Depression: What you can do to help yourself



Researchers have found that both physical and mental activity helps lift a person’s mood.  They have also found that right-brain activity allows us to be creative.  Because depression affects our confidence, it’s hard to make decisions to do things and stick to them.  But, getting active and taking back control over our lives is essential if we want to transform that downward depressive cycle into an upward positive cycle. 


Finding the energy to get back in control of your life is easier if you can tell someone close to you that you intend to become more active and you’d like support in getting motivated.  Such a supportive person can then help you maintain your resolve in keeping active once you start.  Choose this person carefully, as they must be someone you trust and someone who cares for you.


Another research finding tells us that pleasant activities help boost our mood.  Becoming creative and pursuing pleasant activities seems an ideal way to start feeling better about your sense of self in the world.


Creative activity

When you’re depressed it’s hard to think about doing anything creative, but by losing yourself in something creative, you’ll have achieved something and feel better about yourself.  Don’t be put off when you see the word ‘creative’.  It’s not about producing a great piece of art.  But it is about getting away from the usual way we do things in our culture:  analyzing, putting things in order, running to schedule.  By becoming creative, you’re exercising the creative, intuitive right side of the brain. 


Think outside the box

What is creative activity?  Creative activity can be anything that involves you getting lost in any pleasant, enjoyable physical, intellectual or handicraft activity. 


Being curious and maintaining an active interest in your chosen creative activity leads to feeling better about your achievements and doing something that is confidence-building.


Jot down for yourself three creative activities you’ve enjoyed in the past.  Why not do one of them today? 


Be creative and experiment

Whether you want to take up wood-working or sewing, knitting or painting depends on your predisposition to the activity.  There are no hard and fast rules.  No one activity is more creative than another.  Forget about hierarchies.


Here are a few examples of creative activities:


  • cooking
  • craft work
  • puzzles, crosswords and other brain teasers
  • decorating
  • painting
  • gardening
  • dancing
  • playing a musical instrument
  • sailing
  • horse-riding
  • writing stories
  • poetry
  • keeping a journal


What’s most important about creative activity

Remember, the most important thing about pursuing creative activities is that you try not to think  - just do it and feel.  Allow your body to indulge in the activity.  And most importantly – don’t judge your performance.


It is the doing of the creative activity that is important, not how well you do it.  So, give yourself the permission to indulge yourself – and your creativity and you’ll find you’ll feel better about yourself and your place in the world.


Sometimes, when you’re down it’s easier to return to a well-known creative activity from your repertoire.  You can start right there and challenge yourself to return to something you’ve enjoyed before and know will make you feel better.


Alternatively you can experiment with a new activity but remember, if you find this too challenging, it’s better to return to a known activity until you regain your confidence. 


To read more about strategies to help yourself when depressed see Losing the 21st Century Blues  (



Zita Weber, Ph.D. is an author and honorary academic, and has worked as a counselor and therapist with individuals, couples and families.  She has researched and written about communication, relationships, sexuality, depression and loss and grief.  More information about her work and books can be found at: