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15 Practical Ideas to Help with Depression

Posted Jun 08 2009 7:08am

Most people will go through at least one bout of depression during their lifetime, some will have several such periods, and other folks, due to genetic predisposition or because of certain adverse environmental factors in the present or past, will deal with depression on a more constant basis. Depression can be defined as a psychiatric disorder characterized by an inability to concentrate, insomnia, loss of appetite, feelings of extreme sadness, guilt, helplessness and hopelessness, and sometimes accompanied by thoughts of death as a final means of peace and tranquility. People who are depressed usually experience a lack of interest in things which normally interest them; a lack of desire to do things which they normally enjoy. While it is normal for people to feel this way for a short period of time - day or two perhaps - if these feelings stretch beyond a day to a week and from a week to a month and longer, they will undoubtedly tamper with an individual’s ability to function and could potentially have adverse long term effects.

If you believe that you or someone you love is suffering from depression, it is time to act. In no way does this article intend to discount the benefits of professional counseling and prescription drug therapy. If you or someone you know has been seriously depressed for more than a month with no signs of alleviation, it is probably time to seek professional help of some sort. And if you or someone you know has had serious thoughts about suicide - thinking of ways to commit suicide, writing suicide notes, etc. - be brave and tell someone about it right now. It might be difficult, but please allow that someone to help you, or to find someone else who might be more qualified to help.

However, there are also a great number of things you can do to help break out of a depressed state - before seeking additional professional help and/or prescription drug treatment or in addition to these. Here is my list of 15 great natural cures for depression:

 

1.Exercise
2. Eat healthy
3. Drink more water
4. Get some sun
5. Smile
6. Laugh
7. Switch it up/get enough sleep
8. Intentionally engage in things you like to do
9. Intentionally spend time with friends
10. Do something for someone else
11. Start a new hobby
12. Memorize something
13. Take a trip
14. Choose cheerful media
15. Set yourself a certain period of time

 

1.Exercise

One way to get yourself feeling better is to get out and do something physical. Exercise is good for your mood for a number of reasons. For one thing, working out improves your body’s natural functioning. You breathe easier, sleep better, have more energy. Your digestive system works better and with an increased metabolism you can either eat more or - if this is something you desire - you could potentially lose weight. Which leads to reason number 2 that exercise can help with depression: It can help you look better, which in turn often helps you feel better. Looks aren’t everything, and I’m not saying you should base your self-esteem on how you look, but lets face it, if you’re overweight and you happen to lose some weight and add some muscle tone, you’re going to feel good about it. Exercise also can improve your skin, making you look healthier and younger. Exercise will also help you feel better because it triggers the release of your body’s natural happy drugs - endorphins. And the harder you work, the more endorphins you get. Heard of the runner’s high? It’s not a myth, let me tell you. So pick your poison (a bad metaphor) and get some exercise. Try running, there’s little skill involved and you can do it anywhere and anytime (even as a college runner I would sometimes run in the middle of the night). Or biking, on the road or the trail - and while we’re thinking of trails, try hiking. Or walking. Just walk. If you like being around people, you can go to the gym and lift weights - or join a class, aerobics or spinning or circuit training. Many areas have adult rec leagues for basketball, soccer, hockey, or softball. Join the local swim club - or the master’s swim club. There’s a great diversity in the sporting world, and your new favorite sport is just waiting for you to find it (I think it might be in-line skating - extreme style!).

2. Eat healthy

People make excuses about eating healthy all the time: It’s too expensive. It takes too much time/work. Healthy food is gross/it tastes like eating hamster food. Only granola hippies eat healthy. Come on, do people really eat vegetables? Well I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to eat vegetables to eat healthy! Just kidding, but you don’t have to eat only vegetables to eat healthy. Eating healthy is all about getting variety into your diet - and I’m not talking about alternating between salty and sugary snacks. I’m talking about the food pyramid. You might not eat exactly the amount of servings of each of the types of food on the food pyramid, but the FDA was onto something when they devised that old thing. If you don’t eat many fruits or vegetables, try eating a bit more; and if you don’t eat any, try eating one or two servings of each every day. Try eating less pre-packaged foods. If you eat out frequently for work, pack your lunch a few times a week. You might feel silly unpacking your PB+J, but you’ll feel better if you take healthy eating seriously. One of the most important things to consider when it comes to switching to a healthier diet is to make sure you do it at a sustainable level. When you first change over, it will take a while for your body to get used to it. You might be a bit more tired for a while, and you will get cravings for your favorite unhealthy foods. Stick with it, and if you have a bad eating day or week, don’t give up on eating healthier. It’s ok to indulge from time to time. Perhaps you can set up a system of rewarding yourself with a favorite desert or something of the sort.

