Planning a life worth living

To be truly free from the effects of depression in the long run your choices need to be supported by more than a desire to resist depression. You need to make conscious decisions about the values you want your life to be guided by – you need to know where you want your life to be headed…

Willingness to experience a full life

Values-based livingWhere are you headed? If you have read the New Perspectives on Depression section you will have seen that many of the newer therapeutic approaches to depression emphasise the need for an accepting and self-compassionate attitude towards life’s full range of feelings and challenges. Are you willing to learn to live mindfully, engaging with life in all its richness?

Whether you are currently aware of it or not, you probably have some fairly specific underlying ideas about what would make your life feel like it was being lived meaningfully- in other words, your values. Living according to your values is one of the key things that makes life feel meaningful.

What really matters to you?

So, how do you go about clarifying what those values are? One of the well-known ways in which you can make a start with this is to imagine what you would like said about you at your funeral by those who know you best. You might want to look back at the exercise you did in Finding What Works For You, imagining what your depression-free life might look like.

What do you want to commit yourself to?

This is not an opportunity to focus on how far short of this picture you feel you are currently falling!

The idea is to let yourself get in touch with what really matters to you in life so that you can start to look at how you might start – little by little – to commit yourself to actions and habits guided by these values.
In order to do this, you need to remember the approach of accepting what we cannot change about life – amongst many things, the inevitable pain and suffering that will be part of a rich, full life. We need to commit ourselves to the challenge of living out our values within this context of uncertainty and lack of control.

Build on this

For a more complete framework for clarifying your values use this free worksheet accompanying The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris, a book which gives an excellent, readable explanation of these ideas. More extensive exercises can be found in The Mindfulness & Acceptance Workbook for Depression by Kirk D. Strosahl and Patricia J. Robinson (see ‘Books’ for more details). The next page looks at a range of small steps that you can take to move your life forward in the direction of happiness.

Next: Taking action for happiness

Related

Depression and the meaning of life
Stressed/anxious/depressed?
Understanding your depression