As a life coach, I have worked with lots people who are depressed. In some extreme cases I refer them to their physician or psychiatrist, but for some, their relief doesn’t require such extreme measures. In cases where therapy isn’t an issue, I suggest several self–administered practices, which have a really positive effect on their lives.
I am convinced that a combination of effective techniques increases the probability of a strongly positive result, and I don’t really care which of them did the most good along the way. It is different for everyone. Here are five simple very helpful practices that I recommend because they are both scientifically valid and practically effective.
This is usually my first and strongest suggestion. Research suggests and practical experience shows how much improvement people feeling depressed can gain from physical activity. In mild forms of depression, some studies have indicated that exercise alone can be equal in effectiveness to anti-depression medication.
Here is step one of my approach: “Try and do a little every day. Whatever you can do, even walking ten steps in place if that’s all you have the energy for. Exercise is like fertilizer for the brain and with it, your brain chemistry makes important positive changes. It has a strong anti-depressive effect, so take it like a medicine.”
Start with however far you can walk, and add a few more steps every day. Add to it as you gain more energy.
Engage Your Brain’s Pleasure Centers
Deep inside our brains are small regions dedicated to experiencing pleasure. In depressed people, brain imaging has shown that these areas are less activated by pleasurable events compared to people who are not depressed. So the common experience that is often shared by depressed people is that they get less pleasure out of things than they used to. It has very strong biological reinforcement. Because of this diminished experience of pleasure, people start to believe it’s not worth the effort to participate in things that are no longer as fun as they once were. That feeling starts a downward spiral to a bad place.
Therefore, it is important not to quit being exposed to these things that used to be pleasurable. It’s really important to keep those pleasure centers stimulated and activated. For example, keep listening to your favorite kinds of music, adding some new pieces for novelty to the old standbys, looking at beautiful scenery, enjoying the fresh spring air….
Enjoying the Light of Morning
A well-proven treatment for depression, especially of the seasonal type, takes into account our circadian rhythms of hormones and other biological components that are regulated by light. Being outdoors in the morning is unmistakably perfect, but for lots of us, all the stuff that needs to be done indoors or winter weather make this impractical. Still, there’s no need to give up on getting your fair share of morning light. Just open the windows in the room where work, put on a warm coat, and glance out the window as often as you can.
Anxiety often accompanies
depression and makes the
experience even more
difficult to endure.
Those Wonderful Hugs
There is sound scientific confirmation that functioning at an optimum level is controlled—in a positive direction—by agreeable touches. Hugging is a quick and easy way to enjoy this bonus. An added extra is that asking for and receiving hugs is experienced as emotional and social sustenance. This social support is one of the best contributors to reducing stress in challenging situations.
Exercise is like fertilizer for the
brain and with it, your brain
chemistry makes important
Using your Eyes to Decrease Anxiety
Anxiety often accompanies depression and makes the experience even more difficult to endure. A simple technique with your eyes can quickly reduce anxiety. Here is what you do.
First, look up with your eyes open. Next, keep looking up as you slowly close your eyelids. Then, let your eyes—under the closed eyelids—relax into their normal position. Now, take three deep breaths, inhaling deeply and exhaling. This last step triggers autonomic responses that foster calm and relaxation. Finally, slowly open your eyes and see how you feel. It has been called the “infinity position.”
Closing the Circle
If none of these things have the desired effect for you, see your primary care provider or psychiatrist so they can evaluate you. They can tell whether you need medication, psychotherapy, both, or neither. Whatever the decision is as to your treatment, you can include some or all of the techniques mentioned here throughout the process. In this way, you actively participate in making yourself feel better. And that is not only a good feeling, but also it contributes to your recovery as well.
SEE A LIFE COACH IN BATON ROUGE
Frank Hopkins is a life coach in Baton Rouge who is certified as a Professional Coach (CPC) by the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). Frank has helped numerous people to go through emotional change in a way that is positively transformative.