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How to Deal With Depression in Different Ways

Depression can seriously impact your quality of life and affects people differently. There is not just one right way to cope with a depressive episode. The best way to deal with depression will depend on your symptoms, social support options, interests, culture, and resources.

Some ways to deal with a depressive episode include:

  • Following your medication schedule and dosage, if applicable
  • Talk therapy
  • Exercise
  • Getting fresh air
  • Gardening
  • Volunteering
  • Practicing mindfulness

In this article, learn more about ways to deal with depression.

Immediate Help Dealing With Depression

If you are in the midst of a depressive episode and need immediate help—for example, if you are having suicidal thoughts—dial or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

If you believe you are in a position to harm yourself or someone else, immediately dial 911 for your local emergency operator.

In a Depressive Episode: Self-Steps to Take 

If you find yourself in a depressive episode, pulling yourself out can feel like an impossible task. Remember, there are many ways to cope with depression in addition to medication. Below are some ideas to get you started.

Reach Out to Someone You Care About

Depression is a common mental health disorder. In the United States, it affects about 14.8 million adults annually and is the leading cause of disability. It can feel lonely, but your loved ones are likely familiar with depression or have experienced it themselves.

Talking about what you're going through can help them understand why you may be acting the way you are, and it can also help you feel connected and supported in the future.

Move Around, Even a Little Bit

Exercise can be highly beneficial for depression symptoms; for some people, it may be more effective than therapy or medication. A 2022 review found that 15 different studies found that 1 in 9 cases of depression could be prevented if adults met the recommended 150 minutes of weekly physical activity.

Try Breathing Exercises

Your breath is powerful, and some evidence supports that specific controlled breathing techniques could help treat depression.

One noteworthy study done at the University of Pennsylvania examined the effect of a type of rhythmic breathing-based meditation called Sudarshan Kriya yoga on depression.

The study found that these techniques helped treat severe depression among individuals who did not respond to antidepressant medications.

Structure Your Days, and Include Plenty of Pleasant Activities

If you're depressed, you'll likely feel tired, unmotivated, and disinterested in doing things you once loved or seeing people you once enjoyed spending time with. These symptoms of depression can adversely affect your day-to-day responsibilities, relationships, and work.

To help manage this, try creating a schedule for yourself—but don't oveschedule yourself. A prearranged structure to guide your day can reduce cognitive demand and keep you engaged and active.

Schedule the start of your day with something you enjoy, whether making coffee, listening to your favorite podcast, or calling a trusted friend. Having something to look forward to when you go to sleep may help you get out of bed in the morning.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a practice of becoming present in the now and accepting the moment for what it is, rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.

When you are depressed, you may end up in repetitive negative thought cycles. Mindfulness can help pull you out of rumination by focusing on the present moment.

Mindfulness-based meditation and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) have a large body of research supporting their efficacy in treating active depression and preventing relapses. In some cases, they've been shown to be just as effective as antidepressants and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Get Some Fresh Air (or Water)

Getting outside into nature can have a profound positive impact on your mental health. Among people with depression, outdoor physical activity has been shown to have a greater positive effect on mood than indoor physical activity.7

Whether sitting in the sun on a beach, hiking in the forest, walking through your neighborhood park, or swimming in a natural body of water, these activities could help you stave off depression.

Outdoor activity may be particularly helpful in addressing fatigue, listlessness, and loss of motivation among people with depression.

Talk to a Professional

If you're depressed, you may benefit from talk therapy (psychotherapy), which involves speaking to a professional such as a mental health counselor, therapist, or psychiatrist. Sometimes, it helps to get your feelings off your chest to a neutral third party. Many types of talk therapy are offered in an office or virtually; you do not need an official depression diagnosis to reap the benefits.

Practice Grounding

Grounding is a technique people use to connect their bodies' bare skin to the earth's electrical energy. They do this by walking barefoot, touching their hands to the earth, or using special grounded mats or footwear. Research shows that grounding can help you cope with depression by improving your mood and quality of life.

