Depression refers to a prolonged period of lowered mood and loss of interest in life. It can present as low energy, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, difficulty concentrating, a bleak view of the future, disturbed sleep, and thoughts that life is pointless.
Depression affects 30-40% of people at some stage. It is not permanent and it is treatable. Moderate to severe depression requires assistance from a mental health professional (eg psychologist, mental health social worker) but there are many things that each of us can do to fight off depression.
- Exercise and physical activity are keys to overcoming depression. Research has found exercise at least as effective as antidepressants or therapy in overcoming depression. As little as 20 minutes of intensive exercise a day can help.
- Eat well. What we eat effects how we feel – a diet high in vegetables and fruit helps lift mood. Avoid foods high in sugar, fat, salt, preservatives, colourings or flavourings. Eat small amounts throughout the day.
- Reduce nicotine and caffeine because they feed the anxiety that often accompanies depression. Avoid alcohol and marijuana as they are depressants and will make you feel worse the next day.
- Socialise, catch up with friends. Get out of the house, go places, mix with people. Don’t turn down invitations even if you feel bad.
- If music has been something that you’ve enjoyed in the past, make a priority of playing music that you enjoy.
- Every day do something that you enjoy or have enjoyed in the past. Doing things previously enjoyed helps activate the pleasure centres of the brain. Also do something that will give you a sense of achievement. Engage in hobbies and interests.
- Get out of bed at your usual time every day. Keep to your normal routine, but add ‘treats’ – things you enjoy that aren’t bad for you (eg drinking tea from your favourite mug, reading a magazine you enjoy).
- Identify your favourite smells / tastes / sounds / touches / sights and include at least some every day.
- Look for reasons to laugh: in everyday events, at yourself, at comics. Search for positives generally, in all aspects of life.
- Stand up tall & look the world in the eye. A slumped posture provides feedback to the brain that makes us feel more depressed.
- Keep your mind busy; don’t sit and worry. Television isn’t sufficient; try reading, crosswords, jigsaws, sudoku, making things, craft, or card games.
- Challenge thoughts that take things personally, view negatives as permanent or consider every part of life pessimistically.
- Focus on the present. Pay attention to what you’re doing right now, rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
- Remind yourself you will feel better; depression doesn’t last forever.