Most people assume that someone who is depressed won’t ask any questions or make any trouble.
Depression is generally perceived as a harmless condition that a few unfortunate people have to deal with. However, being depressed isn’t a harmless condition. In fact, depression is much more pervasive in our culture than most people realize, and it keeps us from connecting in positive ways.
If you’re feeling depressed, you’re not engaged in the world, and you may be putting out a lot of negativity. One very helpful tool for getting past depression is to engage with others by simply being a nice person.
Though it might sound silly that being nice to other people can help your own feelings of depression, you can’t really enjoy life unless you’re being nice. There are a few folks out there who get off by making others suffer, but most people feel bad when they treat others in a shabby manner. Focusing on being nice will make you feel a lot better about yourself.
If you have been engaging in negative behavior toward others, ask yourself if you are unconsciously overcompensating for your depression. Try taking a step back, and see if you can put your finger on why you aren’t being your nicest self.
Are you afraid of something? Are you in a situation that’s making you feel uncomfortable? Either could cause you to project a harsh personality as a means of protecting yourself, and most of the time, you probably don’t know you are doing it.
Being the nice guy or gal doesn’t mean that you have to do what everyone else wants. You don’t have to buy people things or accept other people’s bad behavior. That isn’t what it’s about.
Being nice simply means being your best self with a little kindness thrown in. Remember that old saying, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it”? Niceness is simply saying and doing things in a way that doesn’t offend, upset or anger anyone else.
Instead, you are emotionally available to talk and willing to help, if necessary.
By presenting yourself in a nice way, you are magically defusing any negativity that you fear might be coming at you, and your depression gets lifted in the process.
The power of niceness, when it comes to not allowing your depression to stop you, is tremendous. That little bit of warmth can be felt by others and is returned to you (often unconsciously), and it makes your depression disappear. This silent exchange is one of the bedrocks of overcoming any mood disorder.
If you’ve been feeling down, your mission is to remember all the nice things people have said about you and to take them in. Let those compliments convince your brain that you are a very nice person, and others will want to engage with and relate to you. Although this is mostly an internal process, you need to practice with other people.
Tomorrow, regardless of what you have planned, put your nice self in gear and smile at everyone you encounter.
Trust that your kindness will be returned and that your depression no longer needs to hold you back.Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D. is an award-winning therapist and humanitarian. He is also a columnist, the author of seven books, and a blogger for PsychologyToday.com with nearly 27 million readers. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears Sundays and Wednesdays in the News-Press.