Depression and sadness

It’s normal to feel sad or ‘blue’ from time to time. However, when feelings of sadness are too intense or stick around for a long time it can be hard to work, socialise or take care of things at home. If these feelings are affecting your quality of life, you should find out what you can do about low mood and depression.

Time to read: 6 minutes

Is my low mood a problem?

The occasional low mood is nothing to worry about. It’s a normal part of life. But if you’re feeling miserable, worthless, helpless or hopeless almost all the time and can’t seem to shake these feelings, you might be experiencing depression.

As well as feeling down, people with depression often feel tired, have trouble sleeping, and may have problems with concentration, memory or decision making.

Depression can make you lose interest in activities (including sex), or have trouble getting motivated to do anything at all. You may lose your appetite or even eat more (known as ‘comfort eating’).

For some people, their mood becomes so bad that they start to think about hurting or even killing themselves.

If this describes you or a loved one, call Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling on 1800 011 046 for free and confidential counselling 24/7, or seek urgent help by calling 000.

What can I do if I'm feeling down a lot?

Many people find it hard to admit to themselves, let alone to others, that they are feeling depressed.

By faking it and pretending that everything’s fine, you may function quite well, including at work. Unfortunately, this head-in-the-sand approach to any mental health condition will not make the problem go away. In the long run, it may even make the problem worse.

Admitting you need help can be difficult, but it is the first step to a better life.


If you don’t need urgent help, there are a few things you can do to help get back on track and start enjoying life again.

For some people, strategies as simple as exercise and eating right might be all that is needed. For others, diet and exercise can be a useful addition to getting professional help.

Keep active and social

If you’re feeling down and not enjoying things as much as you used to, it can be hard to motivate yourself to get out of the house, spend time with family and friends or do other activities you used to enjoy.

But getting out is one of the best ways to improve your mood, even if you have to push yourself to do it.

The High Res website has a range of tools to motivate you to get back into life and the activities you love.


Engage in Rewarding Activities to improve your mood

Returning to fun activities is an important part of improving your mood. But if you're feeling down, you're less likely to do the activities you used to enjoy.

Use the Enjoyable and Rewarding Activities tool to identify activities that you might find enjoyable.

Lift your mood by building Social Connections

If you’re feeling down and unmotivated, it's tempting to withdraw from friends and family. This will only make your mood worse.

Use the Social Connections tool to identify the people in your life who can offer you support, and the different kinds of support they can offer when you’re feeling down.

When you’re starting out, keep things simple: focus on strengthening relationships with just a few people.

Over time, you can work on building a wider support network by reaching out to other people in your community.

Use helpful self-talk

The way we think affects the way we feel, and vice versa.

You might start to feel flat or down because you're thinking negative thoughts about yourself, your life, other people and your future.

If this is you, it's time to take a more balanced view of life.


Think differently when you are feeling down

Thinking unhelpful or negative thoughts can make your mood worse. Negative thinking also makes it harder to deal with stressful situations.

Use the Challenge Your Thoughts tool to help you identify whether you're thinking in an unhelpful way, and work on changing the way you're thinking.

When you’re starting out, it’s a good idea to apply the helpful thinking tools to a situation that is bothering you but isn’t too overwhelming. Once you’ve learned the skills you can apply them to more troubling situations. With practice, you’ll be able to apply these skills every day as challenging situations arise.

Look after yourself

Living a healthy lifestyle - even making small changes to your current lifestyle - can change your mood and give you a positive outlook on life.

Start by trying to eat well (or better), get more rest, exercise regularly, and avoid overuse of alcohol or drugs.


Improve your sleep if you are feeling fatigued and down

Poor quality sleep can make you feel down, fatigued and unmotivated. With some simple changes to your routine, though, you can get more out of your sleep.

Use the Healthy Sleeping tool to develop tailored advice to help you optimise your mental and physical functioning.

Get Active to boost your mood

Regular exercise improves mood, confidence, concentration and even sleep.

If you’re having trouble getting motivated, the Physical Activities tool can help. It has suggestions of physical activities you can try, and tips for getting started and staying active.

When you’re starting out, choose smaller activities that are relatively easy to do. This will help motivate you to try more challenging activities.

If you want to get more active, start by talking to your GP. It might also be worthwhile getting a health check before you start exercising

Building an Action Plan to reduce your drinking

When you’re feeling down or stressed, you might be more inclined to turn to alcohol to 'take the edge off'.

But alcohol has a sedative effect on your brain. While a few beers or glasses of wine may feel like they're relieving stress and making you feel more relaxed and calm, they can actually put you at an increased risk of depression. So instead of helping, alcohol can make things worse.

Use the action plan tool to build a plan and find the goals, strategies and supports that will help you manage your alcohol consumption. Once you have a plan, you can put it into action. It also increases your chance of sticking to your goals.

ON TRACK with The Right Mix app can help you track of the amount you’re drinking and the dollar cost of your drinking, as well as help you manage your drinking. By putting your drinking into perspective, you'll be able to make a more informed decision about your drinking.

Most of the tools available through High Res are available as apps to use on the go.

If you’ve tried the strategies outlined  and things still aren’t improving, or if you are having trouble coping from day to day, find out more about depression and its treatment, or other issues that might be affecting your quality of life.

If you are thinking about self-harm, or killing yourself, or are concerned for the welfare or safety of a veteran, seek urgent help.

Self-help doesn't work for everyone, a range of professional support options are provided below.

Open Arms counsellors and staff understand veteran and military culture. We can provide the specialised support and care you need.

Beating the blues is a skills-based group program to help you understand the situations and thinking patterns that can contribute to depression, and to develop strategies to manage depression symptoms more effectively.

A GP is always a good place to start when trying to overcome any mental health concerns, as they can refer you to specialists, and, if necessary, support your efforts with medications. If you are a Veteran, ask for a Veteran Health Check.

Find out more about depression and its treatment, or other issues that might be affecting your quality of life