If you are living with depression, think of this as a little toolkit of TLC. A collection of natural, practical ideas you can dip in and out of that you can use alongside any professional help you may currently be receiving. Some suggestions might be for you, some might not, but we hope there might be just one or two that give you hope and help you find a little ray of sunshine in your day.
Take it One Step at a Time
Starting simply and finding joy in the small things, like taking a stroll in nature, can be a soothing step on the road to recovery. Understandably, many people don’t find it at all easy to exercise with depression but something gentle, such as walking, can be very therapeutic and, of course, it can be taken entirely at your own pace. Researchers from the University of Essex found people who exercised (including walking) in outdoor green spaces, such as a park or garden, for just five minutes, experienced improvements in their mood and self-esteem. Try to be mindful of your surroundings, to really make the most of your walk. Relax, breathe deeply and, as you get into a natural rhythm, notice the weather, the sounds and the colours and textures around you. Reflect on things that make you happy. Begin with five minutes and if it feels good, build up over time.
Bring on the Bergamot
Bergamot essential oil, with its fresh citrus fragrance, is widely believed – and proven by major trials – to be one of the most effective oils to help alleviate depression. The oil is obtained from the peel of the fruit and you may already be familiar with the uplifting yet calming scent, as it is used in Earl Grey tea. Create a refreshing ambience in your home by adding a few drops of bergamot oil to a diffuser. Or add a few drops to a tissue or handkerchief and breathe in the scent whenever you need it. It’s particularly useful for reducing lethargy and boosting self-confidence. You can also apply a couple of drops to the soles of the feet before bedtime.
Many aromatherapy essential oils are contraindicated for use during pregnancy and for those with certain health conditions, so it’s always best to check with your GP first if you have any concerns. Always use as directed.
Put Pen to Paper
Keeping a journal will give you your own place for regular self-reflection and somewhere private where you can offload. As well as writing about the struggles, however, journaling can also be a safe space to document and celebrate all the little ‘wins’ you have on your path to recovery. Over time, as you start to feel better, you may begin to spot some recurring themes that help you to monitor your mood and put any coping strategies you may need in place. You can write, doodle, draw and colour... whatever works for you – be as expressive and creative as you like. Because staring at a blank page can be daunting, here are some prompts to get you started:
- “Today I am grateful for...”
- “I’m proud of myself today because...”
- “When I feel better, I am going to...”
- “My favourite memory is...”
- “Some people who make me happy are...”
- “My feel-good songs are...”
How much time do you actually spend on social media? According to recent findings, we’re spending an average of 2 hours 22 minutes every day on social media platforms. Considering it’s something that’s meant to help us to form bonds and connect with others, you might be surprised that psychologists believe it actually makes us feel lonelier and more depressed. A 2018 study by the University of Pennsylvania in the US found that when social media use was cut back to just 30 minutes a day (10 mins each on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat), participants reported experiencing ‘significant declines’ in symptoms of depression. Would cutting back give you more time to read mood-boosting books, to journal, meditate or to meet up for a chat with a friend? Of course, everyone is different – experiment to identify what balance works for you.
Reading about other people’s first-hand experiences of depression can remind you that you’re not alone. One of the most life-affirming books we’ve read is The Recovery Letters (edited by James Withey and Olivia Sagan). It’s a series of incredibly personal letters written by people recovering from depression to those who are currently affected. The letter format makes it perfect for when you don’t feel like reading too much at a time. Each page is filled with tried-and-tested advice, heartfelt words and an overwhelming feeling of comfort and support.
Also, check out the Reading Well - Books on Prescription website, where you can find books for common mental health problems. The books are all recommended by the NHS (National Health Service) health professionals and by people living with the health problems covered in the books. Reading Well books are available to borrow free from your local library (if you live in the UK).
If you’d rather relax and listen to a book, you could try Audible. Some other titles we recommend, which are available on Audible, include:
- Black Rainbow: How Words Healed Me: My Journey Through Depression by Rachel Kelly
- A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled by Ruby Wax
- Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
Make Crystals Your Rock
Crystal experts say that by tapping into the powerful energy and vibration of crystals, we can help to rebalance and enhance our own subtle energy system on both a physical and emotional level. If you’re curious about what crystals might be able to do for you, here’s a list of the most common crystals that are believed to support and soothe those with depression.
- Smoky Quartz – Thought to reduce stress and neutralise negativity
- Tiger’s Eye – Believed to empower and bring optimism
- Carnelian – May help to restore motivation and lend courage and confidence
- Citrine – Said to be joyful, energising and uplifting
Simply carry them with you in a little pouch bag, wear them as jewellery or hold them while enjoying a moment of quiet contemplation or meditation. Cleanse and recharge your crystals regularly by putting them out overnight in the moonlight. Alternatively, you can lay them out on an indoor windowsill.
Create a Depression Rainy Day Box
This might sound like a money box but it’s much more valuable. Think of this as a happy memory box – a place to ‘bank’ all the moments that gave you a boost. Collect together things that make you genuinely happy - maybe photos of times with family and friends, tickets from events you’ve enjoyed, mementoes from trips, any special letters or pictures that make you happy, or quotes that resonate with you. Then, whenever you need a lift on those grey, cloudy days, revisit happier times.
Help is at Hand...
Although the methods listed above may help many people, they are not a substitute for medical treatment or medications. They should only ever be used alongside other prescribed treatments from your GP. Always consult with your GP if you are concerned about depression or any other health issue. The information given is for personal information and interest only. It is not intended to offer professional medical advice or treatment of any condition.