3. Drink more water

It turns out that many people who are chronically depressed are also chronically dehydrated. Many clinicians report that one of the best cures for people with mild depression is getting more sleep and drinking more water. When you get hungry before dinnertime, have a tall glass of water (this is also a good way to help if you’re trying to cut back on calories). When you snack throughout the day, make sure you drink something with it. If you won’t drink water, make sure that you have a supply of a favorite beverage - so long as that beverage doesn’t contain alcohol or caffeine, as those both can cause dehydration.

4. Get some sun

I grew up in Colorado and went to college in western Michigan. I had heard of this thing called Seasonal Affective Disorder, where people who don’t get much sun become depressed. I always wondered what it was all about, because on the Front Range in CO we get like 320 days of sunshine a year. Well, Grand Rapids has about half that, and the depressive effect of cloudy weeks and months turns out to be quite real. I myself was affected by it, but I also met people who were from that area - who had grown up there - who found there to be serious mental health benefits to escaping and getting some sun (this jibes well with tip number 13!). If you live somewhere where the sum rarely comes out for weeks at a time, perhaps you should consider using a sun lamp. Again, there is a secondary reason why getting some sun might make you feel better - and that is because it might help you look better. Having a nice tan can help you look more fit and healthy. However, it is important to use caution in the sun. Applying sunscreen is a hassle sometimes, but getting a sunburn is a much worse than a hassle. And even worse than the sunburn itself is the increase in risk of getting skin cancer at some point in your life that accompanies getting a bad sunburn.

5. Smile

When you’re depressed, you don’t always feel like smiling - and you don’t have to all the time. However, it is a good idea to try to remind yourself to smile sometimes. There is an internal effect from smiling in that studies show smiling, even when you don’t feel like smiling, tends to improve your mood. There is also an external effect: When you smile, people respond to you more positively, which in turn tends to lift your own personal mood.

6. Laugh

Like smiling, laughing is not usually what one feels like doing when in the grips of depression. But again, like smiling, it is something from which you may benefit from forcing yourself to do. (OK maybe you can’t really force yourself to laugh, but you can put do things that may make laughter more likely…) There was a big deal a couple years back when some studies showed that people who laugh more recover more quickly from illness or injury - laughter is a natural medicine that works on whatever ails you (except broken ribs, maybe). Try watching a funny movie featuring someone who never fails to get you laughing, or read a humorous book (like Letters from a Nut, which was probably created by Jerry Seinfeld). Pick up a Reader’s Digest and read the joke pages, check out the comic page in the paper, watch David Letterman’s monologue, or try to catch President Bush at a press conference on CSPAN - I love President Bush, but I must admit that he is a bit funny to listen to sometimes.

7. Switch it up/get enough sleep

So I ought to mention now that if you aren’t getting enough sleep, it will probably be easier to break out of depression once you are well rested. However, there might be a point at which you are sleeping too much and it starts to make you lethargic or it interferes with your ability to do the things that you need to do. Another idea regarding sleep is to try switching your schedule around. If you don’t have to get up for work or school in the morning, try consistently getting up at an earlier hour anyway. Or if you normally wake up early for work or school, try getting up an hour earlier and engaging in some responsible or meaningful activities of some sort, such doing yard work or housework, practicing an instrument, or reading an important piece of literature. If you’re getting up earlier in the morning, try going to sleep earlier.

8. Intentionally engage in things you like to do One of the classic signs of depression is that you aren’t as interested in the activities which you are normally interested in. A good way to break out of this apathy is to force yourself to continue doing some of the activities that you normally enjoy. It can help you to remember that you really do enjoy some things as well as give a small bit of added purpose to your life.

