The other day I figured out a fool proof method to get rid of depression forever. With this in mind, I thought it would be remiss of me to ‘solve’ depression and not show others how to do it. So here are 10 easy ways to beat depression. If this doesn’t work within the month you can have your money back. Technically even a single one of these will do the job, but I find mixing one or two gets the best results.
We live in a clickbait society which can never satisfy our true needs and desires, and this article is no different. Sorry to disappoint, but I do love a bit of sarcasm. There is no way to ‘solve’ depression.
Can we ever achieve the clickbait dream of beating depression in ten easy steps? No. We can’t beat it in easy steps. But this does not leave us helpless or useless. We are facing a terrible challenge, but we can fight it. There are no easy steps, but there are tough ways which do make a difference. We can fight it on both a mental and physical level. Even though we may have no control over the onset of depression, we can still do things to push it back.
We owe it to ourselves as people made in the image of God (we are too valuable to not treat ourselves with dignity) and as people who have obligations to others (all people need to think of others more highly than themselves) to fight the depression. Even when we don’t want to, we still have to fight and ignore the cultural voice telling us what we want is most important (which is heavily prevalent in western mindsets).
There are many days that I don’t want to get better from depression. If I got better I would have to go outside every day. I would have to be energetic again and play sports. These things terrify me when I am ill.
There are many days when I would rather die than continue. What is the point in living in such a painful existence? Is it worth struggling through this existence when every thought of happiness is accompanied by a thousand malicious ones?
The easy option for depression is to give up. The clickbait dream is just to end it one way or another.
But that is not the right decision. It is wrong. We belong to something bigger. We belong to something better. Even when we don’t want to get better (which may or may not be often), we must keep pushing through. God has rich plans for us, even for someone as broken as I am.
With that in mind, here are ten ways to fight depression. They are all tough. None of them are easy, but all of them are important and effective. You will have seen some before, but I tried to spice it up a bit. Depression is different for everyone, but these should help in all cases (to varying degrees though). As always feel free to ask about anything I put up. It is important to me that everything on here is true, so let me know if you want to see some of the studies or sources of my thoughts. All of the claims can be backed up.
Also, I had someone point out that these are helpful tips for life, even if you don’t have depression. This should be helpful both for helping people with depression work through these, and ideally picking up some tips too.
The other important thing to note here is that I fail at all of these without exception. I am not writing this to encourage people to be perfect, but to come struggle through it with me. These do make a difference
The first three are the most important, but the rest aren’t in order.
#1 – Depression is a Team game
There is a ton to say about this, but I won’t mention too much here. Every single other point will show why this is number one on the list. It is impossible to go through this by yourself. Everyone in the world NEEDS other people supporting them to flourish. This NEEDS to happen physically and spiritually, so by extension emotionally.
One necessary clarification is that we need people around us, but they need to be helpful people. People who will help us make wise choices, not ones who will pressure us to make bad decisions. People who will encourage us to seek medical help, not ones who are afraid of medicine. People who will look out for our needs, but also will let us into their lives. People who are willing to get to know us, and are willing to be known by us. Finally, we need people in our lives who are willing to let us help them, because we need healthy two way relationships. Everyone needs the things above, but depression can help us see more clearly the benefits or hurts caused by a good/bad team.
#2 – Do Exercise
This is the best anti-depressant. If we want the best way to fight the chemical problems in our brain that play a role in making us ill, we need to exercise. Not only does it make you feel better afterwards, but it has positive long term effects. Whilst it is true that it doesn’t solve all our problems it makes a big difference.
Obviously, exercising can be the last thing on our to-do list. I love sports, always have, but when you don’t want to live exercise tends to drop down the pecking order. So how do we manage this? The answer is #1, we need a team.
Over the past couple of years, I have tried to get into regular exercise multiple times. Often it would be by trying to play a sport I enjoyed. Now the problem with this is that I am quite competitive. Once I was playing a game of spike ball (not even a proper sport, although amazing fun) and I took it too seriously, so my body reacted. I started to feel ill. All my energy disappeared and I felt light headed for about 9 weeks. As a result, the doctor banned me from doing anything competitive, so no sports.
