When you feel down, it can be very hard to shift the mood. Things you once enjoyed lose their appeal. You might feel impatient, tearful, or lack the energy to cope with day-to-day life. You might be forgetful, find it hard to concentrate, have trouble sleeping or instead spend too much time in bed. In such bleak circumstances, small steps are all you can make. Try some of these suggestions and you'll find those small steps can make a big difference.
Challenge bleak thoughts
Ask yourself what you would say to a friend who was prey to the kind of bleak, negative thoughts that are getting you down. Then tell yourself the same positive message. Write that positive message down and put it somewhere you can see it. Read your friendly advice over whenever you feel down.
Have a chat
Phone a friend or meet up for a chat. You don't have to talk about anything "heavy" if you don't want to, a friendly conversation about things that interest you both will lift your spirits. Isolation tends to exaggerate negative thoughts so reaching out to someone will have a positive effect.
Plan your week
List things you have to do and things you would like to do in the coming week. Transcribe your list into a diary. For every "must do" item, try to find a "would like to do" activity as a small reward. Tick off the items as you do them, to track your progress.
Follow a routine
Decide on regular times to go to bed, get up, and take meals. Keeping to a routine helps you get through the day and avoid "lost" periods when you sit around brooding. Your routine will also help you settle and get a full night's sleep.
Try something new
Try a new hobby to stimulate your interest in life. Or you could try a new food that you haven't tasted before, or explore a place you've never visited. Experiencing new things will help you feel refreshed and reinvigorated. They say a change is as good as a rest.
Go for a walk, or a run or a bike ride. Get out in the open air and in natural daylight. Your mood will improve, particularly in winter. Go the gym or exercise at home. According to Health magazine, a study of people with depression who worked-out regularly found the severity of their symptoms reduced by nearly half.
Eat seafood every week. A Dutch study quoted by Reader's Digest found people who eat seafood regularly are less likely to suffer from depression. Researchers think it's down to the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. If you can't stand seafood, ground flax seeds are another good source of omega-3. Try them sprinkled on your breakfast cereal.
Make something useful or beautiful. Whether it's painting a picture, writing a poem, building some bookshelves or baking a cake, use whatever skills you have to be creative. The creative process distracts you from negative thoughts, and the sense of achievement you get from a job well done will give you a huge boost.
Stroke a pet
Play with a pet cat or dog, or stroke a rabbit to help raise your spirits. Researchers at the University of Missouri found playing with a dog for just a few minutes a day raises levels of serotonin and oxytocin in the blood, chemicals released by the body when we are happy.
Do something kind for someone else: a friend, a relative, a neighbour or a stranger. You could send your sister a present, donate to a charity, help an elderly person with shopping or volunteer with a youth group. Put a smile on someone else's face and you'll put one on your own.
- Moodjuice; Depression self-help guide; Paul Gilbert; 2009
- Health magazine; 31 ways to boost your mood naturally; 2012
- Reader's Digest; 17 ways to lift your spirits; 2012
- Self Growth: The top 10 ways to lift your mood when you're feeling down in the dumps
- NHS Choices: Beat the winter blues
- My Daily Moment; 10 great ways to lift your spirits; Trudi Buck; 2011
- MSN: Ten bad-mood busters