Disclaimer: Hey Psych2goers! This article is for informational purposes only and should not be substituted for professional advice.
Are you struggling with depressive symptoms, or perhaps you know someone battling an uphill battle with depression?
For some of you who aren’t familiar with what depression is, let’s start off with one of its basic definitions. Depression is a mood disorder that causes persistent sadness or loss of interest and changes how you feel, think, and behave. It can cause a person to lie in the bedroom all day with the curtains drawn. It weighs you down like a rock in a river, making you so deep in the throes of pessimistic thinking and unrelenting darkness.
With that said, let’s take a look at ten things that you can do to help you beat the blues:
- Meet yourself where you are
Unlike a physical illness, when you have a mental disorder such as depression, you may find it difficult to recognize the signs. Perhaps you think you don’t deserve any help, or you’re worried you’ll feel judged because of stigma, or you believe that no matter what you do, you think you cannot drive yourself out of the misery.
But, we are here to remind you that what you’re going through is real and valid, and the most crucial step to help yourself is accepting yourself and being open to what you are going through (Rubin, 2016).
- Allow yourself to feel
When you feel down, do you tend to suppress your feelings?
Humans have a wide range of emotions, and we need all of them. A part of having a full life is to process and experience all your emotions, the pleasant and unpleasant ones. When you fight your feelings, often, it causes more suffering. Instead of numbing your feelings, observing them and feeling them in your body mindfully is more helpful. Our emotions often convey important messages that we should pay attention to (Rollin, 2016).
- Challenge your negative thinking
Do you perhaps chastise yourself when something unpleasant happens to you, or you convince yourself by telling yourself, “Well, maybe I am just lucky,” when something good happens to you?
One key feature of depression is engaging in an exaggerated pattern of thought that is not based on facts, also known as a cognitive distortion. Sometimes we might not be aware of these unhelpful thinking styles; we can have them as our automatic thoughts. One typical example of a negative thinking style is black and white thinking, in which you see things from 2 extreme perspectives. It is either wrong or right, good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant. Thus, one way to challenge this thinking style is to realise that there is always a shade of grey for everything.
- Try to create a routine
Have you ever felt so demotivated that the only thing that you do is lie down on your bed all day? When you have depression, it can cause you to fall down the rabbit hole of demotivation and procrastination, leading to disruption of your daily routine.
To combat depression, you can start to incorporate routines into your everyday life. Perhaps you can make yourself a cup of tea every morning and enjoy an early morning walk. Set up a fixed time each night to go to sleep. You can also read your current book each night before you go to bed. No matter your choice of routine, make sure you take care of yourself every day through hydration and nourishment as they are basic needs for self-care (Piata, 2018).
- Spend time on something or with someone you love
Take a moment to recall a time when you felt delighted. Was it because you are surrounded by lush, picturesque scenery? Perhaps you find spending time tap dancing helps boost your mood significantly? Or maybe you notice your serotonin level rises when you spend time with your best friend?
However you spend your time, try to allocate some time to do things you enjoy, either on your own or with your loved ones.
- Spend time volunteering
Have you ever tried to help a blind person cross the road? What do you feel afterwards? Do you feel happier, and your mood becomes uplifted?
According to a study published in 2020 in the Journal of Happiness Studies, from 1996 to 2014, 70,000 participants in the United Kingdom were evaluated every two years on their volunteering activities and mental well-being. Researchers found that volunteers report more excellent overall health and satisfaction with their lives due to volunteering. Participants who participated more frequently in volunteer work had better mental health than those who engaged in volunteer work less regularly or didn’t get involved at all (Lawton et al., 2020). Therefore, try to sign up for volunteer work. You will soon find a change in your overall mental health.
- Incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine
Do you notice that your mind wanders? Sometimes you are ruminating about things gone by too much, or perhaps you are too engrossed in thinking about the future. Maybe you find it hard to be fully present and be fully aware of where you are and what you are doing. You simply go through the motion of your daily life in a survival mode.
One way to combat depression is to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine. There are two different forms of mindfulness. The first form is known as mindfulness meditation, in which one engages in a “sitting practice,” where one has set aside time to meditate. For example, you can focus on your breath for 10 minutes. As soon as you notice that your mind is wandering, you return your attention to your breath. In the second form of mindfulness, you bring mindful awareness into your daily life. This is known as dispositional mindfulness. It refers to the inherent capability to pay and maintain attention to present-moment experiences with an open and nonjudgmental attitude. It is a trait that enables one to be aware of the present moment even during ordinary tasks(Eisendrath, 2019).
- Eat a healthy, depression-fighting diet
Food can also be a powerful tool to fight your depressive symptoms. According to research, two diets are most beneficial: the Mediterranean diet, which focuses on healthy fats, and the DASH diet, which focuses on cutting sugar.
If you want to follow a Mediterranean diet, you can add more fruits, veggies, fatty fish, protein-rich legumes, and olive oil into your diet. According to Jakka et. al (2017), 166 clinically depressed people were investigated, some of whom were being treated with medication. Study participants’ symptoms improved significantly after eating a modified Mediterranean diet for 12 weeks.
On the other hand, you can practise the DASH diet by reducing sugar intake. Researchers from Rush University Medical Center report that elders who followed the DASH diet closely over six-and-a-half years were less likely to suffer from depression than those who followed western diets (Schultz & Legg, 2020).
- Get yourself moving
When you are depressed, there might be days that you might not really feel like getting up and out of bed to get involved in some physical activities. However, when you sit down less and move your bodies more, you can improve your mental health. According to a professor of psychology at Boston University, Michael Otto, PhD, individuals can experience an enhancement in their mood after five minutes of moderate exercise. James Blumenthal, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Duke University, stated that researchers have found that more active people are less depressed than inactive people. Do you prefer to go for a morning walk, or perhaps tend to the flowers in your garden? By doing the type of physical activities you enjoy, you will most likely stick to it as your daily routine.
- Don’t hesitate to seek professional help
If your depression affects your daily functioning, it is high time for you to seek professional help. Going to see a mental health professional opens up the door for recovery in which you can get a proper assessment of your symptoms and receive personalised treatment. The options may include traditional measures such as medication and talk therapy and alternative measures such as acupuncture. These measures can be discussed with your mental health professionals so you can make a decision about which treatment suits you the most.
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Lawton, R. N., Gramatki, I., Watt, W., &; Fujiwara, D. (2020, March 17). Does volunteering make us happier, or are happier people more likely to volunteer? addressing the problem of reverse causality when estimating the wellbeing impacts of volunteering. Journal of Happiness Studies. Retrieved November 20, 2021, from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10902-020-00242-8.
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Schultz, R., &; Legg, T. J. (2020, August 19). Here’s what these women ate to treat their anxiety and depression. Healthline. Retrieved November 20, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/best-diets-for-mental-health.
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