These practical steps are very helpful for me. They have been an important part of my strategy for getting off — and staying off — antidepressant medications. After 31 years of antidepressant medication use, I have now been medication free for five months.
What tips or hacks have you taken to overcome your depression? I hope you will share your proven ideas by adding them in the comment section at the bottom of this page.
Together we can take back our lives.
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Key # 1: Fire
Our ancestors lived their lives around open flames.
Fireplaces, lamps, and candles were the gathering places for families and friends; the focal point for social occasions.
Gazing into flames and glowing embers is a timeless event.
Even for those who are alone, fires provided warmth, comfort, and security.
Enjoy a fireplace or an unscented beeswax candle. They need not be large or expensive. A birthday candle stuck in the middle of a glass plate with a drop of wax will do.
Fire is basic to human existence and its meditative qualities can help us to ground ourselves and overcome the depression we feel when we become disconnected from our traditional ways.
(Health and safety note: Avoid paraffin candles in closed spaces. Paraffin is a petroleum product similar to diesel fuel in composition; do not use artificially scented candles; do not use older candles made with stand up wicks — these may have metallic fibers that contain lead. Parraffin, artificial scent and lead are all toxic to the mind and body. Use open flame of any kind only in well-ventilated areas and in situations where it is safe to do so.)
Beautify the world. Pin freely!
Key # 2: Water
Before drilled wells and underground plumbing, individuals, families, and whole civilizations congregated around bodies of water. Essential to human life, our brains are made up of about 73% water.
It has meditative qualities.
It helps us detoxify our minds as well as our brains and bodies.
Life-sustaining water was available to our ancestors in many forms. As well as lakes and oceans we had rivers, creeks and natural springs.
We find the natural sound of water to be peaceful to the soul; the ocean’s surf crashing on the shore, the lapping of lake water on the rocks, the babbling of the brook, the trickle of water from a natural spring, and rain on the roof over our heads; these common sounds come to us in endless variety; they are music to our ears because water is the source of life.
It’s early morning as I write this. All night I’ve been enjoying a gentle breeze and listening to the waves break under the palm trees just off my screen.
Infinite in variety and rhythm, the sound of water is universal worldwide and across time.
Be sure to include it.
Nothing picks up a discouraged spirit like a refreshing shower. A bath can be relaxing and can bring a troubled mind to tranquility.
Allowing cold water to run over our hands before we quench our thirst can be exceedingly refreshing. Water that is fresh, pure and right from the source is best. I start every day with a large glass of cold water. (I like mine with a splash of organic apple cider vinegar for taste.)
If you have tendencies to depression, avoid drinking alcohol. Alcohol may make you feel better for a short while but it will leave you more depressed overall. It has a depressing influence on the mind.
Likewise, avoid sugared water, artificially sweetened water, or water with added chemicals.
Key # 3: Food and Essence
I like the term unadulterated for describing food that is pure and wholesome.
Unaltered simply suggests unchanged. Adulterated suggests having been corrupted from its original goodness.
Much of our food has been corrupted from its original goodness and we are paying a price. Corrupted food is detrimental to the health of our minds and bodies. Critical steps to overcoming depression are to drink plenty of pure, fresh water and to eat unadulterated foods.
Sugar and modern wheat are frequent contributors to depression. Dairy products can be a contributor for some people. However, trying to eliminate troublesome foods from our diet is not a quick and easy task.
We can gain some of the benefits, however, by simply cutting back on excessive sweets and processed foods. Replace junk foods with delicious whole foods.
You will feel better!
Eliminating the unhealthy foods we are addicted to will give us more money for the natural goodness of whole foods.
We are omnivores. Eating is part of the cycle of life. We can show respect for life by choosing to eat cage-free, free-range, grass-fed, wild-caught, and organic whenever possible.
Gratitude for our food should be more than window dressing. A great deal of work and sacrifice have gone into getting our food to the table
Another key to overcoming depression is to eat regularly; it helps to stabilize our blood sugar levels. (An exception may be fasting while on low carb, hi-protein diets. That is a more advanced technique.)
The essence of cooking or preparing food is important to our enjoyment and digestion of it; ever notice a dog salivating and licking his chops over a steak cooking on the grill?
Essence. A flower garden, a seashore, or a forest has an immediate effect on our emotional state.
