No-Cost Strategies to Fight Depression
With the economy stuck in neutral, people have more reasons to be depressed—and less money to treat their depression—than in the past.
The cost of medication and talk therapy add up even if you have health insurance—and more than 46 million people in the U.S. (and counting) do not.
If you’re depressed, and especially if you have bipolar disorder, lifestyle changes and other do-it-yourself strategies are not a substitute for professional help. But even if you are already taking antidepressants or seeing a therapist, there are many things you can do to help yourself feel better—and they don’t cost a dime.
Don’t blame yourself
This is the simplest, cheapest, and most important thing you can do to beat depression. The stigma of depression, plus feelings of guilt and inadequacy, can get in the way of recovery. Managing the symptoms of depression requires a practical, proactive approach—and patience.
“You need to be able to own the reality that depression is a physical illness like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer,” says Richard Raskin, PhD, a clinical psychologist in New York City and Litchfield, Conn. “You can’t get over it by ‘trying harder’ or adjusting your attitude. It requires acceptance that you have a physical illness that requires attention, and that it makes no sense to blame yourself for it.”
Talk about it
It’s not easy, but telling people about your depression is better than keeping it a secret.
“Not everybody is going to understand and be supportive,” says Raskin. “If you have a broken arm, or back pain, or a headache, everybody can relate to those, for everyone has experienced them. Not so with mental illness.”
But even if they don’t entirely understand what you’re going through, friends, family, and other confidants can provide emotional support, help you seek out treatment options, and serve as sounding boards. “Don’t let yourself become isolated,” says Raskin. “To the degree that you can reach out, reach out.”
Get regular exercise
It may be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re depressed, but going for a run or hitting the gym can actually make you feel better.
When done regularly, 30 minutes or more of vigorous exercise has been shown to improve the symptoms of depression. In one study, patients who worked out regularly on a treadmill or stationary bike for 12 weeks saw the severity of their symptoms reduced by nearly 50%.
Exercise has short-term benefits too: Other research has found that workouts can boost your mood for up to 12 hours.