This article discusses how to deal with depression by yourself without drugs or even any medical treatment. If you’ve already read my blog, you’ll know that all my articles are based on first-hand experience. I write about how I was able to get rid of bad habits and lack of discipline, how I learned to overcome stress and manage my emotions. Most of my recommendations stem from how I dealt with my own shortcomings and psychological illnesses, including depression.
Leaping ahead, I would like to say that I’m now free of any signs of depression. But first things first: I’ll share my experiences of combating the illness at the beginning and end of this article, while in the middle I’ll provide practical advice for managing depression.
The Beginning – My Story
I suffered a spell of severe stress in 2005 and started having panic attacks. It wouldn’t be accurate to say that stress caused my panic disorder, but it accelerated something which would have happened sooner or later. It is true that I had always been prone to anxiety and depression.
I was very impressionable and emotional, I would brood over trivial matters, I worried and fidgeted a lot, making a big deal out of nothing. By and large I was quite a neurotic, weak character, and all that was needed was a trigger to set off my panic attacks and depression.
The sudden onset of stress acted as this trigger. I started to experience panic attacks several times a day, and I spent the rest of the time tensely waiting for them to come. Over time the frequency of the attacks declined, but they were replaced by symptoms of depression.
Panic attacks crushed my personality and awakened my fears; I started to develop dejectedness, bitter discontentment with myself and my life, pessimism, frustration and bad moods – all the core signs of depression.
I went to the doctor and was prescribed antidepressants, anxiolytics and sedatives. Fortunately, I only took these meds for a short while since they caused my condition to deteriorate. I’ll tell you more about the efficacy of medication to treat depression.
What you should know when you have depression
Are antidepressants and tranquillisers able to treat depression?
Some studies have shown that antidepressants are slightly more effective than a placebo (Wikipedia). Other studies report that antidepressants are much more effective than a placebo, but can cause unpleasant side effects including anxiety, insomnia, nausea, low potency, headaches and weight gain. Do antidepressants eliminate the symptoms of depression? It depends. Some people decide to give up taking medication since they can’t stand the side effects; I was one of them.
One survey showed that only 27% of the patients being studied felt their symptoms improve after the first course of treatment, while 21% of patients decided to stop taking medication due to its side effects. Meanwhile research from 2002 concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that symptoms disappeared for good after treatment came to an end.
In fact, antidepressants are analgesic in nature, in that they relieve pain (psychological in this case) and can even make you feel happy. However, like other such medication, they don’t treat the source of the pain.
As soon as you stop taking medication, you’re likely to get all the symptoms back. Aspirin will never cure persistent migraines – it will just temporarily reduce the pain. This also holds true for antidepressants. They represent pain relief but can cause side effects and result in addiction. The conventional wisdom on the efficacy of antidepressants is greatly exaggerated. ‘Stop!’ you may argue. ‘What if it is a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes depression and drugs are able to redress that?’
Can medication redress the chemical imbalance??
It is important to note firstly that no one knows for sure what the ‘correct’ chemical balance in the brain is, or how drugs can establish this. Chemical interchange within the human brain is a very complicated process, and there’s no panacea to precisely and predictably get your brain into a desired state.
Antidepressants have an effect on the serotonin levels in your brain. But who can say that serotonin is the main issue? The condition known as ‘depression’ could be the result of sets of chemical reactions not necessarily involving serotonin going on in the head of every individual.
A great variety of different factors result in depression on the neuronal level, so exerting a selective effect on them will not automatically improve the situation.
‘Stop, stop, stop!’ you’ll be protesting again. ‘When I take medication I feel better; doesn’t the more reliable evidence show that they do work and actually establish a balance?’
An antidepressant is an agent that affects the way you think and feel. The fact that your condition improves while taking it doesn’t really mean anything.
Not everyone suffering from depression seeks ‘salvation’ through antidepressants. Many turn to drugs: alcohol (as I did), cannabis, opiates and so on. And even if a person feels peaceful and happy after smoking a joint, it doesn’t mean that the drug is helping his brain get back to the desired balance.
