Useful Activities for Sufferers of Depression

One of the great reinforcers of sadness is giving up activities that provide us with reinforcement. In this article, we're going to mention three activities that almost always improve our moods.
Useful Activities for Sufferers of Depression
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 22 February, 2024

Sufferers of depression tend to give up their hobbies. This is a serious problem, as it results in a direct loss of reinforcers: stimuli that activate their reward system, help them release dopamine, and make them feel good.

People with depression initially lose interest in most of the activities they previously enjoyed. In fact, it’s not necessarily that they’ve stopped enjoying them, it’s simply that they no longer have enough energy to do them.

In other instances, people might lose hobbies due to the immediate consequence of personal loss. For example, the death of a person with whom they previously went for a walk. Taking this into account, it’s easy to understand that one of the most frequent therapies for mood disorders is behavioral activation.

woman with depression
Anhedonia is one of the most common symptoms of depression. It consists of a loss of interest in almost all activities, even those that the sufferer used to enjoy.

Prejudice regarding hobbies

Some people think that hobbies are activities exclusively for those who have a lot of free time, or who don’t know what to do with their time. They’re also often seen as expensive activities which don’t really have any benefits.

However, in reality, having a hobby is a sign of good mental health. Indeed, opening up a space in your life to carry out an activity, for the simple pleasure of doing it, helps to clear your mind and balance your emotions. It also helps to strengthen your social skills and increases your confidence and self-esteem. In addition, for sufferers of depression, hobbies provide a much-needed dose of dopamine.

There’s no such thing as a person who doesn’t have any free time at all. It’s just that some choose to dedicate it to scrolling through social media, watching tv, or simply thinking about their worries. On the other hand, there are those who use their free time to indulge in a hobby. That’s because they believe that, just because they don’t have anything specific to do doesn’t mean that they should just sit on the couch. 

On the other hand, sufferers of depression don’t believe they have enough energy, vitality, or resources to devote any of their time to a hobby. In fact, they don’t consider it because they think that, in their serious condition, it’d be useless. But, there are flexible hobbies that demand only the time that we want to dedicate to them, and that are also free. They could be a great option for someone going through depression, as they act as reinforcers to the reward system.

DIY: a satisfying hobby

Performing manual tasks means adopting an ideal position: your hands are busy, but your mind is free. DIY is one of those hobbies that allows this. You don’t have to go anywhere, and the product of your activity also improves your home.

You could start with the repair or restoration of simple objects. Doing so will make you realize how satisfying manual labor can be. For sufferers of depression, repairing something that was damaged can serve as a metaphor for change and moving forward.

Being creative in the kitchen

Cooking is another transformative activity. It stimulates the senses that you don’t usually use and offers you a set of infinite possibilities to experiment with. Moreover, the cost of any mistakes isn’t too great.

In the kitchen, you collect both traditions and memories. In the end, your small work of art is incorporated as a piece of you. While the product is ephemeral, the process is enduring. It also has maternal connotations and is associated with caring for yourself and others. For a sufferer of depression, it’s a good option as it involves sublimated evocations.

Write and build stories

Writing letters isn’t only a good pastime, but it’s also potentially therapeutic. In a letter, you can pour out your feelings to the addressee. It doesn’t matter who they are as you don’t ever even have to mail the letter.

The mere fact that the addressee is a significant person for you helps create a climate of intimacy, and ultimately complicity. They might be someone close to you or, alternatively, a movie star or public figure from any field. The point is to freely communicate what you feel, including any drawings or other elements you consider to be necessary.

Woman writing a diary
Writing has great therapeutic potential, as it helps to express and manage our emotions.

Finally, hobbies may not solve problems by themselves, but they’re a really useful way of altering the vicious circles that often arise due to depression. Sufferers don’t have to be super enthusiastic to try them out, just starting with a simple activity and taking it one step at a time can be useful.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Barraca, J., & Pérez Álvarez, M. (2015). Activación Conductual para el tratamiento de la depresión. Editorial Síntesis.
  • Cohen, G. A. (2017). Hobbies que llevan al éxito. Tiempo, (1786), 76-77.
  • Salguero, J. M. B., & Martínez, A. M. M. (2014). Activación conductual: revisión histórica, conceptual y empírica. Psychologia8(2), 83-93.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.