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Last Updated on January 14, 2021

15 Simple (And Practical) Ways to Overcome Depression

15 Simple (And Practical) Ways to Overcome Depression

Depression can be debilitating and is very different from just feeling unhappy. Usually, there is a reason for unhappiness, such as being rejected or not getting the job you wanted. Depression, on the other hand, is a pervasive feeling that may or may not have a root cause, so it can be difficult to learn how to stop being sad.

Unfortunately, the most common advice that people with depression receive is to sort themselves out and pull themselves together. Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple, but there are useful ways to help lessen or alleviate the symptoms of depression.

1. Practice Mindfulness

People dealing with depression tend to mull over all that is wrong and worry unnecessarily about all the negative possibilities that may emerge in the future. This negative thought cycle reinforces misery and is not helpful if you want to overcome depression.

Mindfulness involves focusing on the present moment and is a skill that needs to be practiced. More often than not, our brains are full of thoughts, and focusing on the present moment seems unnatural for our minds.

When you’re learning how to stop being sad, practice engaging with your senses in the moment. Focus on touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell. Engaging the senses leaves less time for worry and places you in the moment, where you have the space to challenge any negative thoughts that come up.

You can start learning mindfulness with this simple guide.

2. Listen to Upbeat Music

I have always thought of music as food for the soul. An upbeat tune can change an atmosphere instantly and create a more positive vibe. Listening to upbeat, happy music alters brain chemistry and can improve your mood.

One study found that findings “indicate that music listening impact[s] the psychobiological stress system,” which means music has the ability to lower stress and regulate mood[1]. Both of these can help relieve some symptoms of depression.

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3. Use Touch

Science shows that touch therapies can help some people overcome depression, lower the stress hormone cortisol, and increase the feel-good hormone oxytocin. Therapies to consider include acupuncture, acupressure, massage, reiki, and reflexology.

Research shows that “Massage therapy is significantly associated with alleviated depressive symptoms”[2]. Massage can induce a quasi-meditative state that lowers stress levels and makes room for more relaxation, which is great as you’re learning how to stop being sad.

4. Include Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Your Diet

Research has shown that depressed people often have an imbalance of omega-6/omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). This imbalance is thought to worsen low-grade inflammation in the body, which can increase symptoms of conditions, such as depression.

One research review discovered that “Several epidemiological studies reported a significant inverse correlation between intake of oily fish and depression or bipolar disorders”[3].

Beyond helping with depression, Omega-3 fatty acids can also lower cholesterol and improve cardiovascular health. You can get omega-3s through walnuts, flaxseed, and fatty fish like salmon or tuna.

5. Stop the Negative Self-Talk

Depressed people tend to see the world in a negative way. When things go wrong, they blame themselves, and when they go right, they put it down to luck. Depression reinforces self-doubt and feelings of worthlessness.

Monitor your inner negative talk and make allowances for this type of thinking by reminding yourself that your thinking is being clouded by your depression. Don’t take your thoughts seriously when you are feeling low. Acknowledge the thoughts, but this doesn’t mean you have to believe them.

6. Bide Your Time

When you want to overcome depression, accept that your mental state is not entirely balanced. During depression, we tend to see the negatives in everything and find it harder to be balanced about what is going on.

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Gently remind yourself that you are tuned into the “negativity channel,” and do your best to tune it out. It can be a comfort to know that you and your thoughts can be disconnected and that this type of thinking won’t last forever.

Remind yourself that change is constant and that you won’t always feel this way. Be patient and do your best to look after yourself while you’re learning how to stop being sad. Eat well and get a decent amount of sleep.

7. Distract Yourself

If possible, do your best to distract yourself from overthinking. Your thoughts are your enemy when depression sets in. Play with a pet or go for a walk, especially a walk in nature. Read a book if you are able to concentrate, or finish a puzzle.

Do anything that takes your mind off your fears and worries. Keeping busy is an effective way to overcome depression.

