How to find hope when you are really depressed

When you feel hopeless, it is difficult to take any steps toward change.

In 1965 Martin Seligman “discovered” learned helplessness. He found that when animals are subjected to difficult situations they cannot control, they stop trying to escape. They become passive.

Human beings are the same. If you experience devastating defeats, a persistent situation that you can’t change, or a terrifying event that you could not control your exposure to, then you may have lost hope for your ability to change your life or to change painful situations. Sometimes an ongoing mood disorder can lead to feelings of hopelessness.

Apathy or hopelessness may be puzzling to those around you. Why wouldn’t you try to get a job, make friends, eat healthier, or leave someone who is abusive? When you have no hope, you see any efforts to change your life as futile. You may blame yourself. You might say that you cannot manage life, cannot make friends, and cannot succeed in getting a job. You accept whatever happens as beyond your control. You may begin to despair.

When you don’t have hope, you have no energy or motivation for therapy or for any effort to change your situation. What’s the use in reaching out to meet people? You are sure you will be rejected. Why bother exercising or cleaning your home or volunteering—it won’t really make a difference. You know you will always be lonely, depressed, anxious, unemployed, or stuck in the same situation that is making you miserable. You don’t want to risk the pain of further disappointment by even trying.

Unfortunately, this painful despair and resignation set up a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you have no hope, no belief in therapy or that any action you take will make any difference, then that may well be the outcome. Change is very difficult, has multiple ups and downs, and requires motivation and commitment.

There are many ways to find hope. You may have your own way. I’d love to hear what has worked for you or someone you love.

1. Find a clear path. Being able to see how the steps you are taking will lead to desired change is critical to having hope. If you don’t logically see how what you are doing can have a positive result, then carrying out the plan will likely be difficult. Write down each step that you need to take to get where you want to be. If someone else is working with you, then push him or her to explain how the steps lead to the results you want.

2. Look for role models who have found solutions. There are many, many people who have overcome tremendous adversity. Reading their stories and surrounding yourself with supportive messages and people can help you build hope.

One resource is Project Hope Exchange. Part of this project is a page on their website where people record their experiences of overcoming adversity, and there is a special section for mental health challenges and life challenges.

3. Do what you know you can do. When you are in despair, taking one step that is out of your routine can help break the sense of powerlessness you have. Make your bed. Cook dinner. Talk to a friend. Take a step you know you can do and that action can make a difference over time. Keep doing it, and then try to add more actions. Overcoming the inertia of helplessness can help you build hope.

4. Perform an act of kindness. Doing acts of kindness can have a dramatic effect on your mood and outlook. Kindness triggers the release of serotonin, so it has an anti-depressant effect. It also calms stress and helps reduce pain.

Small acts of kindness that you do repeatedly can help you feel more connected and have a greater sense of contribution. Notice that doing acts of kindness repeatedly is important. Do acts of kindness daily. Even watching others perform acts of kindness can have a positive effect.

You might want to watch this TED talk about the magic of kindness.

You could also visit Lifevestinside.com for more information. The Pay it Forward movement is a similar concept.

Notice your judgments, the thoughts that pass through your head stating that nothing will work for you or that performing acts of kindness is a useless idea. Let those thoughts pass through and not control your behavior. Your lack of hope may lead you to think that these ideas won’t help you.

Part of kindness is to stop judging yourself and be kind to yourself as well. How would you treat someone else who was in your situation? Practice thinking of yourself with compassion.

5. Turn to your faith. Your faith can be a strong ally in holding on to hope. Sometimes your faith offers the support of not being alone and trusting that a higher power is with you. If you are questioning your beliefs, then talk with someone in your faith whom you respect. Others have encountered difficult times, and they will understand. Voicing your questions is a step toward resolving your confusion and also a step toward hope.

6. Practice mindfulness while doing acts of kindness and in your everyday life. Your thoughts may naturally wander to the past and focus on events that didn’t work out or other situations that were painful. That will often add to your depression and hopelessness. When you are depressed, you have difficulty seeing any positive events or remembering that you were ever happy.

When you focus your attention on the here and now, you are able to find more peace and less stress. There are many websites offering free mindfulness exercises such as this one.

