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Self Help for Depression



It can seem that self-help for depression is out of reach when depression overwhelms and stifles. Depression negatively impacts mental health and physical health, thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and it can be very life-limiting. What helps depression when it affects our whole being?

Despite the all-encompassing nature of this illness, there is help for it. Self-help for depression can be very effective (Need Help With Depression? Here's What to Do).

Self-Help for Depression Begins with a Starting Point

An important first step in helping yourself out of depression is untangling yourself from the miserable group of symptoms that comprise depression. This doesn’t mean trying to beat the symptoms yet. Helping depression starts with listening to yourself. According to Strosahl (2008),

“Your depression is telling you something that you need to listen to. It’s a signal that you need to spring into action and address the aspects of your life that are out of balance (p. 2)."

Listening to your depression means paying attention to what, specifically, feels wrong. Self-help for depression involves rating your current level of life satisfaction. On a scale from one through 10, with 1 being the lowest you think you can go and 10 being the highest, where is your life satisfaction?

What Helps Depression is Making Lifestyle Choices

Now you have a starting point. You know how satisfied (or, with depression, dissatisfied) you are with your life. You have an idea of where you’d like to make improvements. The next step in depression self-help is making intentional lifestyle choices.

Cousens & Mayell (2000) have identified important lifestyle components for decreasing depression. Among them:

  • Daily Actions: Depression can zap energy and can make it difficult even to get out of bed. Doing something small every day is a powerful way of helping depression because it provides a sense of purpose (Depression Self-Care for When You’re Really Depressed).
  • Exercise: Exercise boosts energy and stress-relieving hormones. Even 15 minutes of low-impact activity is proven to provide depression-beating benefits.
  • Connection: Building and maintaining relationships with family and/or friends is a positive lifestyle choice that is a powerful self-help technique for depression. A few ideas for fostering connections: increase contact through texting, e-mailing, or calling; plan times to be together, and ask the person to help you stick with the plan; become involved in your community through volunteering, participating in groups or classes, and more (Are Support Groups for Depression Really Helpful?).
  • Create. Creativity helps people let go of their problems and stresses and provides a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Journal, write poetry or stories, paint, sketch, draw, color, build something, play an instrument, sing. And don’t judge it. Just create.
  • Laugh. Humor heals. Laughing is self-help for depression that works on an emotional and biological level; indeed, laughing increases positive biochemical and neurotransmitters that elevate mood and decrease the symptoms of depression. (Cousens & Mayell, 2000). Depression might have robbed you of laughter, but you can choose to get it back by seeking it out every day. Read humorous books or listen to audiobooks. Watch funny videos and comedy shows. Take a walk and look for little bits of humor in nature.

Self-Help for Depression: Break Life Areas into Groups

Similar to the above lifestyle choices, Copeland (2001) divides important life areas into the following categories:

  • Activities, including both actions and exercise.
  • Support, also known as connections.
  • Attitude: Attitude involves thinking style as well as focus. Depression has a way of creating negative thoughts, and it tends to pull our attention toward what is wrong in life. Becoming aware of our attitude empowers us to shift our thoughts and attention toward the positive.
  • Spirituality: Spirituality could refer to religious beliefs and practice, but it doesn’t have to. Connecting to something outside yourself, developing an appreciation for beauty in the world, and discovering a sense of awe all help to pull people out of a state of depression.
  • Management: If you have medication, take it as prescribed. Drink plenty of water (dehydration impacts moods and overall well-being), and eat nutritiously. Also, sleep decreases depression symptoms.

When it comes to self-help for depression, knowing where you are and how you want to improve works well to kick-start recovery. Attending to lifestyle, breaking areas of your life into groups in order to manage them piece-by-piece, and making deliberate choices to overcome depression are effective things you can do to lift yourself out of depression.

Article Comments

  • "This was a really good read and makes loads of's just finding the first thing to tackle that is my issue as there is many issues in my life that has led me to being depressed. Only one good thing in my life atm is my son. The reason I have sucked it up for so long but now realise I need to tackle it head on. As it comes and goes but when something else pops up then triggers it worse every time. If that makes any sense what so ever..."
  • - Kim.Kim (19th of February 2019, 12:26:48 PM)
  • "It does make sense but like the above comment finding the starting point is difficult and also been so depressed it is difficult to find the motivation to do it"
  • - Darrius 2 (7th of March 2019, 10:47:07 AM)
  • "You can't pretend to laugh when your very depressed"
  • - Martina30 (24th of April 2019, 11:22:13 PM)
  • "Realised I have not laughed for a long time. Used to laugh all the time, i seem to have l lost my sense of humour and it's been replaced by a dark numbness"
  • - Kelpi (6th of May 2019, 04:23:43 AM)
  • "All of this is correct ,but it is the mindset of a " normal person " speaking . Thats the big problem I find all the time . I exercise have friends am perceived as being a happy guy . I am nothing of the kind ! I have done loads of positive stuff and am still the same . Mind you I am not saying "give up " Try all of these suggestions - they will help even if it is only a tiny benefit its still good !"
  • - Fitzie (17th of May 2019, 09:30:45 AM)
  • "I haven't laughed or felt good for so long. Cant seem to get any positivity in my head. Hate waking up, always another problem waiting for me from my youngest child. No idea where or how to start to face this. Feel no matter what I do I am the bad person. Lost all my friends and family really don't care. I am looking at the bottom of the longest ladder in the world ."
  • - Chris 66 (27th of May 2019, 12:20:59 PM)
  • "having just read the suggestions on the self-help for depression page and the comments. I agree with what is stated but I too have tried so hard for so long... many years in fact, through all sorts of crisis, I am at a loss as the friends I did have seem not to care at all and when I have been in such a dark place and have reached out to them individually I have be told "very busy", and "will get back to you" or just ignored. No one gets back except on group chats so that all other think she is still amazing and loving. All is so upsetting and family now are being two faced and not prepared to help me. I do walking, yoga, singing, 7/6/2019"
  • - son (6th of June 2019, 06:19:57 PM)
  • "It’s hard to actually tackle what you’re depressed about. Sometimes, I just feel down about my life when it’s actually good, and I seem to get social anxiety which stops me from being the best I can. I wish I could be more confident and happy with myself and my image."
  • - Ducky57 (7th of June 2019, 08:39:38 PM)
  • "It’s hard to actually tackle what you’re depressed about. Sometimes, I just feel down about my life when it’s actually good, and I seem to get social anxiety which stops me from being the best I can. I wish I could be more confident and happy with myself and my image."
  • - Ducky57 (7th of June 2019, 08:39:38 PM)
  • "It's too hard to change people's perceptions of me when I feel low I know my mistakes keep happening and will continue to be that way if they don't look at me in another way but I can't change if they can't see what there doing also"
  • - Ben84 (18th of September 2019, 08:42:28 AM)
  • "After reading this I realized I don't laugh either. I sometimes think something is funny but i believe that I have screwed up so much I don't have the right to be happy or laugh. Southpaw"
  • - Southpaw25 (10th of October 2019, 08:48:33 PM)

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