From a guy who beat hisAs someone who’s always had depression, and tried just about everything under the sun to fix it, I’ve found some things that helped me considerably. Perhaps my findings can help you, too, if you’re stuck in a similar boat.
We’re entering the holiday season, and that can rile up a sadness in some. Maybe for you, depression has always been there, and the holidays make it louder. Or maybe it’s just a transient, seasonal ballast you’re struggling through because of something that happened recently.
No matter the cause, roughly 5% of adults have clinical depression. I’d argue many, many more have depression but keep it to themselves like I did. If you’re feeling low, first know that you aren’t alone.
Excluding the extreme cases of psychotic and suicidal types of depression that require immediate medical care, common depressive episodes can be minimized or beaten with some consistent effort. Meaning, for most, not only can we minimize depression’s hold on us; we can prevent its grip in the first place.
Give yourself the best chance at victory over depression by ensuring you’re doing these things. Don’t feel bad about going to a doctor if your depression is brutal, though.
What is depression but anger turned inward?
To understand how best to attack depression, we must recognize the factors that cause it. Look at yourself closely. What’s got you down? Sometimes it obvious, other times it’s not.
Often depression is a side effect of unhealthy routines causing imbalance. Like being glued to a work desk all day in front of a screen. Not getting any sun. Eating trash food. Adrenal fatigue from guzzling caffeine or sugar. Low self-esteem. Resentment. Hating how you look. Feeling lonely. Not enough sleep. Overwhelming stress. Maybe you lost a loved one or are going through a nasty breakup. The list goes on, but most of the problems are tied together and exacerbate each other.
The solutions act in the same way, working with each other hand in hand, boosting you upward rather than pushing you down.
Consider the following and commit it to memory:
First take care of your body - you only get one.
Sounds a bit blunt, or even morbid. But let’s get one thing straight, nobody’s going to save you but yourself.
When you treat your body right, it rewards your mind. Whatever problems you’re facing, whatever the root causes are of your depression, if your body and mind are strong, those problems are much easier to overcome.
Some people want to beat depression so they can be better in all aspects of their life. Maybe it’s costing them their relationships, or hurting their work performance. For others it’s reliving past glory. Some people just want to feel attractive for once before their time is up.
Pick your reason, grab it, and never let go. Now let’s turn this ship around.
Although not required, it helps to get a clear baseline of yourself with some blood work. Are you deficient in anything?
My own blood pressure was abnormally high, I was largely deficient in Vitamin D and Zinc, plus my testosterone was low. That alone caused all kinds of problems. Turns out, we’re meant to be outside a lot but rarely are due to our desk jobs!
Now that I had hard numbers on paper, I knew my depression was being exacerbated by poor health habits. The pharmaceuticals offered to me for depression didn’t address that fact at all.
I wanted to get my body in order first to see how much of a difference it would make.
Food PlanThis is where people screw it up the most. You’ve heard the phrases "You are what you eat" and "You can’t outrun a bad diet" right? They’re both true.
By now your sad self is likely hooked on sugar, refined carbs, and caffeine. We have to fix that, because it’s dulling your mind and breaking your body. Not only can you develop serious health problems down the line from insulin resistance, but your body’s natural energy levels plummet due to relying heavily on artificial stimulants, which in and of themselves have diminishing returns. Meaning the more junk you consume, the more you need. It’s a vicious spiral of exhaustion and self-destruction.
We’re done with that. Remove the poison. Let your body get back in charge. Booze too. That’s out.
Don’t go in halfway either by just saying generalities like “Oh yeah, I gotta start eating healthier” because that’ll last a few days then you’re right back on the cinnamon buns.
Attack this like a four-star general in a war for the ages. This is your life! You’re tired of feeling lousy. So fix it!
From now on, we’re only shopping along the outer perimeter of the grocery store. Fresh fruits, veggies, meats, eggs, and cheeses. Start reading the back of the labels. No more high fructose corn syrup, soy, hydrogenated oils, and white bread. We’re cooking everything at home. No more Lucky Charms or handfuls of M&Ms. Instead, we’re eating some blueberries for dessert after a hearty protein-filled meal.
Sound lame? Trust me, when your body stops eating junk food, some watermelon tastes super sweet.
Learn five easy recipes and stick to them. Not sure what to cook? Go online. There’s no shortage of YouTube super gym athletes that’ll share their recipes. Use them as a general guide, do some research, and work a realistic routine from there depending on your budget and cooking abilities.
Overall, lots of protein and vegetables. For me, chicken or ground beef and sauteed vegetables with some eggs every morning. I used to just chug a Monster and rush out the door then gas out before noon. Now I wake up earlier, create a powerhouse breakfast in the kitchen, pound that down, salute a bald eagle, then dominate the rest of the day.
Ultimately, you must look at food differently. Not as a treat, but as fuel. You wouldn’t put garbage juice in your car, would you? Only the finest premium octane for our body from now on. Anything else will just slow us down.
Exercise PlanExercise before or after work on a regular schedule. If your body has turned into office sludge after years on the job, start slow, but be consistent. Your body will adjust, and after some initial resistance, it’ll crave that exercise.
