“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path: The enlightened only show the way.” – Buddhist Proverb
It is estimated that 1 in 5 American adults experience mental illness in a given year. Of those, approximately 16 million suffer from severe depression, a debilitating mental illness that can impact your physical health, career, relationships, and, in severe cases, even cost you your life. In fact, 90% of Americans who die by suicide were found to have an underlying mental illness that contributed to their struggle.
With frightening statistics like these, it is imperative that we stand up and make a change in our lives both to help free ourselves from mental illness, but also to empower and encourage those that we love to take the necessary first steps towards a happier, healthier life. There are many different treatment options for those who have been diagnosed with depression including anti-depressant medication and therapy, however there are also many steps that you can take at home to enhance your efforts, empower yourself and take important steps towards leaving depression behind you.
Here are 12 guiding principles that, if applied to your life, can help you to free yourself from depression:
#1 – Remove Toxic People from Your Life
There are people who will bring good energy, positivity and encouragement into your life – people who will lift you up, support your, encourage you and help you to be the best version of yourself that you can be. However, on the other end of the spectrum there are also people who will degrade you, tear your down and introduce nothing but a toxic negativity into your world. These people will never change simply because they have no desire to. Don’t allow their negativity to hinder your recovery. Take steps today to remove toxic people from your life.
#2 – Incorporate Physical Activity
Experts say that adding physical activity into your daily routine might be the most effective change that you can make in relation to fighting depression. Exercise has been found to release mood-boosting neurochemicals including endorphins and endocannabinoids. Acting like a natural anti-depressant, these chemicals work to reduce your stress level and improve your mood. This phenomenon is known as ‘runners high,’ however it is not exclusively felt by runners. Any physical activity can trigger the same reaction.
#3 – Practice Self Reflection
This is an important point; however, it is also imperative that you understand that there is both good and negative self reflection, especially when you are talking about topics like depression. Self reflection can allow you to look back and identify the moments in your life that you have not adequately dealt with or healed from, however it may also bring up some incredibly painful memories and past hurts. If, however, your cross the line into self-rumination then you may obsess over these moments allowing them to continue harming you. This may be best accomplished working with a mental health professional.
#4 – Differentiate Yourself from Your Disease
One highly negative and toxic mindset that many have adopted in relation to mental illness is the practice of identifying ourselves with our illnesses. This, however, takes away your power to control your life and break free from these negative thought processes. Instead, draw a distinct line differentiating you as a person and your depression. You may have depression, but you are not depression. Don’t give it that kind of power!
#5 – Accept Responsibility for the Change You Must Affect
There are two different ways of looking at your life – You can choose to view yourself as the victim, powerless to the cards that life has dealt you, or your can choose to see yourself as a survivor, empowered to fight back and make the changes necessary to improve your life. There is no one better equipped to improve your life than you are, so take this opportunity to be the best you that you can be. We all have challenges, difficulties and struggles in life, but how do you choose to handle them? What steps are you taking to move past them to a better life?
#6 – Establish a Routine
If you are looking to make changes in your life in order to fight depression and introduce positivity into your life, then you will need to establish a new daily routine. When one is dealing with the lows that come with depression it is easy to fall into a rut and neglect your most basic of human needs including getting out of bed, eating your regular meals and showering. By establishing a daily routine, this gives you a tangible and stable structure in your life that doesn’t require you to determine what you need to do next. Instead, you can go into ‘autopilot’ at those moments, allowing your routine to carry you through the initial steps, empowering you to then continue pushing yourself forward through the darkness.
#7 – Read Books on the Topic
What are you doing in your spare time? Are you taking steps to move yourself forward, promoting healing and recovery, or are you wasting this time on mindless activities? If honestly asked this question, many Americans would have to admit to squandering this spare time playing on their cellphones, chatting on social media or watching television however, you can use this time to increase your chance of recovery. There are a number of incredible self-help books focused on overcoming depression. Invest your time into your recovery.
#8 – Don’t Forget Your Soul
So many of us fall into the trap of feeding our minds and our bodies and forgetting that we also need to feed our soul. In a world that is so full of negativity, toxic media, violence, hatred and judgment, it is imperative that we put the necessary time and effort into caring for and feeding our soul in order to achieve overall wellness. Self-care activities to feed your soul may include volunteering at a local shelter, taking a relaxing bath, going for a long walk or more.
#9 – Establish Your Support System
One of the struggles often associated with depression is the feeling that you are completely alone in your battle, with no one there that truly understands what you are currently experiencing. One effective way that many sufferers are combating this toxic way of thinking is by establishing a support system – a group of family/friends that are aware of what you are currently struggling with and that you know will be there for you on your darkest days. Ensure that you have these numbers programmed into your phone, making it even easier to reach out for help when needed. Most importantly, remember that there is nothing wrong with needing help. These people are here because they love you deeply and want to see you healthy again.
#10 – Improve Your Diet
The food that you eat is literally the fuel you are giving your body, and as such you can choose to fuel your body in a positive, healthy way promoting optimal well-being or you can pump your body full of unhealthy ‘junk’ foods. While the exact cause of depression is unknown, experts do say that prioritizing your physical health can have a positive influence on your self-confidence, which, in turn, can boost your mood. Furthermore, serotonin, one of the chemicals responsible for regulating our mood is actually largely produced in our stomachs!
#11 – Practice Meditation
The practice of meditation works to calm your mind, silencing the negative, toxic thoughts that many who are battling depression experience on a daily basis. In fact, a recent study revealed that the practice of mindfulness meditation as part of ‘mindfulness-based cognitive therapy’ (MBCT) is more effective than anti-depressant medication or counseling for the treatment of depression.
#12 – Follow Motivational Speakers
One of the biggest struggles of those who deal with depression is the negative inner voices, telling us that we aren’t good enough, don’t deserve better or are generally bad/negative people. Rather than allowing these voices to dictate how you feel about yourself, drown them out with the incredibly powerful, inspiring and empowering words of a motivational speaker. Whether you attend a presentation live, or tune into a video online, the messages that these individuals deliver can help you to reprogram your own way of thinking.