How to find hope when you are really depressed

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Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. Helen Keller

How can you hold tight to that feeling of hope when you are overwhelmed?

Are hope and faith for the future the basis for your personal happiness?

Feeling like there is no hope is one of the most challenging emotions to manage.

After all, why would you even try when you feel there is no hope?

Finding hope when it seems like there’s none to be found can be tricky, but it is possible.

The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. Barbara Kingsolver

All of us have challenges at times, and we all have moments when there doesn’t appear to be a way out. It is there though, we just need the courage and faith to walk through our wilderness and find our meadow.

When you are feeling in a low funk, try these strategies to raise your vibes:

  1. Consider all the amazing things you’ve done in your life. Regardless of what you’re facing, remember your earlier miracles and know you’re entirely capable of working through it. For humans, the seemingly impossible is, in fact, possible. Learn to change your mindset and that will allow you to see all those amazing things.
  2. Surround yourself with optimism. You’ve come across people who persistently see the bright side of things. They will always see the sunny side of every situation. They will always have a smile and a positive attitude. Find a group of those people and soak up the positive emotions from them.
  3. Allow inspiration in. Your faith could be a great source of inspiration. Reading books and listening to music that is up-lifting can create positive vibes. 10 Inspiration success resources worth checking out.
  4. Spend time in nature. For many, nature’s bounty is awe-inspiring, from flowers and waterfalls to butterflies and spider webs. When you see what’s possible, you realize that you’re capable of remarkable things too.
  5. Be courageous. Cultivating hope requires courage to take that first step forward. Give yourself the chance to find your way through your challenges. Take that first step and then the next. You will soon be on the other side and ready to tackle your next challenge.

If you really want to find hope in your life, you can, it’s always there! You just have to want to find it. You have to look to find the sweeter side of life.

Although your search for hope might take some work, never give up. Just keep working through it and you’ll discover that you have plenty of reasons to be hopeful.

Featured photo credit: silhouette in a communication tunnel via Shutterstock

One of the worst parts about depression — and there are certainly many — is that it robs you of hope. Hope that you’ll actually feel better. Hope that the darkness will lift. Hope that the emptiness will fill up and you’ll feel motivated and excited. Hope that it won’t be like this forever. Hope that you’ll get through it.

“I’ve been struggling with depression for almost 35 years,” said Douglas Cootey, who pens the award-winning blog A Splintered Mind. “In that time, I have often felt hopeless, usually during times of suicidal ideation…Depression has a way of warping our outlook so that we only notice the bleakest parts of the world.”

The darkness stops feeling like a lens that distorts your reality, and starts to become your reality, said John A. Lundin, Psy.D, a psychologist who specializes in treating depression and anxiety in adults, teens and children in San Francisco and Oakland, Calif.

“Depression often robs you of the memory of joy or happiness, so it becomes difficult to draw on happy memories to give one hope for the future,” Lundin said. Depression even makes hope seem foolish, like an illusion, he said.

Many people with depression aren’t able to articulate that they feel hopeless. Because doing so requires putting “words to an experience that just feels as real and encompassing as the air they breathe.” Saying you feel hopeless, Lundin said, can actually be a positive step. “[I]t holds the implication that hope is something that is possible.”

“Depression can be overwhelming,” said Cootey, also author of Saying No to Suicide: Coping Strategies for People Dealing with Suicidism and for the Loved Ones Who Support Them. “All those negative emotions are suffocating. This makes it difficult to believe that things will get better.”

Most of Rebecca Rabe’s clients say they’ve lost hope because they feel alone. They feel like no one understands what they’re going through. They feel like they can’t talk to anyone.

Loss of hope also might represent a loss of belief that you matter or that you can be loved, Lundin said. (This is something he works on with clients, helping them understand why they don’t feel adequate or lovable.)

What can you do when hope feels unfamiliar or impossible? What can you do when you’re in the middle of the storm?

Cootey stressed the importance of using a wide variety of coping strategies. “When I use my coping strategies to overcome depression, the next day isn’t a prison of more of the same. It’s a brand new day free of the sadness.”

