• Lisa S. Larsen, PsyD

How to Find Your Passion When You’re Depressed

Updated: Jan 10

Depression is a common complaint that can rob you of motivation to do much of anything. You might feel fatigue, apathy, or a lack of motivation in general. Nonetheless, it is still possible to find your passion when you’re depressed. Your interests may wane, but they never fully go away. In fact, you may not feel depressed all of the time. If you look at your mood throughout the day during different activities, you will probably find that there are times that you feel okay or even slightly good. It’s hard to remember this when generally, you’re feeling down and defeated.


person with makeup and a wig looking down and sad
How do you get excited when you feel depressed?

Global negative thinking robs you of your passion when you're depressed

People with depression usually have global negative thinking. You tend to remember more negative memories than positive ones, and you predict that only discouraging things will continue to happen to you. This makes it hard for you to see a possibly better future for yourself and de-motivates you to try something new.


You might think that just taking antidepressants should improve your mood. Michael Yapko, PhD, a prominent expert in the hypnotic treatment of depression, says that depression is a multifactorial illness; there is not one single cause of depression. Thus, there are many routes to improving one’s mood.


Taking action and trying something you haven’t done before are some of the ways that you can find your passion when you’re depressed. However, depression can rob you of motivation and make you fatigued or lethargic, making it difficult to want to do anything. We can build a road back to passion by figuring out what you loved to do as a child or adolescent; aiming to feel neutral that them happy all the time; giving yourself some time to breathe; helping other people or creatures; and viewing depression as a chance to learn.


Here are just a few suggestions of how to find your passion when you’re depressed.


Fascinate the inner child

Unfortunately, you might have lost sight of what delights you. As you have matured, you’ve been given increasing amounts of responsibility. The free time you enjoyed when you were young seems to vanish as school, work, and other duties press upon you for attention. Hobbies and interests that once made you happy, now seem like evasive fantasies. However, your imagination and creativity did not dry up. They are still there; you just have to work a little harder to retrieve them when you are depressed.


Little boy behind a piece of weathered wood, smiling
What mischief can your inner child dream up?

Take a moment and think about activities that make you happy as a child. Even if you were not a happy child, in general, there may have been things that you enjoyed doing that absorbed your attention and took you into a state of pure participation in the moment. Did you find enjoyment in physical activities like sports, dance, climbing trees, or hiking? Was art satisfying to you, spending hours creating two-dimensional or three-dimensional works of art? Maybe you used story to help you make sense of the world by creating fiction, poetry, humor, or music. What fascinated you back then, and what interests you now?


I hope you had enough time to explore what you enjoyed as a child. If you never had the opportunity to play, you might have lived in your head and created a rich fantasy life that sustained you through difficult years of deprivation or abuse.


We are all creators of our own reality.

Every thought, action, and idea are your creation. How do you create your reality? What are the building blocks that make the foundation of your version of life? What kind of life are you building with your thoughts and ideas?


Express yourself

If you’re wondering how to find passion when you’re depressed, a good first step is to express what is going on inside. You can do this through art, journaling, talking into your smartphone and recording it, dancing, or other ways that you may not have thought of yet. Once you start expressing your emotional state, you have a clear channel to the creativity that lives inside of you. You gain more clarity and ownership of your internal experience. You’re also acting, an important first step in recovery. You’re reconnecting with something that has lived inside of you for a long time, perhaps long forgotten and neglected. Yet what a powerful resource it can be!


Aim lower if you want to find your passion when you’re depressed

One of the greatest challenges of being depressed is waiting until you feel better to do anything. You may think that you have to be happy and motivated in order to take action on your own behalf. The danger of that is that you could be waiting forever if you expect yourself to just magically feel better one day. There is a wise expression in the 12-step community that you can’t think yourself into right action; you have to ask yourself into right thinking. Waiting for the perfect mood state to do anything is just going to result in more stagnation.


You don’t have to be happy to find a passion. You can just feel neutral, and open to trying something new. Try improving your awareness of your mood by keeping track throughout the day of how you feel emotionally. You’re probably thinking about your life and your situation anyway – why not quantify it by rating your mood on a scale of 1 to 5 throughout the day?


Then you can see when you tend to feel the best and when you feel the worst. You can also pay attention to whether you are hungry, tired, physically uncomfortable, and other indicators that you might need self-care. In this way, you can start to improve your mood just by being aware of your body sensations and mood fluctuations.


When you notice what makes you feel okay or even good, you can do more of that. If you notice that you feel worse when you interact with someone, you can wonder how those interactions can be improved, or if you need to be in a different social environment in order to recover from depression.


Give yourself breathing room

Do you hide from their feelings by diving into work or school? It can be very tempting to focus on something that gives you financial rewards or approval from other people, especially when you feel bad about yourself and inappropriately guilty. However, if you focus too much on work or school, you might overwhelm yourself and make yourself more depressed or anxious.


Giving yourself some time off can refresh you and give you a chance to find what you enjoyed again. A lot of my clients become so focused on their to-do list that they lose sight of enjoyment and pleasure in their lives. This can even happen in retirement!


If you are very duty-focused, try scheduling things that you enjoy and sticking to them as if they were just as important as tasks on your to-do list or homework assignments. In Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Dr. Marsha Linehan talks about balancing “wants and shoulds.” Obviously, you can’t just blow off all your responsibilities. There are certain things that you have to do in order to get along with other people and to support yourself or be supported. However, if you only do things that you have to do, you lose the joy and spark of life.


Be of service

Being of service can help you find your passion when you are depressed. You might think that you already are overwhelmed with all you have to do as it is. However, helping others does a few good things.


Young medic helping a person in need; by Zach Vessels
Being helpful can lift you out of your depressive funk and help you find your passion again

First, it helps you realize that you are not the only person with unmet needs or who suffers. It also helps you take your attention away from your own ruminations and think about the world outside of your existence.


Helping others also helps you find your passion by getting you out of the house and interacting with other people, which reduces isolation. One chronically depressed lady I worked with started volunteering at a hospital as a greeter. She was delighted that she could do something valuable, even though she was retired and had physical limitations. It helped her connect with people and focus on something positive for a change.


There’s a famous story about Milton Erickson, who went to work with a depressed older lady. While in her home, he noticed that she had beautiful African violets that she planted. His prescription for her was to buy a bunch of soil, potting supplies, and African Violet seedlings, and to make a pot of violets for every person in her church who had a baby, got married, or any other major life event. This brought the lady out of her isolated inertia. By the time she passed away, she had a huge number of friends and acquaintances who all appreciated her kind efforts.


See depression as a chance to learn.

It may be hard to believe this, but depression and anxiety can both be signs that something is out of balance or missing from life. Dr. Linda Metcalf, a specialist in Solution-Focused Brief Therapy, views depression as a signal that life is not working with the current plan.


Instead of depression being an enemy, it can be an indication that your life is in need of revision. Ask yourself what is missing from your life, and how you can go about finding that missing piece. Another way to find the missing pieces from your life is to ask yourself when depression happens less and then develop a concrete action plan for what needs to be done to feel better.


When you find out what is working in your life to make you feel less depressed, you have a better chance of figuring out how to find your passion when you’re depressed.

These are just some of the ways that you can find inspiration and meaning in your life, even in the face of depression. If you would like to work on this more, I will be happy to help. Please call me at 661-233-6771 to see if we can work together successfully.


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