Dealing With Depression
Research has again and again shown that the single most effective thing you can do to improve your depression is increase your level of activity. Some people find it helpful to take a few minutes and come up with a list of activities they enjoy doing that reliably improve their mood such as spending time in nature, calling a good friend, or reaching out to someone in need. Pleasurable activities improve our mood by distracting us from our worries and filling us with positive thoughts, images, and sensations in the present moment. This counteracts our feelings of depression, and gives us a sense of control over our emotions
Although most of us are familiar with the physical benefits of exercise, the mental and emotional benefits of exercise have only recently become more well-known. Research has shown that exercise is an effective way to improve feelings such as sadness, irritability, anger, fatigue, anxiety, and even poor self-esteem. Physical activity for as little as ten minutes at a time has been shown to increase our level of happiness. Exercise increases the level of certain chemicals in the brain called endorphins which elevate our mood, while decreasing the level of stress hormones like cortisol that can have a detrimental effect on our long term health. Exercise also increases our self-confidence and helps us to feel good about ourselves. It gives us a sense of accomplishment and can help us overcome feelings of self-doubt.
Be Mindful Of Your Thoughts
Most of us don’t realize we are having an almost constant conversation with ourselves in our heads. If you take a minute and tune in to this conversation you might be shocked at what you are saying to yourself. We may say mean and critical things to ourselves that we would never dream of saying to someone else. Our inner critical voice is often composed of messages that have been said to us by important people in our life, and we all carry with us both the good and bad messages from our past. When we become stressed or depressed we become even more vulnerable to the voice of this inner critic. For example, when people with low self-esteem are faced with a failure, they are more likely to give up and tell themselves messages such as “You will NEVER make it”; or “Something bad will ALWAYS happen”. Research shows that people with high self-esteem actually have more failures (as well as successes) than those with low self-esteem. The reason is that a person with high self-esteem will ignore their inner critical voice, dust themselves off, and get back in the game.
Tune Into Your Feelings
Contrary to popular belief, clinical depression is not so much about feeling badly as it is about not feeling anything at all. Our emotions often give us important information about ourselves and adjustments we need to make in our lives. Usually we are feeling a certain way for a reason, and we need to learn how to decipher the emotional messages we are sending ourselves. It is easy to become confused about what we are feeling, and we can mask our true feelings with secondary emotional reactions. Yet our emotions help us assign value to things in our lives, and are the source of our passion and motivation. To overcome depression we must learn to become of aware of our emotions and the messages they are sending, without becoming lost in them or overwhelmed by their intensity.