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8 Effective Ways That Can Help Fight Depression (Without Drugs)

8 Effective Ways That Can Help Fight Depression (Without Drugs)

When you look around our societies today, almost everyone is on antidepressants or knows someone who is. People who are depressed suffer from dominating sadness, a blue mood, emotional numbness, empty feelings, anxiety, hopelessness, loss of self-worth, indecision, or some combination of these. When you’re depressed, it often feels like nothing in the world can make you feel better.

Antidepressant medications help to manage depression, but these drugs often only treat the symptoms of depression and not necessarily the causes. Sometimes you may need to do more than take a pill to lift your mood and beat depression to feel good about yourself again.

Here are eight ways that may help fight depression (without medications) so you can enjoy life again.

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1. Share what you’re going through with people you love and trust.

Don’t feel embarrassed confiding in a friend or voicing your struggles. Talking about your problems or worries is not a self-centered or self-pitying endeavor; it’s an act of courage. It can be the best thing you do for yourself to lighten the burden and begin the process of regaining your happiness. The people you talk to don’t have to be able to fix you, they just need to be good listeners. Sometimes all we need is a listening ear.

2. Keep a “thought log.”

Whenever you experience negative thoughts or sudden burst of sadness, jot down the thoughts and what triggered them as clearly and succinctly as possible. The act of writing down your worries is calming and therapeutic. Review your log when you are up to it. Read it with an open mind. Consider if the negative feelings were truly warranted. Question if there’s another way to view the situation. Worries and doubts oftentimes dissolve under scrutiny. If that happens, that’s great. However, if the worries are based on genuine risks, take additional measures to manage them.

3. Redirect your focus to the positive.

Of course, this is easier said than done when you have depression. That said, studies show that when people pay more attention to the positive it leads to improved moods due to a corresponding increase in their serotonin levels. An imbalance in serotonin levels may influence mood in a way that leads to depression. One technique that can help to redirect attention to the positive is meditation. Meditation has been shown to increase dopamine levels, serotonin levels, and boost feelings of happiness. Use meditation to “turn on” a state of happiness that can replace sadness. You can also try Heart Math training, which has been shown to strengthen the part of the brain responsible for turning on the “happy state.”

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4. Go outside more.

The importance of regulated sunshine and light exposure for lifting moods (as well as energy levels) is huge. Light increases your productivity and happiness. Studies show bright light exposure may also help increase serotonin levels in the brain and alleviate depression symptoms. Aim for at least 15 minutes of sunlight a day to lift your mood. If you live somewhere with little winter sunshine, think about installing some halogen bulbs in your work area or getting a wakeup light.

5. Practice relaxation techniques.

As already hinted, daily relaxation practices bring real benefits to people with depression. They increase dopamine levels, which reduces stress and increases feelings of happiness and well-being. A daily relaxation practice can help relieve symptoms of depression. Apart from meditation, try relaxation practices like yoga or tai chi to calm your mind and increase your energy. You may add a motivational element to some practices by repeating a mantra or a word or phrase of self-affirmation as you move.

6. Get the right kinds of exercise.

A review of many of the available studies concluded that exercise is extremely effective for improving both mood and depressive symptoms. So much so, some government agencies are prescribing exercise instead of antidepressants, explaining that “the risk–benefit ratio is poor for antidepressant use in patients with mild depression.” So get exercising. Aim for about 30 minutes of exercise per day. You don’t have to sweat strenuously. You’re not training for the Boston Marathon. Exercises that are continuous and rhythmic (rather than intermittent) are good choices. This gives you lots of options like walking, swimming and stationery biking.

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7. Change the types and amounts of food you eat.

This is possibly the most effective way to fight depression and improve mood. Studies show that consuming a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids, clean saturated fats, and moderate amounts of animal protein can give your body what it needs to improve mood. Some of the proteins in whey or milk serum can actually improve mood after just a few hours. In cases of light to moderate depression, tryptophan can also help to improve mood. Even in healthy individuals who are slightly more irritable than usual, small amounts of tryptophan can make them less irritable and more agreeable.

8. Adopt a pet.

Nothing can replace the joy and pleasure of human-to-human connection, but pets can bring a lot of joy and companionship into life. They help you feel less lonely and isolated. Caring for a pet can also take your mind off your own troubles, forcing you to get up and about more. Let’s face it, if you get a dog you’ll have to walk them sooner or later. All of these examples are powerful antidotes to depression.

Bottom line:

If you find your depression is getting worse, seek help from a physician as soon as possible. If you know someone who seems to be showing symptoms of depression, encourage them to see a doctor.

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Depression is an illness (not just a mood) that can be treated. You can feel better!

Featured photo credit: Sad and depressed young woman via shutterstock.com

More by this author

David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on November 9, 2020

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

Bad habits expose us to suffering that is entirely avoidable. Unfortunately, breaking bad habits is difficult because they are 100% dependent on our mental and emotional state.

Anything we do that can prove harmful to us is a bad habit – drinking, drugs, smoking, procrastination, poor communication are all examples of bad habits. These habits have negative effects on our physical, mental, and emotional health.

Humans are hardwired to respond to stimuli and to expect a consequence of any action. This is how habits are acquired: the brain expects to be rewarded a certain way under certain circumstances. How you initially responded to certain stimuli is how your brain will always remind you to behave when the same stimuli are experienced.

If you visited the bar close to your office with colleagues every Friday, your brain will learn to send you a signal to stop there even when you are alone and eventually not just on Fridays. It will expect the reward of a drink after work every day, which can potentially lead to a drinking problem.

