Tackling Depression: A 10-Step Guide for Achieving Happiness

Depression robs you of energy and enthusiasm, leaving you emotionless, empty, and unable to move forward in life. The worst thing is that it steals your desire to do the very things that would make you feel better — things like exercising, socializing, or even getting out of bed each day. To heal, you need a plan.     

Step 1: Address The Cause Of Your Depression 

Some episodes of depression are triggered by grief. If you’ve recently lost a job, a loved one, your health, or some other aspect of your life, you may be depressed due to grief. Chronic depression can also flare up due to a chemical imbalance, seasonal causes, hormonal fluctuations or for no reason at all. You need help from your doctor and/or a therapist (both are ideal) to help you diagnose your depression and address the cause.    

Step 2: See Your Doctor 

Even for situational depression, you may need medication to help you recover. Antidepressants can help with hormonal issues too — in fact, recent research suggests that antidepressants can be a helpful treatment for hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. If you have a chemical balance, it’s very important not to deny yourself the medication you need to step out of the darkness of depression.    

Step 3: Make An Appointment With A Therapist 

You need to spend time with someone who is trained in helping you identify your self-defeating thought patterns. It is almost impossible to suss them out on your own, and it’s essential to break the pattern of negative thinking that keeps you depressed.  Use this tool to find a therapist who can help.

Step 4: Allow Yourself To Grieve 

Don’t stifle your pain, especially if you’re grieving a loss. You will recover more quickly if you express it. There are many ways to express pain, including crying, talking, writing, drawing, dancing, screaming, wailing, and punching a pillow. Try out several different methods to see what works for you.    

Step 5: Ask For Help 

Have you isolated yourself? You may feel like you have no one left to call on for help, but if you reach out, you may be surprised to learn that your family and friends have been wishing they could help. Ask for what you need. Designate one person to check in with you weekly to ensure you’re taking your medication and one to meet up with weekly to shop for healthy foods together. Share this plan with a loved one and ask them to check in with you periodically to keep you on target.   

Step 6: Establish Healthy Routines 

Your body needs healthy foods, sunshine, and exercise each day to ease itself out of depression. Unfortunately, those are the very things you’ll find yourself resisting when you’re struggling. Build some accountability into your plan. Arrange to walk in the park with a friend three times a week, or pay a trainer to meet you at the gym. Pushing yourself through this first self-care hurdle is vital to your recovery. If several weeks pass and you are unable to settle into a regular self-care routine, talk to your doctor about changing your medication.   

Step 7: Build Some Structure 

You need a reason to get out of bed every day. If you’re unemployed, or self-employed, or a full-time homemaker, you’ll have to create structure for yourself. Make a standing appointment with a personal trainer, volunteer at a local charity once a week, get a part-time job, or ask a friend to meet you for a weekly walk or lunch date.  

Step 8: Put  Joy In Your Future 

Try to remember the things you used to enjoy and make plans to do them. Did you love museums, sports, nature, music, road trips, cooking classes, or hanging out with friends? Make plans to do these things. You may still feel like your sense of joy is dulled, but it’s better to keep trying than to give up and stay home.    

Step 9: Train Your Brain Toward Positive Thoughts 

Keep a gratitude journal and force yourself to think of three things to be grateful for each day. Wear a rubber band around your wrist and give it a snap every time you find yourself complaining or making a sarcastic or snarky joke. Challenge yourself to look for the silver lining in every cloud and verbalize it to people.    

Step 10: Do Things For Others 

Depression cheats you of connection to the rest of the world and makes you feel bad about yourself. Find your way out of its grasp by finding ways to be of service. Volunteer at a local charity, preferably someplace you can interact directly with clients. Be a Big Brother or Big Sister. Visit with hospice or nursing home patients. Walk the dogs at your closest animal shelter.Help your elderly neighbor with some yard work. Offer to take a friend’s child to the park for an afternoon. Pick up trash around your neighborhood. Research has found a significant correlation between volunteer work and reduced levels of depression, particularly among seniors.

Going through life in a state of depression is hard. The simple act of getting out of bed can be overwhelming. Making decisions about your future is impossible when you can’t get excited about any of the options, and just getting out of bed is more than you can manage some days. But with proper support and determination, you can heal and move toward happiness again. Give yourself that gift.