In any given year, an estimated 13 million to 17 million Americans will suffer from some form of depression. Women are twice as likely to be depressed as men. And, in fact, one in every five women is expected to develop clinical depression at some point in her lifetime.
With startling statistics such as these, it's no wonder that the drug companies continue to pump countless resources into developing new drugs to treat depression. But with a myriad of side effects, prescription antidepressants aren't always the answer for people suffering from sub-clinical depression.
Although it's always best to seek appropriate medical treatment when you're depressed, for symptoms of mild to moderate depression, which is sometimes characterized as "the blues," there are several self-help steps you can take to feel better fast. By focusing on these things each day instead of your sadness, you will be better prepared to battle the blues.
Step 1: Get a Complete Physical
Sometimes an underlying health condition, like hypothyroidism or a vitamin D deficiency, can induce or mimic feelings of depression. That's why it's important to get a complete physical with comprehensive blood work before you begin a depression self-help regimen.
Step 2: Exercise at Least 30 Minutes a Day
Exercise is your body's built-in antidepressant. Just 30 minutes of mild to moderate activity a day (such as a brisk walk) will prompt your body to release hormone-like chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins create a feeling of euphoria and well-being in the human body and can even mask mild pain. If you're feeling particularly blue, instead of wallowing on the couch, get up and get some exercise!
Step 3: Eat Healthy Meals and Snacks
Fluctuations in blood sugar can intensify feelings of depression. Because of this, nutrition is an important component of your depression fighting self-help system. To give your body the energy it needs to feel good and face life's daily challenges, eat three small meals and two or three small snacks each day. Make sure you get plenty of lean protein and at least seven servings of fresh fruits and vegetables each day. If you need a sweet treat, dark chocolate (in moderation) has been shown to have depression-fighting characteristics.
Step 4: Take Dietary Supplements
No matter how well you eat, it's hard to get the recommended daily requirements (RDA) of all vitamins and minerals. At a minimum, take a high quality, high potency multi-vitamin each day. You may also want to take extra vitamin C and consider taking additional nutritional supplements that are known to have mood stabilizing properties (St. John's Wort and 5-HTP are two examples).
Step 5: Avoid the News
If you've watched the news lately or checked the headlines on CNN.com, then you know there's enough negativity in the world to make even the happiest person sad. If you're battling depression, the news will only make you feel worse - so avoid it! If you need to check the weather report, try one of the online weather agencies because they don't give you a helping of doom and gloom along with your forecast.
Step 6: Get Fresh Air and Sunshine
Depressed people tend to hibernate, shutting themselves off from the world. But this only makes them feel more sad and isolated. A great antidote to feeling blue is spending time with Mother Nature. Go to the park, the beach or your backyard. But get a little fresh air and sunshine each day.
Step 7: Get a Daily Dose of Spirituality
Doing one thing (or more) each day that lifts your spirits is essential when you're fighting depression. Need a few suggestions? Watch your favorite feel-good movie, laugh out loud during a half-hour sit-com, read a few pages from a spiritually uplifting book, listen to a spirit-based instructional CD or DVD, spend 30 minutes playing with your pet or call a friend to catch up. Choose an activity that feeds your soul and leaves you feeling joyful.
Although severe depression should always be treated by a qualified health care professional, only 20 percent of depressed people actually receive the treatment they desperately need. By following the simple, self-help steps outlined in this article, you may be able to turn around your state-of-mind before clinical depression sets in.