self help for depression

Self-help for depression

Self-help for depression is about learning what you can do yourself to overcome depression and anxiety naturally, without medication. 

Our mental, emotional and physical health and well being are all interconnected.  For example, our body chemistry affects our emotions; our emotions affect our thoughts, words, and actions; and our thoughts, words, and actions affect our body chemistry.  This means we can do something about depression.

help for depression

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

While healing from depression isn’t quick or easy, you do have more control that you realize.  The secret is to start small and take a single step, followed by another step and another step.  Taking the first step is usually the hardest, but one simple step can significantly boost your mood and energy for several hours, which can put you in a good place to take a second step.   It is a process of following small positive steps day by day that lifts the heavy fog of depression to reveal the sunshine of hope and happiness.  This process really works.  It worked for me and it can work for you too.

Here are a few tips to begin taking those small simple steps:

help for depression, depression help

Self help for depression Tip #1 –  Make sure your brain is getting all the nutrients it needs

A deficiency in vitamin B has been shown to cause depression (this is just one of the possible sources, depression is complex and may have many different underlying causes).  Research shows that many people have had success treating mental and emotional illness by ensuring that the brain receives all the necessary nutrients.

One supplement, TrueHope EMPowerplus, was designed specifically to help correct vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can cause mental and emotional illness.  It has been used to help people with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, aggression, ADD, ADHD, and autism as well as improving general mental health.  Our bodies and brains work better when they’re healthy and have the proper nutrients.

help for depression

Self help for depression Tip #2 Make healthy food choices

Not all of the “feel good” chemicals are produced in the brain.  In fact, 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut.  That means that gut health is vital to mental and emotional well being.  There is a strong correlation between the way we eat and the way we feel.  If we want to feel good, it’s important to become aware of the way we eat and drink.

Your brain functions best when you’re eating high-quality foods that contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects it from oxidative stress.

Diets high in refined sugars, on the other hand, are harmful to the brain.  Multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function — and even a worsening of symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression.

Many people have seen tremendous physical, emotional and mental improvements simply by altering their diets from sugary and nutritionally deficient processed foods to a diet rich with whole grains, organic fruits and vegetables, and quality protein.

help for depression

Self help for depression Tip #3 Drink more water

Drinking water is a simple, effective, but often overlooked tool to improve mental and emotional health.  Studies show that even mild dehydration has been shown to negatively affect brain structure and function, negatively impact mood, and trigger fatigue.

A healthy brain is made up of about 73 percent water, so adequate hydration is a big deal.  Even a little dehydration, as little as one percent, begins to have negative effects on mood and brain function.  

Improve mental and emotional health by including 8 glasses of water in your daily diet, and by water I mean actual water, not soda, diet soda, coffee, or tea.  Studies have shown that caffeine consumption can lead to increased depression and also increases the need for anxiety medication.

help for depression

Self help for depression Tip #4 Go for a walk

It sounds like a paradox to ask a person who may struggle finding the motivation to get out of bed to add walking to their daily routine, but studies show that exercise actually helps you feel more energized and less fatigued. 

If we want to have more energy, then we have to move more.

Virtually any form of exercise can act as a stress reliever.  It does wonderful things to help our emotional well-being and is one of the most powerful tools in your recovery arsenal.  Exercise increases the production of endorphins, which are the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters.

Walking in nature can also give us a two-for-one benefit, helping not only increase energy but also providing many of the same benefits of meditation, since walking is a form of moving meditation.

Any type of exercise, including walking, helping us calm down and distracts us from our problems.  It improves mood, helps us relax and improves quality of sleep.  So if you’re feeling depressed or discouraged, it might be a good idea to pause and go for a walk.

help for depression

Self help for depression Tip #5 Listen to positive upbeat music

Listening to positive upbeat music is a simple, yet effective way to boost mood and motivation.  According to neurologists, listening to music affects our emotions and “brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can.”

