Mental health articles

OF mental health care and mentally ill

Self-help techniques of depression

There are a number of simple suggestions for self-help for depression. Remember that self-help is the first essential step of any treatment plan for depression, so you might just want to try out some of these to see if they help. However, it is the hardest thing in the world to change your life around when it feels as if you are wading through treacle, or at the bottom of a deep well. So some of these will not be easy to do, or to get started on, because you are depressed. Don’t let it stop you trying.


he most important ingredient towards getting better is hope. This can come from the knowledge that these sorts of suggestions are generally quite effective, and so most people doget better reasonably quickly, and from the trust that the most important factor in getting better is your ownattitude towards your recovery.


Any activity that promotes endurance, flexibility, or strengthening is a natural anti-depressant. Exercise, and in particular aerobic exercise, improves circulation, brings increased blood flow and oxygen to the brain, releases endorphins (the body’s natural pain-killing chemicals), boosts serotonin, and counteracts stress. Unfortunately, the most challenging aspect of depression is a general lack of motivation and low energy levels. The overwhelming sense of physical inertia can make it very difficult to do even the most simple tasks, much less get out and do some regular exercise. Aerobic exercise is becoming a much more recognized form of anti-depressant therapy. It is widely acknowledged that if you candiscipline yourself to do some form of exercise regularly, you will definitelyfeel better for it. Even a brisk walk once a day is a very good start. Get a friend or family to help you with your motivation at first.


Good nutrition supports the optimal functioning of your body and brain. Try to eat a balanced diet of healthy foods. Eating as much organic produce as possible will help to minimize the intake of chemicals and preservatives, which can cause problems in sensitive individuals. Another part of nutritional self-care is cutting back on sugar, salt, sweets, and alcohol. Studies have shown that too much sugar (in any form) can foster anxiety, as well as depression. Alcohol can also have a negative effect. Eat the more complex carbohydrates. Drink plenty of water. Do not eat any “comfort” foods, or much in the way of ready-prepared and processed foods. Eat little and often: have bowls of fruit and nuts to hand: fruit smoothies are very good. There is a section on “Foods for depression” a little later.


Try to develop a good sleep schedule—a regular time of going to sleep and arising—and stick to it. Sleep irregularities are among the early warning signs of anxiety and depression. Agood night’s sleep can really help towards curing depression. Prepare yourself: don’t eat too late, take some very gentle exercise before you go to bed, have a bath, read a book for a little when in bed.

Be prepared

Make a list of things that you really must do each day and tick them off as you go: this can give you a sense of achievement. If you think of something pleasant and self-indulgent that you would rather do than one of your chores, then do it instead and just enjoy it. Then do the chore a little later.


One of the most powerful ways to impact your involuntary nervous system and your emotions is through your breathing. If you are stressed, or startled, or angry, just stop … close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Inhale slowly through your nose, directing the air up into your chest as well as deep into your belly, fill your whole body with as much air as possible. Then hold this position for a few seconds. Next, exhale slowly through your mouth and try to empty your body of all that air—completely, like squeezing it out. Repeat this 4–5 times, and you will see how well this technique works. You will feel a bit better. Your feelings will have changed a bit. Not bad for a couple of minutes’ work.


Even when you are just making laughing expressions with the muscles of your face, your body starts to produce the various chemicals (endorphins) that make you feel happier. Watch films or TV programmes that are funny. Listen to jokes or read books that you enjoy. Most importantly, meet up with friends who make you laugh, or whom you can laugh with.

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