5 Mood Traps That Could Be Keeping You Stuck In Your Depression

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5 Mood Traps To Watch Out For

BY DR SARAH HUGHES

Depression isn’t an enjoyable experience and it can be frustrating when it ruthlessly persists. You may know why you’re depressed – there may be a clear stressor – or you might feel depressed without any clear reason. The good news is you don’t always need to know why you feel depressed to take steps towards improving your mood. If you’re doing your best to improve your low mood and are having a hard time breaking out of the cycle, check to see you’re not falling into one of these 5 mood traps.

Mood Trap #1: I’d Rather Just Stay Home

When you’re feeling down, one of the last things you’ll want to do is spend time with family and friends. Having to fake feeling upbeat and happy when you’re not is exhausting, and when you’re having to force interest that would usually come naturally it can make you feel disconnected and lonely. It might seem like spending time with other people is going to make you feel bad, but it’s not the case.

Depression will make you want to withdraw...don't

Depression will make you want to withdraw…don’t

Cancelling plans might make you feel better in the short-term, but longer-term it will make you feel worse. Even though it’s not what you want to do right now, find a way to keep connected with your family and friends. If you can’t tolerate attending the all-day family BBQ scheduled for the weekend, that’s ok, but see if you can make it for an hour or two. It’s ok to make allowances for your mood, but don’t fall into the trap of cutting yourself off completely.

Mood Trap #2: It Doesn’t Make Me Happy Anymore

Not enjoying the things you’d usually enjoy is unfortunately a common symptom of low mood. It means you won’t feel like getting out and doing the things you usually love because the happiness and enjoyment you usually feel is less. When this happens, it’s tempting to stop doing the things you’d usually do for fun, but it’s a trap.

Taking a break from your usual routines might feel harmless, but when you stop exposing yourself to pleasant activities, you increase your risk for low mood. Saying yes to things you’d usually enjoy if you weren’t feeling down might seem pointless, especially because you might not necessarily enjoy the activity much for the time being, but say yes anyway. Overtime it will help to lift your mood.

Mood Trap #3: I Can’t Be Bothered

When you’re going through a low period, tasks you’d usually do without much thought, whether that be work tasks, household tasks, or even self-care tasks like washing your hair, all of a sudden feel like hard work. Because the thought of knocking things off your to-do list feels tiring and overwhelming, you may find yourself making excuses to put things off, but resist this urge.

Putting things off might help you to feel less overwhelmed in the short-term, but over-time as your to-do list builds, you’ll start to feel worse, not better. As much as possible, try to keep on top of your to-do list. If your mood makes this hard, try breaking tasks down into smaller chunks and take small steps. Don’t try and do all of the housework, just focus on a few tasks, like unpacking the dishwasher and doing the washing. If your workload is overwhelming, prioritise and set yourself small goals until you get things done.

Mood Trap #4: What’s The Point?

Invest in your happiness through your actions

Invest in your happiness through action

Spending time with friends, persisting with the activities you’d usually enjoy, and staying on top of your to-do’s are all important strategies for improving mood, but their effects aren’t instantaneous. Some people will notice an improvement in their mood after successfully crossing something off their to-do list, or after an afternoon with friends, but this won’t always be the case.

If you don’t notice immediate changes to your mood, don’t be discouraged. Think of each activity you do as an investment in your happiness. The more you invest, the greater your return, but it will take time. Try prioritising your mood for a few weeks before you make a decision about whether or not it’s helping you to feel better.

Mood Trap #5: It’s Never Going To Get Better

Depression is usually accompanied by a sense of hopelessness, and really low mood can make you question whether you’ll ever feel happy again. Try not to get sucked into this way of thinking. You WILL feel happy again, it’s just hard for you to see that right now.

Low mood will make your head biased towards noticing times in a day when you feel unhappy, and it will ignore any time you feel happy, even if just for a moment. Combat this by deliberately looking for periods in a day, even if it’s only a for few minutes at first, when you don’t feel down. These times might be few and far between to begin with, but as your mood improves, you’ll feel better more frequently and for longer blocks of time.

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.


 

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