Depression can be a difficult experience, causing feelings of isolation and hopelessness. However, the power of kindness can be an antidote to depression’s challenges. Learn about how little acts of kindness — for yourself or others — can make a big difference when you’re facing depression.
It Starts with You
Practicing kindness starts with you – do something kind for yourself. Self-compassion can make a world of difference by helping you to move away from criticism and live in acceptance. Prioritize activities that bring pleasure, nurture relationships that bring joy, and generally strive to be more compassionate and kind to yourself. By recognizing your worthiness as an individual and pausing before engaging in self-criticism, you can slowly begin to undo the downward spiral of depression.
A study suggests that people suffering from depression or anxiety can help heal themselves by doing acts of kindness for others. In the study, published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, 122 people who had moderate-to-severe depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms participated in three different types of therapeutic techniques. Two groups were assigned to conventional cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) interventions – either participating in social activities or engaging in cognitive reappraisal. Another group was given the task to perform three acts of kindness for two days out of the week. After five weeks, all participants showed an increase in life satisfaction and a decrease in their levels of depression and anxiety. Most significantly, the act of kindness group reported feeling better connected to others than those who took part in CBT techniques alone. This finding suggests that performing nice deeds may be one of the best ways to promote well-being even when struggling with mental health issues.
Refocus on the Positive
When depression takes over, it’s easy to become focused on the negative and spiral into self-destructive thoughts. Instead of ruminating on challenges, refocus your energy on the good in life. Make a gratitude list of all the things you have to be thankful for and give yourself time and space to appreciate them. Noticing the beauty you come across can also act as a shift away from troubling thinking. By taking some time each day to truly open up and observe your external, physical environment, letting yourself savour all that is good can help cultivate a more positive mindset.
Practice Gratitude and Self-Compassion
Practicing self-kindness and gratitude can foster real emotional resilience against depression. Soften your inner dialogue by talking to yourself in the same positive and encouraging manner that you’d use with someone else. Remind yourself that it’s okay to make mistakes, that nobody is perfect. Acknowledge anything good (even small victories) and reward yourself for them – this helps to cultivate the confidence necessary to conquer depression’s darkest moments.
Make Connections Through Kindness-Based Interactions
Reaching out to other people who understand what you’re going through can be a powerful antidote to the emotional pain of depression. Connect with a therapist, or simply lend your time and support to someone else in need. Befriending people within your community, joining social networks specialized for individuals experiencing depression, or even participating in charity work can make all the difference when it comes to helping you feel better.
Seek Professional Help When Necessary
It’s important to remember that talking to a trained professional can make all the difference in helping you cope with depression. Even if you find positive ways to be kind to yourself, including therapy and/or medication, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. Dealing with depression can be tough, and it’s important not to downplay the importance of seeking help when it’s needed.