Depression is one of the most common mental disorders affecting 17.3 million adults, or 7.1% of all U.S. adults. When not treated, depression can lead to symptoms like irritability, insomnia, changes in eating, and psychosomatic complaints. Depression can also make you feel hopeless and even have thoughts of suicide.
If you’re experiencing major depression, please seek professional help immediately and use the following eight natural ways to help you manage and cope with depression.
1. Get into a routine.
Ian Cook, MD, a psychiatrist and director of the Depression Research and Clinic Program at UCLA says that when you’re depressed you should create a routine.
The reason, as explained on WebMd is that, “Depression can strip away the structure from your life. One day melts into the next. Setting a gentle daily schedule can help you get back on track.”
2. Beware of rumination.
“The word ‘ruminate’ derives from the Latin meaning for chewing cud, a less than appetizing process in which cattle grind up, swallow, then regurgitate and rechew their feed,” explains Linda Esposito LCSW. “In the human realm, ruminators analyze an issue at length (think ‘emotional vomiting.’). Many ruminators remain in a depressive rut because their negative outlook hinders their problem-solving ability.”
Whenever you feel like you’re in this type of rut, Esposito suggests developing the following action plan:
Remind yourself that rumination does not increase psychological insight.
Take small actions toward problem-solving.
Reframe negative perceptions of events and high expectations of others.
Let go of unhealthy or unattainable goals and develop multiple sources of social supports.
3. Support your health.
Exercising regularly, even moderately for 30-minutes five days a week, is an all-natural treatment to fight depression. This is because physical activity “releases the body's feel-good chemicals called endorphins.”
In addition to exercise, make sure that avoid eating unhealthy foods that contain too much sugar or fats. Instead, consume foods that can improve your mental health, such as dopamine-rich foods like chicken, eggs, lentils, nuts and seeds, and high protein veggies like broccoli and spinach. Also enjoy foods that are high in GABA, magnesium, and iron, contain Vitamin B6, B12, folate, and probiotic-rich foods like yogurt.
And, don’t forget to enough sleep each night. This may be difficult when struggling with depression. But, creating a consistent sleep schedule, and reducing your exposure to blue light right before bed are great places to start. You can also develop a soothing ritual at night that helps calm you down, such as reading, taking a bath, or meditating.
4. Visualize a happy memory.
“When a patient continually revisits a painful memory (say, of a romantic rejection or failed business enterprise), it can tip him or her into near emotional catatonia,” writes Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW. “I say, ‘Wait, before you ‘go down the rabbit hole’ and all the dark feelings overwhelm you, close your eyes and go to a happy memory” so that you can relive that “wonderful experience.”
5. Practice mindfulness.
At the same time, you don’t want to dwell on the past for too long. Instead, focus on the present. Recognize and be grateful for what you have in life. Create a list of small goals that you can accomplish now. And, don’t worry about what happened yesterday or what may happen tomorrow.
Practicing mindfulness is an effective way to help you focus on the present, while also helping you reduce stress and anxiety.
6. Do things that you enjoy.
This can be as simple as listening to your favorite song, watching a movie that makes you laugh, waling your dog, treating yourself to a spa day, or making a plan to go to dinner with friends. Sometimes you may not want to do these things when feeling down. But, doing the things that bring you joy is an easy and effective way to improve your mood.
7. Challenge negative self-talk.
As Ben Martin, Psy.D., explains, “Much of our self-talk is reasonable.”, But, there’s also negative self-talk that is unrealistic and self-defeating. When you’re depressed, you’ll most likely interpret things negatively and be unfairly harsh to yourself.
There are, however, that you can fight back against this negative self-talk, such as:
Reality testing -- determining what’s factual and what your interpretations are.
Look for alternative explanations, such as considering other ways to look at situations.
Putting it in perspective, ask questions like is this situation as bad as I think it is.
Using goal-directed thinking -- thinking about what can you solve the problem or if thinking this way makes you feel good.
8. Don’t isolate yourself.
When feeling depressed, you may not want to be around with others. That’s a mistake. You need to be around people, even if it’s just going to the grocery store. Spend time with positive people who are supportive and avoid negative people who bring you down. If you feel that you don’t have a strong support system, then please reach out to support groups or mental health professionals.