12 ways to fight off depression

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Been feeling down in the dumps lately? Sometimes when we’re unhappy, we get overwhelmed by the thought of everything we need to do in order to actually turn our lives around. At times like these, there is a better approach—a simpler one, an easier one.

Sometimes before you can make big changes to your life, you need to make small, simple changes that help lift up your spirits and refresh your perspective. Here are 15 simple things you can do to be happier today!

1. Exercise!

You don’t need to do a lot of exercise to brighten your mood—even just a few minutes a day can make a huge difference. When you work out, your body releases endorphins. Endorphins are natural painkillers and create a sense of euphoria. Even just taking a short walk each day can reduce stress, depression, and anxiety.

As a bonus, if you lose a few unwanted pounds along the way, you can look in the mirror and feel better about your self-image.

2. Get some sleep

Seriously, how much sleep are you getting? With our hectic 9-5 lives, many of us settle for 5-6 hours or even fewer. After a while, that takes a huge toll on physical and psychological health. Force yourself to get 7-9 hours of solid zzzzz’s! You’ll notice a real boost to your clarity and mood.

3. Stop reading the news for a week.

Do tragic headlines about war, disease, and famine get you down? Do yourself a real favor and stop reading the news for a week. Exposing yourself daily to horrors you can do nothing about does nothing to empower you. Instead, focus on your own life and things you can change.

4. Count your blessings.

Sit down and write a list of things you’re thankful for. If it’s tough, just decide on a set amount. Pick 3, or maybe 5. Then think back to times in your life when you didn’t have those things. No matter what threats you’re facing now, at least you have those precious things you are grateful for.

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5. Perform a random act of kindness.

Leave a 30% tip at the restaurant. Hand a homeless person $20. Send money to a stranger online who needs it. Smile and compliment someone who looks down. Not only will you feel great about making someone else happy, but this will remind you that sometimes someone does lend a hand—and maybe someone will be there to help you when you need it too.

6. Acknowledge your personal journey.

When you are having a hard time seeing how you’re going to achieve your next goal, just look back at how far you have come. Even if you’ve struggled, odds are you have persevered and accomplished things you never knew you would.

Don’t compare your accomplishments with other peoples’. Just acknowledge how great they were in comparison to the obstacles you overcame. If you did it before, you can do it again.

7. Take an afternoon to do something “unimportant.”

If you are constantly working on your to-do list, you are constantly under pressure.

Take an afternoon to do something you consider genuinely unimportant by any practical standards. Read that book you’ve been neglecting, watch that movie you haven’t seen in years, take a walk to enjoy the air instead of the exercise, or do something else simple and relaxing you’ve been neglecting.

8. Love and forgive your inner child.

Most of us carry around traumas from our younger years, especially childhood. If an adult in your life spent time blaming you instead of forgiving you, or invalidating you instead of encouraging you, forgive yourself in their stead. It is all right to love yourself—in fact, you have to love yourself to heal.

Take care of your inner child, and give yourself the permission to live out childhood dreams in any way you can. It’s never too late, no matter how much you’ve changed.

9. Allow yourself to fail and succeed.1

It’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s okay now and again to not achieve your goals. The world doesn’t revolve around you, and you don’t control everything that happens in your life. Accept and forgive those failures you could not prevent. Likewise, celebrate your victories when they come, even if they seem small to you now.

10. Forgive someone who wronged you.

Forgiving someone does not mean saying they were right and you were wrong, or allowing them to continue being a part of your life if they are toxic. It doesn’t mean forgetting what they did either. What it does mean is that you are allowing yourself to release the burden of your pain and anger so you can move on with your life. It’s liberation for you and closure for them.

11. Remember the voices in your head aren’t all speaking the truth.

Each of us has plenty of voices in our heads telling us what to do each day, and what is true and what is not. Parents, spouses, siblings, friends, colleagues, religious figures, enemies, society at large—they’re all there. Sometimes they mean us well and sometimes they don’t.

Remember that even if you can’t shut them out, it doesn’t mean you have to believe them every time—or do whatever they say. Start honoring the voices that guide you toward happiness, and learn to ignore the ones that don’t.

12. Go outside.

Nature is beautiful! Take a breath of fresh air, and open up those shuttered windows in your mind. Let the dust drift off the rafters. Go outside for a walk or even just to sit and relax and listen to the birds. The tranquility of nature reminds us there is a world outside our problems.

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