9. Intentionally spend time with friends

This is something that you might have to make yourself do, but if you do, you won’t regret it. When you’re depressed, its easy to think, “Why doesn’t anybody ever call me? Nobody loves me…” But part of the reason might be that you haven’t seemed like you want to spend time with friends lately. You don’t call them, and when you do see them you’re all kinds of apathetic. Try reaching out a little bit - or tell your friends how you’re feeling and let them know that its hard to make an effort at socializing at the moment. “But I don’t have anyone to call,” you might complain, “because I don’t have any friends…” If this is really true - and there are few people for whom it truly is - then it’s no wonder you’re depressed and high time to join a club of some sort, of the social or sporting or any other type so long as its not one that you only participate in through the internet.

10. Do something for someone else

Almost everybody enjoys the feeling of having accomplished something, and that feeling is twice as sweet you have done something for someone else. I’m not suggesting that the right reason to help people is the make yourself feel good, but I don’t think it is necessarily a wrong reason to help people. If your were intentionally helping them to take advantage and exploit them in some way - that would be wrong. Even helping with the expectation of receiving some sort of tangible reward, which could be as simple as a word of thanks, could leave you jaded and desiring something more because not everyone is vocally grateful for the help they receive. Doing something for someone else could be babysitting, or helping them with yard work, getting them a present. But doing something for someone else doesn’t necessarily have to be a significant effort or expense. It could be writing a note of encouragement to someone or inviting them over for dinner, or sometimes even asking someone to help you with something is doing something for that person if they desire to help out but aren‘t sure if they may. Everyone loves to feel loved and needs to feel needed and helping others feel loved or needed oftentimes helps you feel loved and needed as well.

11. Start a new hobby It has already been mentioned that at the end of the day, it you can say that you accomplished something you will probably feel more satisfied. Here is something else you can do to get that feeling. Try painting or gardening or cooking. Learning how to do something new and doing it well is almost always a rewarding experience. And it might make you a more interesting person, which might mean that people will be drawn to you in conversation and whatnot.

12. Memorize something

Memorizing something cool also gives a sense of accomplishment. It also occupies your mind in a way that is different from most other things. If you spend a significant amount of effort trying to memorize something, it will be in your head not just when you’re thinking about it, but it will truly begin to affect the way that you think. For this reason, memorization is a powerful but dangerous tool. If you choose to memorize, choose carefully. But there really are so many great things to memorize: Poems, speeches, songs, scriptures, facts. And as with many of the items on this list, there is an external benefit also: Having cool stuff memorized has some good potential to make you the life of the party, not to mention quite possibly having the potential to rock your love life in a very good way.

13. Take a trip

This is an especially good option if you find some friends to go with you. Sometimes a change in scenery allows you to leave your feelings behind - almost as though you are a completely different person.

14. Choose cheerful media

Some of the Emo bands I like are a bit depressing, and I’m a sucker for the Russian romantic movement composers. But I know that if I listen to too much sad/emotional music, it will start to make me sad/emotional, which is kind of fun for a while, but not for a long while. This is advice that we have all been getting from our mothers our whole lives long, but it is sound advice: What you put in your head really does affect the way that you think and act. If you watch all violent movies, you probably begin to have some violent thoughts. If you only watch reality TV, you might start thinking more and more like a redneck. And if you only partake of sad music and depressing romantic comedies (not everyone finds them depressing I suppose…) you just aren’t setting yourself up to snap out of a depressed phase.

15. Set yourself a certain period of time

This seems a bit strange, but it can really work. Tell yourself that you’re allowed to feel depressed for a while, but it is not going to last very long. If you get in a funk one day, tell yourself that you won’t be in that funk tomorrow. If you realize you have been depressed for a week or a couple weeks, decide that it is time for your depression to end and then end it. You might not always do well by your goals, but setting goals at least shows yourself that you want out. If you want out - and you really want it - there is no earthly reason why you shouldn’t get out.

Conclusions
There are many other things that people consider natural cures for depression. Getting a haircut, spending time with animals, or holding a baby, all for examples. Sometimes breaking out of depression can be done using by making an effort and using these natural cures, and sometimes if takes the additional help of counseling and/or medication. I hope that if you or someone you love is suffering from depression right now you are willing to be brave and take a step towards the sunlight - and these natural cures are a great place to start. To seek additional natural and herbal solution, simply visit the Help for Depression page and explore the possibilities!

 

 

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