The simple fact is that many drugs act in this way, causing a sensation of joy and euphoria. All negative thoughts recede into the background for a while and problems fade into insignificance.
But can they cure your depression? I doubt it. Besides, you’ll end up paying a heavy price for temporary pleasure with the possibility of dependency and health problems.
Antidepressants are no different from drugs other than being legal. Their production involves an entire industry which turns around huge sums of money and employs a vast number of people.
The manufacture of antidepressants is very profitable for many pharmaceutical corporations, so they have no interest in people dealing with depression in other ways. They actually benefit from people becoming lifelong consumers rather than recovering.
Is it only the chemical balance that’s to blame?
On the other hand, depression never develops without a cause. It isn’t some kind of ‘curse’ being visited upon you from the clear blue sky. The reasons for depression are often associated with a person’s emotional world, his habits, health, thinking and life outlook, as well as with the way he responds to stress and misfortune.
Remember at the beginning of the article I said that my personality traits, such as emotional sensitivity and anxiety, were the preconditions for the development of my depression and panic disorder.
Antidepressants could theoretically have given me back the joys of life for a while, but would they have actually got rid of the causes of my depression? Would they have taught me to cope with stress? Would they have helped me change my way of thinking and shake off the preconceptions preventing me from living a happy life?
Even if pills relieved my symptoms, they wouldn’t have protected me from any new stress which could set off my panic and depression again.
I’m quite sure that, like me, most people have psychological peculiarities that give rise to depression, deepen the condition or hinder recovery.
Pills alone are not enough to free yourself from depression; you also need to work on your habits and fears, to change yourself.
I wouldn’t say that depression is a disease in the usual sense of the word. It can’t be compared with a cold that disappears when your body kills the hostile virus. Unlike a cold, depression will not go away by itself. It is connected to the way person thinks, what he does and how he looks at things. This means a person can deal with depression using his thoughts and actions.
There are many different kinds of drug-free therapies aimed at changing individual mindsets, adjusting behaviour, developing stress management skills, etc.
In contrast to antidepressants, these therapies can have long-term results – cognitive behavioural therapy is one example. However, I’m not going to talk about that here; I’m going to rely on personal experience.
I managed without pills or doctors, although I can’t say that my depression was very severe (but I had very strong panic attacks). I’ll share methods that helped me shake my depression further on in the article. Let me talk a little more about doctors and methods of treating depression.
Update 08.04.2014:some people still argue, that the cause of their depression is ONLY the low level of serotonin. And to live normal life they have to take antidepressants till their death. Well, what if you mistake? What if doctors mistake? (Depression is not completely studied thing in medicine) What will be the value of this mistake? Either they are right or wrong, you will live your life in order to enrich pharmacological companies. But if my approach towards depression as personal problem, which can be solved by work with yourself is wrong, you will lose nothing if you use it! Even if you will not get rid of your depression, you will develop valuable mental skills. But if I am right (I am sure I am at least in the case of my depression, I managed to get rid of it and live a happy life!), you will be cured. Or your symptoms will be softened! Know the causes of your limiting beliefs. Test them in real life. Try different methods except pills. I will talk about methods later in this article.
Questions to ask your doctor
Living in Russia, I wouldn’t say that my fellow citizens stand the best chance of getting help to cure panic attacks or depression through seeking medical help. I’ve drawn this conclusion based on my own experience of visiting the doctor and on the numerous comments on the Russian version of this website.
Generally speaking, you can’t always rely on external support. Doctors’ unenlightened attitudes often border on cynicism and the two run into one another.
Some doctors tell patients that they have no chance of curing their depression and they’ll have to ‘be on pills’ for the rest of their lives.
They are then prescribed a cocktail of antidepressants without the roots of their depression being identified or even being informed of the side effects or possibility of addiction.
