Top Ten Ways to Fight Depression Without Medication
Depression is something that many of us face at some point or other. There are times when depression – feeling inexplicably sad, gloomy, unmotivated, and tired – is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain that can only be alleviated through medication, but there are also some things you can do to address your depression if you don’t want to rely on pills and their side effects.
It’s important to talk to your doctor if you’re feeling depressed, and if your depression is giving you thoughts of harming yourself or others, seek help immediately by calling the suicide help line at 1-800-273-8255. The biggest truth about depression is that millions of people struggle with it, and there are lots of resources that can help you if you think you’re losing the fight. Check out this depression test and always remember to consult your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms.
Sometimes though, depression just happens when we are in a rut. People with mild cases of depression may be able to help themselves just by taking a little action. If you are sporting a new and unwelcome cloud over your head and you’d like to try banishing it without finding a psychotherapist first, see if a few of these methods will help.
1. Eat healthful foods. The best way to beat depression is to take care of yourself, and when you aren’t feeling like yourself, good eating habits may be among the first things to go. Make a concerted effort to make good food choices – overeating is a classic symptom of depression, and it contributes to a vicious cycle of negative thoughts, weight gain, and more negative thoughts. Try to be mindful of what you’re eating, and do yourself a favor and skip the junk food aisles at the grocery store if you don’t think you can be trusted with two bags of potato chips in the pantry.
2. Get some exercise. There are many benefits to exercising when you’re depressed – it’s just a matter of doing it. Exercise releases chemicals in the brain that make you feel good, which can help boost you out of a rut. Exercising outdoors can be wonderful – the fresh air, change of scenery, and exposure to the sun are all things that can lighten your mood.
3. Sleep. Depression can make it hard to sleep, and not sleeping well can make your depression worse. Nip the cycle in the bud as quickly as you can. The simplest way to do this is to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. It’s easy to zone out in front of the TV or computer until 2am, so don’t even give yourself the option: remove these things from your bedroom, or even set a timer to turn them off at 10pm every night.
4. Drink your water. Water is a crucial part of keeping your body working, but it can be easy to overlook this one thing when you’re depressed. Make a conscious effort to sip water throughout the day. It might not necessarily lighten your mood, but maintaining a good fluid intake will definitely keep you from feeling worse.
5. Find a rhythm. Depression leaves us feeling listless and unmotivated, and it can be hard to get moving if there’s no structure in the day to fall back on. Pick a couple of things to do each morning, or each day, and follow this easy schedule. It might be something simple with just a couple of things on it, like make the bed in the morning, eat lunch or go to the gym at a set time every day, and turn the TV off at 10 pm. Giving yourself a gentle structure to the day may help you get into motion, which is a big step in fighting your depression.
6. Do something new. Whether or not your depression is caused by being in a rut, it can certainly get you into one. When you’re depressed, one of the best things you can do is get out of your home and do something different. Read a book that would normally interest you – bonus points for reading it outside. Go see a live show at a venue that caters to music you typically like. Take a workshop or class on something that interests you – maybe something you can do with your hands, like wood turning or pottery. Just do something new.
7. Volunteer. The reason so many people love volunteering is that it helping others often makes us feel good. If you’re lost in the doldrums, find a cause that you think is important and go volunteer. Serve a meal at a soup kitchen or street shelter. Offer to take a dog at your local animal shelter on a walk or run. Volunteer to tutor at an after-school program for low-income kids. Sweep your elderly neighbor’s sidewalks or trim the hedges. Even something quick and easy like giving blood may be enough to get you started.
8. Don’t go it alone. It can be very easy to slip into isolation when you’re depressed. Sitting around at home, not interacting with anyone, not going out – it’s a pattern that you want to avoid. Even if you don’t feel like it – especially if you don’t feel like it – make plans to see at least friends once or twice a week. Getting together for a lighthearted meal mid-week can be a great pick-me-up, and the energy you expend doing it might even help you get some sleep.
9. Cut the negative thought patterns. Nobody listens to me. I’m useless. Why should I even bother? These are some of the thoughts that depressed people tend to think. When you’ve lost your joy, it’s easy to succumb to all sorts of negative, or even hopeless, thinking. When you catch these thoughts, stop immediately and tell yourself the opposite. It will feel stupid, but it will help you get out of the mental fog of negativity, which will alleviate some of the pain.
10. Know you aren’t the only one. When you’re depressed, it’s easy to convince yourself that nobody else understands, that you’re a freak and completely alone and invisible. When that happens, know these facts. Depression affects millions of people, and millions of people are able to come through a depression and return to happiness. You are certainly not alone, and there are people in your life (and elsewhere) who want to help you, if you’d just ask them. Don’t let yourself believe that you’re alone in your depression, and don’t let yourself think you can’t make it through.
These are ten ways to fight depression that will help you take back some control when you’re facing what feels like an overwhelming fight. If you’re dealing with depression, remember – you don’t have to do this alone. Your family, friends, and entire networks of professionals want to help you.
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