I don’t remember when I first started to feel sad. It was pretty early on, and I knew when I was young that it wasn’t a particularly good feeling to have, at least not as often as I felt sad. Later I’d come to find out this was depression. There have been a lot of things in my life in which people would say “well it makes sense you are depressed!”
But for me it’s a little more than that. There has been times where the depression just feels like it takes over my life. I don’t talk about it much, and I don’t like to dwell on it. We get a lot of e-mails about depression and plant-strong eating. While I can say that eating plant-strong has perhaps helped in this area of my life, I’ve found that there were a lot of other things that I needed to make a daily practice to help even more.
1. Talk to someone.
I always felt so ashamed about getting help. I think that is part of having depression. You start to tell yourself that you shouldn’t “need” help, that something is messed up with you that you have to go talk to someone. But for me, this is a huge part of my learning tools to get through and to get better. Personally, I’ve found the cognitive therapy approach to be helpful, but you could be different. Find someone that you feel comfortable with and who is kind.
I don’t know if I can stress this enough. Moving your body is a KEY part in dealing with depression. It psychologically tells you through something physical that you are ok, that you are in a sense “moving on”. When you move your body your brain knows that things might be ok, because you are not “down and out”. Whatever you can do, do it. If that’s 10 minutes a day, so be it. For me some cardio and Bikram Yoga has been VERY beneficial. Yoga has been surprisingly helpful for me. It’s difficult, which means I can’t really concentrate on anything but yoga, it is physically taxing, so my brain gets those cues that things might be ok, it is satisfying to accomplish something that many people find to be very difficult.
I know that the last thing people want to do when they are depressed is to get out and move, but I promise that if you start making it a small habit it can help improve things over time.
I’ll admit, I’m really bad at this one. Getting my brain to feel still for any length of time can prove very difficult. I just started with a minute of intentional breathing instead of thinking “I need to meditate for 30 minutes”. So for now, I just sit still for a minute and breathe in and out deeply.
4. Healthy eating.
For me, healthy eating has made a really big difference in my depression. Personally, when my blood sugar was out of control, when I had nerve damage in my legs, when I felt horrible ALL the time, it really made me feel more and more depressed. Once I started eating healthier, and those issues went away, I started to make a lot of improvements in the depression. I know that it is not always easy, we feel depressed, we want to eat food that will harm us, but try starting with a healthy breakfast and then go from there. Starting off with one good meal is a great way to start the momentum to try for more later.
I’m not sure if this is everyones cup of tea, but for me writing has been a great outlet for me. I don’t share what I write, I just write and let the words flow, I get it all out. I think (for me) just being able to think through what is going on in my life does a lot to help – and something about writing it out makes it feel like I’m dealing with it, and acknowledging the issue.
6. Changing your space.
Sometimes I hop in the car and I just go somewhere else. A coffee shop, a book store, a park, a movie. Sometimes it just helps to change the environment you are in.
7. Call a friend
This is also something I’m really bad at. Admittedly, I don’t like to tell people when I’m feeling really down. I have learned, I don’t need to go into any details at all, sometimes just the act of calling someone to chat is really helpful. So I’ll call someone or chat with someone online about our regular lives, it ends up going a long way.
8. Help others.
I’ve always found that volunteering to help someone else not only is a great help to that person, but can be a great help to you. My favorite place to volunteer is at nursing homes. The people there will probably never know how much they have helped me and changed my life. People who are older than me can always seem to offer a perspective on life that no one else can. I have a standing phone call with a friend who is in her 80′s. It’s one of the highlights of my entire week. She tells me stories about her life, offers wisdom only someone in their 80′s can offer and is always happy to have our calls. There are tons of places you can volunteer – animal shelters, children hospitals, nursing homes and more.
9. Clean a room.
This might just be me – but something about really deep cleaning a room or organizing a space has really helped me lift from depression. I think for me, it tells my brain that things are going to be just fine, if my closet is organized, then life can’t be all that bad. So I tackle a room or a space in my house, deep clean, de-clutter, get rid of stuff.
10. Take a class.
Find a class you are interested and sign-up! I’ve been back in school to study nutritional science and I will soon start my PhD track for psychology. It has been such a positive thing for me in my life – having the challenge of studying and learning, having some interaction with students and teachers has definitely made a difference for me. But, beyond that there are lots of other classes that I take. Look online for courses (many free), check out MIT’s free open classes that you can audit (I’ve taken several of them and have loved all of them). Go to a local community center and take a class on pottery or how to make jewelry or how to do some basic car maintenance. Take a yoga class, or a water aerobic class. Getting out, learning a new skill can go a long way in helping with the days in which things feel like they are too much.
Depression is a complicated and difficult thing to go through. I know that somedays it feels like it will never lift. Know that you are not alone in the battle, and that over time, things will start to get better.