Colleen King, LMFT, a psychotherapist who specializes in mood disorders and also has bipolar disorder, stressed the importance of having a treatment team and support system. This might include a therapist, doctor and several friends and family. Ask them to help you remember the times when you’ve felt better, she said. Ask them to “encourage you to be in the moment when you do experience temporary joy, even if it’s for a few minutes.”

Both King and Lundin suggested participating in activities that feel nourishing to your soul, activities that you love to do when you’re not depressed. Do them even if you don’t feel like it, King said. “You will most likely alter your mood at least a little bit, and [the activity] may be a welcome distraction from depression.” Plus, it helps to “arouse glimmers of hope that you can feel whole and healthy, again.”

It often feels like depression will last forever, King said. Which is why she also suggested placing prompts at home and work to remind yourself “that you are having a depressive episode and that it’s not a permanent state of being.”

Don’t underestimate the power of small steps. Rabe, LMFT, who specializes in treating children, teens and young adults with depression, anxiety and trauma, shared this example: She worked with a woman who was struggling with depression and complained about “not being able to do anything.”

They worked on tracking small but significant accomplishments and setting small goals. “For example, she would strive to check 10 things off her list. Sometimes just getting to therapy got her these 10 checks.” After all, getting to therapy is anything but trivial. It involves getting up, showering, getting dressed, driving to the office, making the appointment on time, talking in session and driving home, among other tasks. Her client also started reaching out to supportive loved ones (instead of isolating herself); taking walks; and writing in her journal—all of which has helped to diminish her depression and create a more positive outlook.

“I’ve been through the worst my mind can throw at me. I’ve felt the pain of suicidal depression,” Cootey said. “I’ve wished and even planned for my own death, yet I learned an important truth: Depression lies to us.” This is another reason it’s helpful to surround yourself with support: These individuals can help you see through the lies, he said.

“You do have worth. You will overcome this. You won’t be sad forever.”

There is always hope for someone struggling with depression, Rabe said. “People are resilient human beings, and they can do so much more than they think they’re capable of.”

Also, remember that “how hopeless you feel does not correlate to whether you can feel better,” Lundin said. Depression is an illness that extinguishes hope. It’s the nature of the disorder.

Thankfully, therapy and medication can help. So can participating in support groups. “Some depression requires a short treatment to work, and other takes a long time. But I have never met a patient who didn’t see significant progress if they stuck with it.”

If your therapist or doctor doesn’t seem to be helping, seek out new providers, King said. “Having a trusting and caring treatment team greatly assists with creating confidence and hope for the future.”

For people who don’t respond to therapy and medication, other treatments are available, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), Lundin said.

With good treatment, effective and varied coping strategies and compassionate support, you can feel better. The heaviness gets lighter. The world becomes brighter.

So no matter how hopeless you feel right now, please don’t throw away your shot. Hope and relief are not some foolish illusion. They are real. They are possible.

For years, when I was depressed, I thought my only hope was to find the problem and fix it. I looked everywhere for the thing that was making me feel so bad, and guess what? I found problems. Lots of them! Because we live in a fallen world full of fallen people.

My marriage had problems. My job had problems. I had problems. Everywhere I looked, I saw problems. And it was overwhelming and I couldn’t cope. So I retreated into myself and only did the bare minimum to survive. I was able to keep a job, but my depression was one of the major reasons my first marriage ended.

My mind told me I was worthless and why bother. My mind told me the world was cruel and I was stupid. My mind told me I was broken. And I believed it.

It wasn’t until I realized that I could ask God for help with my mind that I started having hope.

Romans 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

All those people in the 12-step programs kept telling me that there was hope. Step 2 of the 12 steps says, “We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

II Timothy 1:7 NKJV
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

God knew that my mind could be unstable. He knew that fear could be crippling. So He gave me His Spirit, who is full of power and love. He gave me His Word, which is full of power and love.

II Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness

As I said in my post, God’s Word is the Best Medicine, when I read and speak God’s Word, I am breathing God Himself into my soul. And He can change things that I can’t.

When my mind tells me that I’m worthless, I can breathe in God and His truth about my worth.

Psalm 139:14
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

I don’t feel wonderfully made. I feel like a huge mistake. I feel like a waste of space. But that’s a lie from Satan, the father of lies. And he has used depression to make me believe that lie.

