If you’ve dealt with depression in at any time in your life, then you know how crippling it can be.
For the better part of my 25 years of life, depression and anxiety have been constants. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve slowly been getting a handle on these mental health issues.
I’ve found that these 3 daily habits are some of the simplest and best ways to overcome depression.
Ok, so I don’t do these things everyday, but at least 5 days per week.
I came to meditation out of desperation. It was the first semester of college. My mind was racing constantly and I was getting weird eye ticks from anxiety.
I’d read about meditation before this, and knew the basic way was to just focus on your breathing. So I forced myself to sit down and ‘meditate’ for 20 minutes each day. For the first year or so I would try and focus on my breathing, but didn’t have any formal instruction and didn’t really know what I was doing.
After I dropped out of college the stars aligned and I found a small Zen and Vipassana (body-centered meditation) group near my parent’s house. The teachers have been meditating for decades, and this group has become an important part of my life.
It took me a few years to come to the simple realization that self-compassion is the most important part of meditation.
If you don’t know where to start, Headspace is a good meditation app. Also, Sam Harris, the popular atheist/ meditation teacher/ neuroscientist/ author, recently released a virtual meditation program.
You already know that working out boosts your mood and improves your mental health.
It can be hard to do anything when you’re feeling depressed, let alone exercise. But it’s such a powerful tool that I try to use everyday.
Also, I like to write on my phone while riding the bike at the gym. This way I feel good about getting some writing done, and also get aerobic exercise into my day.
A couple years ago I stopped working out, but reading the book Spark was a good motivator to get me to start working out again. The book goes into how exercise changes our brains for the better on a molecular and structural level.
Which leads us to the next point.
Most self help books aren’t worth reading. Worse, I found some to be harmful- trying to implement that Law of Attraction is a great way to short circuit your peace of mind.
Now when I read non-fiction about psychology and self-help it’s written by actual MD’s, PhD’s or people with decades of experience in the field.
Here are 3 of the best books, all written by legitimate doctors, that’ve helped me start to shift my mental habits and increase my happiness:
Feeling Good by David Burns MD.
This is written by one of the father’s of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), which is the most practiced form of therapy worldwide.
Basically, CBT is built on the idea that our thoughts affect how we feel and our overall mood.
This concept might seem almost too trivial and obvious to have a book written about it. But, the author’s perspective on depression and his exercises in the book are worth their weight in gold.
Self Hate and Compassion by Theodore Rubin MD.
The title makes this book sound emotionally heavy- If you’re already feeling like shit why would you want to read a book about self hate?
And this book does deal with a lot of hard and uncomfortable feelings. But it really helped me come to terms with my negative self image.
It’s written by a psychoanalyst who experienced severe depression in his 50’s.
The author realized that although he was successful, married, and made a lot of money, he hated himself.
First, he talks about about where feelings of self hate come from. Then shows why self- compassion is the best antitode to self-loathing.
Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson PhD.
I just finished this book earlier this week. At first the I didn’t want to read it because the title sounded too cute. But then I saw an interview with the author and he seemed to a good guy, so I read it.
I like this book because the author talks about the evolutionary reasons why a negativity bias is encoded in the human mind.
Then he gives concrete and actionable ways to have a healthier, softer relationship with your mind.
Towards the Light
I know it can feel impossible to motivate yourself when you’re feeling depressed, but doing any one of these 3 things is a good way to make your day more productive.
Even reading 5 pages of a positive book, meditating for 5 minutes, and going for a walk around your block is infinitely better than just lying in bed, beating yourself up.
These 3 things are jump-off points for better mental health. Thankfully, there are dozens of other lifestyle changes that you can use to help defeat depression. Tomorrow, I’m posting 3 more things that’ve helped me, so be sure to check back!