Being depressed is painful and debilitating. An estimated 10 per cent of adults in the United States suffer from symptoms of depression each year, resulting in family strife, loss of work productivity, and misery for the person affected by the condition and those around them.
While getting professional medical help for depression is always a good idea, especially if the condition is severe, there are also many non-medical solutions a person can take on their own to reduce symptoms of depression. Many therapists and doctors advise that depressed patients take steps like these, along with counselling and medication.
Here are nine ways a depressed person can engage in self-help to overcome or reduce the symptoms of mild to moderate depression.
Get Some Exercise
Many scientific studies on depression find that exercise is as useful for relieving mild to moderate depression as medication. Exercise has multiple positive benefits beyond helping with depression symptoms such as improved cardiovascular health, weight loss, and reduced risk for developing many chronic diseases.
It can be quite challenging to exercise when feeling depressed, so it is best to start small and do something enjoyable. Taking a short walk each day, doing ten minutes of calisthenics at home, or putting on some music and dancing are all suitable types of exercise for reducing depression.
Challenge Negative Thoughts
When someone is depressed, they often engage in negative thinking. Thoughts such as, “I’m a failure,” “No one likes me,” or “I’ll always feel this way,” are common in a depressed person’s mind. Negative thoughts like these become an unconscious habit, reinforcing the feeling of depression.
A simple solution is challenging negative thoughts with positive thinking. For example, a challenge to the idea “I’ll always feel this way.” might be, “How do I know that?” or by thinking of a time when you did feel differently about life.
Regularly Eat Wholesome Foods
When a person is depressed, they often tend to eat poorly. Sugary, salty, and high-fat junk food can bring a temporary feeling of comfort, but ultimately these foods cause spikes in blood sugar, and weight gain, and bring on bad moods.
The solution is finding wholesome foods you like, making sure you have plenty on hand, and eating these foods every day. Fresh fruit, salads, lean meats, oily fish such as salmon, and whole-grain bread are all good options, as long as you do not have a food allergy or another adverse reaction to the food.
Get Adequate Sleep
Both depression and anxiety can contribute to insomnia, which could include difficulty falling and staying asleep. Making changes in your routine may help with getting a more restful sleep throughout the night.
Drink Plenty of Water
Water is essential for all bodily functions. Drinking an adequate amount of water daily assists the body in removing toxins, improves the function of internal organs, and even enhances clear thinking.
Make a Change in Routine
When a person is depressed, they often get into a routine that reinforces the symptoms of depression. For example, a depressed person may get up, go to work, come home, watch the same shows on TV each night, and then binge on unhealthy foods before going to bed. A schedule like this can keep a person feeling bad about themselves.
Get a Routine
For some depressed people, the problem is not having enough of a routine and structure to their day. In this case, establishing a more structured routine can be of benefit in alleviating the symptoms of depression.
Building a healthy new routine can be simple. For example, simply getting up and getting dressed in the morning rather than lounging around in pyjamas is a small, but potentially significant change to daily habits.
Laughing is another method for increasing dopamine in the brain. Sitting down and watching comedy shows or movies, reading jokes, laughing with others, or merely thinking about amusing things that result in laughter can all boost dopamine levels and help with symptoms of depression.
Help Someone Else
There is a strong tendency when we are depressed to become self-absorbed. Our problems loom large in our minds, adding to the feeling of being overwhelmed. A simple solution is to do something helpful for another person or to take care of a pet animal.