Depression is like living in a dark tunnel with no ray of light. If you are in a depressed mood for quite some time and thinking about how to overcome depression without medicines, then you have hit the right post. This blog focuses on 11 coping skills that you need to practice every day to overcome depression.
If you are not sure whether you are suffering from depression or just feeling sad, then check out the following symptoms. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, if you have 5 or more of the below symptoms for 2 or more weeks, which is causing excess emotional distress or disturbing your day-to-day activities, then you are suffering from depression.
- Sad or depressed mood
- Feeling restless or slow
- Poor concentration
- Feeling guilty or worthless
- No interest in hobbies or activities that you previously enjoyed
- Difficulty making decisions
- Overeating or loss of appetite
- Feeling tired or fatigue
- Changes in sleep pattern
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Thoughts of death or suicide
11 self-help Ideas about how to overcome depression without medication
1. Make a list of good qualities you have
When you are depressed it is common to indulge in self-criticism and the tendency to judge yourself (harshly) increases day by day. You engage in negative self-talk like –
“I am so fat”,
“I will always be lonely,
I can never make friends”, and so on.
Over time, these statements will seem to be absolute truths for you; damaging your self-esteem, self-worth, and sense of identity. That’s how negative self-talk pushes people deep into the hell of depression and they fail to find an exit door.
The image below depicts the vicious cycle of negative thinking and depression.
Then how to overcome depression? Stop these annihilating beliefs before they start ruling your self-image! Always remember: You are what you feed yourself.
Make a list of good qualities you have and engage in positive self-talk that will improve your self-identity. For example,
“I am genuine”,
“I am a trauma survivor”,
“I have analytical skills”,
“I am loyal”, and so on.
Keep the list with you and repeat them whenever self-hating talk begins. Make different copies or post-its and stick them in places where you can see them regularly like – washroom, mirror, refrigerator, car, etc.
2. Think from a different angle
People with depression remain in one spot for a long time and end up ruminating about dark experiences or negative outcomes (see above image) – “I should have said this or acted like that”, “I am a loser” and other soul-sucking negative thoughts. How to overcome depression, if this is your pattern?
First thing first, check your thoughts! Most of the time your depressed mind makes you think or analyze a situation from a single point or the same angle. There can be other possible views. Try talking to your best buddy or a senior-most member in your family or social circle. You are sure to get a fresh perspective!
Another trick to stop robotically repeating your negative thoughts is to ‘take a different view’. Carefully observe your surrounding till something interesting catches your eye. It can be a beautiful painting, a window with potted plants, or a beautifully designed lamp. There are many fascinating things around us and you never know what can make you more hopeful and help you come up with a plan B to solve all your problems.
3. Meditate daily
Meditation is one of the oldest and scientifically proven techniques to combat stress, anxiety, and depression. This mental exercise requires mindfulness and noticing your thoughts and feelings without acting on them. It slowly improves your sense of well-being and helps you feel more connected to what’s happening around you.
Recent research says regular meditation can help improve your depression symptoms. A 2016 study showed that meditation can help reduce your chances of depression relapse. Some studies found that meditation can help reverse DNA reactions that cause stress.
Neuroscientist Richie Davidson conducted multiple studies on mindfulness. He studied the brain waves of the Dalai Lama and other Buddhist monks when they were meditating. Results from brain scans showed that the participants were in a deeply compassionate state of mind and could sustain a burst of activity for a long period as compared to one second in untrained minds.
Meditating for 20 minutes, even 5 minutes, is better than not meditating at all.
4. Visualize a happy memory
If meditation seems very daunting for you, try visualizing a happy memory. Easy. isn’t it? The more your mind flashes painful events like a car accident, death of your pet, or the break up with your partner the more you move towards emotional catatonia.
How to overcome depression? Visualize a happy memory – lift the emotional paralysis and stop ruminating that accompanies your depression.
Remember “when you were a topper of your college and how proud your parents were” or the “memory of holding your newborn baby for the first time”. Relieve positive experiences to counter the gloom and come out of the place offering a ‘comfortable discomfort’, with no way to escape.
5. Try something new
When you are feeling blue you don’t feel like doing anything at all. Isn’t it? But, finding something to look forward to is one of the effective ideas about how to overcome depression.
Make a list of things that fills you with joy, excitement, enthusiasm, and fun. It can be simple origami or attending a painting exhibition. Even contemplating a future fun event or looking at some interesting activities from the past can give you an emotional lift, according to therapists.
So, what are you waiting for? Gear up! Plan a trip or a party with friends or organize a charity event or anything that can turn around your mood. Serving something larger than yourself always gives immense happiness. Not only you will feel fulfilled, but also make some healthy connections that can further boost your self-image.
“Success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue… as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself.” – Viktor E. Frankl
6. Get in a routine
Depressed people just want to lie on the cozy bed snuggling in the blanket, totally aloof from the world. Even activities of daily living like bathing, cleaning, working, cooking seems difficult, which can ruin the structure from your life. And thanks to social media that makes us addicted to keeping to ourselves and staying in the rut. Research says, limiting social media use to around 30 minutes a day can lower depression
Set a routine and make an effort to sleep and wake up at a specific time, take a shower, take meals, do laundry and finish your office work on time. Getting out of the house is important, so add walking or any outdoor activity to your routine. This is something every therapist suggests when asked – how to overcome depression.
