Here are five causes of depression that I’ve experienced in my own life. I’m not saying this is a catch all list – perhaps it’s just the areas where I am most vulnerable. But I share them in the hope that they may also help you. Because when you are aware of the causes, you can do something about trying to mitigate them, and so lessen any susceptibility to depression.

  • Selfishness: Focussing on myself rather than on other people is a dangerous thing, and can often lead towards depression. Life is sure to disappoint us when we make our own happiness the most important goal. But when making other people happy is more important to us, we’re more likely to find delight through the day in those moments when we genuinely manage to serve and help others.
  • Fuzziness: I’m not talking here about not shaving (though in some men that sort of fuzziness can sometimes be a tell-tale sign that something is wrong). I’m talking here about fuzziness of purpose or vision. Without a clear reason to be getting up each morning, or a clear accomplishment I want to achieve each week, I’m much more likely to drift towards depression.
  • Loneliness: This is obviously a huge one for many of us. When I feel alone (and that could also include feeling misunderstood or not supported) it’s very easy to drift towards depression. I need to have regular times of socialising with my friends, and quality conversations with my wife, to ensure that I don’t feel lonely on the journey.
  • Dryness: And here I’m not talking about a lack of alcohol, but a lack of the Spirit of God. I come most alive when I feel close to God, experience his presence, hear his voice, etc. When I go through long seasons without that I feel dry, I feel empty, and I’m far more likely to feel depressed.
  • Sameness: Growth is a big thing for me, so if I feel like I’m living the same week, the same year, or the same problems over and over again, I’m likely to get discouraged. If I feel like everything is on repeat and just the same, it leads me to depression.

These are the five causes of depression I see most clearly from my own life. And they’re therefore five things I want to avoid getting caught up in, to help maintain a good mental health. So I’m trying to live a life that:

  1. serves others,
  2. has a clear purpose,
  3. is filled with some deep relationships,
  4. contains a close walk with God, and
  5. has a feeling that I’m growing and making progress each week and each year.

What causes of depression do you see in your own life? And what do you do to try and ward them off?

Mark Williamson works as a director of One Rock. He’s an experienced leadership trainer, author of biographies on John Wesley and William Wilberforce, and is also passionate about praying for London. He enjoys good films, good food, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna. You can follow him on Twitter @markonerock.