If you or someone you love suffers from depression, this is a very important post for you to read or share.
Depression is real.
You aren’t alone if you suffer from it and you need to know it is treatable.
You also need to know that despite how you feel right now, you can learn to how to live a very happy and successful life even though you are struggling.
I met a mom and her son at a Q&A I did after a speech recently.
The son was very candid about his struggle with depression and even I got a little choked up as I was talking to him.
I shared a concept that has helped my loved ones deal with depression and I want you to listen up and really embrace this idea: there is a difference between what you FEEL and what you push yourself to DO.
The real challenge with depression is that it makes you FEEL like you can’t or don’t want to do what you need to do to heal.
Depression is lying to you.
You can do things that feel hard.
No matter how depressed you feel when you wake up, you CAN push yourself to get out of bed.
No matter how lethargic you’ve become, you CAN push yourself to go for a walk, get to the gym, or show up at spin class.
No matter how much ice cream soothes your sadness, you CAN choose to eat healthier foods.
No matter how much you feel like giving up or there’s no point, you CAN choose to push forward.
And, no matter how alone you feel, that’s a lie, too.
You are not alone and help from a professional or a family member is one phone call away.
And you can push yourself to make it, despite how isolated you feel. Depression lies when it convinces you that you can’t.
You are capable.
You do have a choice.
It may feel like you don’t, but you always have a choice to push past the lies that depression tells you and take a step forward.
As my friend Glennon Doyle Melton says, you can do hard things.
And when you understand that depression lies to you I hope a little weight gets lifted and things won’t feel as hard as they have been.
I hope you’ll realize that’s the trap depression set, and now you can free yourself by taking action.
Why do we get depressed? Let’s look at the brain.
Too often we hear that depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Recent research finds depression is more complex and likely the result of several factors, including stressful life events and faulty mood regulation in the brain.
Your brain is nothing short of amazing. At 2% of your body weight, it’s the entire command center for your nervous system. Within nanoseconds, it takes in information and sends messages to the muscles in your body.
The part of our brain responsible for emotions–the prefrontal cortex–evolved 2 million years ago.
Pretty recent in the history of humanity, but at that time we were not paying mortgages, scrolling through Instagram, and inhaling fumes in bumper to bumper traffic.
We were active every day and lived in tribal communities where everyone contributed in a meaningful way.
Times have changed. The brain…not so much.
When you’re depressed, for whatever reason, your brain goes into protection mode.
To a dinosaur brain, trying anything new is threatening, even if that new thing could ultimately be good for you.
So it makes sure you think nothing is appealing. Your brain makes it hard to move. The world loses its color.
Depression fools you.
It fools you into believing you have to feel like doing what you have to do.
You can’t wait for that. You are never going to feel like doing anything when you’re depressed.
Here’s what I’ve learned by working my way out of my own depression:
You always have a choice.
Depression does not rob you of your choice; it just tricks you into making the wrong one.
Your brain is lying to you. Depression lies to you.
The good news? You don’t have to listen.
8 strategies for beating depression:
Here are the 8 steps I’ve used to move out of depression and take back my power. Now you can use them, too.
1. Use the right tool.
The 5 Second Rule is a secret weapon. Next time your depression starts to whisper in your ear, telling you that you don’t feel like doing something, I want you to shout back.
You tell that voice,
I’m not listening to you anymore. You, Depression, are no longer controlling the game.
Then you count back from 5.
And you blast off. Seriously. I don’t care if it’s hard as hell to put one foot in front of the other. I believe in you. I know you can do this. You’re going to make every muscle in your body move you to do one thing you’ve been putting off.
2. Keep a did-it list.
Every time you do something forward, no matter how small, add it to your list. Post where you will see every day. This taps into research out of Harvard Business School about progress. A to-do list is daunting…but a did-it list shows how far we’ve come.
No matter how insignificant something seems, put it on your did-it list. Every time you get up, take a shower, get out of the house, have a healthy meal, exercise, connect with someone, get moving…all of that goes on your list.
3. Get up on time.
No more snooze. When that alarm goes off, count 54321 and get UP. To make this much easier, sleep with your phone outside of your bedroom. Do not check your phone in bed.
I cannot stress this one enough. Science continues to prove that chemicals produced when we exercise improve mood, sometimes better than medication. If nothing else, you have to move.
If you don’t think you can work out, then just drive to yourself to the gym, get on the mat, and sit there. I guarantee by the time you’re there you can muster at least one sit-up.
5. Eat clean.
Research about the gut microbiome shows what we eat impacts brain health, so eat like you mean it. Fuel your body with the nutrients it needs. There are many great books on the connection between depression and diet, including “The Whole Brain” by Raphael Kellman.
6. Drink water.
While you’re at it, drink some more water as you’re reading this. Stay away from booze and soda, which both make depression worse.
7. Connect with people.
Not just through social media but real face time. Check out meetup.com if you want to find others in your area with similar interests.
8. See a therapist.
At the very least, you need to talk with a trained professional who can help you process what you’re feeling. Check out Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).
While you might suffer from depression right now, your life does not have to suffer as well. You do not have to listen to the lies. You can choose to get out of bed, get help and live your life, one small push forward at a time.