The dream was to have a gym buddy, but I knew I would feel competitive with most people. However, one day at the gym I bumped into my friend LC who was also there. Just chatting whilst we were working out was great for getting to know her and for doing the exercise. I think a combination of her being super encouraging and a lot fitter than myself mean that I didn’t feel competitive. It was great.
I had someone who I enjoyed working out with, someone who was much fitter and stronger than I was, and someone who could encourage me to keep exercising. There were a lot of days where I either wanted to go just to hang out, or ended up going because I had that accountability. If we had just said, “let’s hope we meet at the gym again and then work out together,” it never would have happened. But by making plans together it gave me much more motivation and impetus to get exercising, which in turn helped my health.
#3 – Get professional help
This number will split into two sections. First of all why bother, and secondly how to do it.
‘Why bother?’ you ask (or I ask rhetorically to keep this conversation with myself going). The short answer is that it works. A longer answer is that there are lots of ways to get professional help, but they work. Anti-depressants work. If you are the type of person who would take medicine to help with a cold, allergies, diabetes, malaria, heart problems, or anything else, you should consider taking anti-depressants when depressed. If you are ill you should take medicine when there is a healthy and clinically proven option available, depression is no exception.
Anti-depressants are particularly effective when used in conjunction with counselling and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Talking to someone who is trained professionally not only gives an avenue to process feelings in a safe environment, but can help you realize what exactly is going on inside. I found that this is helpful because I often find myself being totally overwhelmed. I can’t really figure out what is going on and feel like I can’t trust my senses fully. However, trained professionals can be great at teasing things out.
There are other viable medical treatments which I haven’t experienced, but they are often used in cases of extreme depression. These are things like cranial stimulation, don’t be sacred of them if recommended by a doctor.
At some point you will probably have a terrible experience at the hands of a professional. Whilst they are trained, some of them are numpties. They might be having an off day, or might just be terrible at their job. Whenever this happens to me I feel distraught. A rage builds up in me that wants me to have them stricken off the register because of their incompetence. Usually in my anger I think all sorts of hurtful and evil thoughts about punching them in the face, try not to do this.
Then, after a while when I have cooled down (usually I will get angry whenever I think of it), I am not in a rush to go back. There is nothing quite like this to drive me away from getting help. I feel betrayed that I put in a ton of effort and they were hurtful. But despite this it is wise to go back.
Number #1 still is crucial here. First of all, I needed so much encouragement to get to the doctors in the first place. My friends encouraging me to go didn’t know I had depression, but they just knew I was feeling ill. After that (bad experience) it was a couple of years later until people started encouraging to go again. After a suitable amount of resistance, I gave in and went. This doctor was much better.
Other times I have needed other people to make a phone call to the doctor for me. I didn’t feel up to it, but someone offered, which was great. Other times we might just want someone to be there for us because it is scary to go, let alone alone (I was really pleased with the end of this sentence).
#4 – Try and Avoid Social Media (at least be very careful)
This one is annoying, but how much do you want to get better? I understand that this is a tough one, but it is worth it.
Here are some facts. Using apps such as Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook etc. will increase depression and anxiety. The developers behind these apps use the work of behavioral psychologists to prime the brain to be addicted to their product. They manipulate the brain chemistry to get us to use their apps. I know this sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it is just clever business.
The Facebook ping for a new message? The buzz of a phone? The little notification on Facebook (comments release more dopamine than ‘likes’ do)? They are not randomly designed, but engineered to keep us hooked. Ever find yourself at a party and feel the need to check your phone? or check your phone regularly to see if you have notifications, despite knowing nothing will be there? or find yourself wishing for a buzz in your pocket?
Depression messes up the chemicals in your brain, so this just makes things worse.
