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Last Updated on January 14, 2021

15 Simple (And Practical) Ways to Overcome Depression

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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 August 23, 2021

Why Am I Depressed If My Life Is Fine?

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Why Am I Depressed If My Life Is Fine?

If you suffer from depression or suddenly experience bouts of sadness that seem to come out of nowhere, you probably wonder why this is happening. The truth is that there are several possibilities, and you aren’t alone. According to the World Health Organization, in January of 2020, more than 264 million people were diagnosed with depression and is the leading cause of disability worldwide.[1] In this article, I will answer the question: why am I depressed if my life is fine?” I will discuss what depression is and what the possible causes of depression are. Additionally, I will offer some solutions to consider as you navigate the depression you are experiencing.

The question of why you are depressed if your life is fine is one that I can personally identify with, as I can remember a time when I went through an intense depression even though, in many ways, my life couldn’t have been much better. I was financially secure, had a good family, lived in a beautiful place, had a pretty adventurous and exciting life, but none of that could have prevented a serious and prolonged battle with depression.

Given that you are here reading this article now, you will hopefully be able to identify the problem early and get the support you need to fend off any significant depressive episodes, as this can make a huge difference in your battle with depression.

Furthermore, you don’t have to live with depression! Despite the debilitating effects of depression, with the right treatment and support, it is also one of the more “curable” mental health disorders and you can overcome it.

What Is Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder characterized by feelings of sadness, guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, irritability, and in the worst cases, despair and suicidality.

Depression from a clinical perspective is classified into a few distinctive categories, two of the more common categories are; major depression and dysthymia. According to the DSM 5, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual—which governs the diagnosis of psychiatric and mental health disorders—major depression is classified as experiencing five or more symptoms in the same two-week period and must include a loss in pleasure as well as a depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.[2]

The criteria are:

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  • Loss of pleasure or joy
  • Intense feelings of sadness and depressed mood most of the day, almost every day
  • Difficulty sleeping or disturbed sleep
  • Change in appetite (increased or decreased appetite) and a 5% change in body weight
  • Difficulty focusing, poor concentration
  • Psychomotor agitation or slowing down
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Persistent thoughts of death, dying, and suicide

Dysthymia is an ongoing or persistent depressed mood for a period of two years where you feel sadness more days than not. It will include at least two of the following symptoms when depressed:

  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (having more sleep than usual)
  • Low energy or fatigue
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor concentration
  • Feeling of hopelessness

The above symptoms of dysthymia can coincide with the symptoms of major depression.

Causes of Depression

Depression happens for several reasons that I categorize into three: biology, environment, and situation. Depression also tends to occur in more sensitive people, tend to overthink, and get stuck in their thoughts, which—more times than not—are negative.

Biological causes of depression are related to how your body produces neurotransmitters that impact your moods, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Some people might have a biological predisposition for depression and never experience any significant symptoms but when confronted with a challenging life situation, such as a loss or disappointment, it can send them into a tailspin of despondency and intense feelings of low and sad mood.

Depression caused by one’s environment is more about those you might have grown up with, your family, and your home environment, which could also be connected to heredity. Regardless of your biological predisposition, you learn how to handle challenges in life by observing those around you.

Adults, in particular, are role models for children and will likely deal with life in similar ways as to what they observed. For example, a child who grows up witnessing partner abuse between their parents is at increased risk of either being a victim or perpetrator of violence in an intimate relationship as an adult.[3]

Situational depression, as I mentioned above, can be seen as more of a cause-and-effect relationship. When you are confronted with a particular life challenge or change, such as job loss, geographic relocation, or family and financial stress, these situations can cause you to fall into a temporary or prolonged depression.

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In some cases, depression can be a combination of all of the above.

Examples of Causes of Depression

Below are some examples of situations that might lead you to experience a prolonged period of depression.

Grief

The loss of a loved one, especially when sudden and traumatic, can bring about intense feelings of loss and sadness, which can lead to clinical depression. This includes the death of pets.

Medical Issue or Diagnosis

Being diagnosed with a medical issue, especially if chronic and progressive, is much like any other loss you might experience. It represents the loss of a life you had. Very often, there will need to be changes made in one’s life that will not allow for a lifestyle previously enjoyed.

