Ups and downs in life lead everybody to feel sad or pessimistic from time to time. But if sadness and hopelessness have taken over, this might be a sign of depression. When we are depressed, just getting through the day can be overwhelming.

However, no matter how hopeless we feel, it’s possible to get better. Along with meeting a therapist in person, seeing an online therapist from the privacy of our couch or using medications, there's a lot we can do on our own to fight back.

Changing some of our behaviors (physical activity, lifestyle, and even our way of thinking) is the way we start to address depression. Here is a list of 5 activities we can do on our own and that are shown to help with depression.

Practice Yoga

In a study of 65 women with depression and anxiety, the 34 women who took a yoga class twice a week for two months showed a significant decrease in depression compared to the 31 women who were not in the class.

Yoga has a wonderful antidepressant effect as it involves mindfulness, which breaks up repetitive negative thoughts. And even if you don’t like intense physical exercise, there are yoga classes that involve gentle, slower movements.

Try Tai Chi

Tai chi is a form of mind-body exercise that originated from China. It combines martial arts and meditative movements that promote balance and healing of the mind and body. As it comprises mental concentration, physical balance, muscle relaxation, and relaxed breathing, tai chi has shown great results in supporting the rehabilitation of a number of psychological conditions, including depression.

In a study of 14 Chinese patients with depression, those who took tai chi over a three-month period showed a significant improvement in their depression. Researchers also theorized that the social aspects of tai chi, may have played a role in its effectiveness.

Find your Artistic Outlet

Artistic expression can help people connect with their depression and any underlying causes at a deeper level. The creative process involved in expressing one’s self artistically can help people get out of thinking obsessively about the past or the future, which are the causes of feelings of depression and anxiety. The creative process also supports increased self-esteem and awareness. We feel powerful and talented when we are given the tools to create something from nothing.

Since the American Art Therapy Association was created in 1969, many therapists have been trained in both art and therapy. Healing arts can include drawing, painting, woodworking and sculpting, or other creative methods of expression such as dance, drama, or playing music. This approach helps people connect with their anger, shame, or guilt from trauma and may bring depression relief. Online therapists who practice art therapy can be easily searched using directories like etherapi.

Take on Responsibilities

When we’re depressed, we feel like retreating from life and give up our responsibilities. This has the particularly dangerous effect of starting a downward spiral, so it’s important to not follow this instinct. Staying involved and having daily responsibilities can help maintain a lifestyle that can counter depression. They ground us and give us a sense of accomplishment. We don’t have to accomplish incredibly difficult tasks. Think about part-time work or school. If that’s still too much, volunteer work is another great option.

Also, try the following: when you get up in the morning come up with a list of things you want to achieve during the day. The smaller the better. E.g., read and respond to 2 emails from the email inbox, take the car to the mechanic to check the brakes, fill out and send a form back to the bank.

Write the items on post-it notes and put them up on the wall. As you get things done, take each post-it down. If you don’t get everything done: don’t worry. At the end of the day think about the number of things you have accomplished, and make a new plan for tomorrow.

Tune into Sensations in your Body

An effective way to anchor your mind in the here and now and away from obsessions that come from the past or the future is to tune into sensations in the body with the help of meditation. With a type of meditation called “mindfulness of emotions in the body” we are encouraged to focus closely on the physical sensations that our emotions create in our body.

With this type of mindfulness, we pay attention to our experience rather than being lost in it. Over time we develop a different relationship to difficult experiences; we can see negative thoughts for what they really are: just patterns in the mind, arising and passing away, rather than the truth about what kind of person we are or mistakes we have made. Many online therapists on eTherapi are willing to offer guided meditation session to clients located remotely.

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