Helping yourself

If your depression is mild, simple self-help measures can usually help. For example, ask your doctor about guided self-help plans. These can take various forms and may include computer-led programmes that are done alone or with the help of a therapist over the telephone. In cases of severe depression self-help measures will be part of a plan drawn up with your doctor or specialist in mental distress.

There is also some evidence to show that understanding the condition, doing exercise, having a good diet and sharing experiences with others in a similar situation, for example in a self-help group, can be very beneficial.

Here are few things you can try:

  • Be mindful of thoughts - Stand back from your thoughts and just observe them. This will allow you to spot unhelpful patterns of thinking that may be causing you to feel depressed. Don’t force yourself to change them, just be aware and see what happens.
  • Stay in contact - Talking things through with a friend or family member can help to lessen the burden of negative thoughts and can sometimes help you find a solution.
  • Join a group – This can be a way of meeting people who are going through the same things, which can provide great support and understanding. GP practices should have a list of what is available in your area. For example, you might like to contact RELATE if you have a relationship problem or Cruse if your depression has been triggered by loss or bereavement.
  • Look after yourself - Paying attention to simple physical needs such as eating, sleeping and exercise can all help alleviate mild-to-moderate depression.
  • Tweak your diet - Some studies suggest omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12 - especially if your nutrient levels are low - may ease the mood changes that are part of depression. Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel contain omega-3 fatty acids. So do flaxseed, nuts, soybeans, and dark green vegetables. Seafood and low-fat dairy products are sources of B12. Most people don’t consume enough of these foods and you may need a supplement to obtain optimum benefits.
  • Having fun can help – Make a big effort to do what you like doing. Buy yourself something new, listen to music, watch a movie, have a massage – little things all count. Draw up a list of things you enjoy and try to do one of them at least three or four times a week.
  • Try something new - Once you start feeling a bit better taking up a new hobby or activity at the weekend or at an evening class can help lift your mood still further. Good options include joining a book club, a knitting circle or having a go at the local pub quiz. This can help to break the vicious circle of loneliness and spending too much time dwelling on negative thoughts.
  • Talk about it - Talking therapies usually involve meeting with a trained therapist either alone or in a group where you talk about your problems and try to find a solution. You may be offered psychotherapy and general counselling. But according to NICE, the most effective treatment for depression is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which should be offered to you by your GP. It shows you how to replace unhelpful negative thoughts, which could be contributing to your depression, with more realistic and balanced ones. There are also a number of internet-based CBT programmes, which research suggests are helping many more people to get help with their depression. The reason? They can access them at home in their own time.