Living Your Life While Dealing With Depression
By Sarah Fader
Updated December 06, 2018
Reviewer Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC
Depression affects millions of people in every country around the world. Because of this, many people have developed resources to help people who are experiencing symptoms of depression. These include watching uplifting movies, improving diet and exercise, talking with a friend, or removing oneself from stressful situations.
The best way to deal with depression may be different from individual to individual. This article will give you some tips and ideas for dealing with depression; however, you might find that some of these tips, advice, and inspiring quotes will work for you and others don't. Make a note of what does work and what doesn't so you can reference them later. Although depression can reduce your motivation to do things, trying something new might be the best remedy. Read on for suggestions on ways to deal with depression.
Natural Ways to Deal with Depression
For some people, the idea of non-natural solutions (i.e. taking medication) is a big deterrent from seeking professional help for depression. Speaking with a health professional does not necessarily mean that they will recommend that you take medication. They certainly cannot force you to do so, and you always have the right to say 'no'. If you are still hesitant about seeking professional help, the following natural ways to alleviate depression might be helpful for you:
- Think about why you might be depressed: This involves recalling if you have recently experienced any traumatic events, and thinking back on your recent moods, health habits, and thoughts. Journaling may additionally be helpful for you if you have a hard time recalling the reasons for your symptoms (a common symptom of depression), and want to track your moods over time.
- Eat in a timely manner: Overeating is a common symptom associated with depression. Taking control of your eating by consuming 3 healthy meals a day will not only stop a vicious cycle if you are beating yourself up for overeating, it will also provide your body and brain with important nutrients.
- Avoid caffeine (if you have anxiety in addition to depression): There is no clear link between consuming caffeine and depression; however, if you experience symptoms of anxiety in addition to depression, caffeine may be worsening these symptoms. Some people have suggested cutting down on caffeine, but slowly. Cutting caffeine all at once may worsen depression symptoms until your body adjusts.
- Talk with someone: If loneliness is worsening your symptoms of depression, talking with someone may help. This may be a family member, friend, therapist, or a stranger. Most people know someone with depression, and will not judge you for experiencing symptoms. If they do, find someone else who will listen and not judge you.
- Be compassionate to yourself: This means accepting that you are struggling and that you need to take care of yourself. Also, improve how you talk to and think about yourself. Imagine what you would say to a loved one who is feeling depressed, and use this language to talk to yourself. You'll likely notice that there is a large difference between the two.
4 Scientifically Backed Ways to Improve Mood
In helping to improve mood, scientists have found ways to increase happiness and ward off negative mood. You might find that giving these a try may work wonders in relieving your symptoms. Whether they help or not, these methods should not be substituted for speaking with a mental health professional. However, one suggestion is to try these and then tell your mental health professional which did or did not work for you, and how you felt while trying them.
The last thing most people want to do when they are depressed is to go outside and run. However, science has shown not only that people who exercise are less depressed, but also that starting to exercise can help alleviate depression in people who are already depressed. If you are like many people who experience symptoms of depression, you might also have anxiety. Engaging in exercise is a great strategy for dealing with anxiety and depression.
Researchers recommend that getting any form of exercise that increases your heart rate is beneficial. Some things you can do are swim, bike, lift weights, walk, or really anything that gets you moving. But if you haven't exercised in a while, start slow. Jasper Smits, a researcher at the University of Dallas, notes, "It may take a longer course of exercise to alleviate mood disorders such as anxiety or depression, but the immediate effects are tangible." Although you might not feel immediately better, long-term exercise might help you to alleviate symptoms.
Get into Nature
Several studies have demonstrated that getting into nature can help alleviate symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety. One study found that, "people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area, as opposed to participants who walked in a high-traffic urban setting, showed decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression." The study also found participants in nature had lower levels of anxiety as well.
You may be thinking, "I live in a crowded city. What do I do?" Today, many people live in crowded cities where nature is hard to find. However, these studies have found that any nature, whether it is a city park, a community garden, a forest, or a tree in a backyard, can help people to relax and feel happier. If you can, try to get away from populated areas. Take a train, car, or bus to a local park, forest, or beach for a few hours or a day.
Additionally, if you are struggling with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), you might be lacking in your exposure to the sun. Getting outside and soaking up the sun for at least 30 minutes a day has been shown to alleviate symptoms of mild depression, especially in winter months.
Practice Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation (or just mindfulness) has been shown by many researchers to calm the mind and help many people dealing with depression and anxiety. Mindfulness is the act of paying attention to your present thoughts, feelings, and sensations rather than dwelling on the past. Importantly, the act requires you to accept the present and not pass judgment on your thoughts or emotions. This is helpful for breaking the negative cyclical thought patterns you might be having while feeling depressed.
Although it is possible to train yourself to practice mindfulness meditation, most researchers suggest training with someone who can help you develop proper techniques. If you do want to give it a shot on your own, this article on psychologytoday.com can help you get started. Additionally, if you want to combine some of the benefits of mindfulness and exercise, yoga may be a good option for you. Yoga involves focusing on your breath, not passing judgment on yourself, and engaging in restorative exercise at your own pace.
Smiling has been shown to improve mood. This idea is not new. In 1872, Charles Darwin wrote, "The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it." However, what has been more newly discovered is that faking a smile can improve mood as well. Of course, feeling down and depressed may make smiling difficult. Although it sounds silly, one study found that participants who forced themselves to smile by biting on a pencil (use your teeth, not your lips) experienced greater confidence and improvement in mood.
Other tips for forcing yourself to smile and laugh include watching a funny movie, listening to a comedy podcast, or searching online for funny websites. Although this may not work for you immediately, sometimes finding the humor in things can help. Additionally, many comedians report being depressed, and using their comedy to cope with their depression.
Dealing with Depression in College
Once the excitement of moving to a new place has worn off, many college students feel depressed. College can be a time of little sleep, high social and academic expectations, financial stress, poor eating habits, substance abuse, and little exercise. If you are experiencing any of these, the first step may be to address these issues. Make time to go to the gym or on a walk around campus; make better choices in the dining hall or learn to cook for yourself; cut back on drinking (your friends will likely not judge you). If you do these things, and still feel down, you should speak withspeak with someone about your symptoms.
Despite the in-house mental health resources colleges provide, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding depression and anxiety in colleges. Although college psychiatrists see many students, it is not clear how many other students are either unaware that they are depressed, or are not reporting symptoms of depression. Many students feel the need to 'put on a face', act like everything is okay, and hide that they are experiencing depression. Speaking discretely with a health professional online, for instance through betterhelp.com, may be an option that many college students will find comforting.
Dealing with Depression Quotes
Sometimes having a reminder that you are not dealing with depression alone can help you to feel less lonely, and give you a sense that you can make it through this day or week. The following quotes are by people who have struggled or are struggling with depression. These quotes have helped people feel more uplifted. Write down your favorite ones and put them somewhere where you can read them everyday.
- "Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy." -Thich Nhat Hanh
- "Once you choose hope, anything is possible." -Christopher Reeve
- "If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person." -Fred Rogers
- "If you're going through Hell, keep going." -Winston Churchill
- "Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them - every day begin the task anew." -Saint Francis de Sales
Speak with a Health Professional
Whether these tips worked for you or not, it is important to speak with someone who has experience with helping people alleviate their symptoms of depression. If you have tried anything mentioned in this article, let a health professional know what did and did not work for you. If you feel nervous about speaking to someone in person, or it is inconvenient for you, speaking with a mental health professional online might be the best option for you. Betterhelp.com has many reputable therapists with years of experience. Getting the proper help and counseling is a great way to manage depression in your daily life.