Depression can be really debilitating, making you feel unhappy, hopeless and unable to find pleasure in the things you usually enjoy. Some people describe it as everything looking grey rather than colourful. Depression can be mild to severe, ranging from persistent feelings of low mood to suicidal thoughts. (Please if you are reading this and feeling suicidal contact someone who can help immediately e.g. the Samaritans, your G.P. or a trusted friend / family member). People suffering from depression often suffer from disrupted sleep – and we all know that lack of sleep makes everything seem worse. It can feel like a vicious circle. People often struggle with either over or under-eating too. Another vicious circle – you over eat, put on weight and then feel more depressed. Alternatively, you under eat and lack of energy becomes a bigger issue. The good news is that people suffering from depression can be helped – medication can help as can counselling. Whilst you decide what treatment you will follow; I’d like to suggest a few self-help things you can try:
Go outside for at least 10 minutes
as early in the day (after sunrise) as you can. Maybe with your breakfast drink. Sit calmly (no phone!) and tilt your face to the sky (please do not look directly at the sun). Pay attention to the conditions:
- Think about the weather conditions – is it hot/ cold, is it windy/ breezy/ still?
- What can you hear? Traffic/ birds/ people?
- How does the seat feel – cold/ comfortable/ secure?
- Can you find something lovely to smell? A flower/ grass/ washing powder on your clothes? When the 10 minutes is almost up, just before you go inside, think about how the experience made you feel – and if you need to, what you will do tomorrow to make it even better.
Go for a short brisk walk.
Focus on the walk – walk fast enough to raise your heart rate a little. Remember the games we played as children – walking across the pavement without stepping on the cracks between the flags – go for it. Having fun is good for you.
Remember the positives:
Answer these 3 things each day:
- What have I done today that was kind? This is not asking for dramatic gestures but simple things like holding the door open for someone, making a drink for others, saying thank you to someone
- What has someone else done for me that was kind? Again, this does not need to be grand – recall when someone unexpectedly smiled at you or sent you a text. Did someone fetch something for you? Was the delivery person particularly helpful?
- What have I learned today? This too can be really straightforward – e.g. that the roadworks near your house have gone or that the car that you thought was black is really very dark blue. It can also be some piece of trivia e.g. an octopus has 3 hearts
You might like to do this with others or on your own. If you write them down in a diary you will compile an interesting record to look back on and will have focused on the positives of the day.
Recent research has shown that gut health plays a big part in mental health. A poor diet leads to bad gut health and contributes to poorer mental health. The opposite is also true. A health diet reducing processed and fast food, whilst increasing home made food rich in vegetables and fruit will have a beneficial effect on mood. I know that finding the motivation and drive to shop and cook whilst feeling depressed is tough. Find some easy recipes and have the ingredients handy. A salad with some protein and carbs or a stir fry with loads of veg are all pretty quick to make and good for you too.
Create a healthy sleep routine. A cool, dark room with as little noise as possible.
- No phones, laptops etc for at least an hour before bed.
- Develop a relaxing routine – take a soak in the bath or have a milky drink, read a book, practice some relaxing breathing, listen to relaxing music, meditate.
- Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each day (even weekends).
- If you do wake up – get up and do something gentle – again away from phones / laptops etc, get a drink and only go back to bed when you think you can sleep again
Regularly doing some of these things may be enough if you are mildly depressed. People with more severe depression will want to get additional help. These activities will help them too while they access the professionals they need.
I hope that you are soon recovered and that life regains its colour.