Research shows that different kinds of music can actually produce different kinds of emotions.  Sad music can help offer a release of pent up negative emotions, while positive upbeat music helps move the brain into a more active state as brain waves actually synchronize somewhat to the pace of the music you’re listening to.

When we’re trying to invigorate brain function and activity, there’s nothing more powerful than music.  Scientists have found that music stimulates more parts of the brain than any other human function.

Create a playlist on Spotify, Pandora, or Youtube with songs you love that make you feel good.

help for depression

Self help for depression Tip #6 Sing a song

While listening to music is an amazingly effective tool on its own, singing along with the music adds a whole new dimension and bumps up the power of healing exponentially.

Singing has been scientifically proven to lower stress, relieve anxiety, and elevate endorphins which make you feel uplifted and happy.  It helps relax muscle tension and decreases the levels of the stress hormones in the blood stream and can help take your mind off the day’s troubles to boost your mood.

Participants in one study showed significant decreases in both anxiety and depression levels after one month of adding singing to their routine.

One possible reason for the incredible effectiveness of singing is a scientific discovery of a tiny organ in the ear called the sacculus, which responds to the frequencies created by singing.  The response creates an immediate sense of pleasure, regardless of what the singing sounds like so you don’t have to have an amazing voice to feel the positive effects of singing.

So if you find yourself in a rough spot, sing along to an upbeat, positive song.  Sing through one song three times or sing three different positive upbeat songs once. Allow the music to wash through you and feel the healing and invigorating effects immediately lifting mood and bringing relief.  From my own experience, I can say that it really works.

Print out the lyrics so you can sing all the words and choose songs that have lyrics that have meaning to you personally.  Here are a few suggested songs to help you create your own list:  Roar by Katy Perry, Try Everything by Shakira, Waka Waka by Shakira, Brave by Sara Bareilles, Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield, Fight Song by Rachel Platten, Happy by Pharrel Williams, Better When I’m Dancin’ by Meghan Trainor, Me Too by Meghan Trainor,  On Top of the World by Imagine Dragons, Believer by Imagine Dragons, You Are Loved by Stars Go Dim, and This is Me by Justin Paul & Benj Pasek sung by Keala Settle.

help for depression

Self help for depression Tip # 7 Boost mood and confidence with a hero pose

Our body language affects the chemistry in our body, and that affects the way we feel.  We can use this to our advantage to increase confidence and boost mood in just 90 seconds by doing this one simple trick.  Put your chin up, smile (even if you don’t feel like it).  Pull your shoulders back, stand straight and tall with your hands relaxed at your sides or on your hips.  Keep both feel pointing forward and keep weight even on both legs. Hold this position for 90 seconds.

Research shows that doing these things will not only make you appear more confident and happy; it actually makes you feel more confident and happy.  Charles Darwin was actually the first to hypothesize that there is a connection between body language and our emotion that goes both ways.  We smile when we feel good, but we also feel good when we smile.

Today that theory is called the facial feedback hypothesis and it has been verified in study after study after study. The physical expressions of our body language influence our emotional experience.

Even if you don’t feel like it, doing the actions will help increase those feelings.  If we want to feel happy then we need to smile more.  If we want to feel confident then we stand tall and pull our shoulders back.  Holding this pose for just 90 seconds boosts confidence, increases happiness, and lowers stress.

help for depression

Self help for depression Tip #8 Just add chocolate

J.K. Rowling was right on track when she used chocolate to help Harry Potter overcome the unpleasant effects of an encounter with dementors.  It turns out that extra dark chocolate really does improve your mood and is great for brain health. While pure cocoa is best, this may be too bitter for anyone with a sweet tooth, so a good rule of thumb is to go for chocolate that is 85% cocoa or more. Basically, the darker the chocolate, the better it is for your brain.

Cocoa is high in flavanols which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and reduce blood pressure. Typically, the darker the chocolate, the more flavanols it contains.

