Dedicate a private notebook/journal to your depression homework. This can be for your eyes only or it can be something you share with a counsellor or psychologist.
Today’s activity is listing your passions. Passions are the things that ignite the flame within you.
- Make a list of all the things that now or have ever brought you joy. Focus on things that you can still conceivably do in some way, shape, or form. Try to remember all the things that brought you joy, even little things like smelling a flower or the smell of a forest after it rains. Consider your five senses when doing this part of the exercise. Things that bring you joy can be things you have done, hobbies, activities, work, sights, sounds, feelings, scents, tastes, television shows, movies… really anything. Try to come up with as many as possible.
- Go through your list and put a star next to the items on the list that are things you could possibly do to bring yourself joy. For example, if singing is on the list, even if you have not sung in a long time, you can put a star next to it. If painting is on the list, even if you currently do not have paints, you can still put a star next to it because you can eventually get paints and paint again.
- Choose 1 – 3 things from the list that seem appealing, but not too hard to actually experience and make a concrete plan to do them THIS week. This means coming up with a schedule of exactly when, where, how you will do this.
- Take some time to record the results of your experiences in your depression homework journal. How did it go? Was it enjoyable or did it feel like a chore? If it was enjoyable, what parts were most enjoyable? If it felt like a chore, did it feel better than staying home?
Here are some examples of things that might bring a person joy in case you are really stuck:
- going for a walk in nature
- being around animals
- spending time with a good friend
- seeing a play or a movie or even a TV show
- singing or playing a musical instrument
- painting, drawing, or coloring
- working on a puzzle such as sudoku, crossword puzzles, logic puzzles, crytograms, or jigsaw puzzles
- doing math (really – for some people)
- riding a bicycle
- going to the ocean
- going to the mountains
- watching ducks or some other animals/birds
- going out for a nice dinner
- listening to music
- cooking or baking
- making jewelry
- learning a new skill
Although this might sound very basic to someone who is not depressed, this is a challenging homework assignment when you are depressed because it is so tempting to do nothing. It can also be hard to remember all the wonderful things about life that bring you joy.
The point of this activity is to help you to focus on and remember what parts of your life have brought you happiness and joy so that hopefully you can experience these feelings again. It is also to start getting you out in the world being an active participant in your own life.
Life is full of things we “should” do. This exercise focuses on what we LOVE to do. It is easier to push yourself to do something you once loved to do than to push yourself to do something that is a chore. If you are extremely depressed, even doing something you once loved may at first seem like a chore. Please try to consider this an experiment and push through the discomfort. Think of it this way: you probably feel bad anyhow either way.
What I hope you will find is that the more you get out and do things you used to love, the more life will seem appealing again.