The key to changing the way I feel is to change what I believe. Breathing in God’s Word and His Truth is what makes that possible.

So when my mind is telling me that I’m broken and there is no cure, God’s Word tells me He’s right there beside me.

Psalm 34:18
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

It doesn’t say that He berates those who are crushed in spirit. He doesn’t abandon those who are crushed in spirit. He saves them.

My mind says, “why bother?”

Matthew 11:28
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

God isn’t a motivational speaker. Sometimes, “you can do it” and, “just keep swimming” are not what a depressed person needs to hear. When I can’t keep going anymore, and my mind can’t give me any good reason to try, Jesus tells me it’s OK to rest.

He doesn’t say, “it’s OK to give up”. He says, “Come to me.” He is a safe place to rest. And that gives me hope, because it means I don’t have to keep fighting all the time. I can rest in Him and know that He’ll take care of everything else.

God’s Word gave me hope, even while I was depressed. Eventually, His Word turned that hope into faith. Then, continued faith in His Word brought me out of the depression.

What is your mind telling you that’s draining you of hope? Let’s find what His Word has to say about it, and bring your hope back to life.

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Books /

Doctorpedia Reviews

How to find hope when you are really depressed

Description

Lost Connections: Why You’re Depressed and How to Find Hope is a widely renowned book by top-rated TED speaker and New York Times best-selling author of Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs , Johann Hari. Lost Connections raises some interesting thoughts about the causes of constantly increasing rates of depression in the world. Depression diagnoses are often sub categorized as “endogenous” or “reactive.” Reactive depression is differentiated as a response to negative stimuli produced by a person’s environment, and endogenous depression is considered a response to internal cognitive or biological stressors. Hari takes this taxonomy to task by positing that the “chemical imbalance” theory is overstated, and many cases of “endogenous” depression may actually be perfectly normal responses to traumas that have just been overlooked.

New York bestselling author of Chasing the Scream Johann Hari writes about a new way to start thinking about depression and anxiety, including their causes and treatments. Award winning author Johann suffered from depression since early childhood and began taking anti-depressant medication in his teens because he was told that he had a chemical imbalance in his brain.

As an adult, Hari studied the social sciences, to investigate whether or not he truly had a chemical imbalance in his brain. However, he learned that everything that we have learned about depression and anxiety is untrue. He learned that depression is not caused by a chemical imbalance, but rather is due to key problems in the society we live in.

Hari travels from Baltimore to an Amish town in Indiana to Berlin in hopes of finding real causes of anxiety and depression. He found scientists who discovered nine different causes and seven effective solutions to treat them.

Hari’s emotional and inspiring story will change your understanding of depression and anxiety based on his thorough research.

How to find hope when you are really depressed

How do you find hope when you’re feeling depressed and are struggling to feel any positive emotions at all?

I remember just how incredibly hopeless I felt back when I was suffering from depression. Your mind completely convinces you that your life and health will never improve. That you’ll never be happy again. That life will never feel easy again.

And if you truly believe that, how can you possibly get better?

How is anyone supposed to live well and even live at all without a sense of hope?

Hope comes first

Shane Lopez, a psychologist known for his research into hope, has said the following:

hope = action + belief. Hope equals action plus belief.

You’ve got to actually believe that success is possible. This belief will then drive you to take action. Having high hope doesn’t mean you end up being unrealistic and labelled a dreamer. Instead, you’ll be able to come up with numerous ways to reach your goal and won’t give up when obstacles appear. Hopeful people don’t expect things to be easy but are able to persist and sustain their motivation to move toward their goal.

So really: Hope comes first. And the Italians are meant to say that hope is also the last thing ever lost.

But how do you find hope when you’re feeling depressed?

When it’s hard to even just put your feet on the floor in the morning, life is tough. How do you keep going? How can you find hope when you’re feeling depressed? How can you start believing that things can get better for you again?

Remember that it’s just your thought s

Remind yourself that your thoughts are nothing but just thoughts. They are not the truth. I doubt most if any of your friends and family tell you that there’s no hope for you. It’s just your thoughts doing that. But again: They are JUST thoughts. We have many thousands of them every day. Some are helpful, some are not. Practice mindfulness and don’t take your there-is-no-hope-thoughts seriously. If you haven’t yet read my post on how to stop being trapped by negative thoughts, then do so here .