8. Use More Light

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is known for causing low mood over the winter months when there is less sunlight. Invest in a sunlamp—a 300-watt bulb within three feet for 20 minutes three times a day can help.

SAD symptoms can include problems sleeping, anxiety, depression, irritability, fatigue, apathy, and loss of libido, and using light therapy can help to overcome depression and these other symptoms.

9. Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy can be extremely useful in counteracting depression and is based on the principle that certain ways of thinking can trigger certain health problems, such as depression. The counselor helps you understand your current thought patterns and identify any harmful or false ideas and thoughts that you have that can trigger depression or make it worse[4].

The aim is to change your way of thinking to avoid these ideas, as well as help your thought patterns be more realistic and helpful.

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10. Write in a Journal

A journal can work in two ways when you want to learn how to stop being sad. Use it to write down fears and worries. Sometimes, having an outlet in this way can be soothing and ease your mind.

Another good way to use a journal is to write at least five things down every day that you are grateful for. This forces us to think more positively and can help to remind us that things are never that bad. In a gratitude journal, you can write about anything that happened in the day that made you feel appreciative.

11. Connect With Friends and Family

This can be one of the hardest things to do when feeling depressed, but it is one of the most rewarding activities. Isolating oneself from others may seem like a good idea, but put a limit on it and then get out there again. 

Confiding in friends and family members can have a huge positive effect on your mood.

12. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep and mood are closely connected. Inadequate sleep can cause irritability and stress, while healthy sleep can enhance well-being. Studies have shown that even partial sleep deprivation has a significant effect on mood[5].

Taking steps to ensure adequate sleep will lead to improved mood and well-being. The quality of your sleep directly affects the quality of your waking life, including your mental sharpness, productivity, emotional balance, creativity, physical vitality, and even your weight. No other activity delivers so many benefits with so little effort, so aim for between 7.5 and 9 hours sleep per night.

13. Forgive Others

When we hold a grudge, we are the ones that feel the anger. The person whom we are angry with is probably completely oblivious to your feelings. Don’t allow others to have this power over you if you want to learn how to stop being sad. They may have caused you grief in the past, but try not to allow that grief to continue.

Find a way to forgive—they are not worthy of your time. Lighten the emotional load, and you will improve your mood, which can help you overcome depression.

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14. Exercise

Regular exercise has benefits for helping to overcome depression. Exercise releases endorphins, which improve natural immunity and improve mood. Besides lifting your mood, regular exercise offers other health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, protecting against heart disease and cancer, and boosting self-esteem[6].

Experts advise getting 30 minutes to an hour of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, at least three to four times per week.

15. Don’t Give up

Depression can make you want to hide away from the world and disappear. It’s okay to take some time to be alone and re-center, but give yourself a time limit and then do something productive to improve your mood. Depression can be well managed, and there can be a wonderful life beyond depression.

Final Thoughts

Depression can make you feel like you’re living in a black hole that you’ll never escape. Fortunately, that’s not true, and you can learn how to stop being sad. One day, you’ll make it out and find that your life has a lot of greatness to offer you.

Keep in mind that although the above suggestions can be effective, depression that perseveres should be investigated further, and seeing a doctor to talk about any symptoms and get medical advice is a step in the right direction.

More on How to Overcome Depression

Featured photo credit: Randy Jacob via unsplash.com

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Mandy Kloppers

Mandy is a Psychologist/CBT therapist who believes getting through life is easier with a robust sense of humour.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

How to Cope With the Stages of Grief and Heal After Loss

How to Cope With the Stages of Grief and Heal After Loss

The death of a loved one is, unfortunately, something most of us have experienced or will experience at some point in our lives, but grief and loss are not felt only when someone passes away. You may move through the stages of grief quickly or slowly, and you may even find yourself moving back to a stage you thought you had passed. People grieve differently, and there is no correct way to grieve in any situation.

A close friend or family member moving away, a divorce or breakup, loss of a job, as well as a number of other life experiences can cause feelings of grief or loss. Coping with loss is one of the most stressful and difficult things we have to deal with in life, but it is an experience everyone can relate to.

