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Diminishing dejection and depression

Dr. Simon Moss


Individuals often experience moderate or intense feelings of dejection, sadness, resignation, and melancholy. These feelings can sometimes escalate into depression and helplessness.

Some periods of dejection can be helpful. When these experience this state, individuals often resolve important problems more effectively (Andrews & Thompson, 2009 & The analytical rumination hypothesis). In some instances, therefore, individuals should accept, and even embrace, dejection. If individuals feel their state of dejection has become too pronounced, and has significantly impaired their life, they could apply some of the practices in this article as well as seek support.

Mental activities that overcome dejection


Step 1. To overcome feelings of dejection, individuals should attempt to undertake tasks that are intended to accelerate their thoughts. First, for example, they could attempt to list as many possible solutions or ideas to solve some problem. They should transcribe even the ideas that seem implausible. Second, they should read ideas, derived from books or other sources, as rapidly as possible. Third, they should reflect on topics they know well, attempting to recall as many facts or principles as they can. Fourth, they should attempt to rush when they complete tasks, provided they do not feel too anxious (Pronin, Jacobs, & Wegner, 2008 Pronin & Wegner, 2006).

These activities, fortunately, do not provoke anxiety or irritability. However, the dejection, lethargy, or sadness that individuals feel is more likely to subside after they read a passage very rapidly or attempt to think quickly.

Perhaps distractions thwart many undesirable thoughts. Alternatively, rapid thinking increases the incidence of novel thoughts at a rapid, or intense, rate. Novel, intense experiences increases the activation of dopaminergic activity, evokeing the subjective experience or reward and pleasure (see Pronin, Jacobs, & Wegner, 2008 & see Thought acceleration).


Step 2. Individuals should be informed that creative thinking--reflecting on original and unusual possibilities to overcome problems--tends to enhance mood (Hirt, Devers, & McCrea, 2008). Hence, to enhance mood, individuals should reflect upon some original, perhaps odd, activities they could undertake to solve some of their issues.

Variants of meditation

Step 3. One form of meditation has been shown to be especially likely to foster positive mood states. Specifically, individuals should sit quietly, usually with their eyes closed, and focus their attention towards their breath for several minutes. Next, they should direct this attention towards their heart for a while, before forming an image of someone they love unconditionally, perhaps a child. Then, these individuals should attempt to cultivate the feelings they usually experience towards this person--perhaps feelings of warmth, tenderness, and hope, for example. Once these feelings are evoked, they should direct these feelings and thoughts towards themselves--that is, they should feel warmth, tenderness, kindness, and so forth towards themselves. Subsequently, they should attempt to extend the same feelings to an increasing breadth of individuals: their friends, their acquaintances, their managers, their rivals, or even strangers.

Many studies have established the benefits of this exercise, called loving-kindness meditation (e.g., Fredrickson, Cohn, Coffey, Pek, & Finkel, 2008). This exercise improves mood and social relationships (see loving-kindness meditation).

Physical activities that overcome dejection


Step 1. Individuals who sometimes feel sad should frequently smile, rise from their chair, and stand with their back straight, their head raised, and their shoulders back for two minutes. Sadness seems to dissipate after individuals engage in these mannerisms (Duclos & Laird, 2001). In particular, individuals unconsciously evaluate their own state of mind from their facial expressions and posture. If they exhibit a posture that usually coincides with happiness, they assume they indeed feel content. This assumptions improves their mood.


Step 2. Individuals should identify an upsetting thought , such as "I am too fat", and then restate this thought with one word, such as "fat". Then should then repeat this word aloud continually over 30 seconds. Both before and after this exercise, they should list the thoughts and feelings that emerge when they reflect upon this word.

Although a seemingly odd activity, after individuals repeat an upsetting thought about themselves, such as "I am too fat", continually over 30 seconds, they feel less discomfort about this cognition (Masuda, Hayes, Sackett, & Twohig, 2004). Usually, negative thoughts become associated with many other behaviours, urges, and feelings that tend to coincide with these cognitions. For example, the thought "I am too fat" becomes associated with the urge to shun social situations and feelings of shame , even if this thought is not entirely correct. These associations, however, diminish after individuals repeat this thought many times (see Acceptance and commitment therapy).

Behavioral activities that overcome dejection

Spontaneity and standards

Step 1. Individuals should not strive to optimize their decisions. That is, they first should attempt to decide which product, service, or alternative to select before they consider all the options carefully. Individuals who strive to optimize all of their purchases rather than merely accept a reasonable alternative tend to be less happy (Larsen & McKibban, 2008). That is, this orientation elevates their standards. These individuals, therefore, feel their standards or desires have not been fulfilled, curbing happiness (see Regulatory mode).

Step 2. Individuals should reach a decision& that is, they should commit to some course of actions, such as completing a course (e.g., Henderson, de Liver, & Gollwitzer, 2008). Specifically, they should reflect upon behaviors they have already undertaken that facilitate this course of action. In this instance, they could reflect upon the information they have gathered about this course.

