How do you know if you are depressed? Have you ever felt like you’re wearing invisible sunglasses and a commercial vacuum just sucked out every ounce of energy and joy from every cell of your body for days, weeks or even months on end?
If you answered yes to this question, which based on the statistics – you probably have – then you know all about what it feels like to be depressed. It’s a horrible, debilitating, helpless feeling. And once depression sinks its claws in you, it can be really hard to shake its clutches.
However, no matter what triggered your depression, it is absolutely possible to get yourself back on track and set yourself free. There are healthy ways to deal with depression.
The key is first becoming aware that you’re feeling depressed so you don’t let it spiral too far out of control before taking steps toward healing.
Some common mind-body symptoms of depression include:
- loss of interest in areas of your life that used to bring you joy
- difficulty with sleep (either sleeping more, interrupted sleep, or trouble falling asleep)
- changes in appetite (over-eating or less interest in food)
- feeling irritable, sad, crying unexpectedly with no clear precipitating event
- wanting to isolate from others
- feeling a heaviness or aches and pains in your body that have no medical explanation
- lack of energy
- suicidal thoughts (if you are having suicidal thoughts, it’s very important that you get yourself to a doctor or to a hospital immediately)
Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for…mind-body scientifically-based tips that help you heal depression without medication.*
1.Try Something New. It’s been proven that trying new things alters your levels of dopamine, which is the chemical in the brain associated with pleasure and enjoyment. Not sure what new stuff to try? Keep it simple – take a new route to work, go somewhere different for lunch, watch a Youtube video about a hobby you think you might like and try it out, wear an outfit you haven’t worn in a while, go on Meetup.com and see what events are happening in your neighborhood (then call a friend and go!). So many simple options!
2.Get Light. Sunlight boosts mood and vitamin D levels (which is connected to mood) and can tackle depression. If you live somewhere that gets little sun, buy a therapeutic light box. For convenience, you can wear your light-therapy in a visor, so you can multitask your healing with your morning routine.
3.Practice Gratitude. New studies are showing that having a daily ritual of gratitude is as effective as taking antidepressants. Your ritual can include writing down things you’re grateful for or mentally focusing on things you’re thankful for. Keep in mind, in order for this practice to be effective for treating depression, your ritual needs to be a regular “practice” – not just something you randomly do throughout your day. Set an alarm in your phone and give yourself this gift. It feels so good.
4.Be Social. When your depressed, your tendency (usually) is to want to isolate. However, it’s very important to do everything you can to push through that desire and spend time with loved ones. Being social is a major defense against depression. If you can’t bear to push yourself to get out and be social, join the private virtual Facebook group – the MindBodyWise™ Living Room or at least phone a friend.
5.Eat. Try not to skip meals. Keeping your blood sugar stable helps to maintain a stable mood. Low blood sugar can lead to feelings of depression, even if you aren’t clinically depressed.
6.Smart Diet. Eat foods that increase your brain’s serotonin levels to decrease depressive symptoms. A few recommendations based on studies — eat a high protein diet; aim for foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (including: wild salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, and anchovies); and eat foods and oils that contain healthy fats (coconut oil, flaxseed oil, eggs, and avocados).
7.Hydrate. When you aren’t well-hydrated, your body gets fatigued. This fatigue can mimic feelings of depression. So, make sure you’re drinking enough water. Something that I have found to help me drink more water was buying a water bottle that keeps my water cold for 24 hours (really, it’s pretty amazing that it actually works). Here’s the one I got in 16 oz. and they also have this one in 20 oz. if you prefer a bigger bottle. I never realized how much more I enjoy water when it’s cold! It has made all the difference.
8.Drink Green Tea. So, caffeine and depression aren’t a good mix (caffeine gives you a high and a crash). However, the caffeine in green tea works in conjunction with L-theanine, which stops the “caffeine crash” from happening, yet still gives you a bit of a lift in mood, boosting your dopamine levels (one of the feel-good hormones).
9.Meditate. This practice is simply about being present and mindful to your moment-to-moment experience. It can be done sitting still or even while walking (see this post for how to do a simple walking meditation). Training our bodies, hearts and minds to be with whatever arises provides us with unconscious tools for better navigating ourselves and our lives. There have also been many studies that show meditation to be helpful in alleviating symptoms of depression.
10.Practice Yoga. You don’t even have to leave your house to practice yoga! You can get 15 days of free unlimited yoga online at Yogaglo.com. This magical combination of movement synchronized with breath does wonders for your mental and physical health. Many studies prove that yoga alone can completely shift your mood in deep and profound ways. Because there are so many different styles and types of yoga and they are all great for your health, try different ones until you find the one(s) that work best for you. Oh, and by the way, you don’t have to be flexible to do yoga – it’s not about that.
11.Try a MindBodyWise™ Session. Depression isn’t only a state of mind – it gets into every nook and cranny of your body. Therefore, it’s important to work with both your mind and your body in order to heal from depression. I offer in-person and virtual sessions of MindBodyWise therapy, which is like a psychotherapy session for your ALL of you. This approach to healing allows you to connect in to the core of your challenges more quickly than other therapies, thus expediting your healing. Learn more about my MindBodyWise™ therapy practice here.
12.Try Talk Therapy. Talking out your feelings with a professional can be incredibly helpful and supportive in healing your woes and shifting your perspective. When your seeking out a therapist, you may want to try a few to get a feel for their styles. You may also want to ask them about their approach to healing. Remember, change takes time and so does the process of therapy. I offer in-person (in NYC) and virtual sessions of talk therapy for people anywhere in the world. My approach is unique and effective in that I always integrate your body as part of the process. Learn more about my talk therapy practice here.
13.Exercise. You’ve probably heard this one a million times – that’s because it works! By getting your heart rate up, you increase endorphins which helps uplift your mood. Plus, you get all the other physical benefits that exercise provides. I know that it’s often difficult to get motivated to exercise, especially when you’re feeling depressed. So, hit two depression-fighting tips at once by getting a friend to go with you. Then you’re being a bit social while also working in some exercise.
14.Change Shape. Sitting stagnant or laying down can make you feel worse. Stand up, take a walk, move in some way that changes the shape of your body. Get your blood flowing a bit so you can feel connected to your body. To increase confidence and lower stress hormones, stand tall for 2 minutes with your arms in the air taking up as much space with your body as you can.
15.Smile. When you’re depressed, you don’t much feel like smiling. However, even a fake smile helps to change your brain chemistry to get the feel-good chemicals flowing. If you can’t muster a fake smile, try putting a pen in between your teeth horizontally. It forces your lips to curl up and signals to your brain to turn on the dopamine.
16.Get Creative. Engaging in a creative activity uses your brain in a different way and there’s some compelling evidence that these types of activities help to alleviate symptoms of depression. In fact, some studies have shown that creative activities are similar to meditation, in that they induce similar effects on your brain and body. You don’t have to be a creative person or be “good” at what you’re doing. Try writing, drawing, painting, cooking, knitting, crafting or cooking.
*Of course, medication can be very helpful and is sometimes necessary, but if you aren’t suicidal – trying the suggestions above might help you reclaim the joy in your body, heart and mind again — without the use of medication.
If you are suffering from depression, it’s important to remember that you aren’t alone and there’s a lot of support available to you. You don’t have to handle depression on your own. Don’t wait until it gets worse… take action now.
By the way – while I never recommend anything that I don’t love myself, I am an affiliate for some of the products/services that I referred to in this post and I may be compensated if you purchase them. Please know that your trust means everything to me, and I’ll never compromise that.