I believe that doctors should get to the bottom of the background of your disorder or directly admit to their inability to help – ‘You should know that all I can do is prescribe you pills; they most likely won’t cure you but will temporarily alleviate your symptoms. I am aware that there are many therapies and techniques that you can learn from other specialists or master through your own efforts. If you’re interested in a temporary solution, then of course I’d recommend antidepressants. But if you really want to get yourself well, I’d recommend using a drug-free therapy. You could take pills to supplement this or not take them at all.’
So why don’t psychiatrists tell you this?
How is the situation with treating depression in your country? Is it very different from the one described above? I’d appreciate it if you told me a bit about it in the comments section.
I’m not saying that every single doctor tries just to eliminate the symptoms of the disorder while ignoring its causes. There are many good doctors out there, including in my country.
But if a person is depressed and seeks medical attention, there’s always a chance that they’ll be referred to a specialist who doesn’t propose any effective therapy, but convinces the patient of the incurability of the disease and reduces his ‘treatment’ to antidepressants. It is this attitude exhibited by doctors that has led to many people being addicted to pills.
These people’s internal conflicts haven’t disappeared; they’ve remained unresolved.
So if your doctor prescribes pills and doesn’t offer you any other treatment, you should ask him:
- ‘What’ll happen when I stop taking these?’
- ‘What other ways are there to treat depression?’
- ‘What side effects does this medicine have?’
- ‘Why have you recommended this particular treatment to me?’
- ‘What do you think caused my depression?’
Make sure that your doctor carefully examines the particular course of your depression and makes an effort to uncover its source. Keep in mind that recovery does not just mean eliminating symptoms. And turning a person into an exemplary member of society is not just a question of making him happy and healthy.
Where should you look for the reasons for depression?
People often don’t know what’s actually causing their low spirits. They think, ‘Perhaps when I meet the woman/man of my dreams, I’ll be happy’, ‘Maybe if I get a new job everything will be all right’.
Sometime these people stop feeling depressed for a while – they fall in love or get a new job, and new impressions and tender feelings get them out of their apathy. But nothing lasts forever, so the new job gradually becomes routine, flaming feelings eventually cool down and people find themselves back in a pit of despair.
When this happens they continue blaming external circumstances for their misfortune: ‘Maybe this is the wrong guy? Maybe this isn’t the right job for me?’
Realising that some of their actions in real life lead to feeling better inspires hope. ‘Things look black today, but when I meet the perfect man, am rich, go and live an a different country – then I’ll be happy’.
I talk about how dangerous these ideas are in my article ‘How to Find Happiness’.
I don’t wish to imply that external circumstances have no influence on depression at all; it is simply that the reasons behind our problems often lie within us.
When you’re suffering from depression everything around you seems dull and toneless. Waves of euphoria from new experiences will give way to low spirits and boredom. You’ll find problems in all situations which ostensibly prevent you from being happy. Your internal situation will be projected onto your perception of external circumstances, but this projection shouldn’t be confused with how things really are.
You should therefore look for the problem both outside and within yourself! Maybe your failure to find perfect love is not the root of the problem. Maybe the issue is your approach to relationships? Or your habits and weaknesses that have a negative impact on your relationships?
Perhaps the cause of your depression has nothing to do with relationships and you have some other problems, but brief dalliances leave you feeling that you’re high in the saddle, riding away from your problems!
If this is the case, no lover will make you happy before you solve these problems.
And, before getting to the practical part of the article, I’d like to draw two important conclusions.
First of all, depression is often a consequence of your internal problems rather than external circumstances. If your life is full of stress, you could find a way to get rid of it. If you’re irritated by people, you could learn to be more tolerant. You can learn to deal with your fears and lack of self-confidence. Changing yourself will change your perception of reality, and many things you see as problems will fade in importance.
Secondly, you’ll never recover from depression overnight, even if someone gives you a million dollars and a magic anti-sadness pill. Getting through the disorder requires long-term work on yourself so you won’t see any results by tomorrow.
