For most of my life, I suffered with depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. I hit rock bottom about 7 years ago and went on a long quest to find ways to overcome depression and the other challenges I was facing.
This article is written by someone who understands depression, someone who has been through it, someone who has tasted the depths of suffering but has risen to true happiness.
I’m very thankful for my own transformation, but you know what?
If I had to go through all the suffering again, I would!
Could depression actually be a GOOD thing?!
That might sound crazy to some people, but I truly believe depression and other challenges in life can be a blessing a disguise.
The GOOD thing about depression is that it makes you search for SOLUTIONS!
If you are just kind of floating along through life, not too happy but not too depressed either, you are not going to be motivated to change. Your life will feel boring or dull but you won’t look for ways to change because you are too comfortable.
Depression is a blessing in disguise because it makes you uncomfortable. It makes the voice come into your mind that says something like, “Okay, I really need to do something about this.”
And maybe that’s why you are here now. Well, you are in a good place 🙂
In this article, I’m going to discuss some counterintuitive ways to overcome depression. Some of these tips might sound like nonsense or like they can’t possibly be effective, but this is advice I would have liked to give myself back when I was suffering, because I know from experience that it works no matter how crazy it might sound at first.
Not every one of these tips will apply to everyone. I suggest choosing one or two and experimenting with them. Make a conscious effort to incorporate them into your life and see what happens. I will give you suggestions for exactly how to apply each one in your life.
Enjoy the article 🙂
1. Welcome and accept your depression.
The first thing we want to do when we feel depressed is escape the feeling and do something to feel better. Logically, it makes perfect sense, but in practice, it turns out to be largely ineffective.
Depression is a warning sign telling you that there is some thought, belief, suppressed emotion, or unresolved internal issue that you have not questioned or resolved. It is a call to look WITHIN, not to “do” something in order to escape the feeling.
While most people seek escape from depression through food, social interaction, drugs and alcohol, or even seemingly healthy means of distraction such as reading, these are always temporary solutions at best because the root of the problem within has not been dissolved.
The death of depression requires, in my own experience, a strong willingness to accept our depression and look at it long enough to understand its true cause.
If we are being completely honest with ourselves, we will always find the cause WITHIN ourselves, not outside ourselves.
For example, you may believe you are depressed because you have no money and can’t pay your rent. That seems like the truth, but if you look deeper you will see that the depression comes more from your own guilt, shame, or negative attitude towards YOURSELF.
In other words, depression is often self-created on an unconscious level. We either don’t realize it or don’t want to admit it, but this is actually good news and nothing to fear.
If your depression is in fact NOT caused by anything of the world and is in fact caused by your own attitude, beliefs, or perspective on life, then that is reason to celebrate because it means you are not a powerless victim of the world around you. You are in fact the creator of your own experience of life!
While you may have the automatic habit of distracting yourself from negative feelings, I encourage you to LOOK at these feelings without judgment. Look at them objectively, as if you were another person looking inside yourself and examining these feelings.
What beliefs are you holding that may be creating the negative feelings? What judgments do you have about yourself or others? What do you feel guilty about? Are you holding onto the past? Overthinking about the future?
These are all potential causes of depression, and very common ones. I encourage you to get extremely honest about your feelings, not to judge yourself for having them, but to simply take a good look at them for once so you can truly understand them.
Understand leads to acceptance and acceptance breaks the cycle that keeps depression alive. It starts to dissolve the suffering.
Acceptance does not imply apathy or failure to change. It just means taking a compassionate stance towards yourself, being patient with yourself, and being willing to look directly at your emotions in order to better understand where they might be stemming from.
The next tip will help you develop this compassion towards yourself and a greater understanding of your thoughts and emotions…
2. Spend more time alone (or don’t).
This one will depend on your personality type.
If you are naturally extroverted, you may tend to seek social interaction when you are feeling low. This is a coping mechanism and form of distraction and thus a temporary solution at best.
If you are naturally introverted, like myself, you may tend to go into isolation and spend excessive amount of time in solitude when you are feeling depressed. Since this is a comfort zone, it can also be a form of distraction or escape from the world.
While I strongly believe the answer to depression lies within ourselves and is best found in solitude, the effect of discovering that answer will cause different people to act in different ways…
For example, an introverted person might look within and discover that they are using solitude as a form of self-loathing or escape from perceived problems in the world.
The answer that comes to them might be, “Get out there and live your life. Have some fun. Don’t let fear control you.“
An extroverted person, on the other hand, might look within and discover that they have been using social interaction and worldly activities as a means of escaping or avoiding looking at unresolved mental, emotional, or spiritual issues.
Thus the answer that comes to them sounds more like, “You need stop relying on others to love you. You need to spend more time alone and learn to love yourself fully.“
While the answers are within, the physical effects of discovering those answers may look very different from person to person.
Deep down, you already know what you need more of. Whether you move towards more solitude or towards greater self-expression and activity, the spiritual lesson behind it is the same…
“Fear is dissolved by moving into it, not away from it.”
3. Focus on helping others.
When we’re depressed, we become very self-centered. We tend to exclude, deny, or overlook other people’s problems and focus only on our own. This causes us to feel like we are all alone in the world, like no one understands us.