Different essences can be uplifting, invigorating, or calming.
Having someone you love anoint you with the oils of lavender, frankincense, and peppermint can have strong antidepressant effects. The application of the oil multiplies the uplifting effect of the oil because of the interpersonal connection it creates.
In times of severe depression, I found these treatments to be extremely effective.
Key #4: Relationships
There are few true hermits amongst our species.
We were never intended to go it alone.
When we are separated from our mothers at birth we cry; then we spend the rest of our lives trying to connect with others.
Having meaningful connections with others is a key to our happiness; indeed, it is a key to our survival.
Make a personal connection today. Find someone to talk to. Tell your story and listen to theirs. We all need to feel love and belonging. We need to be appreciated. We need to have purpose in our lives. These are things we can only get from making connections
If you are lacking a spouse, a friend or a partner be sure to connect with someone anyway!
Greet the cashier at the store, nod to a passer-by, shake hands after church.
Connecting online is good, however connection is best when made face-to-face or person-to-person.
Just as watching a video of a waterfall can’t replicate the experience in real life, visiting with family or friends on a computer screen cannot replicate actually being there.
Please share. 13% of the people you know take antidepressants.
Tend to your relationships like a garden. Like they say in the south of our country: If mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy! (Please — keep mamma happy.)
Massage is a form of connection and can be helpful in overcoming depression. There are different kinds of massage, but more important than the kind is to find a masseuse who has a healing touch.
Remember to pet the dog, to purr the cat, and to kiss the toad!
Go ahead. Kiss the toad. It might go viral.
Artwork courtesy of Silver Shoes and Rabbit Holes.
Key # 5: Collect Helpful Thoughts
Be mindful of how you talk to yourself as well as of how you talk to others.
We need to talk to ourselves like we would talk to a friend. You wouldn’t denigrate a friend, so why would we denigrate ourselves? Address yourself by your first name and say something encouraging like Larry, you handled that really well, or Elizabeth, you can do this.
Don’t take yourself too seriously when you are depressed; don’t believe everything you say.
Start a collection!
Collect encouraging, happy thoughts. Write down three things you are thankful for right now.
Gratitude is very powerful.
Don’t underestimate the difficulty of writing down three things you are thankful for when you are depressed.
Even though we all have many things we can be thankful for, when the mind is in a depressed state it can be nearly impossible to think of them and to acknowledge them. Writing them down forces our minds into this new and healthier thought pattern.
As you practice this over time you will get better-and-better at it, and begin to see the many positive things that make up every day.
This simple practice was transformational in helping me overcome depression.
It’s good to have some goals but don’t set too many. If your to-do list is getting too long — and discouraging — collect accomplishments instead.
Start an “I did it!” list. Do the thing that presents itself and then add it to your growing list of accomplishments.
When depressed limit yourself to five minutes per day of news. If you are really depressed skip the news altogether.
When depressed I have gone weeks without tuning in to help me cope.
The written news is less distressing than television or video and takes less time. The hourly radio news is good at condensing the most important news into a few minutes.
Avoid graphic and disturbing images.
Let’s make hay while the sun shines. Pin freely!
Key # 6: Get a Move On!
Exercise is an effective deterrent to depression.
But we already knew that.
The word exercise is worn out. Just thinking about exercise wears me out. Riding bicycles that don’t go anywhere. Walking on treadmills but never arriving at a destination. Lifting weights but not getting anything accomplished. Garages, basements, and second-hand stores stuffed with cast-off exercise equipment.
Exercise. Exercise. Phooey!
Exercise may work for highly motivated, goal driven, and body-centric persons, but for someone who is depressed, you might as well forget it. It’s just not sustainable.
Our bodies are made, perhaps more than that of any other species, with an incredible capacity for a wide variety of work.
However, in the name of ease and convenience, over the past several generations, we have removed nearly all need for movement; so much so that we spend most of our time sitting in padded chairs while machines do the heavy lifting, the pushing, and the pulling.
Our wheels, our wings, and our jetpacks take us effortlessly wherever we want to go. This appeals to our pre-programmed energy conserving minds but our bodies have become weak and lethargic in the process.
Our minds are programmed to conserve energy. In the preindustrial lives of our ancestors, we had too much work to do. We needed to conserve our energy for the tasks that were necessary for our survival.
