How to get rid of depression? … One month we’re just fine, happily going about our business. And then next month seems like a never-ending streak of dark energy pouring in from every direction. No warning.
A handful of unfortunate triggers might cause this overwhelming feeling of sadness – getting fired, maybe losing a loved one, a painful breakup. But it doesn’t have to be just one big event. A combination of small triggers can cause the same effect when all put together.
That being said, sadness is an important element of our existence, of our humanity. It’s those extreme emotions that set us apart from other species circulating the globe. Experiencing sadness on its own isn’t something we can avoid.
The problems start when sadness persists. So how do you beat that? How do you get rid of depression and go back to your previous, happier self?
Beating depression – the starting point
I’m no genius. I don’t pretend I am.
More than that, I don’t think anyone is when it comes to things like depression.
Beating depression doesn’t work like building IKEA furniture. There are no building blocks. There are no instructions. There’s no fail-proof step-by-step.
Of course, someone can tell you their story, show you how they beat their depression. But that’s a single case, and your journey can, and will be, different.
That’s why instead of pretending that you’re going to find a rock-solid “how to get rid of depression” tutorial here, I want to talk about something else. I want to exercise the idea of baby steps (something we talked about not that long ago).
What you’re going to find here is a list of “starting points” – a list of things that seem really simple, yet can help you get moving forward and eventually lead you to beating depression.
Exercising is #1 on this list not without a reason. I really can’t emphasize its importance enough.
For once, regular exercise has been proven to be as effective as antidepressant medication. Basically, it restores your energy levels, boosts feel-good chemicals (endorphins), and ultimately deals with the feelings of fatigue.
Granted, it does seem a bit counter-intuitive at first. After all, why would you keep fatiguing your body if you’re already feeling fatigued, right?
In a nutshell:
Exercising = known antidepressant.
Besides, do I really need to convince you as to the general positive benefits that exercise brings?
2. Have a morning routine
Depression can have an impact on the structure of your average day and your productivity throughout it. Sometimes it’s difficult to even get out of bed in the morning.
That’s where having a morning routine comes into play.
Once you set it and dedicate to it, it becomes this constant element of your every morning. It’s basically a good-enough reason to get out of bed on its own, and it gives you a boost to get the day started.
Overall, a great starting point to finding out how to get rid of depression. Also, if your morning routine includes some form of exercise then you get the benefits of that too.
3. Eat fat
Eat fats, I should say. Not fat.
Here’s what I mean. Some research indicates that people dealing with depression often lack a fatty acid called EPA.
To test this, participants in a study back in 2002 took 1 gram of fish oil each day. At the end of the experiment, they noticed a 50% decrease in symptoms such as anxiety, sleep disorders, and unexplained feelings of sadness.
Shortcut? Omega-3s. Eat stuff with omega-3 fatty acids in them: walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, salmon, sardine, fish in general, or supplement.
In general, understanding the relation between the food we eat and depression can be your secret weapon to finding out how to get rid of depression.
4. Get more light
Our bodies’ connection with sunlight is nothing short than remarkable.
Long story short, sunlight exposure gives us vitamin D. And vitamin D has a profound effect on our bodies. Various research ties it (or rather lack thereof) to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, even cancer.
On top of that, one Canadian research also concluded that after reviewing 14 studies, consisting of more than 30,000 participants, a strong correlation between a lack of vitamin D and depression was found.
How do you get vitamin D? Like I said, the most natural way is through sunlight exposure. Basically, it’s our bodies telling us that we’re meant to be outside. Not in a cubicle.
But as we all know, that’s just life. Cubicles are life. So if you still value your job, you need a trickier solution than just tossing your office desk outside:
- Start off by spending at least a while in the sunlight in the morning. Whether it’s having a quick run (ekhm! exercise! ekhm!), or even walking the dog, just get some time in the sun.
- Supplementation is another solution. Consult a doctor about that.
- Finally, the “lifehack” way to go about it … a big, bright lamp. More specifically, what I’m talking about is called bright light therapy. In short, what you need is a lamp that can produce light intensity of 10,000 lux or more (like this one).