Kicking negative behavior patterns and steering clear of them requires a lot of willpower, and there are many reasons why breaking bad habits is so difficult.

1. Lack of Awareness or Acceptance

Breaking a bad habit is not possible if the person who has it is not aware that it is a bad one.

Many people will not realize that their communication skills are poor or that their procrastination is affecting them negatively, or even that the drink they had as a nightcap has now increased to three.

Awareness brings acceptance. Unless a person realizes on their own that a habit is bad, or someone manages to convince them of the same, there is very little chance of the habit being kicked.

2. No Motivation

Going through a divorce, not being able to cope with academic pressure, and falling into debt are instances that can bring a profound sense of failure with them. A person going through these times can fall into a cycle of negative thinking where the world is against them and nothing they can do will ever help, so they stop trying altogether.

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This give-up attitude is a bad habit that just keeps coming around. Being in debt could make you feel like you are failing at maintaining your home, family, and life in general.

If you are looking to get out of a rut and feel motivated, take a look at this article: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It)

3. Underlying Psychological Conditions

Psychological conditions such as depression and ADD can make it difficult to start breaking bad habits.

A depressed person may find it difficult to summon the energy to cook a healthy meal, resulting in food being ordered in or consumption of packaged foods. This could lead to a habit that adversely affects health and is difficult to overcome.

A person with ADD may start to clean their house but get distracted soon after, leaving the task incomplete, eventually leading to a state where it is acceptable to live in a house that is untidy and dirty.

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is very real to some people. Obsessively checking their social media and news sources, they may believe that not knowing of something as soon as it is published can be catastrophic to their social standing.

4. Bad Habits Make Us Feel Good

One of the reasons it is difficult to break habits is that a lot of them make us feel good.[1]

We’ve all been there – the craving for a tub of ice cream after a breakup or a casual drag on a joint, never to be repeated until we miss how good it made us feel. We succumb to the craving for the pleasure felt while indulging in it, cementing it as a habit even while we are aware it isn’t good for us.

Overeating is a very common bad habit. Just another pack of chips, a couple of candies, a large soda… none of these are necessary for survival. We want them because they give us comfort. They’re familiar, they taste good, and we don’t even notice when we progress from just one extra slice of pizza to four.

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You can read this article to learn more: We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why?

5. Upward Comparisons

Comparisons are a bad habit that many of us have been exposed to since we were children. Parents might have compared us to siblings, teachers may have compared us to classmates, and bosses could compare us to past and present employees.

The people who have developed the bad habit of comparing themselves to others have been given incorrect yardsticks for measurement from the start.

These people will always find it difficult to break out of this bad habit because there will always be someone who has it better than they do: a better house, better car, better job, higher income and so on.

Research shows that in the age of social media, social comparisons are much easier and can ultimately harm self-esteem if scrolling becomes a bad habit[2].

6. No Alternative

This is a real and valid reason why breaking bad habits is difficult. These habits could fulfill a need that may not be met any other way.

Someone who has physical or psychological limitations, such as a disability or social anxiety, may find it hard to quit obsessive content consumption for better habits.

Alternately, a perfectly healthy person may be unable to quit smoking because alternates are just not working out.

Similarly, a person who bites their nails when anxious may be unable to relieve stress in any other socially accepted manner.

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7. Stress

As mentioned above, anything that stresses us out can lead to adopting and cementing an unhealthy habit.

When a person is stressed about something, it is easy for bad habits to form because the mental resources required to fight them are not available[3].

We often see a person who had previously managed to kick a bad habit fall back into the old ways because they felt their stress couldn’t be managed any other way.

If you need some help reducing stress, check out the following video for some healthy ways to get started:

8. Sense of Failure

People looking to kick bad habits may feel a strong sense of failure because it’s just that difficult.

Dropping a bad habit usually means changes in lifestyle that people may be unwilling to make, or these changes might not be easy to make in spite of the will to make them.

Overeaters need to empty their house of unhealthy food, resist the urge to order in, and not pick up their standard grocery items from the store. Those who drink too much need to avoid the bars or even people who drink often.

If such people slip even once with a glass of wine, or a smoke, or a bag of chips, they tend to be excessively harsh on themselves and feel like failures.

9. The Need to Be All-New

People who are looking to break bad habits feel they need to re-create themselves in order to break themselves of their bad habits, while the truth is the complete opposite.

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These people actually need to go back to who they were before they developed the bad habit and try to create good habits from there.

10. Force of Habit

Humans are creatures of habit, and having familiar, comforting outcomes for daily triggers helps us maintain a sense of balance in our lives.

Consider people who are used to lighting up a cigarette every time they talk on the phone or eating junk food when watching TV. They will always associate a phone call with a puff on the cigarette and screen time with eating.

These habits, though bad, are a source of comfort to them, as is meeting with those people they indulge in these bad habits with.

Final Thoughts

These are the main reasons why breaking bad habits is difficult, but the good news is that the task is not impossible. Breaking habits takes time, and you’ll need to put long-term goals in place to replace a bad habit with a good one.

There are many compassionate, positive and self-loving techniques to kick bad habits. The internet is rich in information regarding bad habits, their effects and how to overcome them, while professional help is always available for those who feel they need it.

More on Breaking Bad Habits

Featured photo credit: NORTHFOLK via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] After Skool: Why Do Bad Habits Feel SO GOOD?
[2] Psychology of Popular Media Culture: Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem.
[3] Stanford Medicine: Examining how stress affects good and bad habits

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