How to Thrive Despite Your Depression
Depression is a highly treatable mental health condition. However, even with treatment, it's easy to fall into self-defeating behaviors without realizing it. Here's how to be productive despite the pitfalls of depression.
Behavior: Low energy
How to beat it: Engage in physical activity
Physical activity is a powerful tool for combating depression. It boosts your energy, stimulates your immune system, improves your sense of self, and releases feel-good hormones. Even better? Exercising outdoors. Sunshine lifts your spirits and studies show that regularly engaging with nature decreases the risk of mental illness and has positive effects on mental health.
Behavior: Withdrawing from friends and family
How to beat it: Make dates
Depression creates feelings of withdrawals and disinterest in being with others. Social isolation intensifies depression and can make you feel embarrassed about not being in control of your life. Make specific plans on specific dates to be with someone, says psychologist and clinical social worker LeslieBeth Wish, EDD, MSS. Ask someone who knows what you are going through to tell family and friends to make plans with you, or make a pact with yourself that you will call at least one friend a week. Wish says another trick to get you out of the house is to schedule appointments in different weeks.
Behavior: Eating unhealthy foods in excess
How to beat it: Take care of yourself
Get plenty of sleep each night, eat regularly, and consume a healthy diet. Poor nutrition may contribute to depression and mood swings or mood disorders. Eat smaller, frequent meals and snacks that emphasize complex carbohydrates (such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains), lean proteins, healthy fats, and non-starchy vegetables. Significantly limit your intake of sugars and refined carbohydrates.
Behavior: Self-medicating with drugs or alcohol
How to beat it: Do things you used to enjoy
Trying to make yourself feel better by self-medicating doesn't work. What does? Engaging in an activity that you enjoy. HelpGuide.org suggests developing a wellness toolbox. Make a list of things that you can do for a quick mood boost, such as spending time in nature, reading a good book, watching a funny movie or TV show, writing in a journal, or playing with your pet.
Behavior: Ruminating on negative thoughts
How to beat it: Meditate
According to Deepak Chopra, MD, depression has an addictive component. We become accustomed to responding a certain way to outside triggers (for example, feeling helpless or hopeless). In other words, once you start having a depressive response to a trigger, it reinforces the next response. It becomes a habit and the brain forms fixed pathways. Chopra says evidence suggests you can transform your brain through meditation.
Melinda Smith, M.A., Joanna Saisan, M.S.W., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. "Depression Symptoms & Warning Signs." HelpGuide.org, last updated June 2013.
Melinda Smith, M.A., Robert Segal, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. "Dealing with Depression." last updated June 2013.
Deepak Chopra. "How to Heal from Depression." Oprah.com, January 13, 2010
Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. "Stepping Outdoors Boosts Mood, Self-Esteem." Psychology Today. May 11 2010.
Jo Barton and Jules Pretty. "What is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health? A Multi-Study Analysis." Environmental Science and Technology 44 (2010): 3947-3955, accessed July 19, 2013
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