It’s been estimated that nearly 350 million people in the world suffer from depression and almost 80% don’t receive any treatment – that’s a lot of people dealing with depression on their own. It’s a belittling misconception that people who suffer from depression are just feeling sad or are mentally weak. New research has found that depression is actually a kind of brain damage which backs up the fact that it’s not something people can just cure or ‘get over’. Dealing with depression means dealing with a constant cycle of sadness and hopelessness and it can feel never-ending. It can leave you with a lack of drive and energy to take the necessary larger steps you need to make yourself feel better.
There are smaller and more manageable steps you can do on a daily basis that can help you self-manage your depression – they are by no means an attempt at a cure but they can help alleviate the feelings of despair and darkness that seem to take over so easily. It’s important to acknowledge that you may be suffering from depression and taking some steps towards a lighter path will help with your overall outlook on life.
Acknowledging Your Depression
The first step is to recognise that you are suffering from depression. Admitting that you’re suffering from depression does not make you a weak person; in fact it’s the opposite. Acknowledging that you may have depression will allow you to attempt ways to deal with it whether with professional help or through self-management.
- Accept The Depression In Your Life
Accepting that you have depression will allow you to be able to do something about it. Hiding it away or putting it down to a bad phase in your life will only allow it to spiral out of control. Having depression is not something to be ashamed of and the sooner you realise this and admit that you may have it, the sooner you can deal with it.
- Understand That You Can Help Yourself
It’s important to establish that your actions will help you with your depression. You don’t have to allow things to happen to you – you have the power to control what happens to you. Although this can feel hard to imagine at times, there’s great power in your steps to help yourself.
- Every Little Step Helps
Depression can leave you feeling helpless and worthless. Thinking of actions to help yourself can seem overwhelming but it’s not big, grand actions that you need to make happen. Breaking actions down into small daily steps can seem less less daunting and greatly relieve symptoms of depression plus they don’t always need a lot of time or effort to achieve. Keep that belief that every little step is helping you in a positive way.
Establishing An Exercise Routine To Deal With Depression
When you suffer from depression you can find it hard to motivate yourself to get out of bed let alone think about exercising but exercise is crucial for helping you deal with depression. Exercise has been found to be as effective as antidepressant medication as it increases energy levels and decreases tiredness. Studies have shown that exercise protects the brain from depression so it can help prevent further depression from developing. It doesn’t have to be a hard, sweaty workout but just getting out and moving will really help with your mindset and perspective. Releasing those endorphins can do much more than we realise – they reduce stress and tension so have an all-round positive effect on depression.
- Go For A Walk
A really simple and effective way to deal with depression is to take a walk. If you find it difficult to find motivation for an exercise routine then walking is a great way to fit this into your daily life. Getting out in nature can have a healing affect and breathing the fresh air will have a big impact on our brain’s oxygen levels allowing you to have clearer thoughts. If you have a dog or can borrow a dog from someone else this will be a great incentive to walk and for longer.
- Cardiovascular Exercise
This is something you can build up to. Establishing a walking routine is a great place to start and once you think you’re feeling the benefits you can decide if doing more cardiovascular exercises is something you want to pursue. Running, cycling and swimming are great exercises to get into but it’s important to find one that you enjoy and will want to stick with. Establishing a routine and setting goals will help with motivation and train your brain to see hope and achievement.
- Small Movements
If walking and running seem too much of a step for you then just finding moments to move around are beneficial. Park your car further away so you have to walk for a little bit, take the stairs instead of the elevator – anything that prevents you from being still for too often. Getting your body moving, no matter how small, is good for your mind and you will find that it will help you to feel a little less low.
Establishing A Healthy Diet To Deal With Depression
What you eat has a big effect on how you feel. Establishing a healthy diet can help relieve symptoms of depression and together with exercise can combat your depression greatly. Eating the right foods can boost your mood and help you feel less tired and depleted. When you have no motivation it can be easy to reach for the convenient, junk-filled foods but these can be a hinderance to your depression as it has little nutritional value and causes further unnecessary fatigue.
- Cut Back On Sugar And Carbohydrates
Sugar and carbohydrates are common foods to reach for when we need comfort. Cakes, biscuits and breads are full of refined sugar and carbohydrates which can leave us feeling lethargic which can add to other symptoms of depression. It can also lead to a crash in mood as our blood-sugar levels drop dramatically.
- Superfoods And Vitamins
There are certain foods that help with boosting our mood including bananas, nuts, omega-rich fish, brown rice and spinach as well as many more. Complex carbohydrates such as whole-grain foods can boost serotonin levels without the crash that we get with simple carbohydrates. Considering taking extra vitamins and supplements including complex B-vitamins and folic acid will be beneficial. Vitamin B deficiency in particular can trigger depression or alternatively you can eat foods rich in vitamin B like eggs, green leafy vegetables and chicken.
- Eat At Regular Intervals
It’s really important that you keep fuelling your body. Going for too long without food can cause irritability and low blood sugar levels which can cause mood swings. Make sure you try to eat a healthy meal or snack every 3-4 hours. It can be tempting to reach for the junk food but try to make a conscious decision to pick something healthy and beneficial.
Managing Your Negative Thinking
Depression ultimately changes the way we think about ourselves and the world around us. It can darken thoughts about the past, present situations and the future. The key to managing negative thoughts is not to just think positively and they’ll go away but rather to gradually introduce a different way of thinking that will encourage a slightly different mindset.
- Recognising Negative Thinking
The first important thing to do is recognise your negative thoughts. There are different types of negative thoughts that can foster depression and recognising them is a great first step in starting to combat them. Thoughts such as emotional reasoning where you believe your negative thoughts are reality, for example believing you’re worthless. Overgeneralising is something that people with depression often do – holding on to a negative experience and believing it will continue to be like that. Self-blaming, jumping to negative conclusions by false assumption and ignoring positive events are all different types of thinking prone to someone with depression.
- Avoiding Isolation
When we’re depressed we have a tendency to want to withdraw and be alone but isolation from others is more likely to create negative thinking because we are further separating ourselves from reality. Connection with others is a basic human need and studies have shown just how important social interaction is when it comes to our happiness. Even if you don’t feel like it, it’s important to cultivate relationships with family and friends – they will be your support network. Just finding someone to trust and talk to every now and then will help stop the tendency to withdraw.
- Shifting Your Perspective
Shifting your perspective is not changing your thoughts from sad to happy, it’s allowing yourself to see something in a different light. It’s about thinking outside of yourself. When we’re hard on ourselves it becomes a way of thinking but try asking yourself would I say something so harsh to someone else? Changing your perspective is about learning a different way to see things and getting your mind to realise that there are other sides to a problem. It’s about cultivating gratitude for the small things that we have whether that’s food, hot water etc. There are many ways to change our perspective that can help fight off those negative thoughts. Trying to gently shift your mindset will help you on your journey to managing your depression.
Featured photo credit: De Visu via shutterstock.com