Specifically, when individuals reflect upon behaviors they have already undertaken that facilitate some course of action, they feel more committed to this pursuit (Minjung & Fishbach, 2008). That is, they conclude from these memories, sometimes unconsciously, that perhaps they have already committed to this action. This commitment to action curbs unnecessary analysis, diminishing dejection (Kruglanski, Thompson, Higgins, Atash, Pierro, Shah, & Spiegel, 2000).

Step 3. Counselors could encourage this commitment by referring to phrases that represent spontaneity rather than deliberation. Phrases such as "getting on with it", "making things happen", "doing, not just planning", and so forth tend to promote commitment and spontaneity (Pierro, Leder, Mannetti, Higgins, Kruglanski, & Aiello, 2008).

Social activities that overcome dejection

Act extraverted

Step 1. If individuals are distressed or upset, they should speak to someone else, even about irrelevant topics, regardless of whether or not they feel like interacting (Augistine & Hemenover, 2008). Specifically, individuals who are feeling dejected should attempt to engage in conversations with someone they will never meet again, such as a shop assistant. They should then feign an extraverted personality.

After individuals are encouraged to appear extraverted, bold, spontaneous, assertive, and talkative during a meeting, they begin to feel more excited and enthusiastic as well as less lethargic or dejected. That is, merely acting as an extravert is sufficient to activate brain mechanisms that promote positive feelings.

Writing tasks that overcome trauma

Writing about traumatic or upsetting events

Step 1. Individuals should be encouraged to write about an upsetting event for 20 minutes on 3 consecutive days. In particular, they should be asked to consider the causes, associations, and consequences of their emotions. Alternatively, they could discuss this event while recording themselves (Lyubomirsky, Sousa, & Dickerhoof, 2005).

Merely writing about an upsetting event for 20 minutes on 3 consecutive days can diminish the likelihood of experiencing depression a few months later (Sloan, Marx, Epstein, & Dobbs, 2008). Nevertheless, this exercise might, initially, induce some unpleasant emotions.

When individuals attempt to write about these upsetting events, reflecting upon the causes and consequences of these experiences, several benefits emerge. First, they gain an understanding of the causes, associations, and consequences of their emotions. Hence, whenever they recall an emotional experience, they also remember these insights--insights that are less emotional. As a consequence, the retrieval of past traumas is less likely to activate powerful emotions.

Second, because they analyze this event, like an observer, they feel somewhat more distant from the experience. They are, therefore, able to consider their emotions, but from the perspective of developing future plans to redress the problem, not from the perspective of immediate fear and distress.

Third, the understanding they gain enables these individuals to discuss these events with friends and family more coherently, improving their relationships (Sloan, Marx, Epstein, & Dobbs, 2008). This exercise, therefore, might not be as applicable to individuals who already seem to focus on how they would like to resolve their problems.

Step 2 When individuals write about these traumatic events, they should attempt to relate this account to the insights they have derived about themselves, the opportunities these insights afford, the connection between these opportunities and their core values, and the feelings they experienced. In particular, they could reflect upon the following considerations:

That is, accounts that highlight triumph over adversity, (e.g., McAdams, Reynolds, Lewis, Patten, & Bowman, 2001), confer a sense of closure or optimism (King, Scollon, Ramsey, & Williams, 2000), and allude to core values or intrinsic interests (e.g., Bauer & McAdams, 2004) often coincide with improvements in wellbeing. Furthermore, accounts that emphasize the emotions these individuals experienced, the context of this episode, as well as the insights that emerged about themselves (Adler, Wagner, & McAdams, 2007) tend to correspond with happiness rather than dejection (see Life stories).

Individuals who should write about traumatic events

This exercise is especially suitable to individuals who often, rather than seldom, fret and brood about their emotions, experiencing thoughts such as "What have I done to deserve this?" (Austenfeld, Paolo, & Stanton, 2005& Sloan, Marx, Epstein, & Dobbs, 2008). In addition, this exercise is especially applicable to people who occasionally or often feel that other individuals might perceive them unfavorably. These people thus feel reluctant to share or discuss upsetting events with colleagues, friends, or even family (Langens & Schuler, 2005).

Supervisory support that can alleviate trauma

Sometimes, individuals feel traumatized by a specific event, or a series of episodes, such as abuse at home. These individuals often imagine this event recurrently throughout the day.

Focus on specific events

Employees often seek support from supervisors, managers, mentors, and even colleagues. For example, they might seek guidance because they feel unconfident.

Step 1. These employees should first be encouraged to describe specific events. To illustrate, they should be asked to discuss a specific occasion in which they felt unconfident. Employees can address issues more effectively after they describe specific episodes.

