Feeling sad is a normal experience in life. However, when these normal feelings of sadness occur for most of the day, you have has lost interest or pleasure in daily activities, and these symptoms persist for more than two weeks, then it is likely that depression has developed.
How can I help myself to feel better?
- Talk to a friend/family member/someone you trust. Having the opportunity to verbalise what is going on inside you, and (hopefully) feel listened to, and supported, can be helpful.
- If you feel emotional and tearful, allow yourself to cry. Sometimes having a cry can help to relieve tension and process the emotions you might be experiencing.
- Resist the temptation to cope with negative feelings by binge-drinking or binge-eating, consuming illegal substances, misusing medication. All of the above might provide a temporary relief from painful feelings, but will only make things worse in the long-term. Instead, look after yourself by eating well and doing things you enjoy (if you have lost enjoyment in most activities, you may consider seeking professional help).
- Do some form of exercise and keep physically active. This can include any activity that increases your heartbeat (e.g., walking fast, cycling, running, dancing, yoga, etc.). Physical activity has been recommended to be an effective treatment for mild depression (NICE, 2009*). Aim to have three sessions a week, but most importantly, choose some activity that you enjoy so that it is sustainable to pursue it for more than a couple of weeks.
- You might consider trying a form of meditation called Mindfulness. The rationale for this is that, if your mood is low, this is often accompanied by negative thoughts (e.g., about yourself, your life, or the future). Practising mindfulness can help your mind to let go of negative thoughts and to be more present (i.e., in the here and now). You might choose to do it lying down or sitting. The breath is often used as a focus of attention (an anchor for the mind) because it is always present, but you can also focus on any body sensations, or sounds, whilst noticing any thoughts coming to your mind and gently letting them pass. There are several apps available, such as Buddhify and Headspace. If you are a beginner and have never tried mindfulness before, I would encourage you to try first a guided mindfulness practice either on your own (as per the above apps) or in a group. If you’re based in London and you’re interested in group mindfulness courses, the London Buddhist Centre (https://www.lbc.org.uk/) offers a wide range of courses and classes. If you would like to know more about mindfulness, please click here.
None of the above works… how can I get better?
If you have tried the above suggestions and they have not worked, you may want to consider psychological treatment. If you feel indecisive and would like to read more about engaging (or not) in psychological therapy, please click here. If you would like to book a free consultation, please click here .
* National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE, 2009). Depression: The treatment and measurement of depression in adults.