I’m going to base the practical part of this article on these two conclusions and place special emphasis on working on yourself. Of course this doesn’t meant that I won’t give advice on improving your living conditions; but first and foremost I want you to focus on yourself.
I should say that during my depression there were many times when my condition would suddenly improve. This would happen when, for instance, something joyful happened, my living conditions changed, I had a rewarding experience and so on. But things would soon go back to “normal”.
I drew a useful conclusion from this experience: if something improved my condition quickly and without much effort on my part, it wouldn’t last long. Long-term results required time and work.
There’s simply no choice to be had between rapid-response and gradual-response methods; rapid methods aren’t effective.
What should you do??
Meditation long ago stopped being solely a tradition of Eastern culture. Since the middle of the last century, it has been the subject of scientific research. Thanks to the activities of Professor of Medicine Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., since the 1980s Buddhist meditation has been used in psychiatry for the treatment of depression, anxiety and stress.
Many people in the West use meditation as a method of personal development and improvement of their mental health. Dr. Madhav Goyal, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, undertook an eight-week survey studying the influence of meditation on depression, anxiety and pain.
The research showed that meditation had a moderate effect on depression symptoms, and the researchers believed that this response was comparable to the effect of antidepressants rather than being simply placebo.
This programme lasted only eight weeks; in my view, effects can be achieved after six months or a year of regular meditation. Since meditation is harmless and has no severe side effects when practised correctly, I would conclude that the abovementioned findings show convincingly that meditation can be an efficient alternative (or supplement) to both medical and non-medical methods of treatment for depression (if you don’t mind the word ‘moderate’).
But what convinces me of the efficacy of meditation for the treatment of depression far more than any scientific research is my own personal experience.
I’ve been practising meditation for three and a half years and haven’t suffered from any symptoms of depression or panic attacks for a 3 years.
I’m convinced that this is thanks to meditation. Or more precisely, the practice served as the initial impulse for me to change my life and become a happy person.
This is why my belief in meditation is much stronger than that of many scientists who have researched it; I myself suffered from depression and was able to overcome the disorder thanks to meditation.
But how can simply sitting still relieve you of depression? According to Dr. Madhav Goyal, whom I mentioned above:
‘Many people have the idea that meditation means just sitting quietly and doing nothing. That is not true. It is an active training of the mind to increase awareness, and different meditation programs approach this in different ways.’
I completely agree with him. Meditation is an effective means of increasing self-knowledge and awareness. It can help you get to the bottom of your problems and address the reasons for your depression. In other words, it helps your ego to step outside the bounds of the depression which is influencing your perception, and to look at yourself, your emotions and external world with a clear and uncontaminated eye.
Furthermore, meditation has an antidepressant effect. It is scientifically proven that the practice improves brain function, bringing about a sense of peace, tranquillity and happiness.
So on one hand, meditations works as a therapy and develops the mental, emotional and cognitive skills necessary for combating depression. On the other hand, it acts as a benign antidepressant which lifts your mood.
However, in my experience (I’ve received many comments on my Russian website from people practising meditation to recover from depression), people often lay emphasis on the second feature – in other words, they use meditation as an antidepressant. They simply meditate and wait for their condition to improve.
Sometimes it does improve, sometimes it doesn’t. It is possible that it doesn’t happen because instead of applying the skills developed during meditation to combat their depression, they simply wait passively.
From my article “Meditation and Depression – How to Benefit From Practice” you can learn how to use meditation against depression.
Read this article to learn how to meditate properly.
Improve your health
Some people blame their depression on deep personal conflicts, severe psychological trauma; in fact, depression can be linked to far more prosaic factors – for example, poor health, lack of time in the fresh air, sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, etc.
So do more exercise. I’m not saying that this will cause your depression to disappear, but a healthy mind needs, among other things, a healthy body.
