Depression can often feel like signing a contract to live with painful emotions, negative thought processes, isolation and a future filled with misery. This contract can often feel like there is no way out, no termination policy and that happiness may at best happen in only a few brief moments before falling back down into the pit of despair. People may try one or two methods to get out of depression: eating healthy, exercising more, seeing a therapist, taking medication, finding more meaning in life, resolutions to engage socially and build relationships. Sometimes, one of these can be enough for some people. However, for many, they only bring about a short reprieve or maybe just take the edge of the depression so not to suffer as much. But is that really what you want?
Did you notice something about the methods above? The methods have all been shown to help with depression, however, they can be grouped into three categories: social, psychological and biological. It seems where people stuck is a result of focusing on one or two of the categories. In reality, there is an interplay between these categories, and focusing on improving one category could (and often does) improve the others. However, despite this interplay, it seems to me that having a plan to explicitly make progress in all three areas increases the possibility of creating a shift in mood state that has more of a lasting and profound effect.
There are ongoing debates regarding the cause of depression, in my opinion it is different for each person. However, it seems that the causes can also be grouped into these three domains. For example: Biological (disposition due to genes, an unhealthy life style); Social (breakup in intimate relationships, punitive friendship groups or bullying, unsupportive families) and Psychological: meanings placed on events, conflicts between thoughts. Indeed, the interplay remains.
The Social domain could focus on gradually moving out of isolation; improving relationships with friends, family, significant others, colleagues; and sharing hobbies (which could call into the biological and psychological domains depending on the activity), departing from friendship groups who are unsupportive or ‘unhealthy’ and creating bonds with caring and supportive people, for example. The Biological domain could focus on exercise, eating healthily and sleeping well for example. The Psychological domain could focus on the emotions, thought processes, meanings in life now and the meanings and difficulties of past events, or not feeling happy until a ‘successful life’ is achieved for example. It could also include spirituality however you interpret the meaning of the word spiritual.
What would be beneficial in each domain is dependent on each individual. Also, some individuals may not be able to work on one domain unless sufficient work in another has been achieved. There are also examples where some domains can never be perfect due to individual circumstance (e.g. ill health or physical disability, imprisonment etc.). What I think is important to remember is to do the best you can with each area. With this in mind, I think it is also important to work at a slow and steady pace. Indeed, that may be all a person can do (and may seem too much for others). However, there may still be people who create plans to tackle and change in as many areas as possible as quickly as they can. Although this may sound appealing, I do warn against it because creating a new whole new schedule, with many goals can mean setting yourself up for failure which can then act as fuel for depression. What I’m not saying here is that goals are not achievable, because they are. I’m simply warning of the common trap of trying to change too much too soon. Change is tough, building new patterns in life is a challenge and takes time, but it is well worth the effort. Depression is a cycle which is tough to break, a state which is hard to ‘pull yourself out of’. However, we do have a choice. The choice is to engage in our negative thinking processes and painful emotions, or, learn how to recognise they are there, and choose not to entertain them and start making positive steps for recovery 😊