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How do I 'get happy?'
December 16, 2010 5:07 AM   Subscribe

How do I... feel better?

I've had a lot of issues with depression. Now I feel that it has really broken me. This morning, I wouldn't even get out of bed. When, I did, I actually walked around the house crying. I've tried asking people what I can do but they all say, "you're fine," "don't worry," "I'm sorry," or "see a doctor."

There has to be a way to feel better without seeking professional help. I've been down that road before and I am not interesting in going there at this time in my life.

I would like general tips on how to be happier.
posted by shortbus to Health & Fitness (47 answers total) 70 users marked this as a favorite
 
What things in life do you enjoy, or have you enjoyed in the past? Are you doing them? If you used to knit, and you don't knit anymore, take on a knitting project, seek out a knitting group in your area, etc. Keeping yourself busy with things you enjoy could help.

But really, one bad experience with therapy shouldn't put you off from getting help if you need it to live a happy and healthy life. There are lots of therapists out there with various methods and sensibilities.
posted by litnerd at 5:12 AM on December 16, 2010


I can't answer for anyone else, but my experience is that a change of scenery can be hugely beneficial. I feel like it's easy for some people to get stuck in a mental rut, and a sameness of surroundings doesn't stimulate enough. I find even a short day trip or meeting someone new breaks the fugue of sameness.

I hope you find an answer that works for you. MeMail me if I can help in any way.
posted by pjern at 5:16 AM on December 16, 2010


Exercise. A daily regimen really changes your outlook. I am not an exercise fanatic--but it really works.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:17 AM on December 16, 2010 [11 favorites]


General tips:

1) Every day, work up a sweat exercising, whether it's walking, running, lifting weights, or what have you. Doing anything for about 3 weeks will create a habit, so if you make it every day for 3 weeks, it'll likely become easier after that--as long as you pick an exercise that you enjoy or at least aren't bored by or in pain from.

2) Find something to do with your hands that has a measurable success in finishing it, such as needlepoint, knitting, calligraphy, whatever. Starting points and ending points, small projects with low impact. You need easy wins.

3) You need someone to listen to your woes and doesn't have an agenda. Is that a family member? A close friend? A teacher/mentor/clergy member? This is why people suggest therapists.

4) Are you working? If not, get a job in which you're working in collaboration with others, even if it's doing repetitive, menial tasks. Depression gets worse in isolation. You need a routine way to be around other people, to feel the mundane details that equal daily life.

5) Is there something you've been skipping or avoiding because of your depression? Classes? Work? Projects? Bills? Make a list of 3 things you could do to make yourself just a little happier today, right now. These things should be very small and very discrete, like "take out the trash" or "send the rent check" or "check my bank account balance." Even if you do only 1 of them today, you've taken an affirmative step away from depression.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 5:20 AM on December 16, 2010 [11 favorites]


Exercise, healthy sleep habits and healthy eating can go a long way. Don't stay in bed- that's an unhealthy sleep habit. Eat good food, and eat enough of it. Exercise can be as simple as a brisk walk.
posted by sunshinesky at 5:21 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Depression gets you twice. First, you feel like shit so you don't want to do anything. Second, you feel like shit *because* you're not doing anything. Nthing exercise, rewarding & easy hobbies, etc. The idea is to do things that make you feel good: first, you feel good because you're doing something that makes you feel good; second, you feel good because you're doing *anything* (and not laying in bed paralyzed). Fight back in small, manageable ways, every day.
posted by facetious at 5:30 AM on December 16, 2010 [13 favorites]


Listen to happier music, find positive things to do or enjoy...uplifting stuff, even if you don't feel like you're in the mood for it. This is entirely within your control if you take action. You're a product of your environment....we all get into the bad habit of surrounding ourselves with negative habits or stimulation, we identify with it, ...the problem with that is it keeps the cycle going...and keeps us in that state of funk. (the depressing kind, nothing to do with George Clinton)
posted by samsara at 5:38 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Drink lots of water, exercise (preferably CV) and keep trying to push yourself further and faster. Eat healthily.
posted by dougrayrankin at 5:48 AM on December 16, 2010


