I’m watching my 8th Game of Thrones episode in a row, on some shady streaming website. A pizza box lays open on my wooden desk, to my left. A half-emptied can of Pringles and a plastic bag of Oreos to my right.
My internet connection must to be slowing down, because the TV show keeps pausing.
I open up Facebook.
My chat is set to “offline” because I’m too ashamed of myself to interact with anyone.
I see pictures of Megan on her South-American trip. Then a comment by Josh, who has just announced he’s thrilled to have obtained an interview at IBM.
Right then, a pit forms in my stomach as I’m getting the impression that everyone’s either living it up or investing in their future.
While I’m wasting away in my secluded room.
Hell, why do I even bother checking FB? I switch to Youtube as I’m slowly dozing off…
I haven’t showered once in the past 3 days and feel like a disgusting, greasy waste of space. Tomorrow I’ll probably wake up and hide under my dirty covers for a couple hours, as I’ll struggle to find the energy to get up.
Why bother? Tomorrow is going to feel just as meaningless as yesterday.
I feel numb and lazy.
I hate myself.
I’m so pathetic I can’t even maintain a proper wake/sleep schedule or take care of my personal hygiene…
Does this hit close to home?
The paragraphs you’ve just read describe what I used to go through, a couple years ago.
You’re not alone.
Depression is a condition that currently affects 5% of the world’s population. That’s 350 million sufferers. To put things in perspective, 11% of Americans are on antidepressants.
I see depression as a state of inertia.
You’ve gotten to a point where nothing seems worth pursuing, and hardly any activity feels enjoyable. Depression robs you of your drive, and turns your life into a joyless, tedious experience that seems to drag on and on…
Believe me when I say I know how it feels to be this empty shell of a person.
Psychiatrists attempt to alleviate the condition with drugs that, according to trials, hardly work any better than placebos.
These meds certainly didn’t do anything for me, except numbing my genitals and killing my libido. I tried loads of them too, from citalopram and Celexa to Abilify.
The good news is I’ve recovered.
I now live a normal life… in fact I’d say I’m more active and alive than the majority of my peers.
And I want to share with you how I did it, in the hopes of guiding you through this dark period of your life.
You will notice DRASTIC improvements within a few weeks if you apply the knowledge I’m about to dish out. All because you’ll be equipped with the powerful insight that I didn’t have, back when I got started on this journey.
Steps you should take to beat depression
1. Break free from instant gratification
Dopamine is a hormone secreted by the brain.
To keep things simple, it’s your brain’s “pleasure chemical.” Its purpose is to make you feel happy, thrilled and driven.
Some activities release healthy amounts of dopamine:
- eating mildly sugary, non-processed foods, like raspberries,
- playing volleyball with friends,
- having sex with a loved one,
- discovering a new part of town for the first time,
- seeing a peer that you haven’t seen a while,
- acing a test after studying hard…
Other activities release unnaturally high amounts of dopamine:
- eating Ben & Jerry’s Cookie Dough ice cream or Pizza Hut’s peperoni pizza,
- generating lots of “likes” or upvotes on reddit or facebook,
- compulsively buying stuff through amazon premium,
- watching Youtube clips, Netflix or TV,
- playing video games,
- smoking cigarettes,
When you’re in the slumps of depression, you tend to abuse the latter: sources of easy stimulation for the brain that provoke unnaturally high spikes of dopamine.
These are literally on-demand doses of instantaneous excitement being served to your brain. You use them as distractions, to escape the stress and hardships of the outside world for a few hours.
However, indulging in these high-reward pastimes is not without consequences:
1. Escapism and procrastination.
You’re delaying the act of dealing with your problems. You’re running away from responsibilities. This will make you anxious inside, as you know you’ll have to deal with them eventually.
Plus your lack of self-control will cause you to self-loathe.
2. Your brain becomes less sensitive to natural pleasures.
Picture this: when you’re used to eating ice-cream on a regular basis, a raspberry or a cucumber feels very unrewarding by comparison.
Likewise, when you’re used to playing fast-paced games on your Wii, by comparison, playing a slow game of chess or even softball sounds like a drag.
In other words, you develop an addiction to highly rewarding activities that come with the push of a button and 0 effort on your behalf.
And you feel dull, irritable, the moment you’re no longer indulging in them.
Furthermore, simple activities that release healthy, normal amounts of dopamine – and which were once pleasurable to you – turn into chores, once the brain has developed a tolerance to dopamine spikes.
This is not some crazy theory, it’s biology at work – the brain is an extremely malleable organ, which adapts itself.
Ever since I’ve dumped all sources of easy instant gratification mentioned above, I’ve been feeling infinitely more content on a daily basis. Naturally.
Nowadays, mundane activities like a simple walk in a park, or eating a banana feel VERY satisfying. That’s because I’ve accustomed my brain to find these things pleasurable again.
Yesterday, for instance, I sat on my balcony for an hour, while petting my dog and admiring the trees around me. Spring had just arrived, and I was in awe at how fast the leaves had sprouted from their branches, turning these previously dead-looking trunks into green works of art.
These little insignificant things now make me thrilled, and it’s amazing!
2. Meditate and try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Meditation has been scientifically proven to extend one’s lifespan, and increase our feelings of wellbeing if practiced regularly.
