Ten things to do to feel better when you’re depressed

tenthingsI thought I’d share some of the things I do when I know my depression is creeping up on me. They won’t apply to everyone and everyone’s experience with depression is unique, but if there are two or three things on this list that you find work for you that’s great! I also want to hear from others about what they do to either stop depressing feelings in their tracks or to try and climb out of a hole when they feel depressed.

10) Go for a walk or a hike Now this isn’t always an option if you’re feeling bad during work or if there’s a hurricane raging outside, but I find that just getting outside and going around the block usually makes me feel a little bit better. And the good news is, there’s evidence that even this kind of low-level activity is good for you- “A study published in 2005 found that walking fast for about 35 minutes a day five times a week or 60 minutes a day three times a week had a significant influence on mild to moderate depression symptoms.” Really, any exercise is good.

9) Practice Mindfulness This is one I’ve discovered is extremely helpful to me when I feel depressed. I find a few quiet moments to center my mind over my breathing- and as I slow down I can look at my thoughts in a little different light. I notice that depressing thoughts are just that- thoughts- and not necessarily a reflection of fact. Regular mindfulness meditation can make it easier for you to put yourself in a mindful place during negative times, so consider practicing mindfulness when you’re feeling good so that you develop your skills for when you need them.

8) Break your routine I find sometimes that if I’m depressed I’ll end up on the couch watching Netflix for hours at a time, or sitting at my computer going down a wikihole for hours. If you feel like you’re depressed and in a rut like that, break the routine. Leave the house for a bit, even if it’s just to run out and grab a cup of coffee. You’ll feel a little bit better for getting out of the house, seeing people and for the hour you spent not sitting on the couch.

7) Take a shower and put on clean clothes Especially if you’re planning on leaving the house. Believe me, I know it can be comfortable to lie in bed all morning and stay in my flannel pajama pants and tshirt all day. But getting up and taking a shower and putting on clean clothes is the first step to telling yourself you’re taking positive steps to not give in to the depression and inactivity.

6) Do some chores Kind of like breaking the routine, but it’s a way to stay productive. Do some laundry, the dishes, maybe vacuum a little. It seems like a small thing, but it’s time that you’re spending to make your living space a little better, and even if you don’t end up leaving the house, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment for getting things done.

5) Talk to a friend or family member Call someone up on the phone, start a chat or text conversation. Ask them what they’re up to. Just a friendly voice can sometimes cheer me up- sometimes they’ll be able to tell you a story or a joke that will make you smile or make you laugh, and you’ll feel a little bit better.

4) Find something you can identify with What do I mean? One of the worst things about depression and feeling depressed is the sense that nobody knows what you’re going through and feeling alone with your struggle. While everyone has unique experiences with mental health and depression, there are a lot of commonalities in symptoms, anxieties and feelings. Two things that I find I strongly identified with and made me say “Yes, I am not alone, these people get it!” were Allie Brosh’s web comics on depression and Stephen Fry’s letter “It Will Be Sunny One Day.” Check them both out, and if there are others you think are good, let me know in the comments.

alcoholflowchart3) Avoid drugs and alcohol This is sort of a negative thing-not-to-do but it’s my blog and I’m including it. I used to self medicate my depression and anxiety by getting drunk, and while it offered short term respite, it was no solution. I’ve created the handy flow chart to help explain what I mean. You feel bad (depressed, anxious, what have you). You get drunk and feel a little bit better- maybe even good- but then you wake up feeling sick, irritable and unproductive. And on top of that you didn’t actually do anything to address the underlying depression and anxiety, so you’re back to square one, but feeling even worse about it.

2) Do something to put yourself in a good mood It’s hard for me to be depressed when I’m laughing. While it may seem like the opposite of #8 in some ways, sitting down to watch a comedy or episodes of a sitcom can get me out of my funk. It’s almost like I can’t be depressed when I’m watching episodes of Seinfeld or a comedian’s special. While you still don’t want to end up on the couch all day, take an hour or two to enjoy something you know will make you laugh.

1) See a therapist This is a little different than just talking with a friend or family member (though that can be a great first step). A friend or family member may be a sympathetic listener but a professional therapist can help you understand your depression in a medical context and talk with you about treatment and management options. They may prescribe an anti-depressant, or cognitive behavior therapy, group sessions, etc. The point is that a therapist is a trained professional who can help you find the approach that works best for you and treating your situation.

What other tricks or management techniques do you use when you’re depressed? What am I missing and what do you want to know more about? Leave a comment!

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