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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

Reference

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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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Published on May 25, 2021

How To Recognize the Most Common Types of Mental Illness

How To Recognize the Most Common Types of Mental Illness

Have you ever had chills, a stuffy nose, a sore throat, a cough, or perhaps even a fever? More than likely you must have experienced at least some of these symptoms at one time or another in your life. You knew that you were sick, perhaps with a common cold, maybe the flu, or possibly a viral infection of some sort.

Either way, no matter what the diagnosis might have been at the time, you didn’t feel well, and therefore, you probably took some form of action to help alleviate the symptoms so that you could feel better, perhaps some medicine, followed up with maybe a little chicken noodle soup, a glass of orange juice, and some bed rest. Nevertheless, when it comes to seeking treatment for symptoms of mental illness, there seems to be a big difference between the way that we look at healing the body and the mind.

First of all, there are some common stigmas associated with mental illness. People, in general, seem to have a hard time admitting that they are having a problem with their mental health.[1]

We all want our social media profiles to look amazing, filled with images of exotic vacations, fancy food, the latest fashion, and of course, plenty of smiling faces taken at just the right angle. There is an almost instinctive aversion to sharing our true feelings or emotionally opening up to others, especially when we are going through a difficult time in our lives. Perhaps it has something to do with the fear of being emotionally vulnerable, open, and completely honest about our true inner feelings—perhaps we just don’t want to be a burden.

Additionally, throughout history, many people with mental illness have been ostracized and subjugated as outcasts. As a result, some may choose to avoid seeking help as long as possible to elude being ridiculed by others or presumably looked down upon in some way. Furthermore, rather than scheduling an appointment to meet with a board-certified psychiatrist, many people find themselves self-medicating with mood-altering substances, such as drugs and alcohol to try and cope with their symptoms.[2]

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We all want to have a sound mind and body with the ability to function independently without having to depend on anyone—or, for that matter, anything else for help. Nevertheless, if you are experiencing symptoms of mental illness, you may just have to find the will and the way to reach out for help before the symptoms become unmanageable.

Lastly, although we may all have the ability to gain insight into any given situation, it’s almost impossible to maintain a completely objective point of view when it comes to identifying the depth and dimension of any of our own symptoms of mental illness given the fact that our perception of the problem may in fact be clouded by the very nature of the underlying illness itself. In other words, even though symptoms of mental illness may be present, you may be suffering from a disorder that actually impairs your ability to see them.

As a professional dual-diagnosis interventionist and a licensed psychotherapist with over two decades of experience working with people all over the world battling symptoms of mental illness and substance abuse—combined with my own personal insight into the subject, perhaps now more than ever—I am confident that you will appreciate learning how to recognize a variety of symptoms associated with some of the most common types of mental illness.

1. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by persistent flashbacks and nightmares associated with previously experienced or witnessed life-threatening or traumatic events.[3] The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

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  • recurrent and unwanted memories of an event
  • flashbacks to the event in “real-time”
  • nightmares involving the trauma
  • a physical reaction to an event that triggers traumatic memories
  • avoiding conversation related to the traumatic event
  • active avoidance of people, places, and things that trigger thoughts of the event
  • a sense of hopelessness
  • memory loss related to traumatic events
  • detached relationships
  • lack of interest in normal daily activities
  • feeling constantly guarded
  • feeling as if in constant danger
  • poor concentration
  • irritability
  • being easily startled
  • insomnia
  • substance abuse
  • engaging in dangerous behaviors

2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by persistent unwanted thoughts followed by urges to act on those thoughts repeatedly.[4] The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

  • anxiety when an item is not in order or its correct position
  • recurrent and frequent doubt if doors have been locked
  • recurrent and frequent doubt if electronic devices and appliances have been turned off
  • recurrent and frequent fear of contamination by disease or poison
  • avoidance of social engagements with fear of touching others.
  • hand-washing
  • counting
  • checking
  • repetition of statements
  • positioning of items in strict order

3. Major Depressive Disorder

Major Depressive Disorder is a mood disorder characterized by a persistent depressed mood that impairs the ability to function. The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

  • overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and sadness
  • lack of interest or pleasure in activities normally enjoyed
  • overwhelming feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • sleep disturbances such as both insomnia and oversleep
  • overwhelming feelings of restlessness and irritability
  • lack of concentration
  • lack of appetite as well as overeating
  • thoughts of suicide

4. Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder that may be characterized by uncontrollable mood swings ranging from severe depression to extreme mania. The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

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Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

  • easily distracted
  • racing thoughts
  • exaggerated euphoric sense of self-confidence
  • easily agitated
  • hyperverbal
  • markedly increased level of activity
  • overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and sadness
  • lack of interest or pleasure in activities normally enjoyed
  • overwhelming feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • sleep disturbances such as both insomnia and oversleep
  • overwhelming feelings of restlessness and irritability
  • lack of concentration
  • lack of appetite as well as overeating
  • thoughts of suicide

5. Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a thought disorder characterized by a breakdown between beliefs, emotions, and behaviors caused by delusions and hallucinations.[5]  The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

  • delusions with false beliefs
  • hallucinations with a false sensory perception
  • disorganized thought with a meaningless unintelligible pattern of communication
  • disorganized behavior with catatonic appearance, bizarre posture, excessive agitation
  • flat affect
  • lack of eye contact
  • poor personal hygiene

6. Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an obsessive desire to lose weight by refusing to eat and excessive exercise. The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

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  • extreme loss of weight
  • emaciated appearance
  • eroded teeth
  • thinning hair
  • dizziness
  • swollen extremities
  • dehydration
  • arrhythmia
  • irritated skin on knuckles
  • extreme food restriction
  • excessive exercise
  • self-induced vomiting
  • excessive fear of gaining weight
  • use of layered clothing to cover up body imperfections

7. Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an obsessive desire to lose weight due to a distorted body image where large amounts of food are consumed and then purged. The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

  • self-induced vomiting
  • consuming abnormally large amounts of food with the intent to purge
  • the constant fear of gaining weight
  • excessive exercising
  • excessive use of laxatives and diuretics to lose weight
  • food restriction
  • shame and guilt

Final Thoughts

From bipolar disorder to bulimia, major depression to dysthymia, there is a mental health diagnosis to fit any combination of symptoms that you may be experiencing. There are also a variety of corresponding self-assessment tests circulating all over the internet for you to choose from.

However, if you are looking for a proper diagnosis, I strongly suggest that you make an appointment to meet with a well-trained mental health professional in your community for more comprehensive and conclusive findings. Similar to cancer, early detection and treatment may significantly improve the prognosis for recovery.[6] And like I said, it’s impossible to be completely objective when it comes to self-diagnosing the condition of your own mental health or that of a loved one.

Furthermore, although the corner pharmacy may have plenty of over-the-counter medications that claim to help you fall asleep faster and even stay asleep longer, at the end of the day, no medication can actually resolve the underlying issues that have been negatively impacting your ability to sleep in the first place.

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Just like in business—and in the immortal words of Thomas A. Edison—“there is no substitute for hard work.” So, try to set aside as much time as you can to work on improving your mental health. After all, you are your most influential advocate, and your mind is your greatest asset.

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Featured photo credit: Sydney Sims via unsplash.com

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