I would personally recommend yoga and outdoor exercise such as jogging. Yoga helps calm your mind in a similar way to meditation. Jogging and skiing don’t only improve your health; they boost your mood and increase vitality and strength.
Many readers will protest, ‘I can’t – I feel bad and don’t have any motivation.’ No – you can, you just don’t want to. As I wrote in another article, you may not be able to breathe underwater or run at 1000 miles an hour, but you can exercise. No motivation? Forget about motivation! You don’t need it! Who said it had to be easy? It can be hard even for people without depression, but they push past this and don’t wait for motivation to come.
It is also good to avoid unhealthy food. Emphasise foods rich in vitamins B12 and D (which you can also get from spending time in the sun).
Get enough sleep. In my experience a healthy sleeping pattern can have a very tangible impact on your well-being and mood.
Live as you would without depression
In the last point I wrote how important it is to get over your resistance and start exercising.
The point of this is not only that you’ll be forced to do things which are good for your health, but also that you’ll be forced to do something in the face of your depression!
In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck writes of a study in which two groups of students suffering from depression participated. The first group contained students who were missing lectures because of their depression. The second group comprised students who continued to attend lectures and keep up with their studies, in spite of feeling unwell due to depression.
The students in the second group subsequently felt better than those in the first. But could it be that I’m confusing cause and effect here? Maybe the depression of those in the second group was less severe so they were able to continue studying? Carol Dweck didn’t believe this to be the case.
She linked the condition of the students to their mindsets and attitudes towards failure. But I would also link this result to the fact that the students in the second group really tried! They studied and continued to achieve their plans. In spite of their difficult situation, they lived as if they didn’t have depression!
And this, in my view, played a significant role in improving their condition. They didn’t succumb to their depression, but acted in defiance of it! The blues said to them, ‘Lie there whining, and remember to think about how bad you feel!’, and they replied, ‘No way, we’re not going to listen to you. Why on earth should you have power over our lives and be able to wreck our dreams?’
Overcoming enormous resistance, they went to their lectures and kept up their studies. They tamed their depression and didn’t allow it to control them. They lived their lives according to their will and not their condition!
Follow the example of these people! Don’t sit around; do what you would do if you had never even heard of depression.
Relax and unwind
Try to get more quality relaxation. This doesn’t include browsing social networks or watching TV. Give your brain a rest from these things!
Outdoor exercise does count as quality relaxation, so go for long walks in the fresh air, relax in nature, bathe and chill out. Don’t stay late at work, devote plenty time to your family, let more peace and positive emotions into your life to replace tension and unpleasant feelings.
Meet your friends, spend time by yourself, read books. Use your leisure time to benefit you! New knowledge and new friendships… These things will always bring joy.
Don’t get sucked in negative thinking!
The ideas I present in this point have already been raised in the article How to Benefit from Meditation if You Have Depression. I will discuss them again here and make some additions.
Stop asking pointless questions!
People suffering from depression or panic attacks often fall into a vicious circle. They have symptoms of anxiety or depression against the backdrop of thoughts such as ‘Why is this happening to me?’, ‘What is this for?’, ‘I feel so bad, I’m suffering so much, when will this end?’, ‘I’m worthless, I’ll never be happy.’
These thoughts only increase the symptoms of depression, and it gets even worse when you start to ruminate.
When these kinds of thoughts come, think to yourself, “What use are these?” “Do they offer any answers?” No, none whatsoever! They only bring you further down. These thoughts and questions are completely purposeless.
Focusing on them is like speculating where the arrow came from that hit you in the eye, or why it was fired in the first place. (Buddha used this metaphor to explain the pointlessness of questions such as “How was the world made?” and “Where do we come from?” Answering these questions will not lead to enlightenment. I believe that this metaphor can also be applied in the case of intrusive thoughts.)
You think that you’ll never be happy? Why? These thoughts are simply a temporary condition caused by your depression. You feel like this at the moment, but tomorrow you may feel different. In a year you may feel completely different. Don’t extrapolate your current situation to your whole future!
