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.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for depression. At the heart of CBT is an assumption that a person's mood is directly related to his or her patterns of thought. Negative, dysfunctional thinking affects a person's mood, sense of self, behavior, and even physical state. The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is to help a person learn to recognize negative patterns of thought, evaluate their validity, and replace them with healthier ways of thinking.
At the same time,...
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.