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Reclaiming Pleasure when You’re Depressed

Photo by Rowan Heuvel on Unsplash

Depression can suck all the color out of your life and leave you seeing in shades of gray. Positive emotions are harder to come by when you are depressed. You likely feel blah on a good day and feel low on the worst depression days. But you can fight back and start reclaiming pleasure.

When you are depressed, you are probably also struggling with a lack of energy and motivation. Fortunately, what I’m going to suggest doesn’t require huge amounts of either energy or motivation. In a nutshell, you want to do more of or enhance anything that gives you pleasure. If your depression is severe, you might be thinking that nothing gives you pleasure right now. In that case, think about what has given you pleasure when you aren’t depressed and do more of those activities. For example, if you always enjoy giving yourself a pedicure, then plan on giving yourself a pedicure sooner than later, and if you can make it extra luxurious, do. If you love to be awake in the morning before anyone else is up and around, get up 5 minutes earlier to savor that much more time to yourself. If you have something you save for a special occasion (perfume, jewelry, dressing up, etc.), consider now your special occasion. If you love a particular designer latte but you rarely allow yourself one, this is your lucky day. Go get it and then savor it. If a candlelit bath is soothing and refreshing, plan when you are going to find the time for it. Each time you take an activity which gives you pleasure (or would give you pleasure when you aren’t depressed; this still counts as pleasure when you are depressed), you are giving yourself a little hit of dopamine and interrupting the downward trajectory of depression.

Now, I don’t want you to think that this is going to turn your depression around on a dime. It’s not likely to. Just like you don’t chance the course of a aircraft carrier quickly, you work on lifting the depression slowly but surely with this method. The great news is that you are only limited in how many of these activities you can do by time and energy (and perhaps budget).

If you want a little more return on your investment, consider making a prediction of how much you will enjoy the activity or thing before you engage in it. Then, afterwards, record how much you actually enjoyed it. You may find that you enjoy activities more than you anticipated. And it doesn’t hurt to see a page full of activities that show you had some measure of enjoyment and that, hopefully, becoming increasingly pleasurable over time as you continue your efforts to decrease the depression. And if you can, notice any pleasure you are feeling during the activity.

Depression can be so hard! It can leave you feeling like you’re wearing dark sunglasses all the time. Everything can require more effort and at the same time you likely have less energy than normal. And you can feel very alone in the depression, especially if friends and family don’t understand it or if you are hiding it from loved ones. You don’t have to be alone. Call or text me at (816) 226-4678 and let’s talk about a plan for fighting your depression.

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