Most people, whether or not they have ever been diagnosed with depression or dysthymia, go through periods that can last for hours, days or weeks when they feel deeply unhappy. So far as we know, most people feel depressed sometimes.
These dark and hopeless feelings are not infrequently directly connected with and are reactions to life events. At other times, these foreboding and deflating feelings can seem to come from ‘nowhere’ and just suddenly are there.
In either situation, while both psychotherapy (individual and group) and various psychoactive medicines are known to be helpful, a person can do some things to help themselves. These things involve doing something. It is easier said than done because one aspect of depression from any cause is its ability to try to stop the person from doing anything to defeat it. Depression seems to like being in control, but it CAN often be defeated with some resolve and effort.
Some specific tips that many people have found helpful (and none of which require any medicine or special equipment are as follows:
1. Going for a walk.
That’s right. As simple as it sounds, pulling yourself up, getting dressed, putting shoes on and walking out your door for a short walk can provide some degree of nearly immediate relief. This everyday activity often gets muted into lethargy by sad/bad feelings. Push through it and force yourself (even though you will probably not really feel like doing it) to take a 10-15 minute walk.
If you are a bike ride, that will work just as well.
2. Doing something to help someone else.
Depression quickly breeds rumination – a propensity to focus on ourselves and our own unhappiness. Again, deliberate effort will be required but it will be worth it! Think of someone you know who is lonely or ill and give them a call or go visit. Not to unload your own troubles, but to listen to THEIRS and to see if there is anything you can do to help out. (Buy them some groceries, pick up a prescription, rent a DVD for them, etc.)
This activity literally ‘tricks’ the depression by you willing yourself to not focus on it – a strategy that allows it to grow even stronger and more disabling. Taking your mind off of yourself for a while can help considerably – as well as being a benefit to someone else.
3. Take yourself to a movie.
No, not a sad one! Like both of the earlier tips, this will distract you to some degree for a while and will relieve some of the pressure that tends to build up by virtue of the incessant nature of depressed feelings. They try to lock out everything else. A film can be truly healthy at times. Unlike watching something on TV, this activity involves leaving your own home as well. The combination of going out and doing something slams the depression with both barrels!
4. Treat yourself to something special.
This may sound impossible when you feel really bad, but, again – forcing yourself to do it will help you feel better quicker. Some examples might be (if you can afford them) getting a massage, going to a sports event or taking a bus ride somewhere that you have not been before.) Where there is no money to do those things, similar effects can be realized by getting an ice cream cone – or anything else that you regard (or even that you used to regard) as a treat.
The depression works to try to make you feel undeserving. Slap it down by proving it wrong.
Keep in mind that the lethargy and resistance to following these tips you may feel are likely functions of the depression or unhappiness. View it as in invader that you must rise up to quell. These seemingly simple activities may help a lot more than you ever would have imagined.
A Final Note:
None of the above is meant to suggest that medications and other professional interventions cannot be helpful and may sometimes be both indicated and necessary. But, even in those most severe situations, the activity level of the individual is a healing variable that always matters and makes a big contribution too the maintenance and restoration of a better, less depressed mood.