I have literally been battling depression for the last 30 years and I am only 37. I have had ups and down and days where I certainly did not want to live anymore. I experienced severe bullying and parental neglect. I felt lost and hopeless hundreds of times, but I pulled through and I am so glad to be here to share some of the things that made a positive difference for me. I didn’t always do all of these things, but have added more strategies to my repertoire over recent years. Now most of these things are second nature. Although my depression still creeps in every now and then, I have learned how to fight it and I am getting stronger every day. Below are eight ways that I fight my depression and win every day. How do you fight your depression? I hope some of these ideas help you, like they have helped me.
- Concentrate on the present moment
One thing I have learned is that if I dwell on the past or worry about the future, I can easily fall into a depressed like state. When I catch myself slipping I make sure to pay close attention to the present. What do I smell right now? What do I hear? What is around me that I can be thankful for? What do I see that looks beautiful? Research indicates that paying attention to the present moment by being mindful and aware of what is around you is as effective of a treatment for depression as medication is.
- Remind myself how short life is in the grand scheme of things and why it is important to make the best of it
Human life started thousands of years ago. I am only here for a short time. Even if I live to be 100 years old, my life is a blink, a flash, a snap shot in a time line that goes on and on. I might as well spend that time in a good mood. Why do I want to take my only shot at life (at least the only shot that I am aware of) and spend it in misery? Even if a lot of things suck, a lot of things are good and I might as well enjoy them in my very short time here. I always remind myself that I don’t want to spend my one chance feeling sad. I want to soak up all it has to offer so when I go out I don’t regret the way I lived.
- Help Others
Ever since I was 12 years old, I have worked or volunteered helping others. These include: kids, the elderly, and people with special needs. When you help others, you can’t help but feel that you are accomplishing something worthy. You feel proud of yourself, which is a good way to combat feeling down. There is no better feeling than the gratitude from your clients and families and the true reward that comes from making a difference in someone’s life. It definitely gave my life a sense of purpose.
Research supports the notion that people with a tendency toward depression can help themselves by helping others or otherwise introducing positivity into their day-to-day lives. To see more about this research see With Depression, Helping Others May In Turn Help You.
- Stay away from cigarettes
Research indicates that smokers are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. I smoked a pack a day for over 20 years. I quit cold turkey when I found out I was pregnant with my son. Three weeks after I quit I noticed a huge improvement in my mood. I truly believe quitting helped. While staying away from cigarettes is a daily struggle, I believe it has been a huge factor in my progress. Smoke free for three years now.
- Drop and give me 20
I have read a lot about the benefits of exercise when it comes to combating depression. For me this has been really hard. I just feel so unmotivated when it comes to exercise, but I wanted to try something. I found a way to exercise in really small doses so it is not overwhelming. For example, I will randomly drop and do 20 push-ups, dance to a Youtube video, run around the block, or run up and down the stairs three times in a row. It may sound silly, but when you pick 10 to 20 random things a day it adds up and leads to a more toned body and an overall feeling of stress reduction. Also, each time I complete a short exercise session, I can’t help but feeling proud of my accomplishments. A review of studies stretching back to 1981 concluded that regular exercise can improve mood in people with mild to moderate depression.
- Be a good person
One thing that I know about myself is that I am a good person. I always go out of my way to help someone in need, I am very empathetic towards others, I am a good listener, I like to share, I am someone you can call when you are in trouble. It is hard to be down on myself or feel bad about my life when I know I encompass all of these traits, even if others don’t seem to notice. What are your strengths! What makes you such a good person that it is hard to be down about the negative stuff? Look at the list below. I am sure you can find at least five things that show you how great you are.
- Listen to music and sing along
I think this was one of the very first things to save me. No matter how down I am feeling, turning on a song I can relate to and belting out or whistling along has pulled me out of many dark holes. Evidence also suggests that music is an effective way to treat depression.
- Tune into a favorite show (or something else you love)
Okay, I am sure this is nothing new. We all turn to TV to escape from the negative feelings that invade our lives each day, but TV really does bring me to a happy place. Some of my favorite anti-depressant shows are the Goldbergs and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Nothing like a good laugh to lift my spirits! If TV is not your thing, do something else you love to bring you to your happy place-bake, sew, play an instrument, paint, write poetry, etc. Research indicates that doing things we enjoy helps up fight depression. If you feel like you don’t enjoy anything, push yourself to do something you once enjoyed even if it is just for a few minutes. This can help you get back in the swing of things.
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Rachel Wise is a certified school psychologist and licensed behavior specialist with a Master’s Degree in Education. She is also the head author and CEO at educationandbehavior.com, a site for parents, educators, and counselors to find effective, research-based strategies that work for children. Rachel has been working with individuals with academic and behavioral needs for over 20 years and has a passion for making a positive difference in the lives of children and the adults who support them. For Rachel’s top behavioral strategies all in one place, check out her book, Building Confidence and Improving Behavior in Children, a Guide for Parents and Teachers.