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5 Ways To Find Joy When You Are Depressed

5 Ways To Find Joy When You Are Depressed

As we hear every single day from members of The Depression Project's 3,000,000+ person social media community, when you're in the middle of a depressive episode, all the joy has been sucked from your life - to such an extent that you may not be able to envision it ever coming back. However, as we also know from interacting with members of our community, it is possible to find joy when you are depressed - and in this blog post, we'd like to share five ways in which you can do so.

Are you ready?

Method #1 Of Finding Joy When You Are Depressed: Making A List Of Your "Little Accomplishments"

As you can likely relate to, when you're in a depressive episode, it's extremely common to feel tired, unmotivated and overwhelmed by even the "little things" - such as, for example:

  • Getting out of bed;
  • Attending to your personal hygiene - including showering, brushing your teeth, washing your hair, etcetera;
  • Doing your chores - such as making your bed, cleaning the dishes, taking the trash out, etcetera;
  • Ticking something off your to-do list - such as doing the grocery shopping, payment a bill, going to the chemist and picking up your medication, etcetera.

For this reason, as we often hear from members of our community, making a list of all these "little accomplishments" that you make and congratulating yourself for them can give your mood a notable boost, and contribute to you feeling uplifted, better about yourself, and more confident moving forward in your ability to fight depression.

Method #2 Of Finding Joy When You Are Depressed: Try Your Best To Be Mindful Of- And Grateful For Anything That's Making Your Depressive Episode A Little More Bearable

Practicing gratitude can contribute to you feeling more joyful - such as by contributing to, among other benefits, reduced levels of stress1; higher self-esteem2; higher levels of optimism3; improved peace of mind4; strengthened relationships5; higher levels of emotional resiliency6; decreased likelihood of experiencing burnout7; reduced rumination4; improved quality of sleep7; improved physical health7; reductions in depression and anxiety8; and improved life satisfaction7. And, to cultivate gratitude when you're in a depressive episode, it can help to bring awareness to anything that's making your depressive episode a little bit more bearable than it would otherwise be - such as, for example:

  • Your bed – which is a comfortable place for you to curl up when you want nothing more than just to rest.
  • Streaming services on your laptop – which you can switch on any time you want to distract yourself from your depression.
  • The creamy mug of hot chocolate you’re going to drink while you watch your favourite show.
  • Your dog - who always lies so loyally by your side and will love you no matter what.
  • Food delivery services – which mean that instead of having to cook when you’re feeling really depressed, you can have a delicious meal delivered straight to your door.
  • Your partner – who’s always so sweet, loving and caring towards you.
  • Your best friend – who you know will always be there for you as well.

Of course, not all of these examples may apply to you, but next time you’re in a depressive episode, if you’re able to bring awareness to one or more things that are helping to making that depressive episode a little more bearable, then it can contribute to you feeling more uplifting and joyful.

NOTE: If you'd like to learn a wide variety of evidence-based strategies to help you cultivate gratitude when you have depression, then we encourage you to take our Gratitude Bootcamp: Depression Edition - which is one of many resources included in our Depression Bootcamps Membership Platform that will teach you the skills you need to know in order to overcome depression.

Method #3 Of Finding Joy When You Are Depressed: Giving Yourself Permission To Do Something Solely For You (Without Any Guilt Or Expectations Attached To It)

As you can likely relate to, the feeling of always needing to be productive can become burdensome. It can lead to a constant focus on, for example, your future goals and completing tasks on your to-do list - at the expense of your present needs. And, while making progress can be important, it’s also important to take time out for yourself when you’re in a depressive episode, and to do things that are solely for your own enjoyment, comfort and peace of mind.

Of course, activities that provide joy, comfort and peace of mind will be different for different people. However, according to members of The Depression Project’s community, some popular examples of such activities include:

  • Going for a walk amongst nature;
  • Listening to your favourite music;
  • Having a bubble bath;
  • Driving to a restaurant to eat your favourite meal, or to a convenience store to pick up your favourite soft drink;
  • Hugging someone you love or cuddling your pet;
  • Doing some gardening;
  • Having your morning cup of coffee outside in the sun;
  • Picking flowers and displaying them nicely around your home;
  • Painting your nails a new colour;
  • Playing a musical instrument.

