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How to Overcome Depression: Turn a Downward Spiral Upward

To overcome depression: it’s a familiar wish to anyone who has been through a depressive episode or is currently suffering from depressive symptoms. Equally, they know that it’s usually easier said than done. Low mood, lack of drive and loss of interest – the symptoms of depression often weigh heavily on those affected. But how can we overcome depression? We would like to show you how mood and behaviour influence each other and what can help you to regain your lust for life.

The good news is: you can overcome depression. In the vast majority of cases, episodes of depression will pass. Treatment in the form of psychotherapy, medication or online courses can help to reduce the duration and intensity of depressive episodes. Treatment can also help you to avoid relapsing into depression.

The downward spiral

When our mood is low, we usually lack the motivation to do anything. Going out, meeting friends or doing sports: when we are sad or depressed, we often don’t feel like socialising, exercising or doing other activities. We may, for example, simply feel too tired or exhausted. This is quite normal and it can sometimes do us good to just take a step back. However, if this situation persists or is particularly severe, it could be caused by depression and an absence of joy in our lives.

One symptom of depression is the loss of pleasure in activities that you used to find enjoyable. If your usual sources of fun suddenly stop giving you such positive feelings, you are less likely to pursue them.  And this can compound the negative impact on your mood.

When we feel down, lacking in drive and joy, withdrawing from activities can feel like a relief in the short term. Unfortunately, we usually don’t end up overcoming depression this way; in fact the symptoms are reinforced. When we are deprived of positive experiences, our mood suffers. As a result, feelings of sadness or hopelessness can grow and we have little motivation to do anything. So we become even less active. This is the process we are describing when we speak of a downward spiral of depression. Below you can see an illustration of this downward spiral. The illustration is taken from our online course Acute Depression.

How to overcome depression: the upward spiral

When you look at the downward spiral, you may ask yourself: How am I supposed to overcome depression when the spiral of lethargy and low mood keeps pulling me down?

The upside is that the spiral also works in the opposite direction. So a “downward spiral” can be turned into an “upward spiral”. But how exactly is that supposed to work?

Your actions…

While we cannot directly and immediately change our feelings, we can influence how we act. Therefore, making the first step onto the upward spiral means pursuing activities despite feeling down, sad or despondent.

This probably feels like the last thing you want to do, and it demands a great deal of effort. At first, you may feel like you’re swimming against the tide. But it’s worth it.

…change your feelings

Going out when you’d rather curl up in bed. Meeting friends when you feel like being alone. Doing sports when you’d prefer to stay horizontal on the couch. Engaging in activities when you don’t feel like it is far from easy. But precisely these things that used to be a source of pleasure and fun, or even completely new activities, can now help you to escape the downward spiral and carry you steadily upwards.

The activities that can lift your mood and enhance your wellbeing will vary widely from person to person. Give it a moment’s thought: What gives you pleasure, helps you to relax or find inner peace? What has worked for you in the past? It’s best to make a list of all the activities you can think of. You can also see what your friends like doing or simply ask to join them next time. Once you’ve identified the kind of activities that can give you a boost, start consciously planning them into your everyday life.

Overcoming depression requires patience

Be aware that it’s quite normal to start doing activities and not find them enjoyable right away. After all, you may simply be out of practice when it comes to enjoying these pursuits. But the more often you incorporate positive activities into your daily life, the easier you will find it and the more pleasure you will get from them again.

How to overcome depression with support

Maybe you’re thinking: That sounds logical, but how do I put it into practice? Overcoming depression is not something you have to do alone! Seeking professional help is not only a sign of strength, it can also be a practical step towards permanently overcoming depressive symptoms.

There are various ways to treat depression. Alongside psychotherapy or medication, online therapy courses have proven effective in preventing depression or reducing depressive symptoms. If you would like to learn more about this, you can read about our HelloBetter courses and find the right online course to help you with depression.

Do you want to actively and self-determinedly increase your well-being? Get to know our clinically proven online course to alleviate depression.

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Our articles are written by psychologists and reviewed by psychotherapists.