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Depression Self-Help Tips

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Updated October 03, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

While medications and therapy play a vital role in your overall depression treatment strategy, the following depression self-help tips can help augment these measures.

1. Go Easy on Yourself

Remember, you are not lazy or weak if you have depression. Depression is an illness that includes symptoms such as fatigue, lack of motivation, and difficulty concentrating.  There is no need to beat yourself up if you can't do all the things you used to do. Treat yourself with gentleness and respect, and realize that what you are feeling are symptoms of an illness, not an indicator of who you are as a person.

2. Build a Support Network

Although your first impulse when you are depressed may be to isolate yourself, having a network of friends and family that you can rely on for love and support can be a very big help in getting you through the rough spots. Don't have friends or family that you can count on? Try making new friends through a depression support group. There are numerous groups available, both in your community and online, where you can find support through other people who are going through the same experiences that you are. Or, if you don't wish to reveal your condition to strangers, consider joining a club, class or church group. The simple act of connecting with others can be uplifting.

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3. Develop a Wellness Toolbox

A wellness toolbox is a set of tools that you can use to help soothe yourself when you are feeling down. Although the tools you use may be different from what another person uses, they might include such things as cuddling with a beloved pet, taking a warm bath, or listening to music. Think about what activities make you feel safe and comforted, and then return to them when you are feeling low.

4. Get a Good Night's Sleep

Sleep and mood are closely related.  Not only can poor sleep quality be a symptom of depression, it can also contribute to it. Putting good sleep habits into practice may help deal with insomnia and improve your moods.

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5. Eat a Healthful Diet

A poor diet can contribute to depression in several ways. There are several vitamin and mineral deficiencies that may create depression symptoms. Also, dietary imbalances in omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratios have been associated with depression. And, finally, diets high in caffeine and sugar have been associated with depression. By cleaning up your nutritional act, you will feel better not only physically, but also emotionally.

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6. Get Some Exercise

Multiple studies have now shown that exercise can be beneficial to those with depression. In fact, some studies indicate that in some circumstances, it may be just as effective in helping depression as an antidepressant. Don't feel up to starting a strenuous exercise program? No problem. Even if you start small -- for example, taking a stroll around the block at lunch time -- you can still reap the mood-enhancing benefits of exercise.

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7. Spend Some Time in the Sun

Exposure to sunlight, particularly during the darker winter months, is very important in how you feel. The brain uses sunlight entering through the eyes as a way to set your body's internal clock. When you don't get enough sunlight at the right time of day, it throws off your body's internal rhythms and a type of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can be the result. By making sure you get some time in the sun each day -- or using a light box if this is not possible -- you can reset your body clock and feel better as a result.

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8. Reduce Your Stress Levels

Stress that exceeds your ability to cope with it can be a trigger for depression, so anything you can do to reduce or manage your stress levels will help in the fight against depression.  Stress Management at About.com is a great starting place for learning about stress management techniques.

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9. Combat Negative Thinking

While habitual negative thinking can cause us to feel depressed, if we practice turning our negative thought patterns into positive ones, we can actually help ourselves to feel better. This is something you can work on with a therapist using a type of therapy called cognitive therapy, or you can practice it on your own using self-help books like Dr. David Burns' Feeling Good: the New Mood Therapy.

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Sources:

Mahowald, Mark W. "Disorders of Sleep." Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Ed. Lee Goldman and Dennis Ausiello. Philadelphia: Sauders Elsevier, 2008. Accessed: Dec. 15, 2010.

Schnieder, Craig and Erica Lovett. "Chapter 9 - Depression." Integrative Medicine. Ed. David Rakel. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Saunder Elsevier, 2007. Accessed: Dec. 15, 2010.

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