5 things to keep depression at bay

I have suffered from depression on and off throughout my life. To help me learn to cope with it, I have often sought help from licensed therapists and done research by reading books and articles. This is something I would highly recommend to anyone. I have also loved learning about depression and how the brain works. It has helped me to keep my depression at bay the minute I start recognizing its first symptoms.

Over the years, I have found that there are many strategies to help us avoid falling back into depression. 

  1. Avoid unhealthy comparisons with others

A lot of times when going through a depressive state we tend to compare our lives to what others are doing. During these times we don’t want to overload our system and give our brains a chance to make us feel any negative feelings toward ourselves. Comparing ourselves to others often leads us to feel that we are less than someone else.

During moments where we are struggling, it’s easy to start looking around and compare our lives to others. We will often find people that seem to be so happy and calm. We may find that what is a moment of pain for us, is a day of bliss for someone else along their journey when we compare.

Especially with online augmented realities, where we may see others looking so happy and as if they have it all. Truth is, we need to understand that we see only but a small snipped of someone else’s life. But, if we are going through times of hopelessness, we may add to the negative bank by looking at others’ lives from the outside. 

Instead, we want to take some time to pause the outside noise and reevaluate our lives. Focus on getting ourselves to a better state. 

2. Get moving

Exercise. Get endorphins going, and make your body feel better. Go for a swim. Run. Walk. Go outside and breathe some fresh air. Go for a hike. Workout from home. Drive to the gym and be around people for a positive vibe. The ambience at the gym and the cheerful music can really lift your spirits! A lot of our emotions are chemicals going through our body, if we can get oxygen and our blood flowing, we can help our brains to distract from all of our problems, and also give our emotions a chance to decrease in intensity.

3. Stay busy and make plans for the future

Get going with your day. Whatever you choose to do, keep going.

I have found that oftentimes, even if I wake up feeling down, my day gets a lot better once I get up. All I have to think about in the moment is to take one step. Maybe I get up and wash my face, or drink some water. By taking one step at a time, I keep going and continue with what I had set out to do. Then throughout the day, to avoid finding myself in depressive situations, I have learned to keep myself busy. To structure my days and create things that will mean something to me.

Planning my day in advance the day before also helps me to wake up with a purpose. I try not to over schedule and over plan. I try to plan something fun that would give me a reason to get up in the morning. Like a cup of hot cocoa for example, or going to the gym with a friend. Find what works for you.

Plan something exciting for a more distant future as well. Set goals and plan a fun outing for the next up and coming months to give you something to look forward to. An evening out with friends, a vacation, a new hobby, a special dinner, a bucket list item. By knowing that better things are coming, you will be more prone to push through the hard days.

4. Learn to prioritize

By this I mean including the most basic and the most important things to do everyday. From adequate sleep, to brushing your hair, grooming yourself properly, to eating your veggies and drinking enough water.

Our body, mind and spirit are in constant need of nourishment. So don’t neglect your body of what it needs! Poor nutrition in the long run can cause vitamin deficiencies which can cause depression.

So when prioritizing, include those basic and most important things that should be done first and foremost everyday.

Focus also on creating daily tasks that will move you closer to accomplishing your dreams and goals.

5. Keep your mind filled with encouraging and uplifting words.

Let’s be honest, there isn’t a lot of positivity going around. If we want to feel happier and more positive, we need to take a proactive step and find those positive and encouraging words that give us more hope and lift us up. Practice finding things for which you are grateful. Try and think of the things that you love and that are good in your life.

Practice paying conscious attention to any thoughts that come to your mind. Any thoughts of discouragement or negative thoughts about yourself that don’t belong inside of yourself. Learn to be your own best friend. Learn to have thoughts of hope about the future, to believe in a better world, to believe that you can accomplish your dreams, and to send away thoughts of hatred toward others, as well as thoughts about any people who may have hurt us. Our brain nourishes our feelings and to produce happy feelings we need to be more selective of what thoughts we nourish. Do exercises where you tell yourself what you think it’s impossible to do.

Read uplifting books, listen to encouraging podcasts, find a group of people that has the same hopes and aspirations as you do. Watch a comedy on tv, read uplifting blog entries, listen to upbeat music with happy and inspiring lyrics.

As you start with these 5 steps you will find that these things will happen:

You will be so glad you kept going

Your day will get better and you’ll see that opposition in life was trying to keep you from experiencing anything good out of your day. You will probably have a positive experience that will make you realize how much God loves you and that there are good times ahead. Most of the time, that feeling will come from small little moments that will happen out of your day. Those bad awful feelings you had will shake away and be forgotten or at least not feel as strong and painful.

You will still have a so and so day, but at least you kept going and kept trying. You will grow confidence in yourself that you can pick yourself up and shake the dust off even when things are bad.

And last of all, if you don’t seem to see any immediate results, and if it is hard to even get out of bed now, remember that we shape our thoughts and our actions now, for the future. If it is hard to get up now, if we get going eventually things will get better. A lot of what we do today, won’t show progress until months down the road. If nothing seems to help seek help from your doctor and loved ones as well.

Pain from depression is real. We can find hope in knowing that we can make that pain smaller. Don’t blame yourself for what you are going through. Love yourself and patiently give yourself what your body needs to heal.

Photo courtesy of J Elizabeth Photogrwphy

Love, M. Serena Essuman

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