Many thoughts which arise during depression are purely a consequence of the condition. They don’t necessarily have any basis in reality. If during the latest attack you start to believe that you’re worthless, it doesn’t mean that this is true. Do you always think that? Do these thoughts come to you when you’re feeling OK?
Don’t think about these things when an attack is happening, as everything seems black during this time. Wait until you feel better then think about it. Is everything in your life really so bad compared to what’s happening to other people? Do you still believe that you’re worthless? I doubt it. But if you do still think this, it is always possible to change your life. The potential to do this is in your hands.
Intellect doesn’t exist in isolation from feeling, and you thoughts are very closely linked to your emotions. This is even noticeable if you’re suffering from depression. You may reach different conclusions, find yourself in different emotional situations. My morning thoughts, for example, can be very different from my evening ones. In the morning I’m full of optimism, but by evening I can often be thinking, “My articles aren’t helping anyone”, “My plans will never work out.”
But then I think, “Stop! Is this really true? No, it’s not!’ Reality demonstrates to me that my dreams are coming true, and people write to tell me that I’ve really helped them. These evening thoughts are an illusion. I’m not saying that I completely ignore the evening ‘me’; only that I don’t let it bring me down.
Don’t believe everything that comes into your head. You shouldn’t trust all your feelins! If you start to think, “I’m worthless, nothing is going to work out for me”, tell yourself: “Stop! I have depression at the moment. It is completely natural for these thoughts to creep into my head. But they’re born of a temporary condition; I don’t have to believe them or think about them.”
Get rid of obsessive thoughts!
As soon as you’ve said this to yourself, don’t get involved in these thoughts anymore. Notice that I’m not saying, “Don’t think about them anymore.” This is because if you try to get rid of thoughts, you keep saying to yourself, “Stop thinking about this”, which only ensures they don’t go anywhere but keep coming back like a boomerang. (It is not only me who says this; it is an accepted and well-known method of combating intrusive thoughts which you can find any much psychological literature.)
There’s no need to chase the thoughts away, just stop taking them seriously. Let them come, please, but don’t argue with or analyse them. Just don’t pay them attention – you’ve already seen that they’re not true. Don’t wait for them to go away; they will leave sooner or later, but only when you’ve well and truly stopped thinking about them.
Change your life
It is not true that depression depends only on the external conditions of your life. I can assure you that in order to be happy, it is enough to have a roof over your head, food, sound social standing and relatively safe living conditions. Most of you reading this article probably have all that – after all, you’ve been able to access the internet.
This is why I recommend that you change yourself and stop believing that a new job or relationship will save you from depression. The reasons for depression generally reside within a person and stem from their attitude towards life. But of course this doesn’t mean that your condition is completely unrelated to external factors.
Improving your living conditions can improve your feelings of well-being, but this is only one of the factors in your happiness, and not the most important one! I want you to grasp this and not relate your happiness and comfort solely to these conditions.
But still, directed changes in your life will create goals for you which will force you to get moving, which is so important for someone with depression. So what do you need to do?
Find work that suits you
If you don’t like your work, change it. Remember that your happiness is more important than money. If you don’t like going to an office every day, think about starting your own business or working remotely.
Learn about the different opportunities life has to offer. You don’t have to stay on the same career path for the rest of your life (read: How to find Your Calling). There is a multitude of other paths.
Improve your relationships
Don’t look at your romantic relationships as complete and determined now and forever. Relationships must be developed, worked on, talked about with your partner.
Stop looking only at your partner’s flaws; think of all the good things about them which you take for granted. Remember that intense feelings of desire will always fade; you can’t have them forever. But if these feelings disappear it doesn’t mean that the relationship should end. It means that it is progressing to a new stage.
If you’re single, look for a person who will understand and be able to support you. It is unlikely that you’ll find this from someone who is depressed and fragile. If you suffer from depression, someone strong, sensible and balanced would suit you better.
