When people experience chronic pain, it is common for them to stop doing some of the activities that they once enjoyed. Over time, restricting and/or eliminating enjoyable activities leads to worsening mood and sometimes to depression. Depression can increase the experience of pain, leading to even less involvement in activities and loss of confidence about doing them. This can turn into a vicious cycle that negatively affects recovery.
Suggestions to help improve mood
To break the cycle, try to find some new enjoyable activities that you can do. Also, think about how you can modify previous activities in ways that help you experience some enjoyment without physical harm. Make a plan to start participating in these activities now, rather than waiting until your mood improves. Over time, your mood will begin to improve as you do more, and you will begin to enjoy your activities again.
Another approach is to increase smiling and laughing. Many people find this difficult because they just do not feel like smiling or laughing. However, mood can actually improve as a result of smiling and laughing. Watching funny TV shows, spending time with cheerful friends, or even just smiling at strangers can actually improve mood and the ability to cope with pain.
Another strategy that can improve mood is to reduce self-critical thinking. An example might be a tendency to label oneself as less useful due to pain or physical limitations. This can lead to a depressed mood, which can further increase the frequency of self-critical thoughts. The first step toward managing this problem is to become aware of self-critical thoughts. Then, replace them with kinder and more understanding thoughts such as "I'm doing the best that I can."
Another way to improve mood is to make a regular practice of appreciating good things that are still a part of your life and focusing on the emotion of gratitude.
One of the major sources of enjoyment most people obtain in life is from being helpful to others. Although it takes creativity, figuring out ways to still provide help to others, such as being a good listener, can lead to improved mood and less focus on pain and disability.
If depression has become a major problem, it may be useful to consider seeking additional help. Talk with your health-care providers about what options are available to you.