The link between focusing on yourself and depression

I remember hearing about some research once that linked self-focus—thinking about yourself a lot and making things that happen out in the world about you in some way—with depression.

The more you think about yourself, the more depressed you are.

There are obviously a lot of missing variables here. This doesn’t mean that focusing on yourself causes depression or that depression causes self-focus. It just means that they are related in some way.

The more I understand the nature of our experience of life, the more this makes sense.

As we focus on our individual, unique, separate self, we naturally focus away from the whole and our connectedness.

We naturally look toward personal thought and identify with it. Personal thought feels real and our thoughts about our separate identity feels like who we really are.

If we’re all waves in one giant ocean, the more you focus on your own little wave, the less you see of the whole ocean.

When we’re very focused on ourselves, we are also less able to focus on specific others. We may be sympathetic but we’re a little less empathetic. We acknowledge others’ personal realities less because we’re more wrapped up in our own.

In The Inside-Out Revolution, Michael Neill says, “When we stop asking, ‘What’s true about me?’ and begin asking, ‘What’s true about human beings in general?’ we discover things about our incredible capacity for resilience, creativity and hope. People are amazing—a fact that’s much easier to see when we aren’t looking at ‘them’ in some kind of judgmental comparison with ‘us’.”

This is not to say that there is anything wrong with, or abnormal about, focusing on ourselves. We live with ourselves and are in our own heads all the time so of course we naturally separate and as if the world revolves around us.

It’s just that being aware of the self-focus/depression connection can be helpful, especially when you’re not feeling your best.

Look outward. Acknowledge another person’s reality for a minute.

Gaze toward the whole ocean and away from the wave you’re riding, and notice how your feelings change.

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