I agree with this stuff.
I have also had good luck with a lot of it.
My primary methods:
- Exercise
-- You do not need to go outside or exercise at a gym - there are lots of possibilities, including calisthenics, which are free, that you can do at home and in private
- Regular sleep schedule (if you're insomniac, lie there anyway. Sometimes intending to sleep and lying there until it happens can work - worked for me last night)
- Job, or if that isn't in the offing, volunteer!
-- Focus on doing things that you can track and accomplish easily (for instance, start out and build confidence preferring to volunteer handing out meals instead of coordinating large programs that take months to complete and have a high chance of failure)
- Establish a regular schedule.
- Join social clubs
-- Focus on clubs for things you already enjoy doing if you can
- Make friends
-- Find friends who are cool just hanging out, not only doing Significant Things
-- Find a coffee shop or something where you can be a "regular"
- See doctors about:
-- Depression (psychologists first, then psychiatrists if that doesn't pan out)
-- Lack of sleep (If, for instance, you are insomniac or, oddly narcoleptic, or you have other sleep related disorders, all of that can interfere with your sleep schedule and there are therapies and drugs that can help)
-- Things that interfere with getting exercise (Old or new injuries, especially)

Good luck, and do what you can to cherish yourself and take good care of yourself. You always deserve that.
posted by kalessin at 5:52 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, P.S. Touch! Humans need touch and if you are living alone and don't have close, huggy friends, you may be suffering psychologically/emotionally from simple lack of touch. Sometimes when I've lived in a new city and didn't know anyone, I hired massage therapists. Not for sexual touch, just simple touch. It can really make a difference.
posted by kalessin at 5:54 AM on December 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


P.P.S. The think positively/act positively crowd may seem like they are spouting happy horseshit, but it actually can also help - it can help keep you from interpreting every input negatively, which can, over time, help dredge you up and out. It's not something I find helps alone, but it does seem to be efficacious when combined with other strategies.
posted by kalessin at 5:55 AM on December 16, 2010


One thing that will help immediately is standing up for your emotions. The people you have confided in have invalidated you, made you upset, and less willing to believe that you have a problem worthy of attention. Note who doesn't support your emotions, and think hard about confiding in them in the future. If people volunteer such unhelpful information, you can say, "I don't care to have my emotions invalidated in that way." Or you can say nothing, depending on your comfort level, but it important that you do not become a stranger to your emotions because other people don't think they should exist.
posted by chrillsicka at 5:55 AM on December 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


There is plenty of evidence that exercise can help alleviate the symptoms of depression. So, commit to doing half an hour of moderately strenuous exercise every day. You won't enjoy it at first, but do it anyway. Slowly, your mood may start to lift.

But honestly, there is a reason people keep telling you to see a doctor. If you were truly capable of managing your depression through lifestyle measures alone, you would be doing that, and you would not be depressed. You need some help, and the most effective, evidence-based help is going to come from a psychiatrist or a psychologist.

You know those people who always seem cheerful, even when bad things are happening to them? The ones who seem like they could cope with almost anything? Let me tell you something about those people: some of them used to be just like you. And then one day, they decided they were tired of being miserable, so they went to see a doctor. And then maybe they started medication, or maybe they did a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Or maybe they did both, and learned to manage their sleep and diet and exercise. Maybe CBT helped them make some changes in their life. But whatever they did, they asked for help and accepted it when it was given. And then slowly, their lives began to open up, and they started to make healthier choices, and they built better relationships, and slowly, the world didn't seem so bad. And then one day, one beautiful sunny day, they found themselves walking to the grocery store, thinking...you know what? I'm happy. I'm honest-to-goodness happy.

I know a lot of people who have taken that path, from depression to happiness. I do not know anyone who has made the journey alone, without professional help. I'm sure there are people who have, but I'm also sure they suffered immensely, and unnecessarily, and that many others tried but did not survive. You're free to take whichever path you want. But when people tell you to see a doctor, consider that maybe, just maybe, they were once in your position, and they saw a doctor, and they're telling you to see one because it helped.
posted by embrangled at 5:58 AM on December 16, 2010 [32 favorites]


I'm going to echo the people mentioning exercise and eating right. In my experience, diet has a huge impact on my mood and outlook. I've noticed if I eat a lot of white breads, pastas, that sort of thing, my anxiety gets bumped up a few notches. The same thing applies to fast food/junk food and depression. When I make sure to eat healthy food (especially greens like broccoli, kale, spinach) I feel a lot more "with it" the next day. I've kept a journal recording my meals / moods for a while and there's definitely some connection there.