Perhaps the bigger problem is social media envy. This is a phenomenon that occurs when observing others on social media. Essentially, viewing social media makes people feel envious, then angry and frustrated. Everyone just puts up their best on social media. Looking at social media will make you angry/bitter/frustrated when we inevitably compare ourselves to other people.
Stay off Snapchat, it is a carefully constructed (but false) identity to show to your friends how much fun you are. Stay off Instagram, it is a carefully constructed (but false) reality to show others how perfect we are. Stay off Facebook news feed, it is a death trap that will only make you feel worse about yourself. Set your phone up so that it never buzzes. It will help disconnect you from it and stop you releasing dopamine whenever you get a text telling you that you your phone provider has a new offer.
If you really want to keep social media to keep in touch with people, limit your use. Also, you probably don’t have a good holistic reason for keeping Instagram or snapchat. I am much more sympathetic to the use of Facebook, Whatsapp, or Wechat. If you want to use Facebook, and are serious about doing everything possible to get better, download Facebook Eradicator (http://tinyurl.com/m6jufk2). It blocks the newsfeed. Also we don’t really need to be so connected to Facebook that we have the app on our phone, or even the Messanger app. It is a pain, but once you get used to it, it is freeing.
My second year of university was when I got depression. It hit me like a truck and completely confused me. I didn’t realise what was going on. But what I did manage to do was spend hours everyday on Facebook doing nothing. I would scroll down the newsfeed and constantly message people who I knew would respond. Not about important things mind you, I just needed to hear the ping. I felt so isolated from others around me relationally that I turned to social media to try to fill that gap. I was definitely addicted. I hated seeing my friends from school happy with each other (turns out a lot of them had depression too, but social media tells us a lie). I was happy for them, but mad that I had to live my life in St Andrews in such a destitute state. So many things set me off, any stupid status, cry for attention, or arrogant brag, which is the way Facebook newsfeed works.
The best way to manage this is to get people to hold you accountable to this. They can see your online profiles so know if you are using social media. Get them to delete the apps off your phone one at a time. Life was lived before social media, and you need to get some perspective if you can’t live without it now.
Replace the time you spend on social media with real people and it will blow your mind.
#5 – Stay away from Pornographic material
I am not writing this as a moral thing, but purely from a mental health perspective. I would recommend that everyone stay away from porn (please get in touch to chat more about this, it is a very important discussion), but particularly those with mental health problems.
There are a couple of reasons why this is critical. First of all, “Studies have found that frequency of porn use correlates with depression, anxiety, stress, and social problems.” As someone who struggles with depression, anxiety, stress, and as a result social problems, this seems like the type of thing I should avoid. If you have a mental health problem, porn will rapidly exacerbate the problem.
A second reason is that people who watch pornographic material tend to feel guilt and shame about it. It is something that isolates relationally. This is terrible for someone with depression. I cannot tell you the amount of guilt and shame that people with depression feel already. We often feel like we are a total burden to those who love us and beat ourselves up needlessly. These are symptoms of depression. When I watch a Youtube video I shouldn’t this only adds to the shame and guilt which I have to constantly battle anyway.
So don’t watch Porn? Yes, but also more. Anything with pornographic material. Watching porn includes things like Game of Thrones or 50 Shades of Grey. These studies are done on pornographic material, not just the porn industry. If you want to get better don’t watch porn, stay away from Game of Thrones.
I am a human. I understand the desire to want to watch these shows or porn. It makes sense to me and I get the appeal. But bear in mind that anytime we watch it (ignoring the moral ramifications for a minute) we are ruining relationships, increasing shame and guilt, and increasing the amount of “depression, anxiety, stress, and social problems,” in your life. It is potentially the most destructive thing to ignore on this list.
The quote is from the organization Fight the New Drug. They research all sorts of studies on pornography. They are incredible, please check them out. http://fightthenewdrug.org/
Guess what the absolute best way to stop watching porn is? #1, we need a team. We need encouragement, honesty, and accountability to beat this. We need to tell someone who can encourage us and (to the chagrin of all British people) check up on and challenge us. Seriously, this isn’t something to fight alone.
