Depression Is An Ethical Problem
Take someone who exercises regularly and follows a healthy diet, has fulfilling social connections and feels a part of a loving community, works at a job that feels meaningful, and pursues interests and hobbies that are fulfilling. This person is highly unlikely to be depressed.
Take someone who doesn’t exercise at all and eats an unhealthy diet, has few social connections and spends a lot of time isolated in a confined space like a bedroom, works a job that feels pointless, and pursues few interests and hobbies that are fulfilling. This person is highly likely to be depressed.
What we’re talking about here is causation. From an existential point of view it’s not depression or a lack of depression that causes a constellation of behaviors but the constellation of behaviors that causes depression or a lack of depression.
This is why we say that depression is an ethical problem. We don’t mean ethics in the sense of a cultural or societal mandate but rather in the sense of the inner, very personal feeling of either setting up our lives in a way that seems meaningful, authentic, and productive or in a way that we know at some level of our being is keeping us from becoming the truest version of ourselves.
Take any ‘healthy’, ‘happy’ person and subject them to a regimen of little or no exercise, a bad diet, little light, little time outdoors, lots of time spent in bed in an enclosed space, few or no meaningful social connections, work that feels boring and pointless, and little or no time spent exploring different interests and hobbies and that person will almost undoubtedly become depressed. Take any ‘depressed’ person and subject them to a regimen of daily exercise, a healthy diet, lots of light, lots of time outdoors, lots of time spent as part of a loving community, work that feels productive and meaningful, and lots of time spent exploring different interests and hobbies and this person will almost undoubtedly become ‘healthy’ and ‘happy’. Again we see that depression is the result of how we set up our lives not the cause of how we set up our lives.
This is actually really good news when we think about it because it means we all have power to make our depression lift if and when we come to see that depression not as an unchangeable entity but as an alarm bell going off, warning us that we’re no longer following our personal paths of self-actualization. Somewhere along the way, for whatever reason, we veered off course and we’re no longer following our personal ethic, the ethic that only we can really know since it’s individual and unique to our own self-actualization.
Getting in touch with that ethic and becoming determined to set up our lives in a way that aligns with it is how to make depression lift. Some of these necessary behaviors are more or less universal, like exercise, healthy diet, fulfilling social connections and a sense of loving community, for example. Others are more personal, like work that feels productive and hobbies that fill us with joy. When we gain the courage and insight to stop blaming our unwanted situations on depression and instead see that it’s our unwanted situations causing our depression new paths emerge for overcoming that depression.