11 Ideas for Staying Happy in Kigali

It is often in the presence of perversely joyful people that one is most likely to be hit by depression. Alas, Kigali is in many ways a breeding ground for this particular type of happy people. Depression can happen to anyone – even those with religious convictions leading wholesome, sinless lives – and knowing how to address it is the first step in treating it. Though psychotherapy is not a part of the Rwandan culture, and thus is hard to come by, there are alternative ways of battling your depression.

  1. Seek Professional Advice – As stated above, there are (as far as we know) no psychologists in Kigali. For foreigners living in this city, however, depression often stems from the fact that they are living in a culture which might be very different from their own. If this is the case, a good person to talk to is the life coach, Natalie Tollenaire. She has a lot of experience dealing with expats battling various forms of depression, and I would recommend trying her out. She speaks both in French and English, and has published books on how to deal with depression relation to ‘life transitions’. Even if you can’t really put your finger on what’s wrong, she will help you learn more about yourself, your personality type, and perhaps wise changes to make in your current life situation. To make an appointment call 078 2536 666 or check out her website http://transitionstoafrica.com.
  2. Seek Unprofessional Advice – Yo, send me an e-mail anytime! I’d love helping you out! And I’ve definitely read enough Paolo Coelho in my life to be able to offer deep, metaphysical guidance. If you wanna meet up for coffee, I’m all for it as well. Unless you’re like really mean and smelly of course, in which case, I really wouldn’t know how to lift your mood anyway because, let’s face it – you’re doomed. That was a joke. …I love mean, smelly people. That was a joke too.
  3. Antidepressants – Though personally against medication, I do recognize the occasional need for antidepressants. As long as you don’t get addicted (or at least try out some of the other advice before you go popping the pills) I’m all for you taking a trip to the pharmacy. Not that you needed (or wanted) by blessing, but oh well. In Rwanda you can get some types of antidepressants over the counter at the pharmacy. If you need stronger stuff, visit a doctor to get a prescription.
  4. Physical Activity – Oh, the vicious circle one can find oneself in at times! Knowing that a walk or a run would lift your mood, but unable to get out of bed (except to go find the number for Zaaffran home delivery). However cliché, physical activity truly works miracles for your mental health. Fill your iPod with some high quality music (and not to promote my own music taste here, but few people have ever been depressed while listening to ‘The Smurfs’ Greatest Hits’) and walk/run around the leafy streets of Nyarutarama or Kiyovu or try any of these suggestions for walking in Kigali.
  5. Spa Treatments and Massage – Depression is often a result of stress, worry, and anger. To battle all these emotions, few things works as well as treating yourself to a day of spas, saunas, and a stranger with soft hands rubbing your back. For the ultimate experience, try the Maisha Spa at Serena Hotel. Come early for an amazing breakfast buffet, or end your spa day by indulging in the dessert buffet at lunchtime. Just stay away from the cheesecake… I don’t know what went wrong there, but it’s weird ya’ll. Splash out for a day pass to (a whopping US$30) to be able to use their fancy gym and beautiful (but freezing) pool. If you’re looking for something more affordable but just as indulgent and professional, head to Sunset Spa for a treatment of your choice. If you don’t like Enya, though, bring earplugs.
  6. Acquire a Pet (or Start a Garden) – A pet is not only a last ditch effort for aging women to find an object in which to devote their long-lost motherly love – it is a healthy way to lighten anyone’s mood. There are plenty of cats, dogs, and geckos waiting for homes in Kigali, so why not let them spread joy in YOUR home? Do, however, make sure that the responsibility is not too much for you to handle. If feeding, walking, and vaccinating an animal seems a bit of a challenge, why not go for the plant-pet option? You’d be surprised by how much caring for a carrot or a flower pot can increase your sense of fulfillment. Someone needs you! You are not a waste of space on this earth! Were it not for you, a life would be lost!!! Keep telling yourself these things as you water your bush or stroke your cat (eh…wait, that came out weird… then again…) and soon thy depression shall perish and leave nothing but amazingeness in its wake.
  7. Get Laid – An all-time favorite! If you’re in a relationship while depressed you might want to try something (read: someone) new. Who knows? The stale, suffocating relationship you’re currently in might be the very reason you’re depressed in the first place! Not that I promote cheating of course – it’s totally super-lame – I’m just desperately trying to be all cool and cynical and funny. One thing before ya’ll go out to ‘battle your depression’ – be safe! It has been clinically proven that contracting HIV or a nasty STD will, in fact, worsen depression.
  8. Get Wasted – A controversial and disputed method of battling depression. While liberating your inner issues through the aid of alcohol is a jolly fine way of dealing with the blues, you are also running the risk of doing something stupid, which usually is counter-effective to treating your depression. Going home with a drunk stranger, only to awkwardly sneak out of his/her house before sunrise, throwing up on the street, slipping on your own vomit, falling into a ditch, twisting your ankle, and scratching up your face, might, for example, not be the best way of pulling your mood up. Though, hey, whatever floats your boat, man! An added insurance when exercising this depression-battling method is bringing along a friend to watch out for you. Just make sure your friend is one of those wholesome, selfless, ethical friends who doesn’t enjoy watching you screw up your pathetic excuse for a life.
  9. Watch ‘The Hangover‘ – Has anyone seen this movie, and not laughed? I think not. If you’ve already seen it too many times, try out the girl version, ‘Bridesmaids’. Just stop watching towards the end when it gets all sad and serious and mushy, and instead rewind to the scene when they get food poisoned.
  10. Avoid People Who Bring You Down – Many people have friends or ‘weekend hang-out buddies’ that tend to lower their moods. They’ll point out your flaws and accentuate your imperfections. Some might even find great joy in seeing you make a fool out of yourself. Avoid those people. Also, try to avoid people who you know are treating you badly; people who lie to you, disrespect you, or take you for granted. You can tell yourself all you want that you’re in these damaging relationships of your own choice, but that doesn’t make it better – in fact, it makes you a sadomasochist. Don’t put your dreams and hopes in the hands of people that destroy them. Ooh, I just gave myself a philosophical chill!
  11. Meditate and/or Pray – I saved this method for last, because – truly – ‘tis the only sustainable way of ridding yourself of negative emotions permanently. Yes, stress, disappointment, anger, regret, and personal losses are all valid reasons for depression, but underneath lays more likely a deep longing for a spiritual fulfillment. If you find meditating or praying awkward, you could try writing your prayers down. For those in need for a little mood-setting inspiration, put on some calm music and dim the lights. Though sending positive thoughts to people you love and care for is a good way of improving your overall mental state, it is praying for your enemies that truly will heal you. Forgive all those who have caused you pain. Wish for luck to befall those who have lied to you, betrayed you, or disappointed you. Rid yourself of the resentment and hatred you harbor toward your enemies, because most likely they aren’t wasting any energy thinking about you. Try working a small meditation session (try this meditation group if you’d rather a bit of guidance) into your weekly schedule, and you’ll see that you’ll feel less depressed in no time. If this doesn’t work (or you simply found this advice pretentiously nauseating) just take the easy way out and go back to point seven or eight.

About Inga

Born and raised in Norway, culturally transformed in the US, and now residing in Rwanda. Studied biology, but teaching English in Kigali while finishing up my Master's, and debating future career options. At the moment starting up a cocoa plantation is at the top of my list, closely followed by founding an improv society. Severely technologically challenged, but somewhat creatively gifted. A great lover of the Universe, as well as cakes and salt. A passionate hater of small concrete rooms.