Depression is said to be the most common mental health problem in the world, but its prevalence doesn’t make it any easier to live with.
It’s normal to experience low moods from time to time, but depression is when those low moods become persistent and start to interfere with daily life.
Coping with the symptoms of depression can be a very difficult and often isolating experience. The thought of getting better is usually overwhelming, but you’ve got to start somewhere. It’s incredibly important to celebrate the little achievements and even set yourself small, easy goals. Remember that day by day it seems like nothing is changing, but when you look back over the year you find that things actually have changed.
Here are some little things you can slowly introduce to start easing the symptoms of depression. You may notice your mood start to improve slowly over time.
1. Let some light in
As the metaphor goes, you need to let some light into the darkness you’re experiencing. The deepest moments of depression may cause you to be living in the dark mentally, so it will do you no good if you’re also living in the dark physically.
Open your blinds or curtains to let some natural light into your living space during the day. The bright and cheerful weather will help to lift your mood if the sun is shining bright. During the winter months, consider investing in a sun lamp which will give off the same effect. This is particularly useful if you suffer from seasonal depression.
2. Get some fresh air
If you’re trapped in one room, the air will become old and stuffy very quickly. The stale smell from old plates and unwashed clothes won’t help either. Getting some fresh air will allow you to breathe better and feel more alive.
You could go for a short walk, take out the trash or sit on your doorstep. If the weather is nice, stand out in the sunshine and feel the grass under your bare feet. Sometimes these things can seem like a huge task, so if you’re really not up to it then opening your window will achieve the same effect.
3. Consume happiness
It’s true when people say that laughter is the best medicine. Depression causes you to feel sad and low, so it’s important to counter those feelings with happy ones.
Avoid films, television shows and books that are dark and depressing or explore heavy themes. You don’t need to enhance your current mood – you need to laugh. Watch comedies, stand-up and feel-good films and shows. Stay away from drama and horror. Call up and invite your friends over, too – especially if they’re funny.
4. Get clean
Taking care of yourself can be really difficult when you’re depressed. Each day, try and do something to refresh yourself. This could be changing your bedding or clothes, or even taking a bath or shower.
Feeling clean will help you to feel a little better about yourself, and you’ll have accomplished a task. Plus, if you manage to do something different every few days then by the end of the week you’ll have achieved a lot!
Every now and then, it’s important to be in the present and clear your mind of negative thoughts. The easiest thing to do is search for videos on YouTube. They will give you guided meditations which are short and easy to follow. There’s also no pressure to be good at it. It doesn’t matter if you can’t clear your mind completely – it’s normal to have both good and bad thoughts still appear during meditation.
If the real thing seems daunting, then you can find a substitute. There are plenty of ways to meditate and it’s all about finding what works for you. Reading is a great alternative for clearing the mind. It’s a fun and quiet activity if you’ve got the energy and concentration for it. If you’re not a reader, then there’ll be something else you can do. The purpose is to focus the mind on something else – that’s all.
6. Stay hydrated
Avoid drinking the water that’s been sitting on your desk for three days. We’ve all been there, but you need some fresh water or even some juice to satisfy the taste buds. Add ice if you have it!
Dehydration can happy very quickly, especially in hot weather, and it will make you feel sluggish, tired and unwell. Try to get a fresh drink as often as you can because it will taste better and will encourage you to drink more naturally. Avoid drinking fizzy drinks and caffeine as they may worsen symptoms.
7. Eat something
It’s very easy to fall into the habit of not eating regularly when you’re depressed. It can make you feel lethargic and screw with your appetite, but food is fuel and you need it!
You don’t have to make or eat a massive dinner, but at least try and eat a healthy snack such as a piece of fruit. Eating little and often is also a good rule of thumb, and will hopefully give you the energy boost you need. Stay hydrated if you’re not eating much.
8. Know that it’s ok
If you’re living with depression and coping at all, then you deserve some recognition. A lot of the time, your depression will lie to you and make you feel as though nothing will improve – but it will. Remember that things change and improve over time. Whilst it can be difficult to access mental health services, they are out there and you deserve to access them.
In his book ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’, Matt Haig said that depression is smaller than you. “It operates within you, you do not operate within it. It may be a dark cloud passing across the sky, but – if that is the metaphor – you are the sky. You were there before it. And the cloud can’t exist without the sky, but the sky can exist without the cloud.”
You can do this!