What we often fail to see is that almost everyone is suffering in some way. Even people you believe only cause suffering for others, the only reason they act that way is because they are suffering themselves.
For example, your spouse or significant other says some mean words to you and you feel unloved or unworthy because of it. In your mind, you blame the person. You think they are so disrespectful or abusive, and that may be true, but WHY do they act that way?
People who seem to hurt you may only do so because THEY are hurting inside. Rather than judging others or blaming them for our pain, why not attempt to understand their suffering and why they do what they do?
When we aim to understand and help others rather than judge them, we simultaneously begin to understand ourselves better. We naturally become more kind and compassionate, and thus we can love ourselves more and be of greater service in the world as well.
While helping others may be the last thing on your mind when you are suffering, you may find this is the secret to your happiness. Putting your focus on solving the problems of others will take your attention away from your own problems.
You may soon find that none of your problems were real, except one you didn’t see…
Yes, we have to take care of ourselves too, but in my own life I have found that life delivers me so many more blessings when I forget myself in the service of others.
Try it out and see for yourself 🙂
4. Sit and do nothing.
We text people, surf the internet, watch TV, eat food, read books and magazines, and twiddle our thumbs.
But when is the last time you saw someone just sitting and doing nothing?
If you saw someone doing that, you might think they are weird, but you might just be looking at someone who is at peace with themselves!
When you are truly comfortable in your own skin, you are perfectly okay with doing nothing at all. You could sit in a room by yourself without any distractions and would feel perfectly okay with that.
To an ordinary, anxious mind, sitting alone and doing nothing would be extremely uncomfortable. With no distractions, one is forced to look at all their thoughts and deepest feelings, and this is exactly why sitting alone and doing nothing is a very good thing to do!
A truly happy person does not need stimulation or distraction to feel happy. A happy person feels happy regardless of what they are doing or what is going on around them.
This is not just a hypothetical ideal but is an achievable state of consciousness. What is required, however, is taking time every day to sit still, do nothing, and look within in order to understand yourself and release the negative thoughts and emotions.
The process for releasing negative thoughts and emotions is described in this article.
5. Binge watch comedy movies.
Sometimes, we just take ourselves too seriously.
There’s nothing a few belly laughs can’t solve 🙂
This could be perceived as another potential distraction but it could also be a tool for true healing.
I’ve heard it said before that “Humor is of Divine Origin” because humor disarms the ego and exposes it. Comedians are good at exposing how ridiculous humans can be. We laugh because we can relate. We can see how ridiculous WE are in taking ourselves and our life so seriously.
Through comedy, believe it or not, we can evolve spiritually and start to see life more clearly, without the filter of our ego. This clarity naturally brings laughter. It is not escape or distraction but a spiritual gift.
6. Say, “I feel depressed” not “I am depressed.”
Depression is not who you are. Depression is something you feel.
When you say, “I am depressed” what you are actually doing is identifying with the depression and therefore making it much more likely to stick with you.
When you say, “I feel depressed” then you are acknowledging the fact that you are only the witness or experiencer of the depression but are not the depression itself. You are separate from it. This makes it much easier to allow and release the depression because you have not let your ego attach to it and make it into an identity.
Try to be conscious of the words you speak because they signify unconscious beliefs. Recognizing disempowering beliefs is the first essential step to changing or overcoming them.
7. Be happy and depressed at the same time.
Say what?! How is this possible?
This is possible because the happiness of your true self is always there underneath the depression. The depression is just like a passing cloud but you are the clear, peaceful sky through which it floats.
The peace of your true spiritual nature never goes away. Just because it is temporarily hidden by a cloud does not change anything. Happiness is still there and can still be felt in the midst of the depression if you just pause for a moment, relax, and allow your mind to be still for a moment.
The real problem you face, the only problem you can actually have, is a mind clouded by negative thoughts and beliefs. If you never had another thought again, you could never suffer.
On my own journey of overcoming depression, I found the daily practice of meditation to be the most helpful.
Bonus Tip: Meditate!
When our mind is focused on past or future, which it is most of the time for the majority of us, then there is no room for peace. Focusing on the past brings feelings of regret, sadness, or guilt, while focusing on the future brings fear and anxiety.
But through regular meditation, we can create the habit of being focused in the present moment and thus escape the torture of our own minds. We can find the peace that was always there and just covered by the clouds of our own mental concepts.
What I would recommend is starting with something called “guided sound meditation.” You can use the free audio I have provided on this page. It contains relaxing meditation music that helps you quiet your mind and get in touch with the happiness that lies beneath the depression.
For best results, listen to the audio with headphones in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Sit or lie in a comfortable position and just listen to the music while remaining aware of the thoughts and feelings that come into awareness. Do not attempt to control or change the thoughts and feelings. Just watch them.
This witnessing of thoughts and feelings helps you fully recognize that the “real you” is NOT the contents of mind or body. Through regular meditation it becomes obvious that you are merely the witness of thoughts and feelings, completely independent of them. This recognition naturally bring relief and a greater sense of inner peace.
If you’d like to learn about some other helpful forms of meditation that you can practice, read my article: 7 Simple and Effective Meditation Techniques for Quick and Easy Inner Peace