Avoid the Road to Depression: Keeping on in the Face of Discouragement

In 2023, a record 29 percent of Americans reported being diagnosed with depression, past or present. Though exact causes of medical depression are unclear, evidence suggests that certain people are more vulnerable:

Person brooding at window, hand over eyes
  • People with depression in their families.
  • People who have been abused or traumatized.
  • Women more than men.
  • Black and Hispanic Americans more than other racial/ethnic groups.
  • People in other traditionally marginalized groups, including disability demographics.

For anybody, depression has potentially serious consequences: decreased productivity, social withdrawal, even suicide.

Is Depression Preventable?

Depression isn’t always preventable, or predictable. However, the road to depression is typically paved with discouragement: feelings that one always fails, never gets anywhere, has no hope of ever getting anywhere. So if someone is discouraged but without symptoms of full-blown depression, tackling discouragement now may prevent depression later.

However, there’s a hard fact to accept first: “quick fixes” for discouragement are rare to nonexistent. Chasing relief through instant gratification (shopping sprees, comfort snacks, etc.) only feeds discouragement once the “instant” passes.

Fortunately, there are ways to get more lasting results.

IMPORTANT: The following advice is not a substitute for medical care. If discouragement continues to worsen, see a doctor. If someone mentions “losing the will to live,” seek help immediately (call the 988 suicide hotline if you aren’t sure where to go).

Tools to Combat Discouragement

Our BridgingApps Mental Health Apps list recommends assistive technology for practicing mindfulness, meditation, creativity, and other techniques to reduce discouragement. A handful of options:

  • Breathe2Relax guides the user through breathing exercises.
  • Colorfy provides easy art activities for creative leisure.
  • Happify offers personalized exercises for tracking moods and managing pain.
  • Headspace features a selection of guided meditations.
  • Moodfit helps users manage discouragement by journaling their feelings.
  • Smiling Mind lets users create a personalized program of mindfulness exercises.

What Else Can I Do in the Face of Discouragement? 

  • Use the “small rewards along the way” principle: don’t save all the celebrations until you complete something major. Break big goals into lists of little goals, and take time to congratulate yourself at each milestone.
  • Schedule daily or weekly “me time.” Take a break from “making progress” to go for a walk in the park, or make your favorite latte, or do some gaming, or otherwise enjoy yourself “just because.” Everyone needs regular recharges to keep progress going.
  • Make a conscious habit of moving slowly. Rushing never really gets you anywhere faster—at least not anywhere with long-term value.
  • Avoid saying “should” or “have to.” That just helps you talk yourself into believing you aren’t good enough.
  • Savor whatever you have right now. Enjoy the present moment, rather than wasting mental energy on the past or future.
  • Choose friends who believe in you, encourage you, and help you get up one more time than you fall down.
  • Be a loyal friend to others as well. Let a stranger go ahead of you. Volunteer at your favorite nonprofit. Helping others boosts the sense of belonging and personal value.
  • Again, be willing to supplement self-help with professional help (or vice versa). Encouragement comes from personal success, but also from sharing the load.
Friend with arm around friend's shoulder

Have a favorite encouragement tip—or app—of your own? We’d love to hear your comments!

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