What is existential depression?
Thoughts regarding one’s existence are something that many people experience, and yet nothing good ever comes out of them.
When push comes to shove, all of these ideas can lead you to experience what is known as an existential crisis – The moment where you question your very nature as a living being and fail to get a satisfying answer.
This process of asking questions, getting no answers, and focusing on negative emotions is called rumination.
Rumination is a common cause of depression and should be avoided whenever possible.
This combination of factors leads to what is known as existential depression.
The idea where a perceived lack of meaning in life can serve as the cause of a depressive disorder.
Both mind and body are dominated by this disorder, causing your entire life to spiral out of control.
Is there something that can be done about it? Yes, absolutely.
Existential depression is all inside your head
It is important to note that existential depression originates from your own thinking without any other external causes.
In other words, on the outside, it might seem as though there are no causes for your condition.
Sure, certain experiences might provoke thoughts regarding the meaning of life, but existential depression is largely attributed to more intellectual causes.
Now, keep in mind that existential depression is a largely unexplored and vastly under-researched topic.
Data is limited and because of that, it’s very important that we grab onto any piece of expert opinion and research that we can get our hands on.
Aside from that, due to existential depression being caused by our own thoughts, it should be possible to combat it through a similar method.
After all, you can only ruminate as long as your thoughts do not reach a logical conclusion.
By reaching a conclusion, you are essentially putting an end to your existential thoughts.
Treat existential depression by changing your mindset
Existentialism is the idea that humans are inherently driven to find meaning in their lives.
It assumes that humans have no inherent meaning and tells us that, as free and thinking creatures, our fate is in our own hands.
This is both a beautiful and inspiring idea.
In a way, it both takes away, as well as gives you, responsibility.
On one hand, you are still chasing the idea of finding meaning in your existence.
On the other hand, you are the only one who can actually find that meaning.
Think about it for a moment.
By “chasing” meaning in your life, you accept that you haven’t found it yet.
Your life’s meaning right now is to find meaning, and thus you continue searching.
Furthermore, it also relieves you from the responsibility of finding meaning in life right now.
For people with an existential crisis, as well as existential depression, this is a huge benefit.
The biggest thing about such thoughts is that they are obsessive in nature.
You can’t just wonder about the meaning of your very existence and then just forget about it.
No, instead you will probably keep thinking about this problem on and on, despite these thoughts not being healthy for you.
By applying existentialism, you acknowledge the fact that you do not know the meaning of your life, but you are still searching for it.
By choosing to look at the reason for your existence as a goal to be achieved, rather than a question you have to answer (what is the meaning of life?), you can certainly relieve yourself of a lot of stress.
In other words, finding a purpose is your purpose.
Overcoming existential depression through action
Up until now I have talked about how the search for meaning is enough of a validation for your existence as it is, but that just brings up the question – How do you search for meaning?
After all, people with an existential disorder spent a fair bit of time searching for meaning and yet found no answer.
That is what caused their existential depression in the first place!
The answer to this question is simple – Think less and do more.
The truth is that people who are active rarely suffer from existential depression when compared to their less active counterparts.
Here’s the deal – immersing yourself in an engaging activity is, by far, the best method for overcoming existential depression.
One group of researchers attempted to find the effects therapeutic horticulture (basically gardening) on existential depression.
They gathered their participants and had them go through a 12-week therapeutic horticulture program, with a 3 months follow-up to ensure lasting results.
When they gathered the results they noticed that data seemed to suggest that this exercise was extremely beneficial.
The participants, in their own words, noted that it was “meaningful” and “influential” for their view of life.
In other words, the experience changed their previous mindset.
The participants found “meaning” in doing what amounts to gardening.
In other words, they did something that they found enjoyable as well as relaxing and got benefited from it as a result.
By taking action they actually improved their condition.
So, knowing this, what can’t you do that same?
Engagement is more important than interest
It is important to note that, in this particular case, the activity itself should be first and foremost engaging, not necessarily enjoyable.
This line of thinking comes from the idea of “flow”.
I already talked about this before in another article, but it applies in this case as well.
Basically, the idea of flow is that you become so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.
Whenever you are engaged with something that is challenging, but not too challenging (otherwise you will develop anxiety) and requires a certain amount of skill (in order to not become boring), you get into this “flow” mindset.
According to psychologist Dr. Mmihaly Csikszentmihalyi, this mindset can directly contribute to happiness.
Find something to do, something that will make you engaged as well as making you immersed in it, and you are much more likely to become happy.
Another great example would be people who got into social activism within their own community.
In a way, it allowed them to be a part of something much bigger than themselves, and those draw a sense of meaning from it.
Either way, finding something engaging/enjoyable to do has been found to largely attribute to happiness, so it’s definitely worth trying out even if you are skeptical.
Hobbies can help with existential depression
Another great benefit of immersing yourself in an activity is that it leaves you with less time to focus on your own thoughts.
That being said, how do you engage and immerse yourself in your free time?
After all, you are guaranteed to have at least some time for yourself, what happens then?
The answer to this question is both simple and difficult at the same time.
Think for a moment about what you do in your spare time.
Do you spend your days watching the TV? Do you play video games? Go to random pubs?
Needless to say, these actions are not really engaging and will not help you overcome your existential depression.
Based on the idea of finding an immersive and engaging thing to do you should do your best to get a new hobby.
It doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as it will keep you busy.
Friends can be both a blessing and a curse
Another thing to notice is that spending time with your friends can be both a good thing and a bad thing.
Friends are great distractions and you can easily find yourself being immersed in a conversation with them.
After all, you share many of the same interests.
On the other hand, friends can also ruin your immersion and draw you into a conversation, essentially taking away from the activity as a whole.
To some people, getting their friends involved is only a distraction and will not help them.
To others, getting other people involved is only a distraction.
It really depends on who you are as a person.
Existential depression treatment is simple, but it’s far from being easy.
The truth is that we don’t really need an epic conclusion to this line of thinking, we don’t need to have this “aha!” moment.
Living a life in which you are constantly engaged and immersed in different things will help you avoid existential depression altogether.
In that sense, this is the best treatment for existential depression.
Still, if these thoughts continue to persist you should definitely meet with an expert or look into a training program.
As this article demonstrated, self-help can be just as effective as therapy, if not more so.
The best self-help product I could find regarding depression is the “Destroy Depression System“.
In it, you will find a lot of practical advice, ranging from dietary recommendations all the way to behavioral therapy.
The system is fully refundable so there is very little reason to not try it out for yourself.
If you got any further questions then please share them with me through either the comment section below or by sending me an email.