How You Can Harness the Positivity Hidden in Your Depression

Hopelessness is a defining feeling of depression, and one that makes you feel like you have no lifeline to treatment. But what you might not realize is that hidden in your depression is the potential for adaptive thoughts that can make way for positivity, which can, in turn, be used to support your recovery through self-exploration.

“I was drawn to all the wrong things: I liked to drink, I was lazy, I didn’t have a god, politics, ideas, ideals,” said poet and novelist Charles Bukowski of his depression. “I was settled into nothingness; a kind of non-being, and I accepted it. I didn’t make for an interesting person. I didn’t want to be interesting, it was too hard. What I really wanted was only a soft, hazy space to live in, and to be left alone.”

Finding hope when you’re depressed is tough—even summoning the motivation to try can feel exhausting, and trying to maintain an optimistic outlook may appear pointless. But as counterintuitive as it might seem, being depressed can be used to create positivity. You don’t need to wait until you feel better, you can start creating it now—all you need is the right environment and an understanding of how even your lowest moment can be transformed into something positive.

Making Way for Positivity

Hearing someone tell you to “cheer up” or “focus on the positive” when you’re depressed can be frustrating, because it doesn’t change anything—you still feel stuck in a mental rut, and most of the time this can’t be changed without treatment. It also paints your depression as something that can easily be fixed, perhaps even subtly implying that it’s your fault—as if you’re only depressed because you’re allowing yourself to dwell on depressing thoughts.

In reality, depression is a serious mental health challenge that requires attention like any other illness, physical or mental. But through this attention, you can learn that there is positivity to be found in the midst of your depression, and although it might not be easy, with the right tools you can learn how to harness this positivity to progress on your path to recovery.

Improved Goal Management

“If we stop seeing depression simply as a psychological burden which just needs to be removed through therapy, we might also be able to use the patient’s crisis as an opportunity for personal development,” says Katharina Koppe, a psychology student at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena who examined the positives that can be harnessed in depression.

Koppe’s research on the potential upsides of depression supports this notion: her team found that people with depression have an easier time leaving unattainable goals behind. This ability to manage goals by keeping them realistic fosters positivity in the form of feeling a sense of accomplishment more often—after all, realistic goals are much more likely to be met than unrealistic ones. In a therapy setting, this becomes a valuable skill, as therapists help clients with depression identify impractical goals (which can be frustrating and, yes, depressing by nature) and let them go, replacing them with more practical alternatives that will better support the recovery process.

Processing Information at a Deeper Level

In people living with depression, areas of the brain associated with rumination are usually hyperconnected, and when you’re looking at the world through the lens of depression, deep processing can lead to rumination on the negative. But instead of this hyperactivity giving deep thought to the negativity in your life, you can work with a therapist to use this trait to focus on positive goals in your life.

Indeed, research has shown that rumination can actually help you avoid distractions in situations where you must focus on a goal. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a great example of this—it’s a goal-oriented psychotherapy that promotes an analysis of the thoughts and beliefs rooted in your depression and a recognition of alternative perspectives that are conducive to recovery.

Heightened Analytical Thinking

Analyzing the events that have taken place in our lives and the decisions that have brought us there is human nature, especially if these events are life-changing—the end of a relationship, the loss of a job, the beginning of a new career path. But in situations like this, people in depressive episodes tend to analyze these events more—and from a negative perspective. Now throw in heightened levels of rumination, and you can find yourself lost in negative thoughts and analyses. Yet, with the right push, this type of analytical thinking can actually help you through the treatment process.

“It may actually be a natural adaptation that the brain uses to tackle certain problems,” says Paul Andrews, a professor at McMaster University that studied the “bright side” of depression. “We are seeing more evidence that depression can be a necessary and beneficial adaptation to dealing with major, complex issues that defy easy understanding.” Writing is a perfect example—when used in the context of treatment, it can help you express your emotions, take a step back from them, and analyze them in an adaptive way.

Depression and Creativity

Lots of research has been put into studying the link between creativity and mental health. One particular study examined Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a German poet, statesman, and scientist that suffered from extreme mood swings. The researchers examined the connection between Goethe’s depressive episodes and his creativity, revealing that these episodes were linked to increased poetic creativity compared to times in his life where he had a more stable sense of well-being.

Their findings also suggest that his poetry served as a means of coping with his depression, supporting other research that points to expressive writing for its ability to reduce depression.

In other words, the creativity that lies within you (regardless of skill level) can be used to channel your depression into something productive and meaningful, and aid in the recovery process.

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Supporting Recovery Through Self-Exploration

Depression can easily shut your eyes to the good in the world around you, but the right residential treatment program can help you open your eyes again and see that you are not alone, and that recovery is not an impossible hurdle, nor depression an unnavigable impasse. Rather, it is a life path which, though difficult at times, can ultimately open up new possibilities and alternate avenues for personal growth.

Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive residential treatment for people living with depression. Contact usif you need help finding the positivity needed to overcome the hurdles that lie between you and recovery.

Lead Image Source: Unsplash user Dingzeyu Li