Depression sucks. Whoever experienced depression understands the severity of hopelessness and confusion that accompany this debilitating disease. Over 16 million adults in the United States experience a major depressive episode at least once a year. Although the Depression Club is huge, the biggest trick it was able to pull off is making each member believe they’re the only member.
I am not a psychiatrist or an expert on depression. My understanding of depression comes from being severely affected by and overcoming it myself. I’m going to share with you some tactics I found to be very effective in fighting depression. I’ll also share some thoughts on popular techniques that I found ineffective and even counterproductive for myself.
Before we take a look at some strategies for tackling depression, I want to share with you my experience with this beauty. I began having severe symptoms at the age of eighteen. They lasted for many years. I’m still not sure what caused them. All I remember is realizing that something was off. My whole head became numb and foggy, making me feel like I was half-dreaming. My body became so tense I could not even make a smile. Normal sleep became non-existent.
Here is a list of other symptoms I experienced daily:
Ahh..the sweet memories. Things only got worse in my early 20’s. At first, I was blaming myself for causing it, believing that I must’ve done something wrong. I visited doctors and psychiatrists that prescribed different medications; played around with alcohol and weed. However, none of it worked. Future looked bright and promising!
Scientists believe there is no single cause of depression. Some seem to be caused by a traumatic experience, others seem to be genetic. However, most of the factors that cause depression can be summarized in two words - lifestyle patterns.
With rapid technological and societal changes, our biological and psychological makeup doesn’t have sufficient time to adapt and perhaps cannot adapt. We created social structures that are not natural to our bodies and our minds. Humans are part of nature, but we become more and more isolated from it. We willfully trapped ourselves from our natural habitat like animals in a zoo.
Back in the days, in order to survive, a person had to constantly be in nature either hunting or farming. Every time our ancestors killed an animal or collected crop, they received a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment for their work. Every day they woke up with purpose.
Today, many people’s days involve work that brings no satisfaction, only waiting to get back home to grab a bottle of beer and sit in the same position for hours while watching characters perform on a screen.
With each new generation, the world changes significantly. This creates difficulty for many parents to equip their children with the right skillset and mindset to establish themselves in society.
Years ago, a father knew that for his son to be successful, he needed to know how to farm and hunt. He knew exactly what skills and tools to hand over. Today, the rapid changes in trends, technology, and other factors make it impossible to continue the same pattern of passing down heirloom.
This issue was particularly noticeable in post-soviet immigrant families that moved to the US at the turn of the century. Because of such drastic differences in societies, parents were incapable to provide the necessary guidance to their children on how to navigate the new system. Unable to establish themselves, many of their children turned to destructive lifestyles, ranging from drug abuse, promiscuity, and criminality.
Let’s looks at depression on a personal level. Depression is a pain, not physical, but psychological; although it may often cause physical pain. Pain is an indicator of an underlying problem. If you have chest pain, there is a chance you have a heart or a lung problem. The worst thing you can do is to ignore the issue or take pain medications to suppress the signal.
Oftentimes, depression is an indicator of a serious problem in our lifestyle patterns. Examine your life. Are you satisfied with all aspects of it? Are you living up to your full potential? Heck, maybe in your case having no depression would be abnormal!
You continue making the same financial, relationship, and work-related mistakes. You eat junk. You watch TV or Netflix for hours each day. You avoid people. You don’t exercise. You’re not striving. You avoid discomfort. You drink, smoke, abuse drugs. And you’re expecting to feel good about yourself? No, my friend, you’re at a place that exactly matches your attitude towards yourself and life. Remember, depression is an indicator of your current situation in life.
The biggest obstacle to solving any problem is lying to yourself. If you are serious about living a happier and more fulfilled life - never lie to yourself about anything. Below are some things that may seem to work in theory but don’t really work in practice.
When you have knee pain, it’s not productive to be grateful for not having neck pain. Although being grateful is important, right now is not the appropriate time. You have to act. If you genuinely feel grateful for something - be grateful. However, don’t make it a tactic for overcoming depression.