Start to change your habits
As I said at the beginning of this article, depression is linked to our personality traits and it is not always possible to recover without starting to change these. In my article Is it Possible to Change Your Personality? ? I wrote that everyone is capable of developing their qualities and even their character.
In the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success which I mentioned earlier, there are many interesting examples of the ways in which people can change dramatically for the better if they wish.
The book’s author Carol Dweck demonstrates how the belief that people can’t change (‘fixed mindset’) is a damaging one, while a ‘growth mindset’ – the belief that human qualities can develop – can transform you and improve your life.
In the author’s opinion, a fixed mindset is also linked to depression. I completely agree with her here. A person with a fixed mindset sees failure as condemnation. He or she thinks, “I’ll always be a failure, because that’s how I am”, “I’m stupid by nature”, “I’m a melancholic because it’s part of my character type, so I’ll never be able to get away from my depression.”
But when a person believes this he does nothing to try to change, and sinks more deeply into his depression.
It is wrong to think like this, and the experiences of many well-known people show that is it undoubtedly possible to change yourself. My own experience of metamorphosis also testifies to this. I’ve become a completely different person from the one I was 5 years ago. Many of my habits have now disappeared without trace!
The realisation that I could change and become the person I wanted to become was a powerful inspiration!
I realised that I didn’t have to be nervous, shy, resentful, insecure, emotional, sad, neurotic, lazy or insular for the rest of my life if I didn’t want to be! So I started to work on myself, to strive to become better. And those efforts paid off. Changing my identity did away with the reasons for my depression, and therefore got rid of the depression itself.
So start to change yourself and your habits.
If you’re not in the habit of reading books, now it the time to start. Go out today, buy a great classic and start to read it. Read even if it bores you. A taste for great literature doesn’t come straight away and isn’t always innate, but you can and must cultivate it!
Read popular scientific literature, study the scientific disciplines which have always given you problems. This will allow you to use the parts of your brain which are often neglected. Enrich your intellect, develop your knowledge.
Scientists have proven that during the process of learning, new neural connections are formed in your brain. Everyone can become more intelligent, no matter their natural aptitudes.
Read psychology books. Study research on depression so as not to become imprisoned in misconceptions about your affliction.
Don’t focus on yourself so much!
Weed out the problems within your nature. When meeting a friend, try not to offload your troubles onto them. Ask what’s new with them and listen closely to what they say. (Depression is a very egocentric condition which forces you to fixate on yourself and see your unhappiness as the centre of the universe. Move the focus of your attention away from your own experience and onto other people. Make an effort to understand these people.)
Smile more. Criticise people less and say fewer bad things about them. Compliment your loved ones more. Don’t get involved in schemes and silly arguments. Before you blame someone or something for a particular situation, admit the possibility that maybe it is you who’s at fault. Responsibility for our personal problems often lies with us ourselves, and not with circumstances or the people around us.
Harden your spirit, strengthen your nerves, learn to manage your emotions.
Start to cultivate your strength, agility and coordination. Sign up for and attend training sessions. Get up earlier; introduce discipline into your life.
Overcoming inertia – Start small
Recovering from depression often interferes with a person’s inertia and inability carry out volitional actions. Such a person doesn’t want to get himself together and puts up resistance. He spends much time ruminating about how bad he feels, but makes no effort to improve his situation in any way.
I myself was this person. Forcing yourself to act when you’re not used to it is hard, so start small. You can complete my self-development programme in which I gently guide you through the initial stages of working on yourself, one step at a time. There are no complicated tasks at the start of the programme and I would recommend starting with this if you want to act, to make progress, but don’t know how to begin and are having trouble coming up with your own plan.
My whole site it dedicated to personal development. If you don’t wish to start with the programme, you can read the articles there in any order you find convenient.