How to find hope when you are really depressed

Surround yourself with high-hope optimistic people

Seek out the people in your life that see the bright side of things. The ones that have a positive attitude about life, and try to soak up their optimism as much as you can.

How to find hope when you are really depressed

Remind yourself of your past successes

I am absolutely sure that you will be able to think of past wins in your life. No matter what you are going through at the moment, I am sure you have already accomplished many great things in life. Perhaps it’s something relating to your education, your career, a hobby or a skill or something within your family and friendships. Why not write a list of all the past wins in your life – big and small. Remind yourself that you have overcome obstacles once before, were able to keep going and achieved something in the end. You can do this again.

How to find hope when you are really depressed

Spend time in nature

Next time you’re out in nature, pay attention to the absolutely amazing creatures, colours and plants out there. The pattern of a sunflower, the roots of a tree, a spider web, a sunset. When you notice the incredible and beautiful things that are possible, you can start to realise that you too are capable of remarkable things.

How to find hope when you are really depressed

Do you have a goal? Do you know what your best future looks like? There are exercises that I do with my clients in which we create best-life visions. What do you want your life to look like in the next 5, 10 years? What will you be doing? What will be different? Based on those, we set goals and work out ways to achieve them. They’re not airy-fairy unrealistic goals, but achievable by consistent effort and forward-planning. And because there’s now a goal and a goal map that explains how to get you there, you can then start taking the first step. Setting goals creates hope and confidence. And once you start taking those first steps, you get this feeling of “Yes, I can do this!”.

How to find hope when you are really depressed

Finding a sense of hope again when you’re feeling depressed is a total game-changer. It’s the foundation of your recovery and is what will keep you going through these challenging and dark times.

Having once had zero hope myself, I totally believe that developing new hope is possible. You’re not the only one out there who is feeling like this. There are plenty of others, and plenty who once felt depressed and hopeless but no longer do. Keep going strong.

How to find hope when you are really depressed

Welcome to the blog

I’m Claudia Smith and I help women get to better mental health naturally. Having overcome depression once myself, I am a qualified nutritionist, coach and practice functional medicine.

When you feel hopeless, it is difficult to take any steps toward change.

In 1965 Martin Seligman “discovered” learned helplessness. He found that when animals are subjected to difficult situations they cannot control, they stop trying to escape. They become passive.

Human beings are the same. If you experience devastating defeats, a persistent situation that you can’t change, or a terrifying event that you could not control your exposure to, then you may have lost hope for your ability to change your life or to change painful situations. Sometimes an ongoing mood disorder can lead to feelings of hopelessness.

Apathy or hopelessness may be puzzling to those around you. Why wouldn’t you try to get a job, make friends, eat healthier, or leave someone who is abusive? When you have no hope, you see any efforts to change your life as futile. You may blame yourself. You might say that you cannot manage life, cannot make friends, and cannot succeed in getting a job. You accept whatever happens as beyond your control. You may begin to despair.

When you don’t have hope, you have no energy or motivation for therapy or for any effort to change your situation. What’s the use in reaching out to meet people? You are sure you will be rejected. Why bother exercising or cleaning your home or volunteering—it won’t really make a difference. You know you will always be lonely, depressed, anxious, unemployed, or stuck in the same situation that is making you miserable. You don’t want to risk the pain of further disappointment by even trying.

Unfortunately, this painful despair and resignation set up a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you have no hope, no belief in therapy or that any action you take will make any difference, then that may well be the outcome. Change is very difficult, has multiple ups and downs, and requires motivation and commitment.

There are many ways to find hope. You may have your own way. I’d love to hear what has worked for you or someone you love.

1. Find a clear path. Being able to see how the steps you are taking will lead to desired change is critical to having hope. If you don’t logically see how what you are doing can have a positive result, then carrying out the plan will likely be difficult. Write down each step that you need to take to get where you want to be. If someone else is working with you, then push him or her to explain how the steps lead to the results you want.

2. Look for role models who have found solutions. There are many, many people who have overcome tremendous adversity. Reading their stories and surrounding yourself with supportive messages and people can help you build hope.

