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9 Things To Remember When Your Friend is Struggling With Depression

9 Things To Remember When Your Friend is Struggling With Depression

It can be hard to know how to be a good friend to someone who is struggling with depression because it’s such a difficult condition to understand. Even if you’ve experienced it yourself, it can be hard to understand a friend’s depression and to know how best to help.

Taking the time to try to understand how depression feels can be a great start; but it’s not easy. These pointers will help you in gaining a better understanding and becoming a better friend.

1. There may not be a reason

It can be tempting to try and explain depression by finding circumstances or experiences on which to pin it – and sometimes you will be able to identify contributing factors, but just as often there will be no reason at all.

This doesn’t make your friend’s symptoms, thoughts and feelings any less serious or severe though.

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2. Never assume – let your friend tell their story

Especially if you’ve experienced depression yourself in the past, you can sometimes find yourself thinking that you know how your friend is thinking or feeling, but you need to remember that we’re all unique and that your friend’s experience may not echo your own.

You should let your friend tell their own story, in their own words and never assume that you know or understand exactly what they’re going through.

3. They find most days really, really hard

Living with depression is physically and emotionally draining. It may leave your friend feeling completely defeated even before they’ve got out of bed in the morning.

You need to remember this and be as supportive and accommodating as we can. Your friend won’t necessarily start to feel better right away, so you need not to assume that the days are getting easier just because time is passing.

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4. They may not answer your calls

A good friend will keep in touch with no expectation of a response to the calls, texts and emails that you send. Sometimes your friend will find it overwhelmingly difficult to know what to say or how to say in in response to your messages.

That doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate the effort though, so despite the lack of response, don’t stop contacting your friend.

5. They think they’re not worth caring about

Depression can leave sufferers stuck in a cycle of negative thoughts and self-talk, which may leave your friend feeling unloved and unlovable. No matter how good of a friend you are and how much think it goes without saying that you care about your friend, take time to say it out loud and to actually show them that you care.

6. They can feel aimless and hopeless

Your friend may want desperately to get better, but depression can zap a sufferer’s energy, their hopes and their motivation, leaving them listless and unable to make the changes needed to support their recovery.

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Not following doctors’ orders is a sign of how much someone is suffering rather than a sign that they don’t want to get better – so if your friend seems stuck in a rut, don’t dismiss them. Instead, give them the gentlest of encouragement and hold their hand along the way.

7. They may get worse before they get better

Sometimes, you can equate mental health issues with physical health issues and expect to see more or less linear progress when it comes to recovery. It often isn’t so with depression and you may begin to feel that your friend is getting better one week, only to feel that things are worse than ever the next.

This is perfectly normal and can sometimes be a response to exploring difficult issues in therapy, starting or stopping a new medication or simply the cycle of the illness. Don’t get frustrated or upset by backwards steps, but instead stick by your friend as they continue to battle on.

8. If they have a good day, they want to enjoy it with you

Not every day is a bad day. If your friend has a good day, they may want to make the most of it with you. Never assume that tomorrow will be another such day, and instead, seize the moment whilst you can.

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Depression means a lot of low and often unpredictable moods, but that includes brighter moods at times too.

9. They need you to be the friend you’ve always been

Most importantly, your friend just needs you to be you. There’s a reason you’ve been friends all these years and just because they’re struggling with depression doesn’t mean they’ve fundamentally changed as a person.

Just be the you that you’ve always been and continue to extend the hand of friendship on darker days and on brighter days. Be loyal and listen but ,above all, just be you.

Featured photo credit: Womans hands connected with tangled string, Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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