As someone who regularly struggles with chronic depression, I’ve learned how very difficult it can be to move forward. Over the years, I’ve developed a number of ways that help me actively fight my depression. Listed below are nine of those techniques. If you are struggling with depression, I hope that these techniques can help you move forward in life.
#1 Believe You Can Fight Your Depression
In order to fight depression you must first believe that you can fight it. This step is so crucial that it’s literally half of the battle. You have to let go of the idea that it’s hopeless, stop thinking “I can’t do this,” or “I’m stuck.” You cannot fight anything if you’ve already accepted defeat.
In fact, I can’t even give you advice if you already believe nothing can help. It’s as author James A. Owen says: “If you really want to do something, no one can stop you – but if you really don’t want to do something, no one can help you.”
That being said, I will repeat the fact that I have chronic depression. It would be easy for me to say that I am a victim of my circumstances, but I refuse to do that. I did it for a few years, and those were the most miserable years of my life, precisely because I believed that everything was hopeless. I have since learned that, while I can’t always choose what happens to me, I can always choose how I react.
I choose to actively fight my depression.
Right now, I want you to decide to fight your depression. As soon as you decide that—and believe that you can do it—I promise that you will find the strength to do so.
#2 Speak With a Trusted Friend (or Two or Three)
When you have depression, your instinct usually is to hide your thoughts and feelings from everyone else. Depression thrives in darkness and isolation. The best way to see and to understand your depression is to shine the light on it, and communicate how you’re feeling. I know it seems absolutely terrifying to open up to someone about your depression– especially when it comes to sharing some of your dark and morbid thoughts—but it is vital to have a mental mirror. You need another person to know what’s going on inside of your head.
Find someone whom you trust, someone who is understanding, and share your thoughts and feelings with them. When you do so, you’ll be surprised to find out how many others have gone through similar struggles. I promise that, though depression thrives in secrecy, it shrinks with the force and strength of empathy.
#3 Seek Professional Help
If your depression is persistent and debilitating, I strongly encourage you to seek professional help. A lot of people are embarrassed to seek help for something that feels like an internal struggle. But if your depression is threatening your work and relationships, there is no shame in seeking help.
Think of your struggle like a broken bone. You wouldn’t hide your broken bone from those who could help, but would rush to a hospital to get the proper treatment. Psychologists and counselors are trained to handle all kinds of things. They have profound wisdom and experience working with mental health issues. You have nothing to be ashamed of but everything to gain in working with them.
You would do well to use every resource available to you, including those who have been trained to help
#4 Look for Humor
It’s no secret that depression kills joy. When you’re in the thick of depression, it seems almost impossible that life will ever be cheerful again. But there are ways to find joy in the journey—even when it’s dark.
When things get especially difficult for me, I do my best to seek out things that are humorous (reruns of funny sitcoms, hilarious YouTube videos, and ridiculous internet memes).
Despite what you might be tempted to think, there’s a lot of humor to be found in everyday life—even within depression. I think Allie Brosch of Hyperbole and a Half does a awesome job at illustrating the depth of depression, while also pointing out the humor. Check out Adventures in Depression, and Depression Part 2 (fair warning, she uses some colorful language).
Shortly after my suicide attempt, my brother Sean and I watched Better Off Dead, a quirky comedy about a guy who unsuccessfully tries to kill himself multiple times. Believe it or not, the movie actually helped me find the humor in my own situation.
Truly, laughter can be a real game-changer.
#5 Get Lots and Lots of Sunshine!
There’s a scene in Sword in the Stone where Merlin tells the witch, Mad Madam Mim, that in order to feel better she needs “lots and lots of sunshine!” Her response? “I hate horrible, wholesome sunshine!”
Mad Madam Mim is like depression; depression hates sunshine! Researchers have discovered that sunlight (which contains Vitamin D) boosts serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulates sleep, memory, and—here’s the kicker—mood! Healthy levels of serotonin mean a healthier, happier you!
Do you realize what this means?! Every day, the sun is literally offering us free happiness! Wholesome sunshine, indeed!
#6 Boost Your Moods
Whenever I’m feeling low, I tend to gravitate toward things that will drag me down even lower—sad music, depressing television shows, or real-life drama. Since my suicide attempt, I’ve realized that I simply can’t afford to feed my sadness. Instead, I try to boost my mood and feed the positive side of my nature.
As much as possible, I try to listen to upbeat music, watch comedies, participate in constructive activities, and stay in the sunlight. While it doesn’t always work right away, actively feeding the kind of moods I want to have definitely decreases the chance of another relapse.
Put another way, I try to avoid stepping in manure by staying out of the cow pasture. 🙂
#7 Diet and Exercise
Yup. You heard me. This stuff works! And it makes sense, doesn’t it? Whether you believe in evolution (survival of the fittest) or Creationism (“by the sweat of your brow”), mankind was designed to labor and find fulfillment in work. We simply don’t use our bodies like the generations before us. Being sedentary is quite literally making us depressed.
To quote professor and psychologist, Matthew Whoolery:
“Did you know what the best antidepressant is—for real? Exercise. A study done at Duke University Medical School found that 30 minutes of brisk exercise, three days a week, was as effective as taking an antidepressant. And the relapse rate for the exercisers was just 7%, while the relapse rate for the drug-takers was over 30%.”
Trust me, I know that depression saps the energy out of you. But just try going for a thirty minute walk in the sunlight (and listen to some upbeat music while doing it). It certainly couldn’t hurt.
#8 Serve Others
Time and time again, I have learned that loving service is one of our greatest (yet most neglected) resources for healing. In my book, Your Life Isn’t For You, I wrote that “in lifting another person, we also lift ourselves.”
But I think Gordon B. Hinckley said it best when he said:
“The best antidote I know for worry is work. The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired. One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.”
#9 Understand You Will Always Have to Pull Weeds
This idea is SO important! Please understand that life is about growth, not perfection. If perfection is your aim, you will always be depressed—because none of us is perfect. We all need to work constantly to improve our lives.
Our lives are like gardens, and we have to perpetually care for, cultivate, and weed them. There will never be a time when the weeding is forever done, just as there will never be a time when we are forever exempt from feelings of sadness, loneliness, or despair. These things will always try to resurface in our lives. The trick is to keep weeding. Don’t let those feelings overrun your life (or your garden). When you nurture and care for the fruits and flowers of your life, I promise that you will reap a more abundant life.
I hope these ideas have helped you find the strength and understanding to fight your depression. It doesn’t happen overnight, but you CAN do it.
Below is a great video on understanding depression. Keep moving forward!