But the balance has tipped (for most of us.) We now need to invent work for our bodies in order to keep them healthy.
A healthy body supports a healthy mind.
We are made for work — but our minds are programmed to conserve energy.
What to do?
My motto is to move more today than I did yesterday — and to do it more often.
We need to reintroduce work into our lives. In other words, we need to fool our minds into thinking we’re getting something worthwhile done.
This winter I have left the snowblower parked in the garage and have made friends with my snow shovels. I get my exercise shoveling snow and it feels good to look back at my work and to be able to say job well done.
I left the snowblower parked this year and shoveled the snow. Site administrator and author Larry Dake. February 21, 2018.Purposeful, rhythmic movement like mowing with a push mower, gardening with a shovel and a hoe, raking leaves with a leaf rake, cutting and splitting firewood, or walking to a real destination; these are exercises the way exercise was meant to be.
If you live in an apartment you may have to be more inventive: you could take all the stair steps on the way to the mailbox, sweep the hallway or the sidewalk, walk in the park and pick up cans and bottles to sell, or walk to the grocery store to get groceries.
If you have severe physical limitations you may find other activities you can do like knitting socks or making walking sticks.
For folks with cognitive disabilities, shredding paper has been a perennial winner; they take apart books and magazines, feed them into a shredder, and get bags full of shredded paper as a reward; it is self-reinforcing work.
The object is to move our bodies as much as we can while at the same time sending messages to our brains that we are getting something worthwhile done.
Any activity that gets us out-of-doors is even better. We were never intended to live motionless lives in the shadow of sheetrock and two by fours. If we were meant to be motionless we would be attached to a rock somewhere wafting our tentacles in the currents. If we were meant to be full-time cave dwellers we would have white skin and undeveloped eyes.
We were intended to get outside and get to work!
At my previous place of employment, a magazine surfaced with a picture on its cover with a bicycle attached to a kitchen grinder. It generated a lot of interest from many people.
I think we are hungry for meaningful exercise; perhaps the next entrepreneur can reinvent work.
Key # 7: Sleep and Routine
The sleep of a laboring man is sweet.
Another key to overcoming depression is to establish a routine of wakefulness and sleep.
Evenings are for low voices, low lights, and reading and writing on paper. If you must use a screen in the evening use the nightlight setting.
We used to leave the lights on in the chicken house to make the poor hens lay more eggs. Our own biology is also affected by light and darkness. When we disrupt the natural rhythm of day and night with the electric lights in our houses and on our devices we disrupt our sleep.
Sleeping rooms should be dark; only the dimmest of nightlights allowed; the kind of light that gives us only enough light to give us a point from which to navigate.
When sleeping is the intention, allow no electronic screens in bed or in the bedroom
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With depression, our thoughts in the night are frequently blown out of proportion with reality. Don’t talk about your problems with your partner after the lights are out. If you can’t sleep and you find yourself going over and over negative thoughts in the darkness get up, go into another room, and write them down in a notebook. Close the notebook, tell yourself you’ll address these issues at a more appropriate time, and go back to bed.
Reading from paper sources in dim light may also be helpful to distract a mind that won’t stop racing. Reading on a lighted screen, however, will only add fuel to the fire that won’t go out.
Morning is the time to throw open the shutters, draw back the curtains and let the sunshine in! Bright screens and bright lights are good. They will not only wake us up, but having them on early will also help us to sleep the following night.
We installed sunshine lights over our breakfast table, the same kind of lights that are in the lamps used to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD.)
Electrical lights can help chase away a cloudy day.
But real sunlight is the best! If your days keep you indoors most of the time, get outside at least once during the sunny time of the day.
Establish a routine to begin and end your days.
Transitioning and decision making are difficult when you are depressed. I begin every day with a glass of water. I don’t skip breakfast. Being in a routine eliminates a lot of unnecessary decision making.
When you quit a work project for one day, leave an easy-to-do task to jump-start the following day’s work. It will give you the momentum to roll on into your next task.
It’s like priming the pump.
Get into a routine, but don’t get into a rut!
Learn new things. Go new places. Meet new people. Make new connections.
Using these tools, and many others I will share on STORYBROOKELIFE.COM, can help you to overcome depression without the use of antidepressant medications.