Many people find that expressing themselves -- through writing, art, or music -- helps them feel better, especially if they are recovering from depression.
Don't worry if you never thought of yourself as an artistic or creative person. The idea is not to come up with a masterpiece that will be part of a public art exhibit. In fact, you don't have to show your work to anyone else if you don't want to.
Clinical depression has been linked to other mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, social phobia, and generalized anxiety disorder. Together, these conditions affect millions of Americans.
Fortunately, these disorders are treatable, and those affected can lead normal, productive lives.
But the act of expressing yourself, of creating something original that comes out of your feelings or mood -- can be satisfying in itself.
Here are some ways you can do this.
Write. Many studies have shown that writing about upsetting events in your life can help you deal with your feelings. For instance, one researcher has conducted numerous studies showing that writing about traumatic experiences -- for just 15 minutes a day for three days -- left people feeling happier. Some of those results were summarized in the Journal of Clinical Psychology in 1999. If you want, you can show what you've written to family, trusted friends, or your therapist. But you can also just keep it private.
Sketch. Pick up an art pad and some colored pencils. Then head to your favorite scenic spot -- or even a local art gallery -- and sketch what you see.
Paint. Get a set of watercolors or acrylic paints, an art pad, and some brushes. You can paint at the kitchen table or set up a basic studio in the basement.
Play music. If you used to play an instrument, now might be a good time to take it up again. Or instead, try something new -- maybe it's time to sign up for those guitar lessons you always dreamed of.
Take photos. Dust off your camera and take photos of whatever you like. If you have a digital camera and a computer, you might enjoy using photo-editing software and tinkering.
Make a movie. If you have a home video camera and your children are inclined to theatrics, make a movie with them. You can improvise as you go or come up with a script to follow.
Other activities. Take up needlepoint or knitting. Crochet a sweater. Make a quilt. There are so many different ways of expressing yourself creatively.
Remember, when you try these different activities, don't feel shy or embarrassed. The end result doesn't matter. Just push past your doubts and give artistic expression a shot. You may find that you enjoy it more than you expect.