One resource is Project Hope Exchange. Part of this project is a page on their website where people record their experiences of overcoming adversity, and there is a special section for mental health challenges and life challenges.

3. Do what you know you can do. When you are in despair, taking one step that is out of your routine can help break the sense of powerlessness you have. Make your bed. Cook dinner. Talk to a friend. Take a step you know you can do and that action can make a difference over time. Keep doing it, and then try to add more actions. Overcoming the inertia of helplessness can help you build hope.

4. Perform an act of kindness. Doing acts of kindness can have a dramatic effect on your mood and outlook. Kindness triggers the release of serotonin, so it has an anti-depressant effect. It also calms stress and helps reduce pain.

Small acts of kindness that you do repeatedly can help you feel more connected and have a greater sense of contribution. Notice that doing acts of kindness repeatedly is important. Do acts of kindness daily. Even watching others perform acts of kindness can have a positive effect.

You might want to watch this TED talk about the magic of kindness.

You could also visit Lifevestinside.com for more information. The Pay it Forward movement is a similar concept.

Notice your judgments, the thoughts that pass through your head stating that nothing will work for you or that performing acts of kindness is a useless idea. Let those thoughts pass through and not control your behavior. Your lack of hope may lead you to think that these ideas won’t help you.

Part of kindness is to stop judging yourself and be kind to yourself as well. How would you treat someone else who was in your situation? Practice thinking of yourself with compassion.

5. Turn to your faith. Your faith can be a strong ally in holding on to hope. Sometimes your faith offers the support of not being alone and trusting that a higher power is with you. If you are questioning your beliefs, then talk with someone in your faith whom you respect. Others have encountered difficult times, and they will understand. Voicing your questions is a step toward resolving your confusion and also a step toward hope.

6. Practice mindfulness while doing acts of kindness and in your everyday life. Your thoughts may naturally wander to the past and focus on events that didn’t work out or other situations that were painful. That will often add to your depression and hopelessness. When you are depressed, you have difficulty seeing any positive events or remembering that you were ever happy.

When you focus your attention on the here and now, you are able to find more peace and less stress. There are many websites offering free mindfulness exercises such as this one.

Telling a depressed person to get motivated is like telling a rock to dance. You’ll get the same result.

It’s not because depressed people don’t want to get motivated. It’s because getting motivated is an overwhelming task when you’re depressed. Is motivation impossible? Definitely not. You just have to find a process that works for you.

There is a saying: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” But many depressed people can’t get out of bed, much less take a thousand-mile journey. For many sufferers, medication is the first step.

There are those who scoff at the idea of medication as an answer. But for those in a major clinical depression, life is a dark place full of pain, hopelessness and insecurity.

Sometimes the blame can be placed on brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters don’t work right, and brain chemicals such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine — your feel-good chemicals — often don’t go where they’re supposed to go. Medications deal with chemical imbalances. Find the right one, and you may feel more like your old self again. Because you feel better, getting motivated becomes a little easier.

A good therapist goes hand in hand with medication. One without the other is kind of a half-solution. By talking to a trained professional, you’ll feel better because you’re talking to someone who knows how to listen.

Good friends listen, sure, but don’t forego a therapist for a friend. Well-meaning friends may tell you to just get over it or to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. This results in a vicious cycle. You may feel worthless and stupid because you’re finding it hard to brush your teeth, much less pull yourself up by your bootstraps. This leads to a deepening depression, which leads to more “helpful” remarks, which leads to even more depression. Unfortunately, the thick, ugly scars of depression aren’t outwardly visible, and when your wounds aren’t visible, sympathy from your friends is hard to come by.

There’s a method used in Alcoholics Anonymous that works for some, and that’s acting as if something were already true. For example, every morning when you wake up, pop up with as much vigor as you can muster. Don’t give yourself time to dwell. Get dressed immediately. It can be for the gym or dog-walking or some other form of exercise. Or, get dressed to go to the mall, the bookstore, or the theater.

Just get dressed. Do your hair. Groom yourself attractively, and do it quickly. Don’t give yourself time to talk yourself out of it. In other words, act as if you feel great already and you know for a fact that you’re leaving the house and will have a good time. At the very least, getting dressed and looking decent can go a long way toward giving you a mental boost. It may even give you enough motivation actually to go to the gym and exercise, which is great for alleviating depression.

