A systematic approach to overcoming depression [experiment].

As someone who has always been a happy and optimistic person, I have recently found it hard to cope with a downward spiral into what I think is depression. It’s a unique feeling, which I’ve not encountered ever before.

It’s far darker and much more debilitating than regular anxieties or emotional rollercoasters. It’s chronic, and keeps you in a constant state of unhappiness and cynicism, which comes with decreased self-esteem and a lack of drive to pursue the wonders of life.

It fucking sucks.

I’m sick of feeling down. I’m sick of feeling isolated and lonely. I’m sick of being so negative all the time, and expecting the worst in everything… I just want to go back to being happy.

That’s why I’ve decided to exercise my free-will and figure out how to overcome this state of being, as I’ve had enough.


My hypothesis:

I believe that these things don’t just happen overnight, and rather they’re an accumulation of small mishaps over several months or years.

As such, I believe one can take a systematic approach to understand what exactly is causing their depression in the first place, isolate said variables, and work toward improving them.

While doing research for another project, I was re-introduced to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a pyramid with levels of fulfilment that constitute your state of being, be it happy, sad or somewhere in-between.

It is my assumption that the fundamental cause of depression has to do with not meeting the hierarchy of needs.


An experiment:

I’m a data drive guy. I like things to be quantifiable and as objective as possible, which is why I’m going to attempt to take a data-driven approach to curing my depressive symptoms.

I’ve created a simple system, whereby I will track each individual variable from the hierarchy of needs on a scale of 1 > 10 in a spreadsheet each day, to see what areas need my attention.

Here’s what it looks like.

Each overall tier (e.g. physiological, love and belonging etc.) is broken down into the individual variables that constitute it, and each variable is scored on a point scale of 1 > 10 (low meaning bad, high meaning good), and converted to a percentage.

For me, as of writing this post, my score is 72.6 / 100.

The items highlighted in red represent the areas that I need to work on.

Tracking it daily:

I’ve put together an additional sheet to plug the raw data into (which the prior sheet will utilise). I will fill it in every day to get a subjective score of how I feel for each item, and track whether they’re trending in positive or negative directions over time, and adjust accordingly.

Grab the sheet here. Just make a copy from the menu.


Insights:

I can already see some major trends and items that correlate:

  • As someone who’s self-employed and runs an early stage company, having money is a foreign concept to me. But my position is at an all time low. Far overdue credit cards, debt collectors chasing me from loans, slow month of sales, low profitability, coupled with poor financial decisions has left me living off <$100 / week right now, which I did not even know was possible.
  • As a result of such low income, I’ve had to make sacrifices to my health. I can’t afford all the food I need to meet my daily intake of macronutrients, micronutrients and calories overall, which has resulted in me losing 5kg of bodyweight… and given I was already underweight, this has had a knock-on effect to my physical appearance and self-esteem… and as narcissistic creatures, this can be quite saddening.
  • I’ve gone from a near-perfect sleep schedule to an absolutely chaotic one the last two weeks, which has led to a perpetual state of tiredness and fatigue. This coupled with not being able to afford enough food has left me very worn down and exhausted.
  • As for romances, it’s quite paradoxical. Even with a (somewhat) steady sex life, it feels absolutely meaningless. Just sex, no emotion or intimacy. Being out of a relationship for over 3 years is surely taking a toll now too, as I don’t have a significant other in my life, not even a single close friend who I have a deep connection with… quite isolating and lonely.

Given all of those facts, it’s quite apparent why I feel the way I do. There are so many fundamental factors not being catered for, which has created a negative cycle.


An endpoint:

My goal is to get any item with a score of 5 or below above 5, prioritised from the lowest scoring items to the highest.

Thereafter I will continue to track all of these variables, in order to maintain awareness of where I stand.


Final notes:

Although I have no idea whether this experiment will work, it sure as hell beats the alternative of staying in a dark state.

I already feel better knowing that I’m far more aware of my circumstances than I was yesterday. As they say, knowledge is power, and I now have insight into what I need to improve upon in my life, to become happy once again.

Though it’s an unproven system, I hope that others may find it useful in counteracting their own demons.

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