10 Best ways to ward off depression and anxiety that you can do right now!

Published: June 6, 2014

Feeling stuck, depressed or anxious?  You are not alone!  Millions of people right now in the US alone suffer from various mental health problems.  These vary in type and prognosis from minor annoyances to potentially life threatening.  Here I give you 10 of the best simple things that you can do right now to help yourself to feel better.  These are practical actions that you can take right now, but my advice cannot in any form replace a qualified mental health professional's advice and if you are suffering I encourage to seek treatment from the appropriate professional.

  1. Get Moving!

    Exercise is perhaps the most simple and effective quick fix to feelings of depression or anxiety.  You do not have to go to the gym to exercises, nor do you need fancy equipment.  You could do pushups and run in place in your room right now if you wanted.  The higher the intensity the better, but any type of increased activity will suffice.  A simple walk around your neighborhood can work wonders for your mood.  Exercise provides your brain with endorphins and gives you a sense of accomplish and control over your life.  There is no better quick fix to a bad mood. 

  2. Eat something healthy

    What you put into your body plays a major role in how you are feeling.  Eating a good diet made up of mostly vegetables (especially leafy greens) whole grains, healthy sources of protein such as nuts, and fruits can keep your body and mind healthy. I once cared for an individual who suddenly had a rush of fatigue hit them.  They had no idea why this happened but after a little probing I discovered that they had nothing to eat for over 15 hours and only had some juice in the morning.  No wonder they were dead tired!  After a small snack they felt markedly improved.  Before looking too deep into possible causes for a bad mood make sure that you are taking care to provide your body with proper nourishment.

  3. Talk to someone

    Humans are social animals.  In order to survive as a race we must interact with other humans.  If you isolate yourself from any contact with other people it puts you at much higher risk for mental health problems.  A simple hello or how are you today brings a sense of connection.  If you live alone then reach out to someone via social media or telephone, or if that is not an option then get out and go to the grocery or take a walk outside.  This can be a double edged sword as you do not want to focus too much on other people especially if you feel desperate for approval, but a simple effort to connect to others is all you need. 

  4. Stop what you are doing and just breathe

    Stop what you are doing right now and sit down.  Close your eyes and breathe normally out of your nose.  Do this for 1 minute (can increase time after practicing).  After the first three tips on how to improve mood it is important that I point out that there can come a point where you are moving too fast for your own good.  While the first three tips were directed mainly at those with depression who have trouble doing things I want to direct this tip at those who are prone to extreme anxiety.  At times we are so busy that we begin to forget the essential things in our lives.  We are constantly rushing to do the next thing yet we feel more discontent.  Taking a moment to let your fleeting thoughts flow will allow you to refocus on the essentials.  While financial security is important often times we sacrifice our health and family for the pursuit of success.  Taking a moment can bring a healthy repurposing of life.

  5. Avoid toxic substances

    While it is important to provide your body with proper nourishment, it is also important to ensure that what you put into your body is not harming you mentally.  Many recreational drugs can be dangerous to your mental health especially when consumed in large quantities it is best to avoid these drugs.  The major culprit in todays society is alcohol.  First off let me point out that alcohol when consumed in moderation can be a part of a very healthy diet.  The key here is moderation.  Drinking a few drinks in the course of the night while ensuring that you are well hydrated can provide you with a good social lubricant that helps you connect with others.  The problem is that after a few drinks alcohol the positive effects fade away and you begin to lose control of yourself and also (since alcohol is a depressant) can begin to have very negative emotions.  It is best to stop after a few drinks and of course never drink and drive.

  6. Write out your thoughts

    Now that we have made sure that we are keeping our bodies healthy it is time to focus more on the mental aspect of depression and anxiety.  Often times our minds are cluttered with thoughts and we cannot quite pinpoint why we feel a certain way.  A simple method to probing your inner psyche is to write out the thoughts that you can identify when in a certain mood.  Feeling angry?  Write out the thoughts that are in your head that lead to those feelings of anger.  It is important to keep these objective which is a very difficult task.  By identifying these we take the first step to changing these thoughts which is the ultimate goal.  

  7. Identify the distortion in your thinking

    After writing out your thoughts associated with bad moods it is time to analyze these thoughts.  This is much more complicated than any other tips on this list, but this is an integral part of changing the way you think which will ultimately make you feel better.  This idea is based off of cognitive behavioral therapy.  Some of the more common distortions are all or nothing thinking, focusing on the negative, and magnification.  You may write that you are angry with a friend for not returning a call you made to them a few days prior.  You write down that you are upset and you think they do not like you anymore else why would they not call you back?  They must not want to be friends with you anymore, you write.  Now you try to identify a distortion.  This is an exaggeration.  You do not know that person no longer wants to be friends, they most likely simply have forgot to call you.  The next aspect of this analysis will be discussed in the next tip.  

  8. Replace the distorted thought with a more accurate thought

    Continuing on with the previous example you have written out your thoughts following an angry mood.  You identified that the thoughts you had after being angry with your friend for not calling you back were exaggerated.  Now it is important that you do not stop there.  After identifying the thought as an exaggeration it is important to replace it with a more accurate thought.  For this example you might write that you do not know why your friend did not call back, it is likely that they simply forgot to call you back or were too busy to see your call.  Now that you have replaced your distorted thought with a more accurate one your actions will follow suit.  Instead of ignoring your friend because you feel rejected you call them back later on in the week.  Chances are that they answer the phone call this time.  

  9. Stop worrying!

    Now that you have taken a chance to reflect on your thoughts and actively tried to change those thoughts it is time to stop worrying in order to avoid over analyzing.  Often we can consume ourselves with overthinking over our problems to the point where it becomes counterproductive.  A good idea is to choose a time of day to analyze and do tips 6-8, but after you have taken time to do this.  Put it away from your mind!  This can be very difficult for some prone to obsessive thinking.  That takes us to our next tip.  

  10. Do the things you love

    You have made the effort to change the way you think which will in turn change the way you feel for the better.  It is time to take your mind off of this and a great way to do it is simply do the things you love best.  What are your hobbies?  What would you do if you could do anything?  Music, sports, reading, making love, spending time with family and friends, cooking, sight-seeing, and many more.  It is important to realize that life is meant to be enjoyed.  When all else fails think of a time in your life when you were happy.  What were you doing?  Life is filled with ups and downs, and often returning to a former hobby can remind you of the value of life.  

I hope that this list may help someone in need or simply help someone to understand how to help a friend in need.  Of course I would encourage anyone that is suffering from depression or anxiety to the point that it is causing problems in daily functioning to seek help through a health professional.  Life can be difficult at times.  It is not a sign of weakness or a malady to be hidden.  Many great people in our history have suffered from some type of mental illness.  Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Theodore Roosevelt are some great leaders thought to suffer from various mental problems.  Mental illness affects all kinds the rich and poor alike.  The important thing to remember is that live is worth living, and the power of the human spirit to change can conquer mental illness.