5. Write a journal
A journal is your outlet. It’s your own space where you can share your thoughts with … yourself.
You’re not showing the journal to anybody. You don’t even need to come back to it and read your previous entries.
The power is in writing alone.
Writing your thoughts slows down your mind incredibly. Purely because you are able to write at a much slower pace than you are able to think.
When writing, each thought gets much more air time, so to speak. Because of this, you also give yourself a better chance to reflect on that thought, and maybe even find some solutions.
The how-to is simple. Just sit down and write down what you’re thinking. Do it on paper. You can’t write as fast on paper as you can on a computer, and that’s the point.
Here’s my journal:
6. Write down your (little) joys
Let’s stay on the topic of writing for a moment.
If writing a whole journal seems a bit too difficult, consider going for a simpler approach.
Just write down your little joys throughout the day – otherwise known as gratitude journaling.
Every day, preferably in the morning, write down 5 things that made you happy the day before.
This sort of exercise seems silly, but it actually opens you to notice little joys in life, and to have more appreciation for the things you might otherwise take for granted.
Oh, and it’s not just an idea off the top of my head. Gratitude journals are actually proven to work (as research by Sonja Lyubomirsky indicates).
Daily meditation alleviates stress and helps get rid of depression symptoms, studies show, ’nuff said.
It’s not a straightforward cause-and-effect relation, though. Meditating once every X days won’t do wonders for you.
How to get rid of depression? What matters is ongoing practice and dedication.
Some research indicates that meditation can halve the risk of depression in people who have already been depressed in the past. More interestingly, the effects are comparable to antidepressant medications.
So just get started. Don’t go overboard. Small steps. Here’s how.
8. Laugh and smile
Laughter is a really amazing thing. I mean, you’d think that in order to laugh, you need to be in a really upbeat state. You’d think that forcing yourself to laugh, or trying to “fake” laugh is just … creepy.
But as it turns out, the human brain is wired to respond to any type of laughter, in any situation by generating dopamine (= happiness). And it doesn’t even have to be you who’s laughing. It’s basically a push-button response. When there’s laughter around, it has an impact on you too.
What’s more, the relation between laughter and dopamine works both ways. On the one hand, when you feel happy, you release dopamine, which causes you to smile. But on the other, when you “fake” smile, the mere act of doing so causes the brain to release dopamine as well … which then makes you feel happy.
Ever heard of that: Lie repeated X times becomes the truth.
Well, it seems that fake smile becomes real smile in a matter of seconds.
9. Get a dog
Or a cat, or a ferret, or any other pet.
I prefer dogs, though.
“Pets offer an unconditional love that can be very helpful to people with depression.”
– Ian Cook’s opinion – a psychiatrist and director of the Depression Research and Clinic Program at UCLA.
Various studies indicate that animals can reduce stress, improve your mood, and overall help you get rid of depression. However, probably not on their own, but in conjunction with other treatment.
“Taking care of a pet can help give you a sense of your own value and importance. It will remind you that you are capable – that you can do more than you might think.”
– Ian Cook continues.
10. Have a goal
“I want to get rid of depression” sounds like the ultimate goal, but it’s perhaps too general.
“Many people go to therapy with the foggy notion that they want to feel better – but they aren’t exactly sure what that looks like.”
– says Richard Taite, founder / CEO of Cliffside Malibu Treatment Center.
In his work, Taite noticed that people who outline their goals before going into therapy, are much more likely to be successful than those who don’t.
“Depression” isn’t a specific enough goal. Instead, focus on direct outcomes. Things like, “I want to improve my relationship with my spouse/kids/X.” Taite points out that you don’t want to be in the victim position. Instead, set a specific goal and see how you can act on it.
This concludes our list of 10 starting points on your way to getting rid of depression. What I consider an advantage here, is that you can get started with however many of these methods you want. Heck, just trying out one of them is good enough to get you moving forward.
Remember, the first step is always the most important one.
“Eighty percent of success is showing up.” – Woody Allen