#6 – Eat well
Eat lots of veggies and fruit at all meals.
Having a proper diet will
- Help with energy levels and can help fight low moods.
- This will reduce the chance of getting ill with something else as well, which is the last thing which we need when we are depressed.
- Help us keep a healthy weight.
- Help us recover after the crazy amount of exercise we will be doing after reading this.
I know that the last thing in the world that we want to do when feeling depressed will be to maintain a healthy diet. But please ask your friends to make sure that you are eating well, or ask them to cook for you.
#7 – Avoid mind-altering substances
The idea of taking our mind even further out of our control isn’t wise. We already are struggling with it, but using a mind-altering substance complicates things. Alcohol is a downer, drinking this when depressed may well make you feel far more depressed. Caffeine is a stimulant, having it when anxious may make things a lot worse. Using a more ‘trippy’ drug won’t help with being overwhelmed. It is difficult enough to trust our senses and to find truth without this.
The idea of this is not too complicated. Using drugs or alcohol when struggling with a mental health problem just makes it more difficult to fight it in the long term. It might be a great short term solution, but actually can be damaging in the long run.
Hopefully the pattern is clear now. The best way to avoid these is to get your friends involved. If you struggle with alcohol, ask your friends to make sure you don’t drink on a night out. If you struggle with drugs, ask your friends to get rid of you supply or to delete the number of your supplier etc. Get them to keep you accountable.
#8 – Learn to try to sleep well
Sleep makes a massive difference. I personally find the idea of going to bed and being left to my own thoughts really scary. I don’t like to go to bed. I love sleep, but it is the step before which drives me crazy. But there are a lot of small things which we can do to get the most benefit out of sleep. Here are some tips I have gotten from doctors and from some sports science sleep specialists (lots of football clubs now consult with these doctors, and yes I mean proper football. For those still unclear that is not American football).
- Regardless of how much sleep you are getting, make sure to be resting in bed from 11pm – 7am at least.
- Turn of all lights. Even the blinking of a laptop charger compromises sleep. Absolutely all light needs to be out. Blackout curtains are your friend
- Only use your bed for sleeping. For any other activity use another space. Keep the bed sanctified for sleep.
- Don’t eat for at least an hour before sleep.
- Don’t use a technological screen for at least an hour before bedtime (unless it has a blue-light function).
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol, both compromise sleep quality.
- Try and exercise to tire your body out.
- If stressed read before bed time and relax your mind.
- Phone needs to be on silent.
Get your friends to make sure that you are getting to bed regularly. We need encouragement for this too.
#9 – Take advantage of the good times
This one is super handy. If you are feeling well and can think clearly, or even just more clearly than usual, take advantage of the situation. I find it really tough to ask for help when I am feeling ill. People ask how to help, and I don’t know what to say. Nothing seems to matter or make a difference at times like that. What I have learned to do is to ask my friends for things when I am feeling well. I will essentially draw up some guardrails that will catch me when I am feeling ill. This will be everything from giving me lots of hugs to helping me with the dishes. One thing I made my flatmate promise me last year is that if I ever felt depressed, he would actually put up a fight when I thrashed him at Fifa, otherwise it felt a bit hollow.
This really is useful for all areas of life. When I was feeling ill I would hardly work on my stuff for University, but whenever I started to feel better I would do a bunch of work to make sure nothing was in late. When I am feeling well I try to eat healthily and get into shape. That way my fitness doesn’t suffer too much when I am feeling ill again.
This is also true about how angry I am. I sometimes say really mean things to people when I am feeling depressed. It is helpful to let my friends know in the good times how I don’t mean these things and I am just struggling to control my anger. I don’t have the presence of mind to tell people that when I feeling depressed. Letting people know that I am erratic emotionally helps them give me the much needed graciousness in the bad times.
#10 – Pray
It works, just try it.
Hopefully, these will help. Don’t be discouraged if they seem tough or if they seem impossible. Even small steps can make a difference. As always please get in touch. Would love to chat to you about it.