There’s an exercise for everyone. Some involve other people, some don’t. Was there an exercise you liked as a kid? I used to love running and Karate. Just running all over the place kicking stuff like a ninja turtle. But as a schlubby office worker with bad knees and depression, running is probably not going to happen at first and with the flexibility of concrete I probably shouldn’t try kicking yet.
So I started with walking. Just walk around the block, get some sun, clear my head. Stretch in the morning. I then tried going to public gyms, but felt out of place, or machines I wanted would be taken. So instead, I bought some dumbbells and a pull up bar for the house. That’s literally all you need to hit every muscle group.
I downloaded an app called Fitbod. It’s like a personal trainer in your phone that develops a workout routine just for you based on your equipment, skill level, and feedback you give it. My Fitbod routine progressed with me, teaching me new exercises and tracking all this cool data.
I recommend that app if you’re a pale creature of the night and prefer to workout alone at home where you can be gross without worry.
A year later, I’ve got it down to a routine 3 times a week. I turn on a long podcast, load up Fitbod and get to work. It’s my favorite hour of the day.
Often depression combos with anxiety, so for those people I recommend punching and kicking a bag. Take an aerobic kickboxing class, and just beat the crap out of that thing. You’ll feel so much better! Plus, you’re forced to talk to new people. You’re meeting new people and relieving stress and making your body stronger.
If you’re an introvert weirdo like me, get a bag for the garage. Live in a crummy apartment? Put a Century BOB in the living room. Junky furniture in the way? Get rid of it.
Watch YouTube videos on proper technique. Get into a positive sphere of influence with instructors like Tony Jeffries, Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, Shane Fazen, and Sensei Seth. Learn how to wrap your hands, do it right. Punch that BOB until you’re exhausted. Then shower, cook up a superhero meal then go to bed.
After some time, you’ll start to feel better. You’ll likely join a gym near your home, and meet other people like you.
If kickboxing isn’t your thing, try running, weightlifting, or just body weight exercises. If you’re a man of any age, you must do resistance training of some kind your entire adult life. It helps keeps your testosterone at healthy levels, bone density up, and your mind clear.
As for the ladies - it helps you too! Lift things, push things, pull things. Get moving, it’ll save your mind.
Take out the Trash PlanNow that your mind and body are being treated right, it’s time to take inventory. What do we need in our lives? What can we get rid of? Write it all down.
Possessions, people, jobs, hobbies, vices.
Circle good things and cross out bad. Ditch the bad things, double down on the good. For me, I had to let some old friends go. I couldn’t be the party drinker mess anymore. I was on a different path now, so I kindly split ways without prejudice.
I put some resumes out to find a better job for higher pay. With increased motivation inside me, I found interviews enjoyable. I wasn’t scared or full of self-doubt like before. I found a better job in no time, put in my two weeks, and kindly moved up.
It was time for some new clothes, and that stained couch just looked like the old, sad me. I tossed all of it and got some fresh bits. Opened the blinds and let some sunlight in. The depression was still inside me, but he was so tiny now. Before he’d knock me out cold, now he barely tickled.
Patience up that Mountain
Sure, a proper diet and exercise routine sounds good, but what about actually executing it? You’ve tried stuff before, and burned out or got distracted. Everyone does. What’ll change this time? Yourmindset.
Imagine trying to scale a mountain. At the bottom, looking up at the peak, it seems impossible. Depression takes over, you turn around and go home in defeat.
Don’t focus on the peak. Instead, focus on the step directly in front of you.
Each day is one more step up that mountain. One more step. One more healthy meal that you made at home. One more hour of lifting weights in the living room rather than devouring a McDouble in the car. One more night of going to bed early and waking up to see the sunrise.
One more hour of walking after work to clear your head instead of oozing onto the couch in front of the TV. One more morning stretch in the sunlight instead of hitting Snooze ten times. One more step. One more step.
Then after six months, you turn around and look down. Look at how high up the mountain you are! This seemed impossible at first, but now it’s not so bad. People at work even start to notice a change in you.
Now put your focus back down on that next step and take it. One more step.
These new healthier choices become automatic after just a couple weeks. You enjoy them, as your brain has been reprogrammed. In fact, you feel noticeably worse if you avoid a workout now. You notice a full-body sadness if you eat fast food instead of a home cooked meal. You have naturally higher energy, and you don’t zombify halfway through the day. You’re saving a ton of money, too. No more Starbucks runs needed!
The better choices become a new routine. A mindless thing you’re always doing, that pays you dividends like better work performance, clearer skin, healthy weight loss, increased muscle mass, increased focus and more.
With all of those improvements in place, how would you feelthen? Would you still be as depressed?
There’s no absolute cure for depression, but we can certainly change it from a scream to a whisper.There’s no pill that can fix your life. But there are a few natural supplements that can point you down the path of a happier, healthier life. It’s up to you to stay on that path.
For me, Happy Day is a good mood helper. It makes me feel a bit sunnier without side effects.
I was also full of junk at the start, so a run of Daily Detox & Healthy Liver got the ball rolling too.
Ultimately what helps your depression is unique to you. You might even need prescription drugs, and that’s okay. But as your friend, I ask that you do everything you can for your body and mind first, then see how you feel.
You might be pleasantly surprised.
P.S. Turn your stupid phone off. Nobody needs that noise. :)
- Your pal,