Speaking of which, do you keep a journal regularly? I've found doing some free writing (disconnect your internal spelling/grammar check!) about my day not only is pretty cathartic at times, it also helps me pick out patterns I might be falling into, things that might trigger moods, etc. Most of the time though, I write just to write without ever re-reading what I put down. I also make sure not to take keeping a journal too seriously. Sometimes things happen, and I miss a few days here and there. If I took it as a "must-do every day" sort of thing, it would just add to my depression when I miss a day.

I've found cooking (even just for myself) to be very rewarding- I'm making sure to eat good food that way, and it's a small project that has a tangible result like ImproviseOrDie talks about above. Cooking may or may not be your thing- just try to find a project or hobby to take on, however small it may be.

I try to keep up on taking a few supplements every day- I take an Omega 3 and 5HTP. They do seem to help.

Irony alert- I've also found that disconnecting from the Internet, even just for a day, helps loads. When I'm feeling depressed, the impersonal nature of the Internet seems to amplify my feelings of isolation and loneliness. For example, I've had to steer clear from posting on MeFi for a while because the "Umm, no you're wrong" nature of some of the comments were getting to me. Taking a break from web browsing, e-mail, RSS, etc, helps me get some perspective ("IT'S JUST A SITE. ON THE INTERNET.").

Of course with all of this, YMMV. Take all the advice in this thread in, try some of it, and see what works for you.
posted by Dr-Baa at 6:05 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Making really long lists of things that would make you happy is a good way to spend hours sitting in front of your computer staring at the long lists and feeling completely hopeless.

Start small. Very, very small. Don't set your goal on 'happy,' set it on 'OK.'

I recently made this journal entry for myself:

"I feel best when I
-have recently done useful, productive work
-am fed
-am actively warm"

These specific things may not apply to you -- perhaps you don't like being warm or don't have a problem with not eating when you're unhappy. That's not the point. The point is that they are a very few small, manageable things that are within your control even when going outside and talking to people may be way too much of an ordeal.

Think about the last time you felt all right about things. Not necessarily happy; just all right. Try to derive two or three statements about the fundamental essence of that time -- the very basics. Did it involve human communication? A certain physical state of being? Sense of accomplishment? Find the most basic things you can about it -- things that you can achieve, in one form or another, where you are right now.

For me, it might be just spending five minutes cleaning something in my house. Or just preparing an uncomplicated meal and eating it. Don't worry about what comes after. Find something small and manageable you can do right at this moment. Afterwards you often find you can do something else as well (or I do, anyway).
posted by frobozz at 6:12 AM on December 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


I agree that exercise can do wonders.

I have had a particularly bad year with a lot of friends and family becoming ill or dying, and serious, nasty work problems etc. Last week my husband had some oral surgery and I woke up in the middle of the night to find him unconscious on the floor in front of the bathroom. He has been my rock through this year. He also had amnesia. I took him to the ER, and he is fine, (he was dehydrated) but I just started to cry at one point because I felt so totally overwhelmed.

I have to say that the key to any improvement in my mood is regular exercise. I am not an exercise freak either, but I drag my ass out of bed early in the mornings to go swim laps at the Y. It is almost miraculous how that works, I really feel happy by the time I get home, and it lasts all day. I also realize that I can be happy and sad at the same time. And things will change again, and this part of my life will pass.

I am planning to really celebrate the New Year too. Which I normally don't do.
posted by chocolatetiara at 6:13 AM on December 16, 2010


Besides the obvious of see a therapist, exercise, eat well...plus all of the other goods stuff that others have mentioned...

Sometimes I have these days myself, and I chalk it all up to having survived a giant life upheaval - I just have no energy for ANYTHING. It doesn't help that I can work from home as often as I like, so first and foremost, restricting that to only one day a week drastically helps.

When I get like this I find that breaking things into small pieces and mini-goals helps a lot, even if one mini goal is just "take a shower". Then once that goal is accomplished, focus on the next one: "brush teeth", "get in car", "drive to work"...etc.

Try to be easy on yourself - wear something comfortable, something nice smelling, pack some healthy food that you enjoy...sometimes it's the little, simple things that matter on dark days.

What also helps me is to write lists and then check everything off as I do it...even if the list consists of "grocery shopping", "empty dishwasher", etc. etc.

Be easy on yourself. There's a lot to be said for taking care of you and pampering you, especially when you need it - and it sounds like you do!
posted by floweredfish at 6:13 AM on December 16, 2010


The same thing that makes you depressed is what makes you avoid therapy.