After employees imagine a specific, upsetting episode in their lives, the memory of other events becomes less intense and emotional (Philippot, Baeyens, & Douilliez, 2006). Specifically, employees sometimes strive to recall some upsetting episode in their lives. To recall these events deliberately, employees must effectively reconstruct the episode, using logic, inferences, and careful reflection. However, if employees experience the emotions that coincided with these episodes, they become overwhelmed& their ability to reconstruct these events diminishes. As a consequence, humans have evolved the capacity to subdue these emotions inadvertently as they reconstruct specific episodes. Because their emotions are subdued, discussions or memory of other upsetting events do not provoke unpleasant feelings. Instead, they feel composed when they consider other disturbing episodes in their life.

Ensure adversities seem distant in time

Step 2. Supervisors, as well as counsellors, sometimes need to discuss previous failures with individuals. They need to ensure these failures seem distant in time. To achieve this goal, individuals should be asked to imagine themselves a day or so after they experienced this failure. From the perspective of this younger person, they should then discuss how they felt about this event.

Individuals tend to assume that past episodes that seem close in time must overlap with their current perception of themselves. Hence, if they failed at this time, they still perceive themselves as incompetent. This tendency dissipates if they perceive this event as distant in time (see Gebauer, Broemer, Haddock, & von Hecker, 2008& see also Temporal self appraisal theory).

Several factors ensure that past events seem distant in time. For example, if individuals imagine a past event from the perspective of someone who they were one day after this episode, these problems seem relatively close in time to each other and thus distant in time from now (Gebauer, Broemer, Haddock, & von Hecker, 2008).

Curb criticism

Unfortunately, discussions of upsetting events can provoke unpleasant feelings in some employees. Specifically, some individuals unwittingly evaluate whether every object, event, or person is negative or not.

Step 3. Individuals should be encouraged to highlight the qualities of objects, events, and people they admire. For example, after they watch a movie, they should describe the best attributes of this movie to friends.

That is, individuals incorrectly feel they will be perceived as more insightful if they criticize objects, events, or people. This tendency to criticize provokes distress, anxiety, and frustration. These individuals are more likely to recognize undesirable or unfavorable qualities and outcomes, provoking considerable frustration or distress in the future (Robinson, Vargas, Tamir, & Solberg, 2004).

Encourage trust in intuition

Step 4. Supervisors should encourage employees to trust their own evaluations rather than seek assurances from other individuals. They might, for instance, suggest "Don't ask anyone else what they think of you. You can't trust their judgments, especially if they are insecure. Their views will change. If they are feeling threatened, they'll criticize you, but then might respect you several minutes later".

Impute problems to one obstacle

Step 5. In stressful times, when many problems could arise, supervisors should occasionally allude to a powerful, but shadowy, force that might underpin many of their obstacles. These supervisors might maintain "I think many of our problems can ultimately be ascribed to the UN& their unfulfilled aspirations compromises satisfaction" or "I think the business council is the real source of these issues".

After individuals reflect upon uncontrollable hazards and threats in their lives, such as disease, natural disasters, and economic instability, they often experience a sense that many problems could arise& their pessimism and anxiety increases. These reflections do not provoke this pessimism, however, if individuals also consider a powerful, but mysterious, enemy such as Al Qaeda (Sullivan, Landau, & Rothschild, Z2010). After they invoke the notion of a single powerful enemy, individuals feel that most of their problems can be ascribed to one force, instilling a sense of control. This sense of control can improve mood.

Related objectives

See also articles on:


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Augistine, A. A., & Hemenover, S. H. (2008). Extraversion and the consequences of social interaction on affect repair. Personality and Individual Differences, 44, 1151-1161.

Austenfeld, J. L., Paolo, A. M., & Stanton, A. L. (2005). Effects of writing about emotions versus goals on psychological and physical health among third,year medical students. Journal of Personality, 74, 1467-1494.

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King, L. A., Scollon, C. K., Ramsey, C., & Williams, T. (2000). Stories of life transition: Subjective well-being and ego development in parents of children with Down Syndrome. Journal of Research in Personality, 34, 509-536.

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Langens, T. A., & Schuler, J. (2005). Written emotional expression and emotional well-being: The moderating role of fear of rejection. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31, 818-830.

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McAdams, D. P., Reynolds, J., Lewis, M., Patten, A., & Bowman, P. T. (2001). When bad things turn good and good things turn bad: Sequences of redemption and contamination in life narrative, and their relation to psychosocial adaptation in midlife adults and in students. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27, 472-483.

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Philippot, P., Baeyens, C., & Douilliez, C. (2006). Specifying emotional information: Regulation of emotional intensity via executive processes. Emotion, 6, 560-571.

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Pronin, E., & Wegner, D. M. (2006). Manic thinking: Independent effects of thought speed on thought content and mood. Psychological Science, 17, 807-815.

Robinson, M. D., Vargas, P. T., Tamir, M., & Solberg, E. C. (2004). Using and being used by categories. Psychological Science, 15, 521-526.

Sloan, D., Marx, B., Epstein, E. M., & Dobbs, J. L. (2008). Expressive writing buffers against maladaptive rumination. Emotion, 8, 302-306.

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Last Update: 4/28/2016