Make plans with your friends and family, hit new restaurants and cafes, and socialize more. But, never miss joining meet-ups. Canceling plans at the last moment can annoy your buddies and you may end up alone, more depressed. Spend quality time with your loved ones who understand and love you for who you are. Live your life responsibly, if you want to overcome depression.
7. Set goals
Set small goals, start very small as suggested by Ian Cook, psychiatrist and director of the Depression Research and Clinic Program at UCLA. When you succeed at it you will get rid of the depressive feeling “ I can’t accomplish anything”. With each sense of accomplishment, you can add more challenging daily goals to fight depression.
Set goals that are:
- Something you can control
- Not overwhelming you
- Realistic for you
- Measurable i.e you can track your progress
Don’t regret when you make mistakes! Instead, ask yourself “what can I learn from this?” Compare your progress every week but don’t compare your progress with others, which causes more stress and depression.
8. Be physically active
Do you know sitting for eight hours a day increases your risk of depression? If you are already feeling depressed, sitting for long hours can make it worse. Research shows that exercise, yoga, walking in nature, running, and deep breathing exercises help your brain rewire itself in a positive way and improve your sense of well-being.
Being physically active is an all-natural way to fight depression. Exercise releases feel-good hormones like dopamine (associated with pleasure, enjoyment, and learning) that have long-term benefits for those who are depressed.
9. Watch your diet
What you drink and eat also has a real and significant impact on your mood. A study published online by Cambridge University Press showed that the Mediterranean diet may help prevent depression. Another study found a lower prevalence of depression in people consuming the Mediterranean diet as compared to those who did not follow the diet.
So, for those wondering how to overcome depression, try the Mediterranean diet. It comprises of –
- Legumes (dried beans, lentils, and peas)
As you can see Mediterranean diet is an important source of vitamin B, omega 3 fatty acids, and nutrients that are associated with the prevention of depression.
Before changing your diet plan please consult your dietician for the best results!
10. Get enough sleep
A lot of people trying to learn how to overcome depression, ignore the sleep factor. Depression occurs due to lots of chemical and hormonal imbalances in our body, which somehow affects the quality and quantity of sleep, which in turn makes depression worse.
You may try relaxing or breathing exercises before bed to calm your mind. Reading a book, listening to music, journaling, or a hot water bath also prepares your brain and body for restful sleep. According to research, we should aim for eight hours of sleep per night to feel more balanced ad energized throughout the day.
11. Avoid alcohol and other drugs
Alcohol and drugs are some of the common things people use to cope with the symptoms of depression. Over time, this habit changes the way our brain functions and contributes to more mental health problems. So, instead of running after a temporary relief, focus on enjoying life or addressing the root of the issue.
How to overcome depression, if nothing works for me?
People suffering from Major Depression Disorder (MDD) because of their genetic roots can find it difficult to overcome depression with self-help strategies like exercise. But, the good news is this mental disorder is diagnosable and treatable. So, opt for clinical treatment.
Don’t hesitate to seek the help of a qualified mental health professional or a therapist. Taking psych meds can help lower depressive symptoms. Research reveals that within 4-6 weeks of starting treatment more than half of the people with depression show improvement. A compassionate therapist can guide you more on coping skills and other treatments.
Also, there are some promising supplements for depression including folic acid, fish oil, SAMe. However, there is a lack of enough evidence and a need for more research to validate its use. Check with your doctor before you start any supplement, especially when you’re already taking medicines.
Living may itself seem like a burden when you are depressed. That said, suffering is psychological! So, choose not to suffer, and please work on the above ideas on how to overcome depression. Listening to music, practicing gratitude, and journaling are also effective in coming out of the depressed mood. Although, people can heal without medicines, in case of chronic depression or major depressive disorder, natural remedies along with therapy or medicines can help you heal faster.
If you find this post on how to overcome depression helpful, please leave your comments below.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is the difference between burnout and depression?
Burnout is characterized by depersonalization, emotional exhaustion, and decreased personal accomplishment. As you notice these symptoms are a combination of – feeling depressed, fatigue, or a loss of energy. Symptoms of burnout and depression coincide and the former represents a ‘classical’ depressive process in response to an extreme stress. Moreover, the risk factors for depression are also predictors of burnout. As per research, it seems to be difficult to separate burnout from depression.
What is the difference between major depression and dysthymia depression?
The biggest difference between both mental illnesses is the duration of symptoms. In the case of major depression, the symptoms must last at least two weeks, whereas, for diagnosis of dysthymia, symptoms must have been present for at least two years. The two mental health conditions also differ in terms of severity and recurrence.
What is the difference between unipolar depression and bipolar depression?
Although both mental health conditions have the same symptoms, bipolar depression is more episodic as compared to unipolar depression. Also, bipolar depression is on the edge of mania (most of the time) and it is this risk of mania that makes the treatment for bipolar depression different from the treatment for unipolar depression.
What is the difference between depression and major depressive disorder?
When people have at least two but fewer than five symptoms of depression (as per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ) and that persists during a two-week period it is called minor depression. On the other hand, people who are diagnosed with major depressive disorder (or clinical depression) have at least five symptoms of depression that last for at least 2 weeks.