Your way is through this, not away from it. Go ahead and learn to feel those difficult emotions fully. And go out into the world and do everything feeling them fully. If an activity that benefits you also makes you feel sad and depressed, do the activity despite that and feel the sad emotions.

Also purchase Feeling Good by David Burns, read it, and do the exercises in it for at least six months. Daily.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:21 AM on December 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Accomplish something, ever day. It doesn't have to be big, or even significant. In fact, it helps to start with trivial accomplishments. Pick a task in the morning -- a doable task -- and by the end of the day, have accomplished it. "I will walk around the block." "I will paint my nails." "I will clean out my inbox." "I will sort my MP3s." Just one thing. Slowly, slowly ramp it up to "I will pay my bills or "I will do the laundry." The goal is to make you feel like yes, you can do things and you're not crippled by this depression.
posted by griphus at 6:22 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, exercise. Releases all those 'feel good' hormones. It really makes a difference.

Volunteering. Especially when you work with people who really have a hard life. I've found that when I'm helping people who have it bad my life doesn't seem so miserable.

Hobbies. If you keep your mind busy it doesn't have time to dwell on bad things.

Take a shower or soak in a hot bath. Deep condition your hair. Shave your legs. Do the things that make you feel pretty. If that means shaving your legs and plucking your eyebrows, do it.

Sunlight. GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. Get dressed up a little, put on the clothes that make you feel good about yourself. Do something that has little chance of disappointing you: go see a movie, visit the library, browse through a bookstore, treat yourself to a nice meal, get a manicure.

Act happy. "Fake it until you make it."

I'm dealing with some pretty severe depression and anxiety right now too. I know how hard it can be. I know what it's like to have everyday be a constant fight. I know how exhausting it can be just to get out of bed in the morning. Those things are some of the stuff I do to try and fight my depression.

Just by getting out of that bed you're winning. Realizing you need help and asking for it is winning. Keep fighting. I hope things get better for you.
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:23 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was one of those people who got worse with therapy. And yes, I did try many therapists.

I would investigate nutrition as a possible psyche-improver. This blog has a bunch of info:
http://evolutionarypsychiatry.blogspot.com/

I got my vit D levels checked last year and they were very low. Perhaps the fact that I am now supplementing this is why I feel so much better? I also take omega-3 DHA, a probiotic (weirdly, gut flora have been connected with depression), and gamma linoleic acid. I have stopped eating gluten (upset stomach...many depressives have IBS) and have reduced my sugar intake dramatically.

For me, I think nutrition took care of 80% of the problem.

Then I joined a co-working space and stopped working at home by myself. Poof, 10% gone. It's not like I'm chatty Cathy at work, but just being around people makes a difference.

Then I did something totally unlike me (a former ardent and bitter atheist) and joined a religion with a heavy emphasis on healing the psyche. Poof, the other 10% is gone.

You can pick a bunch of the suggestions here and mix and match them based on your interests and feasibility.
posted by melissam at 6:23 AM on December 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Try faking it. I battle with depression (was even hospitalized for suicidal ideation) and the years of therapy and medications didn't help as much as pretending that I was in a good mood for as long as I could stand it. "Fake it until you make it" actually worked for me, and I can't tell you why.

By "fake it," I don't just mean outwardly, I mean turning it inside, as well. So if you start to think something negative about yourself, try talking to yourself like you're a happier best friend. Find things that make you happy, even for a moment, and concentrate on them. Sing to yourself (or out loud), if you like to sing. If you don't, then pretend you like to sing.

I think this is something close to cognitive behavioral therapy, only on a really basic, layman's level. I think my brain can only handle trying to stay depressed despite my cheerful, silly best efforts for so long before it just gives in to my active thoughts of being okay.

Whatever can help you, try it. And take good care of yourself.
posted by xingcat at 6:26 AM on December 16, 2010


I'd really recommend trying the professional route again. Find a different doctor or a different kind of therapist or a different medication. Quality of doctors and therapists varies widely and efficacy of medication for a given person does too.

That said, exercise and CBT exercises that you can find in books like Feeling Good and Thoughts&Feelings also work, sometimes as well as therapy or medication, although probably not as well as doing those things AND therapy and/or medication.
posted by callmejay at 7:04 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


[folks, please address answers towards the OP and don't start a derail on "what causes depression" thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 7:14 AM on December 16, 2010


Agree with exercise.

