Beating the Winter Blues

Depression is a frequently referenced, but largely misunderstood phenomenon. Sadness, on the other hand, is something we are all very familiar with. So how do we keep sadness from becoming depression? And what if it already has?

Clinical Depression can only be diagnosed by a psychologist or medical doctor, and often is aided by pharmaceuticals. However, there are steps you can take now to help stop or ease feelings of depression, without drugs. The difficulty with depression is that it is all-encompassing. The more down you feel, the more negative your perception of life becomes. When you feel depressed, things that you might not typically be bothered by may become focal points (disagreements with coworkers or your spouse, frustration while driving). Meanwhile, the positive things begin to be overlooked.

We tend to also focus on what is most negative about ourselves. Any body image issues are magnified, as are any self-doubts. When we make a mistake, we label ourselves as “stupid” or “an idiot” or worse. Usually, we start to feel that nothing is going right, or will ever go right again. So, here are some preliminary steps you can take to try to stop the downward spiral:

  • Do Something – ANYTHING!

When we feel down we tend to lose our motivation to do anything, outside of sitting on the couch or lying in bed. Physical activity releases happy hormones in your brain and helps you to feel more energized and happy. If what you choose to do includes sunshine and a decent dose of Vitamin D – all the better!

  • Smile

Smiling tricks our brain into believing we are happy. Go talk to someone about something positive. Say good morning to the people at the grocery store and smile at them! They will smile back and by the end of your trip you might notice you’re feeling a heck of a lot more positive.

  • Question

When you find yourself using “always” and “never” statements, this is a way of generalizing the negative. We also tend to catastrophize – identifying the worst possible outcome and assuming that will happen. When you catch yourself having these thoughts, look at the evidence. Do you “always” make that mistake? Has there ever been a single incident where that was not true? Are things guaranteed to go badly, or is there a possible alterative outcome?

  • Focus on the positive.

This may seem obvious, but it is one of the hardest (and most important) things to do when you are feeling down. There is almost always something going right in the world, but you have to put in the conscious effort to focus on the positive instead of the negative.

It is very easy to slide down the slippery slope of depression. Teaching ourselves to be positive again can be very much like returning to the gym after a long hiatus: you have to get used to working your happy muscle again. But just like most things in life, a little hard work can make all the difference! Of course, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by sadness or depression, speaking to a mental health professional can help you to get your mind back on the right track, and provide you with a supporter in your journey to finding a happier, healthier you.

*If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or others, please go to your local emergency room immediately. They will connect you with the help you need right away.