Method #4 Of Finding Joy When You Are Depressed: Replacing "I Have To Do This" With "I Want To Do This"

Often, a shift in mindset can help bring about a surprising amount of relief from the everyday difficulties of being in a depressive episode. With this objective in mind, replacing the thought “I have to do this” with “I want to do this" can:

  • Help add meaning and purpose to various tasks and responsibilities that you may not feel like completing and upholding (particularly when you're in a depressive episode);
  • Consequently, it can help make those tasks and responsibilities feel less burdensome, and instead feel more joyful.

For example, thinking "I have to go to work now" can make the idea of going to work feel like an unwanted burden. However, you may feel a bit more motivated and uplifted by the idea of going to work if you reframe this thought to, for example:

  • "I want to go to work now so that I have money to go to the movies with my partner this weekend."
  • "I want to go to work now so I can provide for my child."
  • "I want to go to work now so that I can afford to go on my dream vacation at the end of the year."

Of course, replacing "I have to ..." with "I want to ..." in this way will not instantly make you love your job or any of your other tasks and responsibilities that may feel burdensome when you're in a depressive episode. However, like we've said, it can help to add more purpose and meaning to them, and as a result, make them feel more joyful than they would otherwise be.

Method #5 Of Finding Joy When You Are Depressed: Adding A "Joy Addition" To Your Everyday Tasks, Routines And Activities

Finding joy in your day-to-day routine can be challenging, especially when you’re in a depressive episode. To make it a little bit easier though, it can help to ask yourself:

“How can I add more joy to each of my daily tasks, routines and activities?”

For example:

  • When it comes to showering, some common “joy additions” may include playing your favourite music while you shower, washing yourself with a nicely-scented gel, or instead having a bath with candles.
  • When it comes to commuting to work, you may be able to add joy to the experience by listening to an audiobook or chatting to a loved one on the phone.

Like we said, by actively seeking out these “joy additions” and trying to insert them into your everyday tasks, routines and activities wherever possible, it can make it easier to experience moments of joy when you’re in a depressive episode.

Conclusion

When you're in a depressive episode, it's extremely common to feel as if all the joy has been sucked from your life. However, after reading this blog post, we hope you can now see at least a few different ways that you can add a little more joy into your days - which can not only make your depressive episode(s) a little less intense, but can also contribute to it being easier for you to navigate your way out of them as well.

All our love,

The Depression Project Team. 

References

Joseph, S. (2008). The Role Of Gratitude In The Development Of Social Support, Stress, And Depression: Two Longitudinal Studies. Journal of Research in Personality, 42(4), 854-871.

Chen L.H. & Wu C-H. (2014). Gratitude Enhances Change In Athletes’ Self-Esteem: The Moderating Role Of Trust In Coach. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 26(3), 349-362.

Huffman, J.C., DuBois, C.M., Healy, B.C., Boehm, J.K., Kashdan, T.B., Celano, C.M., Denninger, J.W. & Lyubomirsky, S. (2014). Feasibility And Utility Of Positive Psychology Exercises For Suicidal Inpatients. General Hospital Psychiatry, 36(1), 88-94.

Liang, H., Chen, C., Li, F., Wu, S., Wang, L., Zheng, X., & Zeng, B. (2018). Mediating Effects Of Peace Of Mind And Rumination On The Relationship Between Gratitude And Depression Among Chinese University Students. Current Psychology, p. 1-8.

Emmons, R. A. & Mishra, A. (2011). Why Gratitude Enhances Well-Being: What We Know, What We Need To Know. In K. M. Sheldon, T. B. Kashdan, & M. F. Steger (Eds.), Series In Positive Psychology. Designing Positive Psychology: Taking Stock And Moving Forward (pp. 248-262). New York, NY, US: Oxford University Press.

Fishman, MDC. (2020). The Silver Linings Journal: Gratitude During a Pandemic. Journal of Radiology Nursing, 39(3), 149-150.

The Greater Good Science Center. (2018). The Science Of Gratitude. Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.

Cregg, D.R. & Cheavens, J.S. (2021). Gratitude Interventions: Effective Self-help? A Meta-analysis of the Impact on Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety. Journal Of Happiness Studies, 22, 413–445.