Also agree with touch. If you don't get enough human touch, and like animals, and it's feasible, maybe get a dog. Or a very affectionate cat.
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:23 AM on December 16, 2010


I agree wholheartedly with the exercise suggestions and many of the others. One thing that helped my depression immensely was obtaining PointyCat from a shelter. Animals can be very healing. If it is not practical or good for you to have a pet now, maybe there is a friend or relative who would like a walker/sitter/player/feeder for their dog/cat/fish/snake/bird?
posted by pointystick at 7:26 AM on December 16, 2010


This: "This morning, I wouldn't even get out of bed. When, I did, I actually walked around the house crying." is evidence of being in a pretty bad space. I think that if you could do things you enjoyed, you would -- but I'm betting that you don't enjoy anything, because that's the nature of depression -- it sucks the joy out of things. A professional is going to be the best/fastest way to fix that, but I completely understand not wanting to go that route, or not having any faith in that route (and of course you don't have any faith in that route -- you're depressed.)
Today, take a shower, eat some rice or pasta, and give yourself permission to go back to bed.
Tomorrow, start with some of the suggestions above -- set an alarm, force yourself to get up, get some exercise. You've decided you're going to just power through this, so the next thing is to just do it.
posted by MeiraV at 7:26 AM on December 16, 2010


Animals always cheer me up. Its hard to be sad with a puppy in your lap. I'm not saying to adopt a pet cuz that's a huge commitment that you might not be up to right now, but maybe you can volunteer at a shelter to walk a doggie every now and then? That makes me happy just thinking about it! on preview i see a couple other people suggested this.

I second the person who suggested taking a nice bath. Thats my go-to whenever i'm feeling down. Also, smoothies. Something about chopping up fresh fruit, blending it, and then drinking it seems like such a treat and yet also good stuff going into my body.

happy music, the goofiest comedy you can think of, and also maybe treat yourself to some comfort things like new soft sheets for the bed, nice luxurious bath towels - just tactile little luxuries that make you physically feel good. if you feel good physically, it helps a little with feeling good mentally. at least in my case.
posted by silverstatue at 7:29 AM on December 16, 2010


This has been me. It is really not as uncommon as it might feel.
One thing I’m trying at the moment is from a pamphlet I picked up called ‘I can’t be bothered doing anything’. (I liked the title!) It simply challenged me to think about something that I really enjoy and take steps - however small - to get there.
So for example, if at some point you’ve enjoyed hosting a dinner party, then you could aim for that, but in slow steady steps: This week just think about a menu. Next week you can decide who to invite, the week after that, call one of those people just to say hi. Maybe work up to having one or two people come round to watch TV, etc. Slowly move towards your goal and eventually, when you get there, enjoy it!
posted by sleepy boy at 7:30 AM on December 16, 2010


One of the useful things I learnt from Feeling Good was not to wait until you feel like doing something - you sometimes just have to make yourself take action, and your feelings will almost certainly catch up. Even a small activity
might seem overwhelming if you wait until you feel like it. But just try doing it anyway.

Also, I haven't heard much about St Johns Wort lately but it used to get a lot of press for being an effective natural anti-depressant.
posted by 8k at 7:34 AM on December 16, 2010


As most of the good advice has been posted already, I'll just drop in that the number of Courage Wolf images viewed is inversely proportional to how depressed I feel at any given moment.

But seriously though, a friend of mine was feeling pretty blue due to a break-up. I, along with Courage Wolf showed him how stupid and pathetic he sounds right now; and how awesome he really is. He couldn't stop thanking me.

(Obviously this is useless if you don't use the motivation to actually do something)
posted by Senza Volto at 7:41 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Feeling Good is a good book to read. It's good if you're only mildly depressed. If you are more seriously depressed, reading it, and doing the exercises, helps put you in a frame of mind to seek help from a therapist or psychiatrist. (The latter was my situation). Either way, I don' t think it would hurt to read it.

Exercise is good, as is keeping a diary. If you are upset, write down what is making you upset and try to analyze why. It helps to get sad feelings down on paper, and it can serve to organize your thoughts. You can talk to friends/family about how you are feeling and ask them for help in analyzing the cause of your sadness in a more detailed and targeted way with this organized list.

