Blue Monday or More?
Got the January blues? If you have a tendency to feeling low then the short days of a long winter can send your mood spiralling down. But what if it’s more than a case of feeling blue? Often people don’t recognise when they might be crossing the threshold into depression.
Evidence-based self-help for depression
If you see your GP the treatment might be an anti-depressant or a waiting list for a talking therapy. One alternative to popping a pill or picking over emotional pain comes from positive psychology. When the field first emerged it was known as the science of happiness. Now there is a body of evidence that shows that the practices that help to raise your well-being can also help to recover well-being. Positive psychology has earnt itself the title of ‘evidence-based self-help for depression.’
It’s an approach that differs from conventional ways of treating depression. Rather than exploring unhappiness the tools focus more on cultivating positivity. One advantage of this coaching rather than counselling process, is that it’s less likely to result in rumination – chewing over and overthinking the causes of depression. Here are 3 ways that positive psychology can help in managing low mood.
Positive Emotions: The Feel-good Factor. Feeling low is one of the most common symptoms of depression. Positive psychology techniques such as gratitude (noticing the positives in life), savouring (maximising enjoyment from pleasurable activities) and having a ‘playlist’ of active recreation are ways of giving yourself an instant mood lift.
Strengths: You are not your symptoms. When you’re down you tend to have a poor self-image and lose sight of your positive characteristics. Identifying your strengths can build confidence and give life a sense of meaning and direction (often lacking in depression). You strengths can be applied to help to resolve problems and reach your goals. Impaired functioning is another symptom of depression. Your strengths are a source of motivation and energy, useful resources to have on the journey to functioning.
Optimism is psychological self-defence for the mind: Pessimism rises to the surface in depression. When things go wrong we tend to think that it’s our fault, that things won’t change and that the misfortune will spread to other parts of life. Pessimism puts you on the fast track to depression but it is possible to learn the thinking processes of optimism even if it doesn’t come naturally. I would describe myself as a ‘practising optimist ‘rather than a natural-born one. Simple ways such as asking yourself what other causes might have contributed to a negative event (how it might NOT be personal), how it might be temporary (‘this too will pass’) and noticing how other areas of life might be going well. These all help to reduce the negative emotions caused by depressive thinking.
These 3 practices help to develop positive emotions, a positive you and positive ‘thinking’. Using these tools is a form of psychological hygiene which protect you from depression. Find out more in the book Positive Psychology for Overcoming Depression.