Depression has some distinct features that can make it feel virtually unbearable.
Depending on the severity of depression it can range from daily lethargy to suicidal ideation and hopelessness.
The effects of depression are many and impact virtually every aspect of your daily life.
Activities you once enjoyed no longer bring joy or relief, the future seems like nothing more than a reflection of your past, and to top it all off you feel utterly without energy to do anything about it.
There are a ton of different approaches to resolving depression and everyone uses a bunch of different terminologies like "you aren't depressed, you're depressing" or "it's not what's happening, but how you perceive what's happening."
Some strategies work for some, and other strategies work for others.
But all in all, the most helpful strategies to treat depression address in one way or another the story you continually tell yourself throughout the day.
Another commonality among depression treatments is the understanding that depression is a past orientation, not a present or future.
We'll dive more into that in a moment.
But for now, the point is, we are going to look at these two commonalities to help you better understand how to successfully address depression regardless of how severe it is.
If you or anyone you know is having current suicidal ideation contact emergency services to make sure you are protecting yourself and others; 911 or 988.
Without further ado, let's look at how to overcome depression.
Orientation to time is a very important component when beginning to treat depression.
Depression is a past orientation, meaning that the focus is on mistakes, regrets, resentments, etc. that have already happened.
It's a re-living of these worst aspects of the past over and over to justify the feelings of hopelessness, guilt, shame, etc.
At most, when someone suffering from depression thinks about the future it doesn't go beyond, "what's the point, it won't be any different."
In other words, there's no serious thought about the future at all.
When we treat depression it's important to highlight that it's a fallacy to predict that the future will be identical to the past, just as much as it is a fallacy to remember only the negative things about the past.
Sometimes it is helpful to explore the past to challenge the assumption that everything that has occurred up until now has been awful and without joy or pleasure whatsoever.
Other times it is helpful to challenge the perception of the past by focusing on the present moment through mindfulness skills.
By focusing on the here and now we can treat depression by forcing the mind to perceive that in this moment, sitting in a comfortable chair, in comfortable clothes, is actually pretty okay and that there isn't as much immediate suffering and disaster as our thoughts would lead us to believe.
This segues nicely into the next section on how we tell ourselves stories, all the time, about our existence.
As we have now discussed a portion of how we treat depression is drawing attention to how we orient ourselves around a perception of time.
Another aspect that needs addressing when you treat depression is the constant story-telling that occurs in our minds all day every day.
Part of the story has already been addressed via time orientation, the "the future will be the same as the miserable past" story.
The other part of the story that needs to be addressed is what we are telling ourselves every single day, over and over.
If we are replaying our greatest regrets, then our story is going to sound like a tragedy.
If we are replaying our accomplishments then our story is going to sound like a greatest hits album.
The story we tell ourselves directly impacts how we feel about ourselves and our current life position.
So, what do we do?
Well, how about you tell the "what if" story? Or the, "what do I want" story?
"What if" my life could look completely different than it does right now?
"What if" I had friends that I loved, a partner I could share life with, a career that was meaningful?
This changes your time orientation away from the past and opens the door to seriously considering the future.
This is not a mere fantasy game followed by a return to doing the same things that brought you to where you are currently.
This is an in-depth, serious look at the possibilities that are ahead of you.
How do you start?
First, by taking those questions seriously.
What do you want?
Truly, what is it that you want?
How clearly can you define what you want?
Friends? What kind of friends; are their personalities, interests, and values like?
A meaningful career? What kind of career; what hours, industry, and salary?
Whatever area of life you want to see improvements in you need to get as detailed as possible.
The clearer the picture you can create the more viable achieving that picture becomes.
After you can clearly and precisely write down what your image of "better" truly looks like, connect that to your life.
Ask yourself how those accomplishments (job, friends, partner, etc) would improve your life.
How much better would your life be with those additions (or subtractions)?
How would that affect you, your family, your community, and the world at large?
You have to connect what you want to why those things matter.
Again the value is in the detail you can create.
Don't just say "if I had friends I wouldn't feel lonely."
Though that is true and valuable, write down what you and your friends would do, where you would go, and why feeling connected is valuable.
Sit down and write about these things.
Every draft you create, the clearer and clearer the picture will become.
The more clear the picture, the more motivation and better you'll be able to find the starting line.
After that, it's all about action.
Everything you do becomes meaningful, purposeful, and driven to accomplish the new life plan you've developed for yourself.
Depression is an enormous weight that separates you from all the best parts of life.
But, it's not a life sentence, there is hope, and you have more control than you think you do.
In order to treat depression successfully you must recognize that depression is past-oriented, and you must recognize the story you are telling yourself.
Once you've done that you can begin to tell yourself new stories about what your life could look like.
Get as detailed as you can, down to what you can start doing today that connects you to the story you want to have.
Don't let depression lock you down, treat depression by taking action, starting small, and focusing on what you have control over.
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