Depression may come for various reasons.
From being treated unfairly and never gotten over it, to being heartbroken, having lost your job, feeling inadequate in terms of meeting social or personal standards, etc. Depression can also be triggered by purely physiological factors – like dopamine deficiency for example.
Regardless of the reasons responsible for the onset of your depression, there are simple steps you can take into the direction of getting better.
This doesn’t mean to “get over” anything. This doesn’t mean to push yourself back into liveliness – by obscuring the real reasons for why you have been feeling low.
The only thing these steps provide is a set of practices that might (or might not) help your body produce more dopamine and serotonin, and invite your mind to relax from the habit of overthinking painful events, losses, failures, fears, etc.
So here’s a simple list of 5 practices that can mitigate your depression naturally and give you space to breathe.
1. Make a plan and follow it.
One of the effects of depression is losing interest in activities one previously enjoyed. That includes hobbies, friends, sex, one’s work, communication in general, etc. The lack of constructive interest in oneself and in life can hardly be battled by waiting it out. That is impossible because depression and the consequences of its long-lasting presence tend to get more severe with time.
That is why making a plan and following it, even if it feels too much of a strain in the beginning, is crucial to winning against depression. Depression is not a choice to be sad or languid, as much as it is not a deficiency of will power to get better. Imagine it like this, if you had a broken leg what are the chances of walking it off? There you go. You need professional help to fix the bones through painful adjustment and special exercises. Having a plan of what to do is like administering that help to yourself and giving it space to become beneficial.
You can make a plan to run, to do pottery, to meet with friends on a certain day of the week, to watch certain amounts of movies during the week, to read certain amount of pages or entire books, to visit a gym, to call your parents every day, to pick up Spanish. Whatever works. Just pick up something, even if it feels like you’re doing it against your will, and follow through it.
2. Run, sweat and work out.
Working out is very important when you have depression – not because it will boost up your confidence by reshaping your body, but because it will calm your nervous system, enhancing the production of dopamine and serotonin. You need dopamin in order to feel happy, energized, motivated, and curious. You need it for getting your vitality back. And you need serotonin in order to calm down, to relax, to enjoy a deep sleep.
Fortunately, a cheap and side effect-free way to produce more of dopamine and serotonin is exercise. Numerous studies point out to the fact that aerobic exercises (running, biking, tennis, squash, boxing, etc.) increase both serotonin production and release. So, even if you can not wait out depression, you might be able to sweat it out.
3. Eat healthy.
Eating healthy is beneficial not only for getting in shape and heading to longevity. The right food can actually cure. As Hippocrates advised us some centuries ago: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Foods high in fat and saturated fatty acids like salmon, raw nuts, avocados help you feel more relaxed by providing vitamin Bs to your body. Berries are a good helping hand in cleansing your body from toxins and byproducts.
Carbohydrates are important for people who are going through depression because they increase serotonin production and keep its levels high, thus curbing anxiety. The smartest way to include the most beneficial carbs in your depression-battling diet is to exclude sugary foods and opt for complex carbs (whole grains) rather than simple carbs (cakes and doughnuts).
Protein-rich foods, on the other hand, give you a kick stimulating your vitality and alertness. The best way to get more of them is by including turkey, tuna, and chicken into your weekly menu because they all have an amino acid called tryptophan, which enhances the production of natural serotonin.
4. Become responsible.
It is unpleasant to hear it, but depression comes with a refusal to carry any more burdens than the tremendously heavy burden of depression itself. And this comes with the refusal to be responsible even for things like the time you go to sleep or the food you eat, for example.
In depression there is a certain propensity to victim mentality – almost like an impotent rage at the world for being overwhelming, lonely, sickening, or often unjust. Yes, sometimes the world is to blame for one’s condition (like in a tragedy that didn’t involve personal choices, for example war or sickness, or the death of a loved one). But when you start to externalize your inner dissatisfaction and frustration, pointing a finger on other people and circumstances, you singlehandedly deprive yourself from the chance to use your resources and either accept the situation or change it – if possible.
In order to get out of the addiction of being the victim, which is often coexisting with depression, it is important to stop whenever you are angry or indignant, and ask yourself “How did I contribute to this?” and “What can I do now to support myself in this situation?” Never stop asking yourself what resources do you have to creatively use to work on given situation. And never get tired of practicing acceptance.
5. Stop negative rumination.
Rumination is the painful, unconstructive, self-sabotaging, self-castigating, and energy-draining practice of reminiscing over what has gone or can go wrong with spite, helplessness, and rage. Rumination is a vicious cycle of thinking about something that generates anxiety, fear and feelings of hopelessness, while never coming with a constructive solution or an enriching insight after doing it.
Rimination is being preoccupied with fearful anticipation, with painful memories, and anxious thoughts about failure, shame, guilt, and unworthiness. It is a exercise very detrimental to psychological health which never leads to relief or satisfaction.
So in depression, it is important to un-teach yourself of rumination. You can do that by being aware when is happening. Give it space but know at all times that is a vicious practice that steals from your energy without giving you nothing in return. Try to minimize the time you spent in rumination daily. Instead focus on constructive things, on knowledge and curiosity, on movement, learning and self-expression.