A Feeling of Failure or Perceived Shortcomings

As I mentioned, people who experience depression tend to be sensitive and self-critical. You might be struggling with not getting a job promotion or failing to progress in the way you imagined for yourself, but this doesn’t mean that you are not progressing in some other way.

Sudden Life Change

Changes—even good changes and welcomed changes—are hard. Sometimes, these changes can have an impact on your role and status in society like marriage or parenthood, which are both wonderful changes yet fraught with many challenges and new social roles.

Feeling Trapped or With Limited Options

Having options is both a blessing and a curse. We know that the more options we have, the less happy we are and the more anxious we might tend to feel, wanting and needing to make the right decision. However, on the flip side, the idea that you don’t have any options can also lead to feeling trapped and feeling that your life circumstances are already written in stone.

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Burnout

Job stress, being overworked and underpaid, or the lack of fulfillment in your profession can lead to depression, which might also coincide with the feeling of being trapped and feeling as though you don’t have many options in your life and career.

What Can You Do If You Experience Depression?

It may sometimes feel as though, out of nowhere, that you are hit with depression, and this is true for many people who have a biologically based depression. However, I would argue that whenever there is something like depression or anxiety—which are defense mechanisms—there is something in your life that is not 100% congruent with who you are and where your life is at or going.

This essentially means that it’s time to take a step back and reassess a few things in life. It doesn’t mean that you will be able to wright the ship entirely. However, you might be able to make some small changes that will help you feel more in control of your life and the direction that you are going in.

1. Consider Therapy

Therapy will help you take stock and think about what is happening in your life and where you might be able to make some changes. Needless to say, you will also have the support you need to embark on making those changes. It could also be a chance to identify what it is in your life that is causing the depression. A therapist can also help you connect to other supports that might help you as you work through this period in your life.

2. Group Support Network

Processing hurt and pain through the group experience is a powerful method of connecting with yourself and others who might be experiencing similar challenges. Part of the value of group experience is knowing that you are not alone and that you have support not just from professionals but also from other people just like you.

3. Self Assessment

Self-assessment involves assessing where you are in your life in relation to your life goals, your relationships, and the direction that you are headed. Maybe it is time to make a pivot and change course, which could be a very scary thing. Bringing this kind of information to therapy will be very valuable and will assist you in the therapeutic process.

4. Take Some Time Off

Taking some time off will be and can be helpful in many ways. If you are experiencing burnout, this will give you more time for self-care and help you give yourself a break. Moreover, taking a time off gives you more time to do some of the things I described above in therapy, group work, and self-assessment.

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5. Are You Bored?

Sometimes, when we lack stimulation or work in a job for which we are overqualified, we might find ourselves feeling underutilized and as if we are not meeting our potential. This would, hopefully, come out in a self-assessment and could indicate the need to make a change in your work life.

Depression and Suicide

Depression is a serious mental health disorder. Thirty to seventy percent of deaths by suicide are attributed to major depression or bipolar disorder.[4] If you or someone you love is experiencing depression and expresses thoughts or statements about death and suicide, consult with your medical professional or mental health counselor. People who receive treatment for depression have an 80 to 90% rate of success from therapy and/or medication.

Suffice to say, if you get the treatment you need for depression, your chances of recovering skyrocket. Again, as I mentioned earlier, you don’t have to live with depression. Get the right treatment,[5] and you can have a whole new lease on life.

Final Thoughts

Depression is a mood disorder that is characterized by feelings of sadness for a long period of time. Many people throughout their lives will experience some depression in varying degrees. If you notice that what you are experiencing resembles any of what I have described above, please know that you can make changes and you can live a life free of depression. Getting help, support, and treatment is essential to addressing the depression or changes in your life that might need to be considered.

More Tips on Coping With Depression

Featured photo credit: Paola Chaaya via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The World Health Organization: Depression
[2] NCBI: The DSM-5: Classification and Criteria Changes
[3] OASH: Office on women’s Health: Effects of domestic violence on children
[4] Mental Health America: Suicide
[5] Upside Down Flan: The Best Treatment for Depression

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