How to Get out of a Depression

Four Methods:Increasing Social Contact and SupportChanging Your ThinkingMaking Changes to Your Physical HealthCoping Healthfully

If you're plagued by feelings of worthlessness, sadness, and lack of hope, then you may be suffering from depression. Depression is different from being in a bad mood or having a bad week — it's a debilitating condition that can prevent you from enjoying your life. Although it may be difficult to imagine achieving previous feelings of happiness, you can take control of your depression and be on the road to recovery by increasing social support, changing your thinking, increasing your physical health, and coping healthfully.

Method 1
Increasing Social Contact and Support

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    Talk to a therapist. A therapist will be able to help you work through the issues you are going through at this current time. A therapist can also help educate you about your depression, which is an important component and has been shown to reduce depression.[1]
    • If you don't like the idea of traditional therapy, look into unique variations of it. Animal, art, drama/psychodrama, and music therapy[2] all work by combining the talk-based therapy of a counselor with an activity-based approach to help you overcome your depression.
    • Ask friends or family for recommendations of local psychologists. You may be surprised by the number of people you know who visit a counselor on a regular basis. Asking someone you trust can also help you to transfer a bit of that trust onto the therapist before you start meeting, making it more likely that you will have a quick recovery.
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    Make time for positive people. Social support is crucial to getting out of a depression and can help you cope with stressful life events (job changes or loss, etc.).[3][4] Support from others can also help reduce negative thoughts that lead to depression. Find those people in your life – friends, family members, or coworkers – who make a positive impact on your daily functioning. Are they encouraging? Do you enjoy their company? Can you go out and do things with them? These are the people you want to spend your time with.
    • Make plans on a regular basis – one or two times a week – to go out with a supportive friend. This could be as simple as grabbing coffee or lunch together, or perhaps taking a day-trip to a new city or spending the afternoon out kayaking. You can make plans to do anything together, just get out and do them!
    • Create distance with people you know cause you anxiety or who are not supportive of your disorder. Spending time with them will likely worsen your condition and make it harder to feel enthusiastic about recovering.
    • Make big plans for the future to look forward to. Plan a camping trip or a short vacation to take place a few months down the road. This way you have exciting events on the horizon that will be even more enjoyable once you've recovered.
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    Give and receive physical contact. Physical touch, including cuddling and sex, release brain chemicals (oxytocin) which increase happiness and are linked to a decrease in depression.[5] So cuddle up with your partner and use physical touch to help reduce your depression!
    • Hug a friend.
    • Hold hands.
    • Play with and pet your dog or cat.

Method 2
Changing Your Thinking

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    Think positively and realistically. Ruminating over bitter and negative thoughts is a trademark of depression. This means you get stuck thinking the same negative thoughts over and over again. Making changes to stop these negative ruminations can take time, but persisting in this matter can make a major difference.[6]
    • Write down all the bad automatic thoughts you have.[7] It may seem like you don’t have that many negative thoughts, so keeping a list of them all can give you a good reality check. Seeing the amount as well as the content of these thoughts can help you to identify unproductive thought patterns that contribute to depression.
    • Next, create a positive or more logical thought for each negative thought you wrote down. This might look like: "Instead of, 'I'm ugly,' I will think, 'I am unique and beautiful just as I am. I don't need to conform to any societal standard of beauty.'"
    • Turn around negative or irrational thinking. Every time you have a negative thought, make the conscious decision to stop it. For every negative thought you have, replace it with a positive, more realistic one.[8] Although this may seem silly or strange at first, it can make a serious difference in your mood and functioning over time. For example, if you have a thought such as, "I know this is going to turn out badly," think of alternative ways of thinking about the situation such as, "This might not end up so bad. It could have a good outcome."
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    Compliment yourself. Even if you don't believe it right away, positive self-talk helps reduce depression and increase a sense of well-being.[9]
    • Make a list of your ten favorite physical features and your ten favorite features of your personality. For instance, you really like the color of your eyes and you like that you're a compassionate person. Post this somewhere you can see it on a daily basis, and repeat items off it to yourself when necessary.
    • When you find that you’re bringing yourself down, consciously compliment yourself on something. You can look at your list to remind yourself of some of your best qualities.
    • Accept compliments from others as true. Instead of questioning their motives, simply agree that they are true and take them as such. This may help to build your self-esteem back up and make it easier for you and others both to give you more compliments.
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    Be open to possibilities. The negative thoughts and feelings that come with depression can make it difficult to take risks or push yourself. Try to remind yourself that these negative views are a result of the depression and don't accurately reflect the whole of your capabilities. Take small steps toward accomplishing your goals and they can seem much more achievable.[10]
    • Break down larger tasks or goals into smaller ones, and allow yourself to do what you can when you can.[11]
    • Remember that your recovery won't be immediate. It will take time to start feeling better, but it is achievable. Think about feeling just a little better today, and how you can make that happen, instead of focusing on the larger task of feeling completely back to normal in several months.[12]
    • Be realistic and avoid perfectionism. If you want to exercise everyday for thirty minutes, but miss a few or don’t go for quite that long, that's okay. You can continue working on your goal the next day.
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    Cope with a negative filter. Cynical thinking can sometimes be the result of a filter on your thoughts. This filter will block out good experiences, only allowing you to see the bad. For example, the date you went on last night might only be remembered for an awkward comment you made rather than the rest of the great conversation and kiss at the end. Take the good with the bad, rather than one or the other.
    • Be specific instead of overgeneralizing based on a single negative experience. If you struggle with one thing, you are likely to filter out all the times you succeeded. Remember that a single experience is not the be-all-end-all for your thoughts and behaviors.
    • If you happen to experience a single event that does have more bad than good, keep in mind that that was just a single event in a chain of events, many of which have been better than they were worse.[13]

