Major depressive disorder, also known as clinical depression or , is the leading cause of disability around the world with close to 300 million affected, according to figures from the World Health Organization. While depression certainly needs to be taken seriously, it’s important for those who have it to know that depression is not a life sentence of gloom and doom. Indeed, depression is highly treatable.
We are not controlled by events or people, but by the perceptions we make of them.
In addition to seeking the guidance of a mental health professional, there are many actions you can take that will help you to successfully overcome this common mood disorder. Here are 7 to get you started.
7 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO OVERCOME DEPRESSION
1. Know your depressive type.
You need to know the type of depression you have in order to treat it effectively. Brain SPECT imaging at Amen Clinics has shown that there are 7 brain patterns associated with and depression, two closely linked conditions that occur together 75% of the time. With each type, different areas of the brain are activated. For example, the “Pure Depression” type often results from excessive activity in the deep limbic system—the brain’s emotional center with symptoms that range from chronic mild sadness to crushing major depressive disorder. Check out the 7 Types of Depression to help determine your type.
2. Eliminate your Automatic Negative Thoughts.
When you are depressed, rampant automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) randomly pop into your mind without your permission. Often distorted from the truth, these angry, unkind, hopeless, helpless, worthless, sad, or irritating thoughts actually affect your brain chemistry causing you to feel bad. You can work to eliminate these ANTs and develop a new habit of accurate, honest, and disciplined thinking, which can help you feel better by following these steps:
Step 1. Pay attention to what your mind says. Notice when you have ANTs and write them down, especially the most persistent ones.
Step 2. Identify the ANT. These are common examples of negative thoughts:
- Thoughts that things are all good or all bad
- Only seeing the bad in a situation
- Thinking in words like “should,” “must,” “ought” or “have to”
- Attaching a negative label to yourself or to someone else
- Predicting the worst possible outcome for a situation with little or no evidence for it
- Believing you know what another person is thinking even though they haven’t told you
- Blaming someone else for your problems
Step 3. Question your thought. Is it true? Are you 100% certain it is true?
Step 4. How do you react when you think that thought?
Step 5. Who would you be without that thought? How would you feel?
You’ll find that shining the light of truth on the ANTs causes them to disintegrate.
3. Start a journal to record your moods.
Begin taking note of your moods, keeping a daily journal to record and measure your feelings—all of them, including joy, happiness, anxiety, fear, sadness, anger, grief, or other emotions. What you record at first will serve as a baseline to measure your progress as you begin to get better. If you have a tough day or a string of challenging days, your journaling may start to reveal trends. Perhaps your mood is low at the start of the week and gradually gets better, or you feel great at certain times of the day. Writing down your feelings also helps you to get them out of your head and allows you to gain perspective.
4. Start every day with “Today is going to be a great day.”
It may sound silly, but it works! Our brains have a negative bias. They store bad news for future reference in order to keep us safe. That’s why it is especially important to counter your brain’s natural inclination to look for the negative. When you state “Today will be a great day” aloud first thing in the morning, your brain will find the reasons why it will be so. This is a simple way to start training your brain to focus on things that are going right in your life.
5. Cultivate gratitude.
Don’t underestimate the power of gratitude to transform. A 2020 analysis of 50 research studies posted by the Happier Human suggests that gratitude can remarkably enhance your life in 31 different ways from boosting your self-esteem, to helping you reach your goals, to enhancing your relationships, physical health, and longevity. One study found that a daily practice of writing out 3 things for which you’re grateful can improve emotions, health, sleep, and relationships, as well as increase optimism and altruism.
Similarly, sharing gratitude in the form of appreciation of people in your life can increase your own good feelings while spreading it to others. So, write down what you are grateful for daily. And make it a practice to tell one person a week why you appreciate him or her.
6. Change your perception of events.
Consider this idea: We are not controlled by events or people, but by the perceptions we make of them. Our perception is the way we interpret ourselves and the world around us. While our 5 senses take in the world, our brains process the incoming information through our “feeling filters.” When we are feeling good, we translate information in a positive way. When we are feeling angry or temperamental, we perceive the world as negative toward us.
Because our perceptions of the outside world are colored by how we feel, we can often interpret events or the actions of others incorrectly. If you question the accuracy of your perception (especially the negative ones), you have a better chance of seeing things as they are. In fact, when you learn to challenge your initial negative perceptions and see other alternatives, you’ve traveled a long way toward emotional health!
7. Take mood-boosting nutraceuticals.
A number of nutraceuticals have been researched for their mood-boosting benefits with promising results. Make use of them! Over a decade of research has shown that saffron benefits mood, including a randomized controlled trial in the that found saffron to be as effective as antidepressant medication in treating people with mild to moderate depression. Another study in World Psychiatry showed EPA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil, to have positive effects on mood. Additional research in The American Journal of Psychiatry showed that S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), folate, and vitamin D helped to improve low mood.
Nutrient deficiencies can be associated with depression. Make sure your multivitamin includes plenty of B complex and minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium, and selenium, as well as amino acids like acetyl-l-carnitine—which are all needed in adequate amounts to maintain a stable mood.
Pull Every Lever
To successfully overcome depression, do your best to “pull every lever” to promote brain health and a positive mood. While we’ve listed 7 things you can do to defeat depression here, there are many more, including exercise, consuming what we call mood foods, and achieving a healthy weight, to name a few. You may also find that in fighting depression, your overall health improves too!
Depression and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page .
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