A familiar Google rabbit hole goes: major depressive disorder, depression symptoms, am I depressed?
We all want to know how we compare, where we fit in the grand scheme of things, and that’s natural.
But once you get an idea that ‘depression’ might fit your symptoms, the next question becomes, “Well, how depressed am I?” It makes sense to ask, and there are a lot of ways to get an answer.
You can go to therapy. You can talk to a psychiatrist. You can even take a test for depression. But then what? All you’re left with is a sense of just how big of a battle you have ahead of you.
A Better Question
It might be more helpful to ask yourself not “How depressed am I?” but “How satisfied am I?” or “What gives me joy?”
From there, your next question isn’t about the prognosis or how much work you have to do to feel better. It becomes about what satisfies you, what you enjoy; how much of that you have in your life, and how to get more.
This way, you’ll get an actual idea of where to focus your mental health recovery, instead of low self-esteem and hopelessness.
Current research suggests that self-efficacy plays a key role in our goal of finding happiness. People who believe they can be better, work harder, or be happier, tend to actually be better, work harder, and be happier.
As it turns out, having an active outlook can help us live a more positive life. So, before you ask yourself “How depressed am I?,” ask yourself instead: “What would make things better?”
How Satisfied Am I?
A good first step on the road to happiness is to assess how far you are already on it (and how far you have to go).
First, consider how you feel about these areas of life:
- Social Life
- Am I satisfied with the number of social connections I have?
- Am I satisfied with the quality of my social connections?
- Work Life
- Am I satisfied with my current standing in my career?
- How about my potential opportunities for advancement and growth?
- Physical Health
- Am I satisfied with my physical health?
- How about the goals I’ve set for bettering my health?
- Daily Life
- Am I satisfied with my typical day?
Where do you notice your strengths? What are the areas to work on?
If you’re not satisfied with your current standing in life, how about your potential?
If you don’t even know where to start with these questions, let’s move one step back — what is satisfying to you?
Figuring Out What Makes You Happy
Research on major depression and finding happiness has shown us that goals may not be what actually makes us happy.
Once you reach a goal, you have another goal to reach. It can easily begin to feel like you are stuck on a treadmill running to nowhere.
Instead, think about your values. What is important to you? Maybe it’s kindness and compassion, maybe it’s interest and curiosity, maybe it’s ambition and independence.
While you’re working on your goals, ask yourself: am I living by my values? What can I appreciate about myself and my efforts today?
Small Steps to Happiness
Depression makes it difficult to figure out your path to happiness. Luckily, there are some approaches that actually help (not just telling you to ‘find your zen’ or ‘go to therapy’). Here are some more questions to ask yourself:
How do you spend your money?
Regardless of how much money you actually have, what do you spend it on?
Research suggests that happiness is boosted by spending money on others. Consider giving a little to charity, or giving a small gift to a friend or family member.
Depression symptoms can also be kept at bay by spending money on experiences or self-help rather than material items. Buying a ticket to a theme park or a play can provide a more lasting impact than buying a new watch or bathrobe.
How do you think about events?
One key to finding happiness is gratitude — studies have shown that people who practice writing down what they are grateful for experience greater levels of happiness and lower levels of depression.
Another is your mindset. Sometimes, understandably, we see situations as bad and harmful.
But what if we try to see the same situation as a growth opportunity? If you forget your keys at home and have to meet your housemate to get them, you can think “at least now I get a chance for some face-to-face time with my housemate.”
If it’s rainy outside, you can think “at least the plants are getting watered.”
We can’t always change the events in our lives — what we can do is change the way we think and talk about them.
By asking yourself less depressing, more productive questions, you’ll get an actual idea of where to focus your mental health recovery — instead of just getting low self-esteem and hopelessness.
Remember to focus on your own values, what makes you happy, and how you can see each event as something to grow from.
And if you ever want to talk to someone about your own road to happiness, visit Supportiv for a warm, welcoming chat.