Depression can be debilitating. If you are suffering from this condition, you aren’t helpless, however. In addition to getting treatment through therapy and/or proper medication, there are a lot of other things that you can do to fight back and take control of your life. Making changes in your actions – physical activity/lifestyle- and your attitude/way of thinking, can serve as a natural treatment for depression.
How to Fight Back Depression
The following are some tips to help yourself feel better, starting now.
Get Yourself in a Routine
According to many leading mental health experts around the world, research shows that creating and maintaining (good) habits are positive steps towards easing depression.
Depression can cause you to lose structure in your existence. The days simply pass without seeming to have a beginning or an end. By setting an easy-to-remember schedule, you can begin to reclaim your life. Adjust your schedule as necessary, but make sure that you have one and keep to it as much as possible.
Set Goals For Yourself
Depression can cause you to feel that you are unable to accomplish anything, which makes you feel worthless and full of self-doubt. But the truth is, you can accomplish a lot if you simply set some goals. Start with simple ones that you can easily master, say, folding your clothes and putting them away, or making the bed. It may seem silly, but accomplishing even those small things can make you feel better about yourself. You can don’t have to be all chores. Try setting a goal of finishing that book or crossword puzzle. And don’t forget to reward yourself when you complete an objective.
Exercising temporarily increases chemicals in the brain called endorphins, which are the ones that make you feel good and positive. It also may have long-lasting benefits for those who suffer from depression. It seems that maintaining a good exercise routine encourages the brain to heal itself. It also provides physical benefits, which can definitely help to boost one’s self-confidence and overall health. You don’t need to enter a triathlon to benefit. Simply walking for a half-hour a day can help. Obviously, walking to the gym helps more than walking to the bakery.
Healthy Eating Habits
It’s a shame, but there is no magic food or diet that cures depression. That dish of chocolate ice cream may make you feel better while you are eating it, but it does nothing but make you feel guilty afterward. Comfort foods are not our best answer, unfortunately. Depression can make us overeat, and the consequences of doing that can cause us even more sorrows. There are some studies that suggest that eating foods with omega-3 fatty acids (think tuna and salmon) and folic acid (vegetables like avocado and spinach) can help decrease depression. Doesn’t a dish of salmon poke sound wonderful right now.
Proper Amount of Sleep
It can be a vicious cycle with depression and insomnia. While depression can rob a person of a good night’s sleep, that lack of sleep can in turn lead to making the depression worse. There are things that you can do, however. Try making some changes to your routine. Go to bed at the same time every night, regardless of whether or not you are sleepy. Remove all of the distractions from your bedroom- no television or computer. Use earplugs to reduce unwanted noise and sleep masks to block light if necessary. Avoid taking naps if they interfere with you feeling drowsy at bedtime. Set your alarm to wake up at the same time each morning. Eventually, you will find that your sleep patterns improve.
Acquire More Responsibilities
This may seem to be a little bit counter-intuitive, because when you are depressed, you usually wish to back away from life and jettison responsibilities both at work and at home. But don’t. By keeping yourself involved and having daily responsibilities, you can maintain a way of life that helps to counteract depression. By fulfilling responsibility, you achieve a sense of accomplishment and keep you in the game. If a full-time job or school is too much, that’s okay. Try part-time. Or think about volunteer work. It can be quite rewarding and by helping others, you help yourself as well.
Fight Negative Thoughts
When in a battle against depression, much of the challenge is mental- adjusting your thinking patterns. It’s very easy to jump to negative conclusions when you are depressed. “That person didn’t smile back at me so they must be angry with me. That means that I must have done something wrong.” No, it simply means they didn’t smile back. Maybe that person is having a bad day. Maybe they were lost in their own thoughts. But it doesn’t mean anything at all about you. Try using logic to combat those feelings. Is there any proper evidence that people don’t like you? Another way is to make a short list- three items- of good things that you have done for other people. Thinking about that list and looking at it can counteract feelings of worthlessness. Keep practicing having positive thoughts about yourself, and soon you will have conquered the negative ones.
Do Something For Others
Simply put, doing things for other people without the thought of receiving something back can have a positive impact on your feelings. It doesn’t have to be anything special. Bring a friend a bunch of flowers because it isn’t her birthday. Offer to buy a cup of coffee for someone and have a chat. Bake some cookies and give them away. Write a letter or a card and try to remember how to put a stamp on the envelope. No, people don’t do that anymore, but remember how nice it feels to open the mailbox and find a personal letter tucked in with all of the bills and junk mail? It will also feel good when you drop it in the postal box.
Try Something New
When you are in a rut, life is the same all of the time. Work, fast food on the way home, Netflix until you fall asleep. Repeat. Granted, not everyone’s schedule is like that, but many times a depressed person doesn’t change what they do. So try a different activity. Go to a museum instead of a movie. Learn kickboxing. Take a cooking class. Pack a picnic basket and go read a book at the park on a blanket. Challenging ourselves to do something new helps to alter the levels of dopamine in our brain. This chemical is associated with learning, enjoyment and pleasure.
One woman who was feeling depressed about turning 30, decided to make the most of it. She picked 30 things she had never done and included things she was afraid of doing. She then spent the month of her birthday accomplishing those 30 things. She went skydiving; she cooked a meal at her house and invited strangers over; she took a yoga class; etc. When the month was over, she said that she was more excited about life than she had ever been in years 1-29. Not saying that you need to jump out of an airplane to feel good, but find some new activities to accentuate your life.
Work at Having Fun
Having fun doesn’t sound like work, but it does take some effort. You can’t beat depression if you don’t make time for the things that you enjoy doing. “But I don’t enjoy anything anymore,” you may think. “I’m depressed.” So go do them anyway. You must continue trying to have fun, even if it seems like a chore. Make plans with friends for dinner. Go to the sequels of movies you liked in the past. Drag out that board game and play with your kids, your spouse, your partner, or neighbor. You can still have fun, you have just let yourself forget how.
These are some helpful tips to give you tools to fight against depression. They are no substitute for proper medical advice and treatment. If you feel that you may be suffering from depression, consult with your doctor. They have the training to make the correct diagnosis and recommend medical treatment if necessary. Ask your doctor before taking any health supplements or beginning an exercise routine. With the combination of proper treatment and positive steps in your lifestyle, you can beat back depression and win. Take back your life!