One thing most people don’t realize about depression is that people who are depressed typically make worse decisions. Faced with some problem or opportunity, depressed people more often make a choice that will be worse for them in the long run. There are several reasons for this. One reason is that they typically have a pessimistic thinking style. They often don’t expect a good outcome, and even if the outcome is pretty good, they don’t expect it to be satisfying. When you don’t expect a good outcome, or you don’t believe anything you do will affect the outcome, you are less likely to put effort into finding a solution into a problem. This means you spend less effort gathering information and thinking through possibilities. What’s more, for people with depression, this kind of mental effort is especially difficult and it’s hard to persevere if you don’t think it will matter anyway. For this reason, many therapists recommend that patients don’t make big life decisions while they’re depressed. There is some good news though. Even if you are depressed, there is a way to improve your decision making. One study found that in a group of more than 100 participants, the difference in the quality of decisions almost disappeared when depressed participants followed a specific procedure borrowed from Problem Solving Therapy. If you are depressed but still have to make a decision, the following procedure can help you make a choice that will benefit you more in the long run.
Come up with options
Start off by thinking of every possible solution to the problem at hand. It’s fine if some of these are a bit silly or impractical. You’ll evaluate these more critically later, so just think of as many possibilities as you can.
Rank the options
Once you have some possibilities for solving your problem, start narrowing them down. Cross off the ones that are silly or impractical. Rank the remaining solutions according to what you think would work best.
Analyze the top two options
Now, take a closer look at the top two options. You may want to do the top three, but you don’t want to give yourself too many choices to analyze. For each option, make two columns and list all the positive and negative attributes of each.
Reevaluate your options
By this point, you should have two options with the pros and cons of each listed beneath them. This is typically enough analysis for you to make a pretty good decision. You may decide that the second best option is really the best after all. Or you may decide both are pretty bad and maybe you should evaluate some other options.
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