After I was diagnosed with clinical depression at the tender age of 21, I was prescribed a regiment of antidepressants. The only problem was that they didn’t work.
Over the years, I learned that there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all when it comes to managing depression. What works for one person may not harvest the slightest improvement for another; what proves successful one season may suddenly lose its winning streak in the season that follows.
Declaring war on depression and deciding to reclaim your life from its clutches every single day is an ongoing battle that requires weapons of various forms and classes.
Here are the weapons I’ve particularly found helpful on my own journey:
Lower blood pressure, reduced anxiety, and — according to a University of Wisconsin study — heightened activity in your left prefrontal cortex (which correlates with greater levels of happiness and positive emotions) are just a few of the many benefits of meditation. Meditating for even just a few minutes a day can give you the type of clarity, quietness, and peace of mind you need to have a more positive outlook on life.
Studies have found that a consistent yoga practice can lead to a significant increase in serotonin levels (which can lead to feelings of well-being and happiness). Additionally, yoga stretches, strengthens, and realigns your body, causing you to feel physically relaxed and rejuvenated—an excellent way to begin your morning or unwind in the evenings.
According to a 10-year study, those with large networks of friends outlived those with fewer friends by 22%. Strong social support helps people cope with stress and trauma (by lowering your cortisol levels), provides you with a sense of belonging and purpose, and improves self-esteem and self-worth. In addition, touch plays a vital role in our overall health. When you embrace someone, oxytocin (a bonding hormone) floods your body and causes you to feel secure.
Pursuing leisure activities can alleviate depression. That’s because hobbies are a great source of eustress — the type of stress that makes you excited about life.
Regular physical activity releases endorphins which boost your energy, elevate your mood, and improve your self-esteem. Fortunately for the majority of us, you don’t have to be an all-star athlete to take advantage of these benefits. Raking leaves, sweeping the house, gardening, and dancing can help elevate your mood, just as biking, aerobics, swimming and jogging can.
You’ll receive added benefits from performing these activities outside, where you can take in the sun’s vitamin D and fend off depression with natural light.
6. Shutting out negative media
News surrounds us everywhere we go, on the internet, on TV, in the paper. The type of media we digest can strongly impact mood, especially for highly-sensitive people. If you know something may upset you, opt to close the browser, change the channel or flip the page. Also consider the type of music you listen to. Does is elevate your mood? Does it have a positive message?
When’s the last time you took a break from the internet altogether? Combing through countless emails every morning or social media posts throughout the day can cause us to feel sluggish, weighed down, depressed, and overwhelmed. Taking a weekend break from the computer is liberating and relaxing.
7. Professional help
Unfortunately, there’s still a stigma around mental illnesses of varying kinds. We shy away from speaking about our issues as to avoid being labeled, judged, or misunderstood. However, it’s time we give ourselves the permission to seek the help we need instead of remaining in despair. Regular counseling or medication may be what your body requires. You may want to consider a support group, or natural remedies such as St. John's Wort.
This is perhaps the most overlooked weapon but one of the most effective. Many people balk at the idea of pampering themselves, but when you make it a point to show kindness to yourself, you are valuing and honoring yourself as a person worthy of happiness. Whether it’s massage therapy, a mani-pedi, a new outfit, a bubble bath, lunch at your favorite restaurant, or simply post-it notes covered with positive affirmations, show a little more love to yourself each day.