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5 Self-Help Strategies for Depression

In 2016, an estimated 16.2 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode – 6.7 percent of all U.S. adults. But with appropriate professional and self-help strategies, recovery from depression is possible. Self-help for depression can help alleviate symptoms and put someone on the path to recovery.

Here are 5 self-help strategies for depression:

  1. Exercise. Both aerobic exercise like walking or jogging and anaerobic exercise like weight lifting can help alleviate symptoms of depression.
  2. Relaxation training. Focusing on tensing and relaxing muscle groups methodically can help a person with depression relax voluntarily. You can find some guided relaxation training techniques online, like this one from Children’s Mercy Hospital.
  3. Light therapy. Exposing the eyes to bright, full-spectrum light that mimics natural outdoor light – particularly in the morning – can help treat certain types of depression, like SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Light therapy is thought to affect brain chemicals linked to mood and sleep, easing SAD symptoms.
  4. Self-help books based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Self-help books based on CBT can help a person with depression work through some of their symptoms. Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy and Control Your Depression (revised edition) are two books based on CBT that have been found effective in trials.
  5. Computerized therapy. Self-help treatment programs delivered over the internet have also been proven effective for helping treat depression. MoodGym is a CBT website that has been evaluated in a scientific trail and found to be effective in relieving depression symptoms if people work through it systematically. The site teaches people to use ways of thinking that can help prevent depression.

Remember that a person’s ability and desire to use self-help strategies will depend on their interests and the severity of their depression. Therefore, if you are encouraging self-help strategies for someone facing depression in your life, it’s important not to be overly forceful.

Knowing how to help someone facing depression – including encouraging appropriate self-help and other support strategies – can help improve the quality of life for millions. Learn more about how you can #BeTheDifference in someone’s life by finding a Mental Health First Aid course near you.