This is a big question which is more suitable for a book than for a blog post. In my book Rise from Darkness I have written about many different measures and techniques you can use to get well.
But a short text like this is easier to read than a whole book, and can give those who will benefit, the motivation to delve deeper into the subject.
Please note that in addition to various self-help measures, many people suffering from depression will greatly benefit from medication and therapy. This post, however, is about what you can do on your own, in addition.
Step 1: Dare to believe that you can recover from depression
One of the main consequences of being depressed is losing hope. Therefore, hope needs to be cultivated to kick-start the process of recovery. I remember how I would avoid therapy for many years because I had no hope and did not think I would ever be better.
Starting the recovery from depression can feel like lighting a fire during winter on a windswept plain. You strike the first match and a small vulnerable flame lights up. You shield this flame with your hands and try to protect it from the wind. Maybe it will go out, but here is the good news; you have a bag full of matches and you have lots of dry kindling. You have unlimited chances for a fresh start, you are fighting for the quality of all those days that remain in your life.
You can ignite the hope and a belief that you can recover. Look around and look for stories about others who have been in the same situation, but are now well (I’m one of them). Hold on to this.
Step 2: Decide to do what is needed to get well
Setting you mind on doing something is an extremely powerful tool. There are many examples of people who have managed something incredible, like lifting a car when there is a youngster trapped under the wheel, just because they focused their mind on doing it.
You can decide to do whatever you can to get well, or at least improve life a couple of notches. You may even want to write a contract with yourself. You can write something like this and sign it afterwards:
It’s June 25, 2017, and I’ve decided to do what I can to make a much better life for myself. I realize that it will take time and that it will be a rollercoaster process. There will be setbacks along the way. But I realize at the same time that if I just keep working and continue to move forward, I’ll get there in the end.
See this short movie about the power of belief.
Step 3: Realize that recovery can take time and involve setbacks, but you will overcome this
Most of us at some time or other have tried to get into a good exercise routine, only to give up after a while. Fighting depression can sometimes feel the same way.
The trick to avoid giving up the fight against depression is this: Be prepared that it may take time to recover and that there will be pain and tears along the way. Be prepared for setbacks, you will encounter periods when things get better, only for you to fall back into deep depression again.
If you have strategies to deal with these setbacks you have a much greater chance of success. And here’s the strategy:
Every time you fall, you just continue the work again. No matter how long it takes, and no matter how bad it gets when you have a setback. It’s like the game of Snakes and Ladders; if you continue to roll the dice you will reach the goal in the end.
Remember also that along the path of healing, there will be numerous joys and positive moments, when you realize that you are indeed seeing progress. So whatever happens, just continue walking, step by step.
Step 4: Read up on what works
There is now so much research available that tells us what works against depression. Here are some of the measures: therapy, medication, better diet, better sleep, more exercise, gratitude, be with people and animals, find more meaning in life, meditation and mindfulness, cognitive techniques, be outdoors.
It’s almost overwhelming how many things you can try in your quest for a better life. My advice is this: Try many things and stick to those that work for you. Acknowledge the fact that there are lots of things that are supported by research and that really do help! And many of the things can be done in as little as five minutes a day.
Get yourself some books about this today. Just reading about what helps is a part of the healing process because it supports your hope of getting better.
Step 5: Start by working with the techniques that benefit you the most
I do not have the space to go into each individual technique in this post, but I have previously written many blog posts about the different techniques. You will also find many of them in Rise from Darkness. Here are some links for further reading:
Extended ABC – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Improve sleep through self hypnosis
Increase the meaning in your life
Listen to music that makes you happier
Dance away from depression
Build more self-confidence
Learn to reduce worries
Practice radical gratitude
Follow the Exit Depression program in 14 steps (under development). The program features instruction videos for each step (Youtube), and is completely free to follow.
In addition to these, go for a walk of at least 15 minutes each day, preferably in daylight. Increase the length of your walks gradually until you are able to walk for an hour every day; outdoors in daylight.
Furthermore, buy a bottle of cod liver oil, a multivitamin and vitamin D supplement, and take these every day. There is an increasing amount of research that tells us that a deficit in important nutrients can cause depression. Check with your doctor for help with the dosage, and to investigate whether you have low levels, for example, of vitamin D.
Step 6: Keep working until you notice that you are getting better
All it takes is that you work with yourself and the techniques you notice provide you with the greatest benefit over time. And that you continue to hold on to the will and hope of getting better.
Ally yourself with someone who cares about you, and who can support you through the worst days.
Share this post on what to do to help someone who is struggling with depression with friends and family.
Get a copy of Rise from Darkness for more tips. Many readers have contacted me after they read it and said it has meant a lot to them.