How to Build Resilience to Depression

I wrote this piece for the local newspaper!

As we’ve attempted to settle into post-pandemic life, the mental health crisis continues to rage. According to a review by Boston University School of Public Health, rates of depression in the United States have risen from 9 percent, pre-pandemic, to 33 percent in 2021. 

With depression affecting one in three people, odds are you know someone, or you are someone who is suffering with depression. Here are a few principles that have been shown to help build resilience to and aid recovery from depression.

Aliveness instead of happiness. Andrew Solomon wrote, “The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality….” Depression is a sense of internal deadening. Cultivating a sense of aliveness means building our ability to be present with the full spectrum of emotion. You can get started with this practice by thinking of the last time you felt fully alive and engaged in a moment. Maybe it was getting into the wintery ocean, or being in deep conversation with a close friend. Now think about a time when you chose to numb a feeling, maybe with food, alcohol, TV, sex or staying overly busy. For many of us, the numbing behavior is our default and aliveness must practiced.

Pay attention. However one chooses to do this (meditation, prayer, journaling, daily reflection, etc.), the act of noticing and processing the events of our day, leads to an increased sense of well-being. Regularly seeing a talk-therapist is a guided practice in paying attention. Whether you decide to seek a professional guide or start something on your own, paying attention to the experience of your life is key. 

Be curious. Curiosity, as a mindset and skill, might be the most useful tool in mental health recovery. If depression is deadening, curiosity provides an opening through which light can enter. There is a lot of pressure in our current culture to optimize every aspect of our day. But, instead of self-flagellating over missing a day of exercise or numbing with one of our vices, the practice of curiosity allows us to notice our shortcomings with compassion. Curiosity doesn’t condemn. It asks Why?, and How? and looks into our internal life with wonder.