One of the ways of overcoming depression, which is often overlooked, is the positive effect of activity. It is hard to stay feeling really low if you are doing something. One of the reasons for this is that depression is made worse by thinking about feeling low, and being busy stops this process of thinking about being depressed, called rumination. The other way in which doing something helps, is when what is done gives a sense of achievement or pleasure. Most people will naturally choose to do some things that give the sense of achievement or pleasure, but if you focus on mainly these activities, then depression will lift faster.
If you are feeling down, keep a diary for a few days or a week of what you have done. Record on a scale of 1 – 10 (where 1 is really low and 10 is happy) how you feel, as you do various activities. Then mark which activities give you a sense of achievement or pleasure, by putting an A or a P by them. Try to increase the time spent on these A & P activities.
Achievement and pleasure activities give us positive feedback about life, positive reinforcement that life is worth living, pleasurable, and good. This is the opposite of the hopelessness and pointlessness that cause depression.
If you want to use this approach to feeling better its important to do the activities even if you don’t feel like it sometimes. Act “as if”. The feeling better often comes later, so begin even when you feel low, and keep going. You will most likely suddenly realise that you feel better without realising how and when it came about. It’s a natural and low tech, side effect free way to lift mood.
A lot of anxiety is caused by feeling out of control. What do you fear will happen? How do you think you can gain control of it? Is there any way that worrying really gives you any control, or do you feel more out of control because you are worrying so much? What we think about tends to come about. Focusing on what you want to have happen, rather than on what you don’t want to have happen, is more likely to lead to happiness for you.
If what you predict happens, what would that mean to you? What would happen next? How could you handle the kinds of problems that you are worrying about? What could you do? Have you been involved in risk management or health and safety management at work? You can see planning for what might happen in your life in the same way. What might happen? If it happened how serious will it be? How likely is it that this might happen (1% – 100% probable)? How much effort is it worth putting in to plans to manage this considering how likely and how serious it is?
Has anything bad happened to you that you were worried about? How were you able to handle that? Are you usually underestimating your ability to handle problems? Many people are far more resilient than they give themselves credit for. Has anything bad happened to you that you were worried about? How were you able to handle that? What can you learn from how you handled that?
What evidence do you have from the past that worrying has been helpful to you and hurtful to you? Worrying and anxiety bring us down, tire us out and depress our immune system. Give yourself a break! Have a laugh! Do some exercise! Enjoy yourself! It’ll do you more good than worrying.
If someone else were facing the events that you are facing, would you encourage that person to worry as much as you? What advice would you give them?