Be advised that sometimes there is a medical reason for depression, which may not be something you can fix on your own.
posted by bluefly at 7:47 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lots of good advice above. I use many of the techniques mentioned, sunshine and exercise I've found very important. The other thing that's saved my sanity more times than I could ever count is reading fiction. Bibliotherapy, a good book, gives me a break from it all, and while I'm lost in some other world, living someone else's life, somehow I become more balanced. I hope you feel better soon.
posted by mareli at 7:47 AM on December 16, 2010


Get a pet! Having a living thing that 1-depends on you and 2-you can focus your love and affection on will give you a good reason to get out of bed.

I know this is dependent on a lot of factors such as where you live, allergies, money, etc. But even a goldfish would be a good start. Maybe start small, and then ramp up to a mammal (ferret, dog, cat) if/when you are ready. For many people, having a dog is the ultimate mood-lifter, since they provide unconditional love and are considered to be great companions.
posted by angab at 7:55 AM on December 16, 2010


A lot of people find that loneliness and social isolation intensify feelings of depression. I know you're not interested in seeing a doctor or "seeking professional help," but how would you feel about a support or therapy group? A lot of people with depression perpetuate their own isolation by dwelling on negative experiences with other people (i.e. other people don't get/like me, other people are shallow/stupid/cruel, etc.), which totally drains any motivation to go out and interact with others. It can be helpful to meet other people with similar issues, because not only will you gain a sense of being understood by others, but a lot of great friendships start in therapy groups. It's sort of like why AA has a built in social support structure. Kicking and addiction is infinitely harder if you don't have social support from people who know what you're going through and the same holds true for depression. If I were you, I'd start looking for groups in your area*. Online support groups also exist, but in my option, it's much better to get face-to-face interaction. Even if you don't love it at first, at least you'll be getting out of the house.


* a quick google search turned up more than a handful of depression support groups in Indianapolis.
posted by Mrs.Spiffy at 8:15 AM on December 16, 2010


If you are able, I highly recommend getting out into nature. A hike or stroll in the forest, desert etc (any place that is not cluttered with modern human drama) always helps my perspective. Bonus points if you're able to catch a sunset.
posted by palacewalls at 8:40 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


For me, getting on an antidepressant has made a world of difference in my quality of life. But for years I went unmedicated, and there were a few things that helped me get by. In fact, even with the meds I don't feel my best unless I do these other things too.

Fish oil - one gram (1000 mg.) is a commonly recommended dose, but some people go much higher. I just took two packets of Coromega which is 5000 mg. At times I've taken up to four packets a day.

Vitamin D - it's supposed to be good for a ton of stuff, including depression.

Light - surround yourself with as much bright light as you can. Open the blinds. Replace all your lightbulbs with the brightest wattage the fixture allows. Turn on every light in the room... get more lamps if you need them. Go outside as much as you can. Even on a cloudy day the light outside is like a gajillion times brighter than indoor light. A 20 minute walk outside would get you both light exposure and exercise. If money is no object, a light-therapy unit could be helpful. An OttLite desk lamp is a more affordable way to get a strong, clear light at your work area.

Exercise - walking outside as mentioned above, or whatever you enjoy or can make yourself do. Aim for 30 minutes. Studies have shown it to be as effective as an antidepressant for some people. I find that even being on an antidepressant, it helps me feel even better if I swim every day and take my fish oil.

Humor - funny books, movies, videos. Look for funny animal videos on YouTube, they are frequently hilarious and short enough that you can watch as much or as little as you have the time and energy for.

Stay away from the news - if you tend to get depressed, angry or stressed out by news and politics, it's ok to shut it off for awhile. A long while, even. If anything huge happens, someone will tell you, I promise. Meanwhile there is no need for you to carry all that negative crap around in your head. Also stay away from movies & TV shows that are depressing, scary, tense, violent, or revolve around the solving of gruesome crimes, unless you genuinely enjoy stuff like that.

Have things to look forward to - craft & hobby projects, a good book, a hot bath, an outing with friends, an hour at the bookstore, shopping for new clothes, a weekend trip... I feel much better overall if I try to always have something pleasurable or fun or satisfying coming up. It keeps me from feeling like life is just a pointless slog to and from work, from problem to problem and bill to bill.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:56 AM on December 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have to disagree that getting a pet is a good idea.

I am still sorry about my goldfish, which died during my major depression. (There were other factors related to the precipitating event.)

While pets are wonders for the emotional health when you're basically functional, they are not a solution when you are not functional.