Method 3
Making Changes to Your Physical Health

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    Focus on your health. Poor health can lead to increased depression and less happiness or well-being overall.[14] Look at your overall health and evaluate yourself honestly.
    • Identify possible health-related links to your depression. For example, depression can involve decreases (insomnia) or increases in sleep (hypersomnia), significant changes in weight (either gaining or losing a large amount), and fatigue.[15]
    • Make a list of health goals you think you can accomplish, such as weight loss, exercise, or eating healthier.
    • See a medical doctor if you have any health concerns that have not yet been taken care of. Sometimes depression can be caused by medication, substance use, or a medical condition. Make sure you get screened by a medical doctor for any other possible causes of depressive symptoms.
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    Exercise on a regular basis. The “runners high” isn’t a myth; exercise releases endorphins in your brain which give you a significant mood boost. Additionally, exercise is an effective treatment for reducing depression over time.[16] Aim for raising your heartbeat to 120-160 beats per minute for around thirty minutes a day to get your endorphin levels going up.
    • Traditional exercises like running and weightlifting aren’t the only means of increasing your heart rate. Try a variety of exercises like swimming, hiking, dancing, playing sports, riding horses, and yoga[17] to get your endorphins.
    • If you don’t have thirty minutes because of a busy schedule, try some light stretching at home or a quick bike ride to work. These can help boost your mood.
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    Eat healthy. Not only does junk food make you feel sluggish and lethargic, it can contribute to your depression.[18] Older adults who are depressed also eat less fruits and vegetables.[19] Fight this by eating healthy foods with ties to positive changes in mood.
    • Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to correlate to reducing depression symptoms, so eat foods high in these nutrients two to three times a week.[20] This includes fish, such as salmon, sardines, lake trout, and tuna; as well as walnuts, flax seeds, and olive oil.
    • Avoid highly processed foods. These are responsible for weighing your body down and reducing your energy. Instead, go for whole foods including grains, vegetables, and fruits, which help to increase your energy.
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    Sleep better. Depression is often associated with either too much (hypersomnia) or too little (insomnia) sleep. Although staying up till 1am and waking up at 11am may be your thing, having an unorganized or untimely sleep schedule may be contributing to your worsening depression symptoms. The best time to sleep is when it is completely dark outside, as this is when your body begins creating melatonin (a natural hormone responsible for inducing sleepiness).
    • Try to fall asleep at the same time every night, after it has gotten dark but not so late that you will be spending more time sleeping when it is light outside than it is dark. Aiming for a bedtime around 10pm is a good goal.
    • Wake up at the same time every morning so that your body gets used to your sleep schedule. You will likely need to use an alarm at first, but as you continue your body will wake up naturally on schedule.
    • Take a break from the bright lights of phone, computer, and tablet screens before bed. These can minimize melatonin production and make it harder for you to feel tired and fall asleep in a timely manner.[21].[22]
    • If you work a nocturnal shift (during the night from pm to am), the disruption in sleep can cause irregularities in your sleep-wake cycle. Get as much sleep as you can on your time off and take naps.[23] If you can, change your schedule to normal daytime hours.
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    Avoid drugs and alcohol. These are responsible for a slew of detrimental health effects and should not be used in excess. Alcohol use can increase your risk of developing worsening depression.[24]
    • If you are currently a user of drugs and alcohol, work with a medical doctor and a therapist to safely reduce or eliminate your use.

