If you are anything like me, you have read, researched, talked about, taken advice, and even given advice about depression. I’m comfortable with admitting that depression is an issue for me because the statistics show that I’m not alone. In 2014, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), “around 15.7 million adults age 18 or older in the U.S. had experienced at least one major depressive episode in the last year, which represented 6.7 percent of all American adults” (para. 7). It is important to know you’re not alone, and that there is nothing wrong with seeking help. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) states that “up to 80% of those treated for depression show an improvement in their symptoms generally within four to six weeks of beginning medication, psychotherapy, attending support groups or a combination of these treatments [according to the] National Institute of Health [in] 1998” (para. 7). Are these options always affordable and/or available for everyone suffering? – Possibly not. Treatments may not always be available, but depression has many enemies.
Even while taking an anti-depressant I have to remind myself that life is good. When my mind falls into a pit of negativity it’s rough to recover. Sometimes, I don’t get it all together until the next day, but I believe working your hardest to be thankful is one way to combat depression. That might sound clique, but being able to separate yourself from your situation and look at the bigger picture is a skill.
A voice in your head might be thinking, “This article is a waste of my time.” or “I know this stuff already, but it doesn’t work.” etc. – just take a moment though and name three things that you are thankful for. Maybe it’s something as simple as your family. Maybe it’s something specific, like being thankful for your ability to cook well. Whatever it is you have or can do, actively think about that thing.
Another way I personally put depression at bay is by volunteering. Not only has this helped with my depression, but it has also reinforced my gratitude. Whether it’s volunteering for a beach clean-up, helping at a food bank, or assisting at an animal shelter I’ve always walked away feeling better about myself and my situation. It might sound selfish, but in the end, everyone is benefiting from your effort. Find something you are interested in and see if there is an opportunity for you to volunteer. Marathons, concerts, summer camps, homeless shelters, and even some sporting events are just a few of options to consider. Just about every public event or venue is going to have volunteer positions available.
Speaking of sporting events and marathons – EXERCISE!
Getting active really helps! Your body was made to move. If you are not into exercise and don’t want to be “that guy or gal” then think consider an alternative. Ride a bike around the neighborhood. Walk the block and listen your favorite playlist. If you’ve ever been to a doctor then they’ve asked the question, “Do you exercise?” The Mayo Clinic states that “research on anxiety, depression and exercise shows that the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can also help reduce anxiety and improve mood” (para. 2). The clinic goes on to say that “the links between anxiety, depression and exercise aren’t entirely clear — but working out and other forms of physical activity can definitely ease symptoms of anxiety or depression and make you feel better” (para. 3). Most people that have read anything about exercise and depression have read about how endorphins are released after a workout, but one thing I found in my research to be even more interesting was the Monoamine Hypothesis.
Dr. Lynette L. Craft and Dr. Frank M. Perna wrote an article titled ‘The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed‘ for the Primary Care Companion Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, and in their extensive research found that the Monoamine Hypothesis is the “most promising of the proposed physiologic mechanisms” (para. 19). The hypothesis states that “exercise leads to an increase in the availability of brain neurotransmitters (e.g., serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine) that are diminished with depression” (para. 19). In my mind, I imagine these chemicals building and repairing my brain like a construction site. It sounds goofy when I put it that way, but I’m a goober.
Lastly, I want to encourage you to get involved in a hobby. When I’m down-right depressed I stray away from music, writing, and painting. I’m less disciplined with my exercise routine and I eat worse. When I force myself to get back into the things I love, it helps me work through that difficult time. Maybe it can work for you.
Be thankful. Take time out of schedule to volunteer. Fit an exercise routine into your week. Get back to that hobby or past time that enjoy so much. These are some of depression’s enemies. Use my tactics or find your own ways to combat depression. Either way, fight.