Lifting mood
Hiki wairua

Feeling low or down sometimes is normal, but sometimes these feelings can be more serious and constant. Learn about the signs and things to look for, use some self-management tools, and find out where to seek support if you need it.

Being Men - tough times

Being Men is a New Zealand Rugby (NZR) video series that explores wellbeing, healthy relationships and masculinity from the perspective of New Zealand men.

What is low mood?

At times, everyone experiences such as sadness, loss of interest, irritability or low motivation. For some of us, if left unchecked these experiences become more intense and persistent, perhaps lasting for weeks or even months at a time. When experiences such as these start interfering with everyday life and last more than two weeks, they may qualify as 'clinical depression' or 'major depression.'

Feeling sad or blue is a normal emotion and for most of us, it passes quickly and we are able to get back to our normal selves. However, persistently feeling low or sad to the point that it starts to affect your ability to function normally may mean you might have developed depression. Seeking professional help can help.

Is feeling down a problem?

Feeling a bit down is not necessarily a problem, we all have times when we receive bad news, or experience loss of some kind. Our mood usually rebounds, at least for a while, but sometimes the feelings are more serious and constant, like hopelessness, misery and worthlessness. In this case, it could be depression and it’s important you recognise the signs and symptoms of what is a serious mental health condition.

Other signs that could indicate you have a problem are:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Concentration lapses
  • Feeling tired
  • Changes in appetite

You might have lost interest in things you have previously enjoyed, or lose the motivation to do anything at all. 

For some people, they may even think about hurting or even killing themselves. If this is the case, seek urgent help.

Signs of major depression

About 1 in 7 kiwis will experience major depression in their lifetime. Major depression is very different from simply feeling 'blue' from time to time and includes the following changes:

What causes depression?

Depression is not usually caused by one thing. We know that a person may be vulnerable to depression if there is a history of depression in the family, and we also know that particular thinking patterns (e.g., focusing on the negative) are also associated with depression. It is important to note that having a vulnerability to depression does not mean that someone will experience depression.

There are many situations that can trigger depression including loss of a loved one, loss of working ability, career setbacks, relationship difficulties, or a traumatic event. It’s also common for people to experience depression without any specific triggering event. It’s not necessary to be able to figure out a cause. However the process started, there’s help available, and hope.

What can I do about it?

The first thing you can do is notice how your dealing with these feelings. Its common to 'put on a brave face' and fake your happiness instead of dealing with the issue head on, this does not solve anything. In fact it may make things worse in the long run. 

Try these self-management tools, as they are often a good place to start improving your mood. They are also useful additions to getting professional help.

Keep active and social 

It can be hard to get out of the house to spend time with family and friends but if you can find the strength to do this the benefits are great. There’s no better therapy than being around the people who make you happy and care for you. If you need a little help getting back into your normal social routine, read more about useful tools for getting active or building social support in the Resilience Toolkit.

Use helpful self-talk

The way we think can affect the way we feel, and vice versa. Feeling down comes with negative thinking about ourselves, our lives, other people and our future, so it’s important to balance that with more positive thinking. Read about helpful thinking by visiting the Resilience Toolkit.

Look after yourself

When you’re feeling down, one of the first things to go is your physical fitness, yet maintaining it makes it easier to work on your mental wellbeing. So eat well, get plenty of rest, keep up your exercise regime and avoid drugs and alcohol.

What might professional help look like?

There are effective treatments available to help people overcome depression. This includes Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Interpersonal therapy, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. These therapies typically help you to:

  • Develop a helpful understanding of the things and people that are important to you.
  • Take a structured approach to problem solving to help you manage the day to day stressors.
  • Take a different perspective on your negative thinking, which will have a positive impact on the way you feel.
  • Teach you strategies to help you get back to your routine and enjoying your usual activities.

The therapy may involve 6-12 weekly sessions with a mental health professional, but may require longer depending on your needs. Your doctor may also have suggested medication which can be of assistance in overcoming depression, especially in the case of severe depression.

Self-management resources 

Resources that may help, together with the treatment recommended by your doctor.

  • Online information and self-assessment as part of the National Depression Initiative
  • Small Steps. Manage stress, anxiety and mood. 
  • Just a Thought. CBT-based self help tool for depression and anxiety.
  • Clearhead.  Mobile app and website focussed on depression, anxiety and issues affecting general wellbeing. 
  • ThinkLadder. A CBT-based self help tool that helps you to challenge negative thoughts. 
  • Tough Talk. A men’s mental health resource.
  • The Lowdown.  a website for young people struggling with low mood.
  • Aunty Dee. A website focussed on taking a structured approach to problem solving, with a Pasifika flavour but available for everyone.