I suffered from severe, un-medicated depression in my mid twenties and am now medicated for it. I am not generally a happy and optimistic person. I have to work at it. I have sky high expectations of myself, the world and everyone around me and I have to keep reminding myself to lower my standards without feeling like Im selling out (something I only figured out by seeing a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist. It takes work. It takes becoming aware of your triggers and learning how to avoid them. This is what has worked for me so far:
The most important thing you can do for yourself to stave off “depression sessions” as I like to call my episodes of complete melancholy and despair, is to be mindful all day, everyday of the little things that we are blessed with and to consolidate this into written form.
As I am walking around outside, I think things like, “isnt it lovely that dogs are always so cheerful and bring us so much comfort and joy?”, and “isnt it wonderful that people love to cook us food and we can choose to eat anything we want, anywhere”, I mean, whatever, just take notice of how nice things are for us, how much opportunity we have, how spoiled we are in the Western world, how many advantages we have. If the sun is shining, I say “thank you for such a lovely sunny day” (Im usually speaking to The Universe). If I here babies or children laughing, I think how lovely it is to listen to it.
At some point, most days, I either write a post or write in my notebook a list of things that made me happy that day. When Im lying in bed waiting to sleep, I think to myself “thank you for this warm, comfortable bed I get to sleep in, in this safe and warm house”, “thank you for my friends and family who love and support me everyday”, “thank you that I have a body and mind that are capable of being employed”, “thank you that I have food in the fridge”.
Counting your blessings so to speak eventually begins to make you feel like you have no excuse for becoming depressed. I know, of course, that depression can come at any moment, for what seems like no reason, and you have no idea how long it will stay and you are completely helpless to it while its there. But I can tell you now from experience, being more mindful of your blessings definitely lessons the amounts it visits.
+ go outside
So, so important. Especially for those of you who, like me, spend a lot of time in England, or live here where the weather itself is depressing. Sunshine is extremely important to keep depression at bay.
I was born and raised in South Africa, a very sunny country and never suffered depression. After I moved to England in 1999, depression started creeping up on me. I then went to live in Australia, another very sunny country and felt a lot better. The main benefit of sunshine is that it gets you outside. Fresh air on the daily, is important.
Take at least a 15min walk or bike ride every single day. We need oxygen, we need sunshine. Even if youre lying on your floor under your duvet in despair (Ive done it!), if you go outside, at least youre sobbing in the sunshine!
Most Doctors will not recommend a better diet or even go into much detail about your food intake when you go to see them about any illness, not just depression and yet diet is of the UTMOST importance.
Cut out all food and drinks that contain additives and preservatives such as sugary sodas and diet sodas (contain poisonous Aspartame and other sweeteners). Dont eat food that is pre-packaged. Start to cook your own food, learn how, its fun and rewarding! Give up coffee and smoking (remember, you need oxygen!). Eat less red meat or preferably, none at all. Limit your intake of sugar (its in everything!), starchy food like french fries smothered in tomato sauce will make you feel better for 5mins, but healthy food will change how your brain and body works and they will both thank you for it!
+ spending time with children and animals
If you have friends or family who have young kids or they have pets you can play with, this is always a great way to get your mind off whats eating you. Both animals and small children live in the moment, unencumbered by worries of the future and regrets of the past. Watching small children discover the world is hilarious and will get you laughing in no time!
Get a pet. Taking care of something that depends on you, helps you take care of yourself too. Cats have been scientifically proven to help people feel better, something to do with stroking their soft, purring, furry bodies. Dogs, as we all know, are perpetually happy creatures and theyre a double whammy against depression because they need to be taken for long walks everyday which gets you out of the house!
+ helping others
Its hard to feel sorry for yourself when youre helping others. Find an old-age home you can volunteer at where you can maybe read them a story or play a board game with them. The elderly are beautiful people full of very wise wisdom and could shed a light on why you feel the way you do and how to stop feeling that way.
See if you can volunteer at a children’s ward, or teach at an underprivileged children’s school. Seeing others with less than you have yourself gives you a sharp reality check, not to mention they need us just as much as we need them. It also helps you to feel less disconnected and overwhelmed.
As Geet kindly reminded me, yoga is definitely a great addition to your arsenal against depression. Not only does it help you relax and focus on something (important!), it tones you up and massages your internal organs as well as helping realign your electricity which means helping to work out those kinks in your makeup that attract depression. I personally use 10 Minute Solution – Yoga [DVD] because I have a short attention span and there are 5 different 10 minute yoga workouts I can swap and change so I dont get bored.
Try to take notice of what triggers your down turns and see if you can find ways to avoid it. Definitely find a therapist or a good, non judgmental listener that you can talk to in and out of your depression sessions. Do not be afraid to call Samaritans or Beyond Blue or whoever in your country provides a service for those suffering. You are not alone, you are not the only person who does’nt know why they get depressed, it is curable but it takes hard work only you can give yourself permission to undertake.
Sometimes it just takes making a decision. To never feel that way again, to never let it control you or your life again. You know those days where you just want it all to stop? Those fantasies about being in a coma until its gone? Its not that you want to kill yourself, its just that you want it all to stop. The reason why you havent killed yourself is because deep down you know that you deserve to live, if only you could figure out a better way to live. Figure it out, make a choice to figure it out, to do right by yourself, to fight depression. Read everything you can about it, talk to someone who understands it, explain to your friends and family who dont that its not just a case of cheering up, its something that completely takes over you, like an on/off switch and that their love and support is important to you, to just be there, without trying to fix you, is what you need.
Can you think of other ways to prevent depression? Have you managed to overcome depression? What did you do? Tell us in the comments!