May 02, 2023
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Photography by Olga Moreira/Stocksy United
Losing motivation for your hobbies is a discouraging part of depression. Here are some tricks to help you find that joy again.
I can tell I’m slipping into an episode of depression when the things I love doing the most stop bringing me quite as much joy as they used to. In fact, losing interest in the things you love is a key symptom of major depression. And the worst part is that this symptom causes a cycle that makes it even harder to escape the depressed feelings.
I love making art and being creative. When I’m at my best, I’m always thinking about my next project. I’ll make time in my busy schedule to paint, write poetry, or make jewelry. But when I’m depressed, and my motivation goes out the window, engaging in these activities feels like a chore. And yet, I remain depressed because it feels like there is no joy in my life when rediscovering my love for my passions could be the ticket back to good spirits.
This cycle can feel never-ending. It sucks to engage in the things you once loved and feel less enthused than you used to. However, I’ve found that pushing through can be a factor that helps me enjoy my life again. This is how I approach returning to my favorite hobbies when I’m depressed.
Depression sucks the joy out of life, making it difficult to remember why you enjoyed something in the first place. When your thoughts automatically take the negative route, it can be tough to find the positive or remember what you’re grateful for. But trying your best to think about why you love your passions is a significant first step toward trying them again.
I like to make a list of reasons why I love (or used to love) engaging in specific hobbies. Take creative writing, for example. I love creative writing because:
Listing that out made me tear up because I often feel disconnected from the things I love. But writing all the positive reasons why I’m grateful for my passions and what they bring to my life reminds me why I started doing it in the first place.
How do you know when to get back on the horse? Sometimes, I’m simply too depressed to do anything, and trying to engage with my passions will most likely make me feel worse because my mood’s proximity to joy feels lightyears away. I need to read my mood and energy levels before engaging in my interests.
It’s probably not the best time for you to try to lift your spirits with something you used to love when you’re sobbing uncontrollably and having suicidal thoughts. When I feel that extreme level of depression, I know engaging in my interests won’t make me feel better and will likely overwhelm me instead. During these times, I try to use coping skills to help me get closer to my baseline.
But when I’m lying in bed, just scrolling through TikTok for hours on end, feeling crappy about myself and my life — that’s when I try to get myself up and engaged with something that once brought me joy.
While it’s easy for me to tell you to get out of bed and do something fun, the reality is that this simple advice isn’t quite as easy to do in real life. When I have low energy levels and feel depressed, getting out of bed can take hours.
So, how can we start integrating our interests back into our lives if we have zero motivation to do so? One thing that helps me is building it into my schedule.
I recently signed up for a weekly ceramics class at my local craft center, so there’s a specific time each week that I’m expected to show up and make art.
You can do the same thing with your hobby, whether by joining a local sports league, signing up for a weekly Zumba class, putting your name down to volunteer at a specific time every month, or joining a writing workshop.
If you can’t take a class for whatever reason, that doesn’t mean you can’t schedule your hobby on your own time. Plan to do what you love for a couple of specific, pre-planned hours each week so that you have more of a firm idea for when you’ll do it rather than just planning to whenever you feel like it.
Being mindful and staying present while engaging in what we love can help us enjoy it more. Before you head back into your activity of choice, you may want to practice some mindfulness techniques in your everyday life to get your brain used to it.
Mindfulness techniques I love include:
While getting back into your hobbies can help you escape a depressive episode, it may not always feel as good as you want it to. Sometimes, when I engage in my hobbies on a bad day, I feel disappointed or ashamed of myself for feeling disengaged rather than joyful, and I feel more depressed as a result.
If this happens to you, don’t be too hard on yourself. We all have bad days when nothing can boost our mood, and that’s OK.
When this happens, I do my best to be kind to myself and reframe my negative thoughts about the situation. I acknowledge that, yeah, this is super disappointing. I wanted this thing to make me feel way better, and it didn’t, and that sucks.
But I also remind myself that my feelings are temporary and that I can always try again later. It’s not my fault that I’m not feeling better yet, and this doesn’t mean I’ll never find joy in my interests again. It just means it isn’t working right now.
Depression’s tendency to remove joy from our lives can make us feel hopeless, but there are many ways to end the cycle and rediscover the things that make you happy. Engaging in the interests you loved before you felt depressed can be extremely difficult, but it can also help you find joy again.
When I pursue my hobbies again after a depressive episode, I remind myself why I loved them in the first place, build my schedule around my hobbies, and practice mindfulness.
Medically reviewed on May 02, 2023
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