While not always taken seriously by those who have never suffered from it, severe depression is a debilitating problem, ruining marriages, taking the joy of raising children, killing such simple pleasures as eating and watching the sunrise, fostering alcohol and drug dependency, and even sparking such terrible acts of violence as suicide and murder. To combat this terrible burden, which most clinical psychologists now call a disease, many look to prescription drugs. While this can be a viable last-ditch solution, there are other, healthier, more practical ways to go about ridding yourself of depression.
The first step to ending depression is to radically alter your diet, especially when it comes to snacking. Cut out junk foods such as ice cream, snack cakes, candy bars, and potato chips, choosing instead healthy alternatives such as fruit, nuts, raw veggies, and wheat toast with peanut butter. When you go out to eat, pick a place that sells soups and sub sandwiches, not greasy burgers and fries. Not only will this make you healthier, more confident, and more energetic, it will make you feel better about yourself in general, and it will give you something to focus on other than how depressed you are. If you already eat healthy, set other self esteem-building goals, such as finally reading Moby Dick or learning how to play the guitar.
Next up is exercise. When your favorite TV sitcom comes on, don’t rip open a package of corn chips, plop yourself down on the sofa, and watch that show, only to sit there for several more hours to watch the programs that follow. Rather, move your exercise bicycle (you do have one, don’t you?) in front of the set and get to pedaling. You can take a break or two to catch your breath, but keep riding until your show is over. Once the program ends, turn off the TV so you can do something else with your day other than the non-activity of participating vicariously in fictional peoples’ lives. Take a walk through the woods, shoot some hoops, or run around the block with your kids or best friend. In short, smell the fresh air, feel the sunshine on your skin, and get that blood to pumping.
Perhaps the best, most important way to back your life from the demon that is depression is to remove the focus from yourself and think about other, less fortunate, people. During the spring and fall, participate in a fun run to raise money for your favorite cause, be it breast cancer awareness, the battle against illiteracy, or the fight to end hunger. During the holiday season, ring a bell for the Salvation Army. When you see a homeless person on the street, offer to take him or her to a nearby restaurant for a hot, healthy meal. Rarely will you see someone actively engaged in helping others suffering from extended periods of undue sadness or deep, dark depression.
One of the most enjoyable, most rewarding things you can do to end your depression is to get involved in other peoples’ lives. Join a church, chess club, community group, or other organization that meets on a regular basis. This will get you out of the house and interested in people other than yourself, and it will bring laughter back into your life (any time there’s a gathering of people, even for relatively somber occasions, laughter is inevitable). If you stick with it enough, hanging in there until you find the social activity and group that you feel comfortable with, you will probably make some lifelong friends.
If, over the next few months, you try all of the above and find that nothing is working, you should probably seek counseling or treatment for your depression, preferably from a licensed psychologist or psycho therapist. There may be some deeply seeded reason for your depression, such a repressed memory that needs to be brought to the surface or some childhood trauma that you haven’t dealt with in a healthy, healing way. Whatever the case may be, there are lots of ways other than drugs to reclaim the happy you that surely resides somewhere inside that incredible vessel called the human body, which so many of us take for granted.
The Villa Orlando and Pasadena Villa’s Smoky Mountain Lodge are adult intensive psychiatric residential treatment centers for clients with serious mental illnesses. We also provide other individualized therapy programs, step-down residential programs, and less intensive mental health services, such as Community Residential Homes, Supportive Housing, Day Treatment Programs and Life Skills training. Pasadena Villa’s Outpatient Center in Raleigh, North Carolina offers partial hospitalization (PHP) and an intensive outpatient program (PHP). If you or someone you know may need mental health services, please complete our contact form or call us at 407-574-5190 for more information.