Everybody, from time to time, has a little case of the blues. After all, when stuff happens in life or when people disappoint you, it’s common to feel a little down and to wish for better days. But sometimes, feeling down for a few days turns into hopelessness and despair lasting for weeks on end. It is in those moments that you may be facing depression, which is marked by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, dejection and despair. People who are facing depression are often unable to concentrate, tend to sleep a lot and sometimes find themselves feeling suicidal. Listen — depression is real and it’s serious, so if you are in a state of depression, get help on preventing depression. However, if you know you have a tendency toward depression, or maybe even a family history of depression, you don’t have to just sit back, wait for it and suffer through it. There really are proven methods for the prevention of depression.
Proven Methods for Preventing Depression
First, don’t take on too much at one time. Getting involved in lots of extracurricular activities can be really fun, but be sure you are balanced. After all, adding those activities to your studies, part-time job and other responsibilities can leave you feeling overwhelmed, which leads to stress — a well known risk factor for depression.
Next, get involved in regular exercise. Interestingly enough, exercise is a critical element in the prevention of depression because exercise acts as a natural anti-depressant. Research has proven that regular exercise serves as an antidote to stress and assists in elevating a person’s mood. Choose a form of exercise you really enjoy; that way, you are more likely to engage more often and may begin looking forward to it. Combining aerobic exercise and resistance training seems to be most effective, but many people prone to depression benefit from workouts that involve a meditative focus, like yoga or tai chi.
In keeping with the exercise theme, spend time creating an overall healthy routine, focusing on maintaining your physical health. There’s an undeniable link between depression and life-threatening diseases like diabetes and cardiac problems. The better care you take of both your mind and body, the lesser your risk for these and other chronic illnesses. This involves such activities as eating clean, healthy, natural foods and deep breathing exercises.
Many people who are prone to depression are really hard on themselves, engaging in a lot of negative self-talk, berating themselves and failing to forgive themselves for any past (or present) mistakes. You could be yearning for a do-over for legitimate reasons, or the challenges may stem from internal conflicts. In either case, shoulda-coulda-wouldas are always counterproductive and lead to the kind of negative thought processes that send people spiraling into a state of depression. Accept yourself as the wonderfully made person you are, with unique looks and talents. If you made a mistake, forgive yourself first and forgive yourself now. If there’s something you need to change and you can change it–do. If an apology is in order, offer it. But if the problem is beyond your ability to change, then do yourself a huge favor… learn to accept that and move on.
Next, a lot of people turn to alcohol or other substances to numb their pain and make themselves feel better. And for people in the UK, having a glass is part of the social norm. But, alcohol is counterproductive to the prevention of depression. Why? Because alcohol is a depressant. It robs the body of dopamine and serotonin, which are hormones produces naturally in the body to regulate mood. Further, using illegal drugs or abusing prescribed drugs can alter your mood… but in the worst way. And let’s not mention how dangerous and addictive drugs are. When you are developing habits, make sure they are good ones that have a positive impact — the drug habit is not good for you, or anyone around you.
Spend some extra time volunteering for an organization you like and believe in. Becoming a volunteer allows you the opportunity to focus on the needs of others and the ability to do something that improves lives and social conditions. Call it weird, but there is something incredibly powerful and psychologically beneficial about giving your time, effort, resources and attention on making the world — or the world around you — a better place. And guess what, when you do that, you leave little time to dwell on your own challenges.
Finally, make a point of developing an attitude of gratitude. Sounds cliche, but people who practice gratitude tend to notice the good things that have come their way much more than others who focus all their attention on a half empty glass. It’s a key element in the prevention of depression, and developing this quality is really easy. Get a small journal, and set it aside as your gratitude journal (don’t use it for other things). Once you have it, spend a few minutes every evening writing down three things you are grateful for. It doesn’t have to be a stretch–you can write down the good things that happened for you throughout the day, an item you really wanted (and received), a conversation that made you feel good, a friend or family member you really appreciate. At first, the exercise may seem tough, but if you commit to doing this every day, in a short time you start to realize that there are lots of good things happening — great and small — every single day.