If you’re not at the gym phase yet, however, walk the dog, or go into the yard and pull weeds for 20 minutes a day (assuming it’s spring or summer). This gives you the added benefit of sunshine. According to research, 20 minutes of sun a day will lift your mood. If it’s winter and you live in a cold climate, invest in a light box, which simulates full-spectrum sunlight.

Even if you can’t find the motivation to do anything, don’t berate yourself for it. You’re up and ready for the day, aren’t you? Do only what you can do, and let go of major expectations. If you brushed your teeth, that’s positive. Don’t be hard on yourself, or getting motivated to do anything becomes another chore to be avoided.

Depression whispers bad things in your ear about your capabilities. We hear, “You can’t do anything right. Look at the mess you’ve made of your life. Why aren’t you further along in your career? Why don’t you have a career at your age?” By consciously replacing the words on these soundtracks with positive words, we’ll be able to change our way of thinking. The brain is able to create new neural pathways. Change your way of thinking over a period of time, and a new neural pathway is created.

Use positive thoughts about yourself to create new neural pathways. Over time, the old, bad, unused pathways wither, die and fall off, much like the branches on an old tree. With some determination to stay on the positive path, you create a new soundtrack, which is filled with hope, giving you more motivation to keep stepping forward.

The same premise applies to self-talk in the mirror. Whenever you see yourself in the mirror, say something positive about yourself. Some people carry flashcards to remind themselves of their good traits when they’re feeling particularly down. This is a behavioral psychology method to get you to replace bad thoughts with good ones. Before long you are reminded of all the wonderful things that you have to offer, and you are motivated enough to take another step in the healing process toward rejoining the world.

Socialization is important. Make a standing appointment to have a friend or family member pick you up to go out. This way you’re held accountable to someone else. If there are no friends or family members available, don’t use that as an excuse. Going to the bookstore and people-watching in the coffeeshop is preferable to sitting home alone. Who knows? You may make a new friend. That is certainly motivating.

Give yourself credit for progress made, even if it seems tiny. Set small goals. Do what you can handle and nothing more. Are there seven loads of laundry to fold? Tell yourself you’ll fold laundry for five minutes, then do it. You’ll be surprised by how accomplishing one thing you said you were going to do can boost your spirits and motivate you.

By the same token, don’t set yourself up to fail by telling yourself you’re going to do something you know you can’t do. Because, when you do fail, your motivation to move forward stops. Try doing only one thing at a time, a little bit at a time. Five minutes here, 10 minutes there — each success makes it easier to stay motivated for the next step in your journey to feeling good about yourself.

Many people struggle with depression; you’re not alone. Take that first step. Find what works for you, and the motivation to continue forward will come. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible.

Last medically reviewed on December 22, 2014

How to find hope when you are really depressed

Depression strikes millions each year, often with debilitating consequences. This psychological disorder is so common that it is sometimes referred to as the “common cold” of mental health, with nearly 10% of the population suffering from a depressive disorder at any given time. (source: National Institute of Mental Health)

Depression has a high cure rate. Effective treatments exist to help bring people’s lives back under control. Yet tragically many people suffering from this illness go without diagnosis and treatment. This depression test is a tool that may help you recognize the symptoms of depression and decide to get help. Please note that only a licensed professional can diagnose depression.

The Different Types of Depression

Depression is classified in a number of ways. The types of depression that this test looks for are: major depression, bipolar disorder, cyclothymia (a milder form of bipolar), dysthymia (or chronic depression), postpartum depression, and seasonal affective disorder or SAD. Each one presents different symptoms and represents a distinct diagnosis. You can learn more about each of these types of depression after you take the test and get your results. Please note that other variants of depression exist which are not tested for on this web site.

Am I Depressed?

Please select the closest answer if you feel the precise answer to a question is not available. In order for the depression test to yield the best results, please answer honestly. If you have any privacy concerns, you can find our privacy policy link at the bottom of this page.

Based on your answers to the questions on this page, some follow-up questions will be asked. Please click the button marked “Continue to Next Page” to complete the second part of the depression test.