Ask to "borrow" cat lap time and dog walking time from your friends.
posted by endless_forms at 8:58 AM on December 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


My suggestion is going to sound pretty silly after all the very good advice above but it frequently works for me. Preface by saying I struggle with depression and have for years. When the world gets too dark for me, I go to the bookstore. There are things to look at (books! magazines! stuff!) and I can be around people in a very low key way. Sometimes I don't even speak to anyone when I'm there, but I could, I could even make eye contact and smile if I wanted to. But even if I don't talk, I got out of the house, out of my head, walked around and got a little fresh air. In the short term, this has been a no-fail method for me. In the long term, medication was the key to at least get me to the point where I could take other steps. I hope the world gets brighter for you.
posted by Allee Katze at 9:12 AM on December 16, 2010


I always suggest trying/sticking with therapy, because it worked/is working really well for me, as well as many people in this thread. However, trying to work with your statement that you'd rather not try that -- I think a lot of the benefit is one on one time with someone who is helping you improve something about yourself. Rather than the take a class/exercise recommendations ( which are great but sometimes daunting, because what class/what exercise, etc) -- can you pick something where you do that one thing at the same time each week with one person/instructor/whatever? One on one guitar class? Manicure/pedicure? ( not just for girls). I think in addition to all the medication/therapy goodness that professional help provides, it's also the ritual of focused time just on you.
posted by sweetkid at 9:37 AM on December 16, 2010


If you are able, I highly recommend getting out into nature.

Especially if you can get to some kind of grand feature, like a mountaintop or ancient tree. Yes, it makes you feel smaller, but your problems seem proportionally smaller too.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:31 AM on December 16, 2010


Hold a pencil between your teeth. Sounds stupid; might work.

Try to reduce your exposure to advertising. Advertising is designed to make you feel unsatisfied with your self and with your life as it is, so that you will go out and buy what the advertiser is selling to make your life better. But buying the thing doesn't work, because the need wasn't real, so disappointment is inevitable. Then you feel worse, and then there's another ad, ad nauseum, ad infinitum. So if you're watching TV, skip or mute the ads. For print or screen ads: cover, block, look away. Fighting back against the cumulative effect of all these negative messages can actually make a difference.
posted by Corvid at 12:57 PM on December 16, 2010


Lots of good advice, including to start small.

For example, if "exercise" sounds too hard to do, just tell yourself you'll go up and down stairs ten times today, and if you can't get to ten, get to five.

Don't plan on doing anything big. Clean the sink and do the dishes. When done, reflect on how you feel. Part of you will feel relieved and better. Focus on that and remember it.

Focus on what you have done, not what you haven't. I'd warn you that part of you will be pointing out all the things you haven't done. You have to learn to be kind to yourself.
posted by idb at 12:58 PM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Something I haven't seen yet in this thread: a daily journal of "what worked" - every day right before bed I write down a couple of things that went well during the day. They can be as small as "had a good cup of tea" or "heard a bird sing" - for whatever reason, writing down something happy helps me sleep better. And occasionally I flip back through the journal when I'm feeling like EVERYTHING SUCKS and no, there were those good days.
posted by epersonae at 5:23 PM on December 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


But honestly, there is a reason people keep telling you to see a doctor. If you were truly capable of managing your depression through lifestyle measures alone, you would be doing that, and you would not be depressed. You need some help, and the most effective, evidence-based help is going to come from a psychiatrist or a psychologist.

This.
posted by Drexen at 8:15 AM on December 17, 2010


and the most effective, evidence-based help is going to come from a psychiatrist or a psychologist.

If you go that route, be sure to pick a type of prof therapy that actually has good evidence behind it. Surprisingly, many types don't.
http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20220497_2,00.html
posted by melissam at 8:24 AM on December 17, 2010


What works for me:

Realizing that the goal is not being "happy," but "happier." Do I feel better right now than I did yesterday? OK, that's progress.

Accomplishing something each day, even if it is ridiculously tiny.

Doing something to make myself look better. Ironing a shirt, curling my hair, putting on eye-shadow. Mindless things I can do that say "I'm still here! I'm still fighting!" Also, when I look better/more put together, people respond to me like I'm a reasonably together person, which makes me feel more together, etc.

But, these are things I do to stave off depression when I feel it coming on. Without the other tools I learned in therapy, I don't think I'd be able to use these ideas to effectively manage the situation. CBT helped me a lot.
posted by staggering termagant at 1:27 PM on December 17, 2010


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