Top 10 tools for depression self help
There are many solid tools you can use within the category of self help for depression. And then there is likely to be hundreds, many of which will be flaky, that I am not recommending. As a scientist I like to look at the evidence of effectiveness and as such I am not even considering treatment strategies that rely solely on placebo effects for the efficacy.
Great self help wisdom
It is self evident that any specialist field like Clinical Psychology, Counselling Psychology or CBT Therapy has a body of knowledge that has been acquired through research and clinical expertise over many decades. If you have not dedicated a lot of your time to studying this then it is not there at your finger tips to be used if you have a problem like depression or anxiety to solve.
A lot of the best tools of self help have been disseminated over the years and are used on a massive scale by people wanting more control over their mood.
A lot of people are strongly motivated to help themselves out of psychological difficulties like depression and anxiety.
Self Help tools that people find helpful
Top 10 tools for depression self help
- Engage in physical activity that may be exercise or interest and hobby based. Things people commonly do is go to the gym, walk, swim, gardening, participate in a sport. Physical activity is great for promoting healthy eating, good metabolism and in particular good sleeping habits.
- Practice good sleeping habits. The importance of sleep cannot be over stated. Sleeping at night and being alert during the day is critical to good mental health . If you don’t sleep in a stable pattern that works for you then you must take active steps to fix this problem. Everything is made worse by lack of sleep.
- Do something you enjoy. An easy statement to type and blindingly obvious you may think. But do you do something every day that you enjoy? This is not to be confused with a duty, an obligation or something that must be done for work or your home life. One of the very first things that gets lost when you feel down or anxious is that you neglect your well being. Working harder or trying to work harder is not the same as looking after yourself.
- Be involved in something. The second most common thing that gets deleted when you mood goes down is mixing with people and being involved with activities. The connection you forge with other people is really important in helping you to maintain your social and conversation skills. But it also helps to iron out some of your most negative fantasies created in isolation in your brain and unless challenged can get really out of control causing all sorts of problems for you.
- Do something that gives you a feeling of achievement and/or mastery. You have developed a number of areas of expertise over your life. These may be linked to work-based activities or recreational or home based activities. Being able to access your feeling of achievement from doing something you are good at is important. It nourishes your feelings of competence and self value.
- Enlist a trusted friend or relative to help with organising and managing self help activities and programs. Being able to plan and talk about what you need to do is a powerful self help strategy. It helps you develop more perspective on your problems and two heads are sometimes better than one where thinking through complex issues. A coherent and structured self help program can often serve this function if you don’t what to enlist the help of another person.
- Make sure you get out of the house each and every day. When you feel down you will probably be reluctant to get out into the world and be stimulated by it. Going out means dipping your toe into the world of stimulation and contact with other people, going out, being sociable and visiting the supermarket. This is obviously a mistake because it plays into your most negative self beliefs and further imprisons you in misery and unproductive worry time.
- Use distraction when you need to. This means that you can get into something that will distract you from the negative thoughts and emotions for a period of time. This respite is important because it reminds you that being down or anxious is not the normal state of affairs and that things can be a lot different with some time and effort.
- Make sure you look after your basic self care needs. Washing, showering, eating breakfast, dressing in outdoor clothing (not remaining in pajamas all day) eating at meal times and preparing food that is nutritious and healthy. It may seem silly to dress if you don’t plan to go out but if you feel down and anxious then you will not be motivated to go out but if you are already dressed then it makes one less barrier to getting some fresh air and seeing the world from outside of a window.
- Avoid activities or people that are negative or make you stressed. Normally I advocate challenging avoidance because that tends to make you stronger and also helps you see that the things you are avoiding are not as bad as they may seem. But in the first instance when you are getting into self help then give yourself a break an avoid stressful people or situations.
Scientific research based self help tools
I created this list from research that was conducted by asking people what self help tools they found most useful and what they would recommend to others in a similar situation.
Self-help strategies to reduce emotional distress: What do people do and why? A qualitative study
Elizabeth Marley (2011)