For the hundreds of thousands of people who struggle with depression and mental illness each year, even opening our eyes every day seems like a chore best left to people who won’t screw it up. Doctors struggle to create treatment programs tailored to each patient that will yield the best results without extreme measures. But many patients don’t realize how simple creating their own plans at home can actually be. While this list is NOT designed to take the place of ANY doctor’s treatment or diagnosis, it might be a good place to start.
Gardening. If you love plants and do well with keeping them alive, try creating a small garden to aide your mental health.
Gardening increases the amount of time you spend in the sun and the amount of vitamin D you absorb gives you a beautiful creation to build plant by plant and at your own pace, and reduces the amount of time you spend thinking about the things that get you down in the first place. Gardening also reduces anxiety and stress, so find some dirt and start digging!
Playing an Instrument. Listening to music has its advantages with depression, and many of us use music as our “go-to” when the blue monster rears its ugly head.
However, playing an instrument goes a few steps further. Learning to read music or play an instrument, even by ear, not only proves to us that we are still as sharp as the day we graduated high school, but it also gives us an outlet for all types of emotions. Releasing those negative feelings as they come keeps them from building over time and causing deeper bouts of depression.
Playing Video Games. That’s right. This article gives you full permission to play video games to combat depression.
In fact, a fellow gamer and author Jane McGonigal called gaming “the neurological opposite of depression” because it activates parts of the brain that aren’t active when we suffer from depression, such as our motivation and goal orientation. This applies to shorter, more simplistic games as well as professional gamer-level ones. So choose a game that appeals to you and Happy Gaming!
Going to Art Museums. Since the 1940’s, art therapy has been very popular and successful, not just with depression, but with development in children and in early-stage Alzheimer’s treatments. However, you don’t have to be Van Gogh to benefit from art. Visit a local art museum and spend a few hours interpreting the paintings and sculptures the way your mind sees them. Get a feel for things that other people create when they feel upset or sad. Viewing and creating art, of all kinds, not only improves mood but also provides a direct link between the artwork itself and the way our brains respond to pain and anxiety.
Dancing. It does not matter if you dance like a pro or a “no.” Have you ever noticed how much better you feel when listening to a song with a beat so good you can’t resist tapping your foot? The same principle applies here! Turn on some music from your junior high dances or your senior prom, get your seat up and shake it! If you’re too shy to dance with others, turn up your music at home alone and get as silly as you can stand. Even if you feel ridiculous, researchers say that the mood boost from the altered serotonin and dopamine is well worth the effort. Have a good laugh at yourself too, because laughter is the best medicine!
Volunteering. Sometimes, stepping outside of ourselves puts perspective on our depression. It reminds us that we are not struggling alone in the world, and that alone can give us a boost out of Bluesville.
However, our brains respond, unbeknownst to us, to smiles that we put on someone else’s face and to the rush we feel from making another person’s day. Volunteering should never be for personal gain or benefit, but it’s nice to know that putting another person or cause first could work a small miracle in our lives in the long run.
Grab a Partner. No matter which activity you choose, having a buddy system or pillar of strength and support will always lift your depression.
It will also give you more reason to carry on with your plans instead of canceling whenever the blues get too dark, and the gentle reassurance and window of venting opportunity can unload weights off of your chest that you didn’t even know existed until you teamed up with your friend or relative.
This is a great place to start looking for remedies for the blues but always consult your doctor before employing any drastic changes in your routine, especially if you suffer from more severe forms of depression or other mental illnesses.