. Similar to a dopamine menu, you will add to a box or basket however many things you want to do when you’re trying to get a bit of happiness, but it differs in that this kit already has things pre-selected and close by. 

We recommend doing this when you’re feeling good, or asking for a loved one to help you since it can be taxing to come up with ideas otherwise. Also unlike a dopamine menu, everything in this kit should be relatively easy to do – think of it as a “break in case of emergency” thing. 

A few ideas can include your favorite treats, an envelope with cherished memories, a letter from a loved one, a book you’ve been excited about, small activities like crosswords or slime, an item of clothing that makes you smile to wear, face masks or some nice smelling lotion, etc. If you want, you can also keep a record of each activity and how you felt before and after doing it.

Hopefully, this has given you some new tools to help you pull yourself out of a depressive state or, at the very least, find some excitement when everything feels impossibly difficult. And whether you already do something similar in your life or not, we’d love to hear on our Instagram what things are on your list.

Photo: Samson Katt on Pexels

  • Luiza Bargo is a Brazilian writer and graphic designer based in Texas. She loves discussing harm reduction in the beauty and wellness industry, sustainable fashion, and all things nerdy. Follow her on Instagram (@luizabargo) to keep up with her work.

Luiza Bargo
Luiza Bargo is a Brazilian writer and graphic designer based in Texas. She loves discussing harm reduction in the beauty and wellness industry, sustainable fashion, and all things nerdy. Follow her on Instagram (@luizabargo) to keep up with her work.