Advertising

Last Updated on January 14, 2021

15 Simple (And Practical) Ways to Overcome Depression

Advertising
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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

More by this author

Mandy Kloppers

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

40 Ways to Find Peace of Mind and Inner Calm 15 Simple (And Practical) Ways to Overcome Depression Life Truths: 17 Universal Truths We All Share 7 Ways To Stop Yourself From Being A Slave to Your Emotions good partner 20 Ways To Recognize A Good Partner

Trending in Mental Wellness

1 How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time 2 Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why? 3 Does Depression Make You Tired And How? 4 Overwhelmed at Work? 17 Ways to Manage Work Anxiety 5 Why Am I Depressed If My Life Is Fine?

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on November 8, 2021

How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time

Advertising
How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time

Do you often feel stressed for most of your day? Maybe you always feel a burden that you just can’t get rid of? Focused meditation might be your answer.

In this article, I’ll explore what focused meditation is, how it differs in the pool of many styles of meditation, and how to implement and start this practice today. Likewise, I’ll highlight the benefits of a focused meditation practice for your overall health.

What Is Focused Meditation?

Meditation is the practice of becoming self-aware through breath and attention to connect the mind, body, and spirit.[1] Meditation as a whole can change the structure and function of our brain. That being said, focused meditation or a guided meditation for focus is by far the best one. Meditation for focus and concentration can come in different forms. Experienced meditators use the following:

  • Mindfulness – this meditation involves us to be focusing on your breath and observing thoughts. This allows us to focus on our feelings without becoming too absorbed in them.
  • Concentrative – a meditation that gets us to focus on a particular point; be it a word, breath, object, or a point in the space you’re meditating. This is meant for us to pay attention to that point and prevent our minds from getting distracted.
  • Moving – this meditation involves gets us to focus on slow and repetitive movements similar to yoga or tai chi. The goal is again to be focusing on your breath while relaxing your body and mind with the movements.

Focused meditation, also known as concentrative meditation, is the practice of meditating and bringing your attention to one single object. This object can be something practical and tangible, such as a mandala painting or a candle flame. It can also be something abstract, such as a phrase (also known as mantra) or a sound (such as Om).[2][3]

Whatever you settle your attention on becomes the focal point. None of these object examples are better than others—they are simply choices depending on what you’re looking to get out of your practice. For example, practitioners will choose candle gazing to interpret the images the flame makes in the shadows while others will choose a mantra because that particular phrase or word empowers or heals them.

How Does It Differ From Other Meditation Styles?

All meditation styles and practices overlap and build on each other. Their basic foundation is the same: to bring the practitioner insight and introspection.

Advertising

There is no right or wrong way to meditate, however, the various types of meditation can enhance particular qualities. Based on your personality and needs, one type of meditation may be more useful to you than the other. The 9 types of meditation are:

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Spiritual meditation
  • Focused meditation
  • Movement meditation
  • Mantra meditation
  • Transcendental meditation
  • Progressive relaxation
  • Loving kindness meditation
  • Visualization meditation

Focused meditation, specifically, is the practice of focusing on one single object for the duration of the practice. How this differs from other meditation styles is that it gives the practitioner something tangible to do: focus. It’s almost like giving your mind an action to perform—listen to this sound, repeat these words, watch this flame, etc. This is also one of the reasons why this particular meditation style is great for beginners!

One of the biggest challenges in any meditation practice is that the mind gets carried away and we lose ourselves to random thoughts. This “obstacle” is actually a style of meditation in and of itself called Vipassana.[4] However, in focused meditation, we give the mind something to do so that it’s not simply left to its own devices. This type of meditation is beneficial for beginners and for practitioners who prefer some structure and guidance to their meditations.

The Benefits of Focused Meditation

In this style of meditation, what you’re really doing is exercising your mental muscles. Your brain is highly affected by dedicated and concentrated meditation practice.

Scientists have performed countless studies on focused meditation and have found that active meditators have more gray matter volume in their brain and, therefore, offsetting the cognitive decline that comes with aging. So, not only does practicing focused meditation help you learn how to focus better on certain tasks, but it also improves similar functions, such as memory. [5]

Likewise, it helps in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, which our society is currently crippled with.[6] By settling your attention on an object, you are essentially building your ability to observe your thoughts and sensations from a place of objectivity. This allows you to detach from negative self-talk that is often the breeding ground for depression and other mental illnesses.

