Depression is one of those curveballs that life throws at us that’s highly amenable to lifestyle change. This is especially true if you struggle with mild to moderate depression (as opposed to the more severe and sometimes catastrophic variety, eloquently described in a slim book titled "Darkness Visible” by William Styron). Doing any of the following should help you manage depressive symptoms without the aid of antidepressant medication:
AEROBIC EXERCISE. Going to the gym to work out, running on a treadmill, running around your neighborhood, taking a walk, shooting hoops, etc. Depression tends to breed inactivity; you want to thwart the tendency to stay inside the four corners of your house by pushing yourself to get outside and move. A change of scenery lifts your mood. Body and mind are connected: when your body feels better, your mind does too.
MEDITATION/DEEP BREATHING. No matter what your spiritual or religious orientation, I’m a firm believer in the transforming effect of daily meditation. There are different types of meditation. One type makes use of our ability to “selectively concentrate” or focus attention on a single object: a powerful, positive word, prayer, or spiritual concept. Another type of meditation (and one that I feel is particularly beneficial for depression) allows your mind to dwell on whatever appears in consciousness: you accept the thoughts, ideas, feelings, etc. that arise in your mind without judgment. In this way you can "sit with" negative or painful feelings without being overwhelmed by them. Allowing yourself to accept certain thoughts without judgment is also helpful. Much of the time, depression stems from internal conflicts that we haven’t yet been able to resolve, or from being stuck between two possible courses of action. Meditation can slow down our thought process, help us gain clarity into how we really feel or think about a situation, and lead us to a more deliberate decision.
HELPING OTHERS. Depression is an illness that results in fatigue, low energy and a tendency to isolate from other people. In fact, one of the first signs that depression is taking a grip on someone is that they start to shut themselves off from friends and family. They simply prefer to be alone, and because of this, many people mistake depressive symptoms for self-centeredness. The truth is, a depressed person has so little natural energy, they tend to “use it all up” in the service of their day-to-day functioning. In other words, it may take all the energy they have to simply roll out of bed, eat breakfast, and get themselves to work, and that leaves little time to worry about the needs of the people around them. However, if this inward focus can be shifted into meaningful (altruistic) interaction with others, a positive mood just might be jumpstarted. To put it simply: find ways to show compassion for others. Taking yourself out of yourself will also take you out of your depression.