In the northern hemisphere, we are entering the depression season as the days get shorter and the opportunity to do activities that are naturally rewarding are more limited or non-existent. Gardens don’t grow, and for many of us it’s too cold to hike and enjoy nature or play golf or outdoor tennis.
While some people have documented Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), many of the rest of us find it hard to get motivated to do more than go to work, come home, and vegetate. Yet, the winter months can be very exciting as theatres and orchestras and lecture series operate their full schedules. Skiing and ice skating and bowling are in season. Libraries and museums are generally open for their maximum number of hours and have their major exhibits while most people are not on vacation. It’s a great time of the year for spectator sports. And stores are exciting places – with holiday displays and sales.
All this tends to get lost on the depressed individual. Depression is reflected in lack of enjoyment and a reduced activity level. While the traditional approaches to treating depression are rather passive – such as taking medication or sitting in the presence of a bright light, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and positive psychology have produced evidence-based results to demonstrate that depression can be actively overcome by challenging negative thinking and creating the expectation of positive outcomes.
Goal-Achieving Psychotherapy (GAP) takes it a step further. Through the use of exercise cards and other products that can be downloaded for free from this website, individuals can develop a structure for doing things in a systematic goal-directed way by taking small steps in a positive direction. Positive thinking and maintaining an active lifestyle are pretty much incompatible with depression.
It’s hard to be active and depressed. It is certainly possible to get effective traditional treatment for depression – and then get active. I like the other side of the coin, however. Commit yourself to a goal, and get active in pursuing it – and depression won’t feel very welcome.