3 Tips To Help You Overcome Depression

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Depression: What Can I Do To Feel Happy Again?

BY DR SARAH HUGHES

Depression is more common than most people think. Statistics tell us that in Australia, 1 in 7 adults will experience depression at some point in their lives, but in reality this figure is probably much higher. Some people know they’re depressed but don’t want to seek help, others aren’t even aware they have it. They think that because they can get out of bed each day and go to work they don’t have depression, but teariness and not feeling able to get out of bed aren’t the only or even the most common symptoms of depression.

What Are The Symptoms Of Depression?

People who have depression say that they:

It's possible to be depressed AND still get out of bed

It’s possible to be depressed AND still get out of bed

• Feel unmotivated
• Feel tired and lethargic
• Find everything takes more effort
• Notice changes to their appetite
• Either can’t sleep or sleep too much
• Feel irritable and agitated
• Feel worthless
• Are more self-critical than usual
• Find it hard to concentrate
• Can’t make decisions
• Prefer to spend time alone
• Aren’t interested in enjoyable activities

If you’re feeling unhappy and down in the dumps, follow these tips to improve your mood. If these strategies don’t help, speak to your GP about a referral to a clinical psychologist.

Tip #1: Look For Triggers

The first step in managing depression is understanding the factors that are contributing to your mood. Keep in mind that it’s possible to feel depressed even when everything in your life is going well – if you can’t identify any causes don’t be too concerned, you don’t necessarily need to know what’s caused your depression to improve your mood.

If you know what’s contributing to your mood look at whether there’s anything you can do to change your situation. For example, if your work/life balance is weighted heavily towards work and this is affecting your mood, brainstorm how you can improve your balance. Can you delegate some of your work to others? Is it possible to complete tasks to 80% of your ability until you’re feeling more on top of things? Can you make sure you leave work earlier? Can you have better boundaries between work and home?

Tip #2: Set Goals

When you feel down you lose interest in activities you usually enjoy and you don’t feel like doing much. Not doing things makes you feel better in the short-term, but worse in the longer term. Doing things (especially if you don’t feel like it) will help to improve your mood.

We know from research that there are two main types of activities that have a positive effect on mood:

(1) Pleasant Activities (you won’t necessarily enjoy these activities when your mood is low, but persisting with them will help to improve your mood)

(2) Mastery Activities (activities you don’t necessarily like doing at the time, but that make you feel good when they’re finished, like exercise or housework).

When you’re planning activities, make sure your goals are realistic and achievable. Setting unachievable goals can make you feel worse not better. If you’re having a bad day, modify your goals so they’re realistic.

Tip #3: Manage Your Thoughts

Negative thoughts are a symptom of depression. They also make our mood worse because when we’re depressed our negative thoughts feel more true. When you’re feeling down, write your thoughts down on paper. Look at your thoughts objectively and ask yourself:

Am I being realistic or am I focusing on the negatives?
Am I drawing general conclusions from a single example?
Would I be thinking like this if I wasn’t depressed?
What would my friend say if I told them this thought?

Whether they’re true or not, negative thoughts are unhelpful. It can be difficult to switch off from thoughts when you’re depressed but try to limit the amount of time you spend thinking by keeping busy. It’s also a good idea to avoid making big decisions until your mood improves.

Dr. Sarah Hughes is a clinical psychologist and the founder of Think Clinical Psychologists. She enjoys working with children, adolescents, and adults, and specialises in anxiety, depression, postnatal depression, eating disorders, self-harm, and challenging behaviour.