Go for a Walk

If you're struggling with depression symptoms, skip the car or bus and walk instead. Even a short walk around the block could help improve your mood. A recent study found that adults who exercised an equivalent of 1.25 hours of brisk walking per week had an 18% lower risk of depression when compared to individuals who did not exercise at all.

Remember That Tomorrow Is a New Day

Remind yourself that what happened today is not indicative of tomorrow. Just because you didn't get out of bed today or couldn't shower doesn't mean that tomorrow will to be a repeat of today. Try to let today go and be open to a better tomorrow.

Try Journaling

Consider journaling to help you cope with depression symptoms. One study on individuals diagnosed with major depressive disorder found that after only three sessions of expressive writing, depression scores significantly decreased.10

Expressive writing is a form of journaling in which you write for an allotted period (20 minutes, in the study) about your deepest thoughts and feelings surrounding an emotional event.

Reward Yourself for Small Achievements

When you're in a depressive episode, even the most minor tasks can seem monumental. Your motivation, energy, and mood are all low, so seemingly small things such as washing dishes, getting the mail, folding your laundry, or brushing your teeth can feel impossible.

Try rewarding yourself for completing these activities. Remind your brain that it feels good to take care of yourself.

Join a Volunteer Project

Helping others can boost your mood and has even been shown to reduce depression. If you're feeling depressed, try looking for a volunteer project. Examples include visiting a local nursing home, volunteering at a food or clothes bank, or helping a neighbor.

Enjoy Some Music

Music can help reduce depression symptoms, so consider adding music to your day. There is a large body of scientific evidence to support music as an intervention for depression. This includes listening to your favorite music, playing a musical instrument alone or in a group, singing in a choir, or joining a music therapy group.

Start a Garden

Gardening impacts your mental health in a positive way and decreases depression. A systematic review and meta-analysis, the highest level of research, found that across 22 studies, gardening was effective at reducing depression. Studies included both gardening for fun, as well as horticultural therapy.

Practice Yoga

Yoga is more than just an exercise class—it's an ancient Indian practice that combines physical postures with breathing techniques and philosophy. Yoga has many physical and mental benefits, and research shows it effectively reduces depression symptoms.

Try Laughing (No, Really)

It's said that laughter is the best medicine. As odd as it might sound, purposefully laughing could help treat your depression. Multiple studies have found that laughter therapy effectively reduces depression scores among nursing home residents and residents of long-term care hospitals.

Laughter therapy can involve activities such as laughing aloud, laughing exercises, playing with hands, doing dance routines, singing funny songs, healthy clapping, and more. It is believed that laughter may help with depression symptoms due to its effect on stress-making hormones.

Managing Depression With Medication 

Many people benefit from managing their depression with medication. Due to the stigma around mental health medications, personal preferences, and resources, some prefer other approaches before turning to medicine.

Whether you would benefit from medication depends on factors like the severity and duration of your depression, previous reactions to antidepressants, and a detailed conversation with your prescribing healthcare provider.

Co-Occurring Conditions With Depression

Many people with depression often have co-occurring physical or mental health conditions. These can include:

When these conditions aren't well managed, it can make dealing with depression more difficult. Part of your depression management should include treating any co-occurring conditions.

I Don’t Know How to Deal With Depression

If you are struggling to get through a depressive episode or current depression symptoms, it might be time to enlist professional help.

The types of providers that can help you deal with depression include:

It is common to feel overwhelmed about how to deal with depression. After all, the symptoms often take away your motivation, energy, concentration, and other skills that would help you cope.

Be kind and patient with yourself because coping with depression is hard.


There are dozens of other ways to deal with depression alongside your regular medication or therapy routine. These include getting outside, volunteering, forcing yourself to laugh aloud, listening to music, or making a daily schedule. Remember, you are doing a great job. It is hard to try new things when you are depressed, but even taking small actions toward these coping mechanisms can help you get through a depressive episode.

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