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How I Pavlov-Trained Myself Using Beauty Products to Battle My Depression

How I Pavlov-Trained Myself Using Beauty Products to Battle My Depression

Written By: Rosh De

If you’d asked me a couple of years ago what my beauty routine looked like, you would have gotten a blank look and a shoulder shrug. 

Getting dolled up and prettified wasn’t exactly high up on my list of priorities, mostly because I was going through the very fun phenomenon known as depression. 

My depressive episodes lasted for weeks on end and at a time when forcing myself to climb out of bed, brush my teeth, and get dressed was an achievement in and of itself. The thought of making an effort to look better than an unmade bed? Forget about it. 

As far as my beauty routine was concerned, I’d halfheartedly swipe on a coat of clear lip balm once in a blue moon or (wait for it) swap out my black scrunchie for a brown one. That was pretty much it for the greater part of a year. As long as I didn’t resemble the monster from Swamp Thing, I took it as a win.

Then something happened that completely changed the game: I started going to therapy. My therapist worked with me on a wide variety of techniques that went a long way towards chipping away at my depression, piece by piece, day by day. 

Obviously there were the expected methods such as counseling, medication, and CBT, which all greatly contributed to my improved state of mind, but the simplest idea that my therapist suggested? Creating a routine and sticking to it. 

But not just any routine. This wasn’t supposed to be something I’d do just for the sake of it — an item to tick off of my to-do list. No, this routine was meant to be more of a ritual, something that would calm me and make me happy. 

In all honesty, I initially dismissed this idea, thinking it was far too basic to actually have any effect. But after having gone through so many rough patches and failed attempts to self-counsel myself, I finally gave in and agreed to try this method. 

So after hemming and hawing and discarding several ideas, I finally zeroed in on my plan of action — to develop a beauty routine that would eradicate both my dark circles and my dark days. Piece of cake. Once that piece had fallen into place, the next step was to build my beauty routine from the ground up. 

Since I was still struggling with my mental health, I decided that the most realistic way to do this was to keep the process as straightforward as possible. To further simplify my routine, I planned to focus only on haircare, at least to begin with. My haircare “routine” had, until then, consisted solely of a generic supermarket shampoo and conditioner that I’d picked up on sale. Sure, it got the job done, but other than ticking off that box from my to-do hygiene list, it didn’t really do anything for me. 

I wanted that to change, so I shoved the products to the back of the cupboard and went shopping for new ones. (Side note: I kept to a reasonable budget; taking care of yourself doesn’t necessarily mean spending a fortune.) This time, I had a specific goal: to find products that not only would replenish and rejuvenate my hair, but also lift my spirits and make me happier. Tall order? Not necessarily. 

What I’ve noticed about myself is that I tend to like soft, fluffy textures that feel soothing on the skin and exotic, beguiling scents that evoke a sense of serenity. Keeping that in mind, I pared down my search to a few cream-based items that had calming fragrances like lavender, renowned for its relaxation properties, jasmine for its sweet, floral scent, and ginger for the mood-boosting properties it possesses. 

Step one, obtaining new products, had been achieved. Now onto phase two- actually using them. During my Great Depression, showers were essentially a tedious chore, something I did purely because I didn’t want to smell like I’d been hanging out in a sewer tunnel. They never made me feel refreshed or more focused, which is the effect I was now aiming for. To do that, I implemented a few different steps. 

I lit highly fragrant candles, played soothing instrumental music, and, when I actually used the products in my hair, I took my time to feel the texture in my palms, inhale the pleasant scents, and gently lather up my hair in a luxurious manner. After I was done? Not only did my hair look and feel a lot better, but I felt a bit more awake, a bit more present. 

Why was that? In my opinion, that shift in my thinking  happened because the act of taking care of my hair had, to a certain extent, meant taking care of myself, something I had been neglecting for a long time. 

Now that I’d realized the positive effect this ritual had on my mental health, I started to regularly implement it, especially on the days that I felt particularly down. It didn’t always work, and it definitely didn’t “cure” my depression, but every time I did it, I felt more capable and confident. 

See, by basically Pavlov-ing myself into associating happiness with beauty products, I had conditioned my brain into thinking, “Hey, we like how this makes us feel!” I was rewiring my thought process from thinking that pamper routines and products were a frivolous pastime to truly enjoying it. It’s science, yo.

Yep, the girl who once considered sunscreen to be makeup now has a dedicated beauty routine and, gasp!, actually looks forward to it. Even now, whenever I pick up a frothy bubble bath or a mango-scented conditioner (yum!), it automatically makes me smile because I now associate that with everything kittens, sugar, and rainbows. Or in simple terms, happiness.

Even a year after I battled and won against depression, these little moments still bring me joy because during a time when I was at my lowest point, mental health wise, they brought a smile to my face when nothing else did.

End of the day, it all comes down to how something makes you feel. And if that eye-wateringly expensive bottle of perfume makes you light up like nothing else? Go ahead and treat yourself. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

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