The Stages of Grief

The five stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—are related to the common emotions we go through when we experience loss. This grief model was identified by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969[1].

However, because everyone is different, there is no “standard” way to react to grief and loss.[2]

Some people will wear their emotions on their sleeves and be outwardly emotional. Others will experience their grief more internally, and may not cry. You should try not to judge how a person experiences grief, as each person will experience it differently.

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Stages of grief

    Stage 1: Denial

    The feeling of shock when you first find out about a loss can lead to thinking, “This isn’t real.” This is a temporary way to deal with the rush of overwhelming emotion and a defense mechanism for your mind.[3]

    Stage 2: Anger

    Feelings of frustration and helplessness take hold during this stage. Thoughts like “It’s not fair” can be common. Even being angry at your loved one who died for “leaving you behind” is natural. This anger can spill over into your close relationships, and you can find yourself getting angry at those around you for no apparent reason.

    Stage 3: Bargaining

    During this stage, you are constantly thinking about what you could have done to prevent the loss. Thoughts of “What if…” and “If only…” replay in the mind. You might also try to bargain with a higher power in hopes of reversing the loss.

    Stage 4: Depression

    This stage brings the deep sadness you feel as you realize the loss is irreversible. You think about how your life will be affected by the loss. Crying, loss of appetite, feelings of loneliness, and unusual sleeping patterns are all signs of depression.

    Stage 5: Acceptance

    You accept the loss, and although you’re still sad, you slowly start to move on with your life and settle in to your new reality.

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    The stages of grief don’t have to be in this order, and you might not experience all stages. There is also no set time period for grieving, and some people take longer to heal than others.

    How to Heal From Grief and Loss

    When you’re experiencing those heartbreaking feelings and the stages of grief, it’s hard to believe that you’ll eventually heal, but you really will. Here are some ways to help the healing process:

    1. Confront the Painful Emotions

    Try not to bottle up your emotions. Allow yourself to express how you feel. It’s a healthy part of the grieving process.[4]

    If you’re not ready to get together with friends and family to talk about how you’re feeling, you can work with your emotions through mindful meditation, which can help create space for you to take a look at what you’re feeling and why.

    2. Talk About It

    When you’re ready and have entered the final stages of grief, talking to someone about the way you are feeling can be very helpful in starting the healing process. Often, people want to isolate themselves while grieving, but being around friends and family can help. Talking can also help you to confront your emotions if you have been unable to.

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    3. Keep up With Your Routine

    Loss can make you feel like your world has been turned upside down. As you move through the stages of grief, getting through your daily routine may feel more difficult, which can cause you to put self-care to the side. Keeping up with your routine can help bring back some normality and ensure you are showing yourself love and consideration.

    4. Take Care of Yourself

    When you are grieving and depressed, simple things like eating become an afterthought, and sleeping may become difficult. Taking care of yourself and your health will help with the healing process.

    While you may not do everything you were doing before your loss, try to do one act of self-care each day. It can be taking a long bath, going for a walk, making a nice meal, or even practicing a hobby once you feel ready. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated; it just needs to be something that makes you feel good.

    5. Don’t Make Any Major Decisions

    Grief clouds the ability to make sound decisions.[5] Try to postpone making any big decisions for a while or get guidance from close friends or family if you can’t put it off.

    Grief may also make you feel like making major changes to your life, such as quitting a job or ending a relationship. Try to remember that now is not the best time to make these changes, and hold off further consideration until you have moved through all of the stages of grief.

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    The Bottom Line

    It is important to heal after a loss so that you can get on with life. There is no set time period for grieving, but if you feel that your grief isn’t getting better, and you are unable to accept the loss, it might be time to seek advice from a mental health professional.

    In the meantime, accept that now is a difficult time, but that it will get better. Time will inevitably help and make the pain less powerful. One day, you will wake up and realize the pain is simply a small echo in the back of your mind and that you have successfully moved through each of the stages of grief. It’s time to get back to your life.

    More on Dealing With the Stages of Grief

    Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

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