I don’t want to say that self development is a total panacea for depression. There are many intelligent and physically healthy people who still suffer from this affliction (although personally in my case, depression was closely related to poor health and bad habits). But there is a huge chance that it will open up new goals to you, give you the inspiration and motivation you really need, answer the most troubling questions you have about yourself, and ultimately rid you of the prerequisites for depression which may lie in your character, your thinking, your mindset and your emotions.
The End of Depression
In conclusion, I would like to tell you how my struggle with depression, anxiety and panic attacks came to an end. My low spirits were not a monotonous or perpetual condition; they were interspersed with periods of remission, temporary relief.
My low mood and depression were punctuated by manic states. I believe that these corresponded to the changing seasons and different life events. For example, if something nice and new appeared in my life, or spring arrived, I would get better for a while.
One day after a period of depression, I entered a state of nervous excitement, almost like a painful euphoria. It seemed to me that everything had gone and I had miraculously recovered – I was now a different person.
But then I noticed that even in such an outwardly excited and joyful state, I still felt some kind of deep mental crisis. It was as if this agitation and the depression were just different parts of the same thing. After a while this jittery state came to an end, and I again fell into low spirits.
I desperately wanted to get back into remission. I wanted again to have a sense of life and rejoice in each new day. Since I’d had a negative experience taking antidepressants, I decided not to go back to the doctor and instead try to change things myself.
At the advice of a friend, I started to meditate. I can’t honestly say that I thought it would help, but I felt I had no choice. If pills hadn’t helped me, what would?
I meditated every day. At first I felt worse, but this only spurred me on to do it more – I had been warned that this may happen. I even felt that it showed I was probably doing it right.
I intend to go into detail about what meditation gave me in another article; here I’ll touch on it briefly.
After a few months of meditating, I managed to find the willpower to stop my panic attacks. This had never happened before. I realised that I had control over my condition, and this for me was an absolute revelation. Meditation helped me to understand that my depression wasn’t due to some chemical imbalance (as I had thought before), but due to problems with my character and my health.
The second huge revelation was realising that I could change and get over my issues. I gave up smoking and drinking, I changed my attitude towards people, towards work, towards myself. I started to spend more time outside and took up exercise. In short, I approached my depression like a complex problem which required a complex solution; my personal and life problems would be sorted out along the way.
As a result, after some time I started to feel a little better. I wasn’t jumping for joy that my depression had gone, but I was now relating to it peacefully. I realised firstly that because I was making changes gradually, my depression wouldn’t go away in a single day. Secondly, I believed that even if the depression were to return, I would be ready and know what to do. I was not longer afraid of depression or panic attacks!
But despite my readiness for new attacks, I also felt that I was in a place now where depression would not be able to come. It was as if I had cultivated inside myself a kind of psychological soil from which new shoots of depression could not sprout.
During previous remissions, despite all the enthusiasm, I had felt myself to be in a delicate balance and a state of dependence. That is, I felt OK but deep in my soul I knew that it might not last, that my depression could return and I would have no influence over this.
Now, though, I realised that I was controlling my condition (Update 27.05: “control” is not a right word. Sometimes I am unable to control it. But meditation taught me to accept it, relax and not to make big deal of it) and that I very much influenced whether my depression returned or not. I stopped feeling like a puppet; I became particularly conscious of the power that meditation gave me over myself which played a key role in allowing me to get rid of my psychological afflictions. I realised that I was responsible for everything, and therefore there was almost nothing that I couldn’t change in myself.
You could say that thanks to depression, I started to work on myself and dramatically changed my identity for the better. Thanks to depression I became far happier and stronger than I had been before. (That is, I didn’t go back to the ‘remission’ I had wanted; I got much, much more!) So take depression as a signal that something within you is out of sorts. Suppressing this pain is foolish, just as it is foolish to suppress physical pain which signals there is something wrong with your body.
Take advantage of this chance to change something, to get to the bottom of your issues, to get better and be happier! Depression will then no longer be a curse, but will become a great and wonderful opportunity!