Advertising

From a guided meditation for focus to practicing it yourself, daily meditation for focus comes with several benefits:

  • It’ll reduce stress
  • Help you to control anxiety
  • Enhance your self-awareness
  • Improve attention span
  • Helps you to focus on the present moment
  • Increase your creativity and imagination
  • And boost your patience and tolerance for things.

How to Practice Focused Meditation

Here are six tips to help you practice focused meditation. Based on your availability and interest, these tips may change and evolve. That’s the point: to create a structured practice that caters to your needs.

1. Find a Comfortable Seat

As with any meditation practice, comfort is truly key. The physical body responds to meditation practice by alerting you to whether it is comfortable and supported or stressed out and in pain. This is best observed in practitioners who tend to slouch and lose the tall, supported spine that is essential to meditation practice.

A simple rule in meditative sitting is to ensure that your hips are higher than your knees. Therefore, choosing to sit in a chair instead of on the floor may be a smart decision or perhaps propping yourself up on a cushion. For meditation techniques overall, it does not matter how you sit. All that matters is that you are supported and comfortable sitting for some time.

2. Choose Your Object of Focus

Every meditation training session is going to be different because no single day is the same for any one person. Therefore, experienced meditators know that choosing an object is more about listening to what you need at this time versus following any doctrine or “rule.”

If you’re not sure and have a hard time deciding, make focusing on your breath and pay attention to the inhale and exhale is a good option. Then, assign each inhale and exhale a number, and once you reach 10, start over. This is one of the simpler methods of keeping your mind occupied—by giving it a task. This also trains your mind, and over time and with practice, your mind will easily focus on an object without too much effort.

Advertising

3. Set Your Desired Time or “Go With the Flow”

If you have a structured routine and would like to stick to your schedule, by all means, set a gentle timer for how long you’d like your meditation to be. This is also your opportunity to throw out the notion that any meditation has to be a certain length of time to be correct—it does not.

Likewise, if you have the time, you can also listen to your body and come out of your meditation when you feel it’s right to do so. This is often a beautiful practice of listening and tuning in.

4. Relax Your Body as You Focus on Your Meditation

Typically, when we are focusing on something, we tend to tighten our body. Observe this next time that you’re concentrating on something: your jaw will tighten and your shoulders will squeeze up towards your ears.

As you sink into your meditation, keep this in mind and check in with your body every once in a while. Let your shoulders sink down your back and release any tension through your jaw and face. Lastly, relax your brow and let your eyes be heavy in their sockets. Then, return to your object of meditation. Observe if your meditation changes at all by relaxing your physical body.

5. Return to Your Breath and Object When You Get Distracted

Notice that I didn’t say “if you get distracted.” That’s because you definitely will drift off with random thoughts or get pulled away from your object of focus. In meditation, distractions are almost guaranteed. Therefore, it’s your opportunity to practice detaching yourself from feeling guilty or inadequate to continue.

Over time and with practice, you will find it easier to stay with your object of focus. In the meantime, however, notice when you get distracted. Pause and take a big breath in and out. Check in with your physical body and relax. Once you’re ready again, return to your object of focus. Meditation is simply one long cycle of wandering and coming back to yourself.

Advertising

6. Journal Your Experiences

When your meditation practice has ended, another powerful practice is to jot down any experiences that you felt. There may have been insights and “downloads” that you acquired during your session that you may want to record.

Likewise, you could write about any challenges that you faced. These are great lessons that will continue to show up for you, and it’s nice to keep a journal of them to see how they evolve and progress over time (and they will). Lastly, you can write about what works and what doesn’t, as far as picking your objects of meditation go. This way, you can learn what you most associate with and feel comfortable with.

While these steps are simple, it’s easier said than done. Whether you’re starting out with a guided meditation for focus, loving kindness meditation, or transcendental meditation, anticipating failure the first time you try these things is healthy. Furthermore, congratulate yourself for even making slight progress like noticing and returning to the present moment and noticing the sensations you experienced.

Final Thoughts

If practicing meditation causes you to feel distracted and unsupported, give focused meditation a go! With the help of an object to bring your attention to, it structures your meditation time and offers guidance and support.

Dedicating yourself to this style of meditation will help increase your memory, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote better cognitive function. Even though any style of meditation is a powerful way of taking care of your mental health, focused meditation gives your mind a tangible task with which to grow and strengthen.

More About Focused Meditation

Featured photo credit: Lua Valentia via unsplash.com

Advertising

Reference

Read Next