Method 4
Coping Healthfully

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    Pick up an old hobby. A common symptom of depression is a lack of desire to do things in which you once found enjoyment. Instead of continuing to avoid these activities, take initiative to start them up again! If you used to love reading, playing sports, or going on hikes, do those things again on a regular basis.
    • If you find that continuing old hobbies isn’t feasible, pick up a new one. Look into classes that are offered locally or try something in which you’ve always been interested. Look into art classes and adventure activities for great ways to ease yourself out of depression.
    • Start doing these hobbies whenever you have the time for them. At first they may feel boring or unimportant, but over time they will become enjoyable again and you will look forward to the times when you get a chance to partake.
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    Get outside. The vitamin D you get from sunlight has been shown to help reduce depression.[25] Spend thirty minutes a day in the sun (sans sunglasses) and soak in the vitamin-D goodness that it has to offer. Or, you can take vitamin-D in pill form as a supplement.
    • Take in your sunlight in a local park or nature reserve to combine the best that sunlight has to offer with the beauty of nature.[26] Being outside near living, growing things can help invigorate the senses and give you more energy and focus.
    • Exposure to sunlight can also help your body to regulate its circadian rhythm, which controls when you are awake and asleep.[27] This exposure can therefore help you to feel more awake during the day and tired at night, giving you more energy at the right times.
    • If it tends to be rainy and gray on a regular basis in your location, look into getting a light therapy box. This is a special lamp that mimics the sun’s rays, improving your mood.[28]
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    Practice mindful meditation. Studies suggests that mindful meditation can benefit those experiencing depression and anxiety.[29] The practice can help you begin to train your mind to recognize negative and unproductive thoughts and not accept them as truth.
    • During mindful meditation, you find a comfortable, seated position and focus on your breathing. As you sit and breath, you try to bring your focus to the present moment, acknowledging worries or negative thoughts but recognizing them as just that: thoughts, not truths.[30]
    • Meditation takes time and practice. It can take a long time to bring your focus to the present moment, especially if you're used to ruminating in the past or on worries about the future. Try to be patient and remember this can be an enormously effective treatment if you stick with it.
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    Take care of a living thing. Studies have shown that people who are responsible for caring for a living thing – a plant or pet – recover much faster from depression than people who don’t.[31][32] Start a small garden, buy a pretty potted plant, or get a low-maintenance goldfish and take care of it. Having a small life to be responsible for will give you something to work towards and give you more reason to be productive during the day.
    • Don’t feel like you have to jump in and buy a Husky; a small plant or animal is enough for you to reap the mental health benefits. If you had been considering buying a pet prior to depression though, look into buying one now.
    • Volunteer at a local farm or borrow a friend’s pet in order to get in contact with animals without committing to owning one. Spend a few hours each week with an animal of choice to reduce your anxiety and depression.[33]
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    Volunteer your time. Helping others can be a strong predictor of well-being and a positive identity.[34] Look into local organizations that need volunteers and spend your time working for them. Being a helper at the local food bank or park-cleanup crew will give you initiative to do things outside your home, make you feel needed, and give you more of a chance to socialize.
    • Consider killing two birds with one stone and volunteer at centers that offer other therapeutic benefits. For example, volunteer at an animal shelter to get your animal time in, or give up some time to help clear trails to get your daily dose of exercise and sunlight all at once.
    • Start small to not overwhelm yourself at first. Overloading your schedule at the get-go will make the experience less enjoyable and make you less likely to keep it up in the future. For example, begin by volunteering for an hour or two a week, and slowly work in more hours if you enjoy it.
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    Use relaxation skills. A major factor of depression is anxiety, so take steps to cut down anxiety in your life by relaxing.[35] This includes avoiding stressors that you know are related to your depression, particularly people and work-related issues.
    • Take baths, visit a spa, read a book – do anything that helps you to relax.
    • You can also learn progressive muscle relaxation, which is a technique where you tighten and release one muscle area at a time starting from your toes and up to your face.[36] Gradually releasing the tension helps relieve stress and induce relaxation.


  • Keep track of the changes you make to find out what works and what doesn't. This will help you to keep up the positive changes while cutting out the things that may not have benefited you.
  • Always keep yourself busy.
  • Finding the reason for the depression can help you or your therapist learn how to cure it.


  • If you're having suicidal thoughts, call your local emergency number (911), or go to a hospital immediately.

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