Positive Steps to Help Deal With Depression
Depression: Not As Simple As It Sounds
For people who have never suffered through depression, it's easy to confuse merely feeling low with clinical depression. Depression is a collection of moods and other symptoms that are powerful, protracted and overwhelming. These symptoms will have a massive effect on the sufferer's day-to-day life.
They may no longer wish to take part in activities that they had previously found enjoyable, withdrawing slowly from social contact with friends and family.
They may have trouble sleeping, counting every minute as they lay awake in bed all night; or conversely they could spend the majority of their time in bed hiding from their mental demons.
Problems with concentration, focus and drive can take a massive hit, making everything seem harder to accomplish. This can further lower their opinion of themselves.
Negative thoughts surround them, enveloping them in a whirlwind of hate for themselves and their lives.
Physical symptoms of sickness and constant lethargy contribute to their lack of interest in getting up in the morning and socializing with others. These symptoms can also decrease the value they see in themselves.
If you know someone who feels depressed or fear you may suffer from depression yourself, there are myriad ways in which you can help. The first step is seeking help from professionals, but after that, what can you do to help either yourself or others? I'm going to lay out some positive steps that can help.
Exercise is linked with so many facets of depression that I cannot overemphasize exactly what a difference it can make. Exercise is proven to promote an increase in feel good chemicals called endorphins, this euphoric feeling is often referred to as "runners high" and it can be accompanied by a positive and energizing outlook on life.
Endorphins also behave in a similar way to morphine because they interact with receptors in your brain that reduce the intensity at which you feel pain. Endorphins are an analgesic. They lack the addictive aspect of morphine as well so all in all promoting them could only be a positive.
Exercise improves our bodies, how we look and how we feel. A positive self image can make a difference and exercise should always be your first stop if you are trying to improve yourself physically.
The type of exercise you choose to do is entirely up to you, as long as you are working up a sweat; be it cycling, jogging or even yard work, you are on the right track.
Talk About It
If you are fortunate enough to be surrounded by people who care about you, open up. Talk about what is on your mind, what is getting you down.
There is a lot of stigma attached to depression, you can feel weak and foolish for feeling the way you do. I can tell you this; depression is not a small matter, you are not weak for feeling depressed.
Open up to those that mean something to you, it will help and they will appreciate knowing why sometimes you do not seem yourself. They will be able to support you as you seek help and on your journey to getting better.
Keep A Journal
Taking the time to write down your emotions, thoughts and feelings is probably the safest outlet to let out all the negative you keep inside. Nobody will judge you because nobody but you can read it (unless you let them, of course).
If you can, dissect what you write. Tell yourself if you feel what you write is wrong, if in the cold light of day how you felt was justified or not. Self awareness is an amazing tool for combating depression and for changing negative thought patterns.
The power of faith, the feeling that you are part of something bigger and more wonderful than yourself, no matter how you define spirituality it is an amazing tool for positive thinking.
Whether it's spending time in nature, in prayer, meditating or in a religious setting how you define your spirituality doesn't really matter. What matters is how you feel about it.
With a positive grounding in spirituality you can come back to it anytime you feel lost or depressed and find comfort and peace.
Find What Makes You Happy
Be it exercise, family or even computer gaming, find time in your life for what makes you happy. The things that put a smile on our faces can sometimes be our only reasons for getting up in the morning.
Personally, I began writing only as a way to express myself as I was going through my own bout of depression. It was something that as a teenager I found gave me release, allowed me to express my thoughts and opinions in a coherent way and that I was satisfyingly good at.
Follow your passions, fill your time with happiness. Trust me, from my own experience I can tell you: It helps.
People who volunteer frequently report that they feel emotionally, intellectually and physically recharged after they help someone. Be it helping the old lady across the street in with her groceries or volunteering at the local shelter.
The sense of self fulfillment from helping others, the positive self image you gain in yourself from knowing you've made a difference; can turn a bad day into a good one.
Depression can often times be a self image problem, you fail to see your own worth and value. When you help others it is hard to deny the fact that you have positively contributed to something that is bigger than yourself.
There are volunteer positions suitable to any circumstance too, you do not have to be physically fit to contribute, you do not need to give money to help. No matter your circumstances you can find something fulfilling and if helping others is helping you it is a win/win.
Reward yourself, if you managed to get up when yesterday you didn't even leave your bed it sounds to me like you did something that deserves a reward. If it's making yourself your favorite meal, getting a massage or renting a DVD to watch. Every time you are doing better than before is meritorious, every step you take to feeling better deserves to be noted.
Reward your own positive steps and you will find yourself taking more and more.
Adopt A Pet
I say "adopt" specifically because it ties in with helping others. There are approximately 7.6 million companion animals put into shelters each year across the USA—and without a home many will be euthanized. All of my own pets are adoptions from shelters, and they are the most thankful and affectionate collection of animals I've ever met. Knowing you've made a positive impact on their lives will have an effect on you too.
Pets can be hard work initially, and yes, the set-up cost for taking in a new furry family member can be high. But believe me when I say it is well worth it. Pets love you unconditionally, when you are low some can even sense it and have been known to try to help. One of my own cats for instance, not known for his cuddly side, will sleep beside me 24/7 when I'm ill or down. He just knows and wants to help.
Positive Thinking Leads to Positive Results
This is just a small collection of the many ways you can help yourself whilst battling depression. Just remember, the first step is always seeking professional help.
For Those That Have Come Out Of The Other Side Of Depression
Did taking steps yourself help you in combating depression?
- Unattributed: ASPCA: http://www.aspca.org/animal-homelessness/shelter-intake-and-surrender/pet-statistics Para. 1: Nov 25, 2016
- Rachel Kelly, Walking On Sunshine: 52 small steps to happiness, 2015
- Sue Atkinson, First Steps Out of Depression, 2011, Chapters 1,2 and 4