To this day, I meditate 15 minutes daily, and I intend to keep doing it for the rest of my life.
Whenever I feel the temptation to smoke a cig, or eat junk food… Or whenever I feel stressed out after a tiring day of work, I immediately meditate upon arriving home.
It’ll get you in touch with your body, ease your anxiety, and cool you down. It’s also a fantastic way to increase your awareness of your negative thoughts. A key skill when undergoing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT.) I recommend that you dig into it because it’s the most powerful anti-depressive therapy, and you can do it alone without the help of a doc.
If you don’t know how to start meditating, you can use guided meditation apps like Headspace. Or you can simply sit down, close your eyes and concentrate on your breath, serenely, in silence.
3. Improve your sleep
A lack of sleep will increase your anxiety levels.
It’s been proven that sleeping less than 7 hours a night desensitizes some of your serotonin receptors.
Additionally, regulating your circadian rhythm to fit the daily course of the sun is a must.
Practically speaking, I feel my best when I wake up early and go to bed early.
What if you have a hard time falling or staying asleep?
Try these tips, they’ve worked for me:
- take some magnesium before going to bed (the highly absorbable forms like magnesium citrate or taurate)
- cut out screens 2 hours before bed
- reduce the light that you are exposed to, an hour or two before bed (I have dim lighting in my room)
- exercise during the day to make sure you’ll be tired at night
4. Release your endorphins and Nourish your body
Your diet definitely has an impact on your mood.
What you want to do, is eat a balanced diet, full of plants, fruits, and omega 3-rich fishes. The ANDI index is useful for choosing highly nutritious foods, that will replenish your body with the vitamins and antioxidants it needs to thrive.
I encourage you to banish junk food from your life, save for the occasional treat.
As for exercise, it’s nature’s go-to antidepressant.
The endorphin rush I get from working out sends me into a relaxed state. Even more so when doing strength training.
If you don’t currently have the willpower to exercise, don’t worry. Cutting out instant gratification first will re-sensitize your brain to dopamine and make you more eager to get out and LIVE life.
5. Figure out what you want out of life
When you’ll be done with steps 1 – 4, you’ll have a solid routine in place.
Surely, your mood will have improved, your physique will look better, you’ll feel more relaxed, less irritable, and you’ll have a bit of momentum going.
Now’s the time to embrace life and start going after the things that fulfill you. We only have 30 000 days to spend on this earth, so make sure each one counts.
A ship without direction can leave port, but it will never reach its destination.
This idiom has become my favorite. So many of us are caught up in the daily grind without reflecting on where we want to go… and we end up nowhere as a result. At least, not in a place that inspires us.
I strongly suggest that you put some time aside to reflect on your values. What goals do you deem worthy of pursuing, in the areas of professional life, relationships, and personal health?
Financial independence? Having a child? Finding your partner in life? Taking care of your parents? Getting back in touch with long-lost friends? Traveling the world? Dedicating your time to helping others through an association?
There are no right or wrong answers here. We’re all different, and aspire to different things.
If you don’t know what you want, check this more detailed guide on understanding your needs.
Once everything becomes more clear in your head, start working on your needs and accomplish things that inspire you.
The book that turned my life around
There’s a lot more to cover.
I could keep babbling on and on about my victory over depression, but I feel that I must give credit where credit is due.
Check out James Gordon’s Destroy Depression.
It’s the ebook that initially got me out of my slump. A freakin’ life-saver.
The condensed info you’ve read on here, as a standalone guide, will propel you towards recovery. But there’s only so much I can cover in a single blog post.
James goes a step further with his work. His book is a detailed, hands-on guide on beating depression in 7 steps, containing 300+ pages of practical info. He created this system as an answer to his own struggles with depression, and you can tell. It’s full of tips and tools that will keep you motivated throughout your journey.
For instance, a CBT workbook is included – that will allow you to correct your negative thought patterns, and open you mind to new perspectives.
In addition, you’ll find lifestyle tips on sunlight exposure, sleep, exercise, and managing your relationships with the people around you.
Plus there’s a brilliant goal-setting section, in which you’ll be able to create a fresh outlook for yourself and spark your inner drive.
To top it off, another detailed part covers the Mediterranean diet, which is hands-down the best diet out there to boost your mood. It comes with a food list that mentions tons of ingredients, so you’ll know exactly what to eat.
Now, the only drawback is: the info you’ll find in Destroy Depression could potentially be found for free if you dug up around the internet… But it would take you dozens of hours to gather the info, dozens more to filter the good stuff from the junk through experimentation, and even more time to organize it all in a step-by-step system. Why would you want to go through the trouble, when someone else has already done the work AND tested his method thoroughly?
You can find more info on James’ website here.
Last few words of advice
Depression has been a godsend to me, in a way. Retrospectively, I see the condition as your body’s way of telling you that something’s wrong with your life.
And you now have the opportunity to start anew. So get going in the direction you want.
As you encounter small successes, you’ll gain momentum. Sooner than you think, you’ll be able to tackle several challenges at once, with unwavering discipline.
At some point, you’ll look back, and you’ll realize you’re proud of yourself. Perhaps depression will have taught you the greatest lesson: self-love requires constant work.