One of the biggest struggles myself and many other people have faced is depression. Here's what helped me overcome it.
Seeing a psychologist
This is one of the main things people usually recommend, but for me it honestly didn't help much.
I saw two psychologists. The first I didn't vibe with so I felt misunderstood. She gave me some practical advice, but apart from that it didn't do much. This is essentially because we weren't on the same wavelength, therefore I didn't feel like she understood me, leading me to also not open up.
So I went and saw a second psychologist who I really liked. She's struggled with many of the same problems I have and shares a similar worldview, which made it easy for me to be open. She is also into self-development like I am and shared a decent amount of useful advice I hadn't heard of (contrary to the usual depression advice you've heard many times).
But apart from that, it honestly hasn't helped much. Maybe it does for other people, but it didn't for me.
Cynicism was one of the main reasons for my depression.
If you're concerned about the state of the world, it's very easy to dwell on how fucked up things are and fall into a negative spiral. I've genuinely felt like Elliot from Mr. Robot at times in regards to his cynicism lol.
But here's the kicker: if this a problem for you, many of the cynical thoughts you have likely are true. And you can't use positive thinking to ignore the truth.
Therefore the only way to counter cynicism is by practising stoicism—the art of seeing the beauty in adversity.
After realising dwelling on negative problems is pointless regardless of how true they are, I was able to change my mindset. By doing so you're not ignoring the truths you've realised, you're merely intelligently shifting your focus onto the positive.
Instead of focusing on why the world is a terrible place, focus on why it's awesome. Humanity has always done fucked up things, today is fundamentally the same as the past. Notice the beauty in the bad, the opportunities in adversity, and focus on what you can do to change things instead of what you can't.
Touching on the last section, this philosophy is the only rational way to live your life. It's the most practical operating system for human beings.
It's essentially about realising although you can't always control external circumstances, what you can control is your perspective. There's always good in the bad and it's basically pointless to focus on the latter.
It's easier said than done, especially when you feel like you're dying from being stuck in negative thought loops. But through the repetition of thoughts to counter them, you can improve your mindset.
If you want to learn more I highly recommend reading "The Obstacle Is the Way" by Ryan Holiday. The book concisely and effectively outlines its core principles.
Addressing my health issues almost entirely removed my depression. It was literally the difference between night and day. This is something few people know about and its importance cannot be overstated.
When I feel good physically, I also feel good mentally. They're intertwined. It was a significant and definite pattern and it absolutely wasn't the placebo effect, there's a ton of research to substantiate my personal experience.
It essentially comes down to the following:
- The health of your gut microbiome has a significant impact on your mental wellbeing through the gut-brain axis. These findings are becoming mainstream and there's a ton of research to back this up.
- Health complications such as leaky gut mess with your brain (I can't remember how exactly, but it does).
These are things I'm still working on, but it's improved significantly. The main thing that helped was adopting a whole foods plant based diet. Since addressing them I've had about an 85% improvement in my mental health.
This is a complicated topic. There's so much misinformation and nonsense online. Plenty of it is even from legitimate health professionals. It's confusing as fuck.
But regardless, this is what's helped me. And if it's something you suffer from I seriously recommend taking a look at a whole foods plant based diet (go and read The China Study for starters).
The improvement in mood I've experienced from exercise is very noticeable. In fact it's even comparable to antidepressants.
Developing the willpower to exercise when you're depressed is especially hard. I actually never used to do it, but I made myself and it's helped a lot. Do your best to push yourself and do it daily, once it becomes a habit it'll become way easier.
I started off with running for about 20 minutes a day, even a small amount makes a big difference. I wasn't very fit and didn't enjoy it, but I made myself do it anyway.
Now it's a habit and it's harder for me to not exercise. I notice a significant elevation in my mood regardless of whether I'm depressed, so I feel compelled to do it for that reason alone.
Sleep deprivation will mess with your mental health, that's for sure. It declines cognitive performance in general. And not sleeping properly will certainly make you more depressed.
Up until I began properly addressing my health problems, I had plenty of trouble with insomnia. It made it difficult to fall asleep, so if this is a problem you face it's worth looking into.
If you're suffering from depression, hopefully this provides you with some insight on how you can overcome it.
It's very important to follow all of these rules as best you can. Properly treating depression requires a holistic approach, doing only a few things often won't do enough to address it.
And don't beat yourself up when you mess up. You're human, it's normal. You're suffering from a disease, it really is hard. Push yourself every day and you'll overcome it even if your improvement is very gradual.