When you or someone you love is suffering from depression, there are many things you can do over time to raise your mood, increase your self-esteem, and feel happier and more satisfied. I think it is very important to learn what works for you. Whether it is improving a “down day” or crawling out of a serious depressive episode, it helps to know what you can to do feel better.
Regular Exercise Changes your Mood
When I was “down” and also when I suffered from clinical depression I found the most helpful action was to get up in the morning and jog. We know from research that regular exercise is some of the best medicine for depression. Begin a weekly 5 or 6 day regimen of walking, swimming, biking, dancing or some other form of movement.
Discover and Do the Things that make you Feel Better
Another thing I like to do which always makes me feel better is to spend some time in nature. Listening to running water in a stream; enjoying the butterflies, dragon flies and humming birds; soaking in the warmth of the sunshine; breathing in the smells of rain; and watching a magnificent sunset in awe, fill me up and are all ways I can easily lift my spirits.
Take Small Steps to Accomplish Things Daily
The depressed person needs to feel a sense of accomplishment. Often that means doing small things, often much less than what they are used to doing when feeling normal. When you are really depressed, just getting up each morning, taking a shower and putting on clean clothes is a big deal and takes effort. If each day you also do some small chore, like cleaning out and reorganizing two dresser drawers, or one pantry shelf will give you a sense of accomplishment. Start with small steps and each day go on to something just a little longer or larger.
Don’t Isolate – Get Social Support and Do Activities
It is also important to have social support. Don’t isolate yourself. Taking to a friend, having lunch with someone, or doing an activity with a family member will help your mood. If you have activities that give you pleasure under normal circumstances, push yourself to do them – see a ball game, play tennis, golf, work out at the gym, do needlepoint, quilt, and take a class in glass blowing or French cooking.
To me there is nothing as wonderful as reading a good book. Perhaps something like The Book Thief or The Paris Wife would suit you. Maybe reading one of The Hundred Great Books, something in a How to… series, or I and Thou would be your preference. Whatever the genre, read a good book. Watch a great movie. Play board games or games on your phone or computer. Remember to share it with a friend and talk about it.
You Will Not “Snap Out of It” – Depression Takes Time to Recover
Find your interests and begin to pursue them, no matter how difficult it seems. When depressed, you have to push yourself to do everything. Eventually, one day, it will be fun. It will just sneak up on you when you are least expecting it. So, in the meantime, all of these suggestions are like medicine: take your prescription daily and weekly. Remember that recovery takes time.
Turn Your Thinking from Negative to Positive
I also would recommend you journal when trying to get out of depression. Capture your thoughts and feelings. Explore what you are experiencing and look at the core beliefs you are telling yourself. Pay attention to the negative beliefs and turn them into something positive – reframe them and learn to interpret things differently.
Write and Share Your Gratitude List Almost Daily
Take stock of the blessings you have. Write about your accomplishments and feel the recognition and joy of your successes. Check if there is something missing in your life-some misdirection, perhaps something engaging, or perhaps something meaningful. At the end of the day write about three to five things for which you are grateful. Do your gratitude list several times a week while you feel depressed and it will shorten your time to happiness.
Do Daily with Family – 3 Good Things that Happened Today and Why
Look at the good things that happen each day, share them at dinner time and talk about why they are good. That helps you to take credit or give credit, depending. This exercise also helps for family sharing and positive conversation.
Do Acts of Kindness Weekly
By all means, if you are depressed do good things for others. Help out more at home. Cook a good meal for your family. Do little favors for others. Teach a Sunday School class. Deliver food to a shut in. Read or play a musical instrument for older people. Volunteer in a hospital or for a children’s program. Become an advocate for those in need. Get out of your negative self-thinking and move into loving acts of kindness for others. Research shows that taking one day a week and doing several things for others helps more than spreading it out over the week.
Set Goals for Yourself and Take Action
I have given you ideas for an action plan. Write a plan for yourself and record your successes daily. If you are monitoring yourself you will have much better self-control. And you will need it to come out of depression. It is nothing to take 6 months to 2 years to get to a happy successful place in your mood and life.
The Two Solutions to Depression: Do Psychotherapy and Take Medication
121 million people worldwide are experiencing some form of depression right now. Get yourself out of that number. If you are feeling yourself sliding into some form of depression, get help fast. Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) are two forms of psychotherapy that will help. For more serious depression, taking a prescribed form of antidepressant medication will also help. The two together have the best results for adults and teens.
If you or a loved one needs help with some form of depression, email or call me at 702-242-4222.