So, the bottom line is that eating dark chocolate is good for your memory, blood pressure, and your mood. It helps alleviate depression and also acts as an anti-inflammatory, which means that it is good for your brain.

help for depression


Self help for depression Tip #9 Connect with nature

Spending time outside in nature is good for the body and the mind.  It helps distract us from problems and just helps us feel good.

Research in a growing scientific field called ecotherapy has shown a strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced stress, anxiety, and depression.

In a 2015 study, researchers compared brain activity between a group who spent 90 minutes in nature and a control group. They found that a group who did a nature walk had significantly lower activity in the prefrontal cortex, a region or the brain that is active during rumination.  (Rumination is when people experience a continuous loop of negative thoughts.)

Calming nature sounds and even outdoor silence can lower blood pressure and levels of stress hormones.

So go outside and make a connection with nature.  If the weather permits, take off your shoes and feel the grass or sand under your feet.  Feel the warmth of the sun and the coolness of the breeze and feel your body moving as you walk.  Hear the birds, or the waves, or the rustle of the grass in the wind.  Smell the flowers and the trees and see the beauty of nature around you.  Enjoy a sensory experience in nature and feel its healing effects.

help for depression

Self help for depression Tip #10 Pet the dog

If you’re feeling anxious, stressed, depressed or lonely, one thing that might help is to spend some time petting a dog or cat.

Science shows that playing with or petting an animal can reduce stress and can also help us reduce feelings of isolation and help us feel more connected.

Petting a dog or cat increases the activity in the “reward center” of the brain which lowers stress and increases feelings of happiness.  It also decreases production of  stress hormones, so it works in multiple ways to help you calm down and feel better.

help for depression


Self help for depression Tip #11 Serve someone else

Depression and anxiety tend to make a person retreat inward.  Helping other people can help bring us outside ourselves. It can also help distract us from our own problems and think about something else.

Studies have shown that people who help others have lowered levels of depression and anxiety. In fact, in the research study, service was more effective in making a positive difference in the way participants felt about themselves than making an effort to pamper themselves or creating self-esteem goals.

help for depression

Self help for depression Tip #12 Connect with friends

We live in a digital age where we can be tempted to replace person to person contact with phones and computers, especially if we’re feeling vulnerable.  But humans are social creatures, we crave feeling supported, valued and connected.  Studies show that being socially connected increases happiness and leads to better health and a longer life.  It helps overcome feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Make a list of the people you can turn to.  These are people that you trust to support you and make an effort to contact them regularly.  Reach out to them and ask for specific kinds of help. Remember, your friends can’t read your mind and it’s not fair to expect them to.  And if you’re working on a goal, such as trying to overcome anxiety and depression, having a friend to report to and keep you accountable can make all the difference in the world. The likelihood of getting new habits to stick, of following through on your assignments and reaching goals is remarkably higher when someone else is aware or your goal or assignment and you set a time to report back to someone on your progress.

help for depression

Depression Tip #13 Seek professional help when needed

If your depression is getting worse despite making positive lifestyle changes by using these self-help tips, seek professional help.  Calling a professional isn’t a sign of weakness or failure, it’s just utilizing the right resource for the job.

Even if you enlist the aid of professional help, using these tips can be part of your treatment plan so don’t give up.  Making positive lifestyle changes can help speed up your recovery and prevent depression from returning.  Depression can be treated and you can feel better!

help with depression

You can do this!

While healing from depression isn’t quick or easy, you do have more control that you realize.  The secret is to start small and take a single step, followed by another step and another step.  This process really works.  It worked for me and it can work for you too.

alleviate depression by Linda Bjork
30 Days to Alleviate Depression

This free ebook is a comprehensive action plan designed to alleviate depression.  Easy, step by step coaching guides you through each day explaining not only what to do, but why it works.  Learn more.

Crushed by Linda Bjork
Crushed: A Journey Through Depression

It’s a great read! I was hooked from the start and read it in one sitting!  [Linda] is so open and descriptive of the healing process she took that anyone can benefit from her story. – Amazon review.  Learn more

help for depression and anxiety

Visit the “Help for depression” page for more self help resources for overcoming depression.