Depressed people are lonely, sad, and confused. I’ve heard many motivational speakers suggesting that positive affirmations are the answer to getting out the rut. Just look in the mirror and say “I am happy” “I am successful” “I am satisfied”. I promise you - you’ll look stupid from the side, and it won’t work. No matter what you say, deep inside you know your situation. Never lie to yourself.
This is another lovely symptom of depression. Everyone makes mistakes, but depressed people give their mistakes too much emphasis and time. Don’t. Learn from them and move on.
I have friends who achieved career success that are miserable and unhappy. Their job is the cornerstone of their self-image. Besides that, their life is far from desirable. Many great and talented people are unhappy not because of their success, but because they pinned their happiness and self-esteem on one aspect of their life while ignoring others.
This is a tricky one. Again, it all has to do with being true to yourself. If you want to help someone out of altruistic intentions - more power to you! However, if your goal is to expect improvements in your life, most likely you will be disappointed. Some people help others who are worse off than them to make themselves feel better about their own situation. Don’t lie to yourself.
This is perhaps the biggest sin of a depressed person. Depression causes mental fading and isolation. It’s a trap. You need to act. You have to do things that reinforce the senses of your existence. Playing video games in your mom’s basement does not help. Taking pills in most cases does not do you any good either.
It took me some time to figure out what works. However, as a result of the actions I list below, I feel happy and content. I am able to experience life much more vividly. My productivity increased multifold. To get out of depression, you have to go through fire. It is not an easy process, but it’s worth it.
List the areas you need to improve. Buy books on those subjects, learn, and implement. Listen to audiobooks while driving. Don’t waste time on science fiction and fantasy books. Develop and maintain a child’s curiosity. Learning will not only give you the keys to find a way out of depression but to excel in life.
No better way to start seeing improvements in life than with your body. Many studies show that exercise improves mood and reduces depression symptoms. Obesity causes inflammation in your body, which causes depression in many cases. Lose the pounds, look sexy, and feel great. Exercise is free and very effective medicine.
Cold showers are amazing mood boosters. Next time you’re taking a shower, turn the water to ice cold and enjoy it for 30 seconds. You may frighten everyone in the house, but you’ll feel amazing afterward. Remember, you have to get out of your comfort zone. Start with showers.
Healing yourself with natural remedies is far better than using chemicals. Here are the supplements that showed tremendous results in my case. You can start experimenting with them and see what works for you.
Inflammation is one of the causes of depression. Here are some of the ways you can reduce inflammation besides supplements.
Create a Word document and write down everything that is wrong in your life. Above the list, write down a “don’t want” reason for why you want to change: “Because I don’t want to be depressed”, “Because I don’t want to be a loser”. It’s ok to label yourself in a negative light.
Your goal is to transform yourself from that label into the Higher You. Create short-term and long-term goals for yourself and track your progress. Take pictures of yourself each month to see physical changes, and record whether you’ve been able to eliminate any bad habits, overcome any obstacles, or achieve results.
Every time you overcome a feat of any type - celebrate. Become addicted to overcoming and succeeding. Success breeds confidence and more success. The harder the fight, the more enjoyable the success.
This one is a little tricky because most of the time the negative environment is inside your head. No matter where you go it follows you. However, when the environment is truly negative around you - avoid it. Energy attracts like energy.
Your brain needs an intensive shock and overhaul. Whatever mental state you are in right now, it doesn’t seem to produce good results. Going out there and doing things you’re afraid to do is a great way to rewire your brain. Go for a run and run until you can’t, and then continue running. Something blissful happens in your mind when you overcome an obstacle you never thought was possible. It stays with you forever. Get out of your comfort zone and overcome.
Find people that make you feel better about yourself when you interact with them. If they make you feel better, they are the right people for you. Their positive energy will transfer over to you. Try to return the favor with positivity through sincere compliments, attention, and support.
Nothing is sadder than laying on your deathbed knowing that you’ve been half-living your entire life, never experiencing joy and excitement. I promise you - it’s possible to start living. It’s possible to feel hopeful and purposeful. Don’t bury your head in the sand like ostriches to pretend danger doesn’t exist. Start acting.
You will always experience the highs and lows. You have to experience the lows to appreciate the highs. It’s all about the momentum, the trajectory of your progress. Keep fighting. You’ll enjoy the process. See you on the other side.