8 Self-help Activities to Cope with Depression

Dealing with depression can seem like a daunting challenge. However, there are many self-help activities that are very supportive in the quest for wellness.
8 Self-help Activities to Cope with Depression
Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 26 September, 2022

There are a wide variety of self-help activities to help you cope with depression. This disorder is complex, and it’s important to know how to recognize it in order to give it an adequate approach. However, it’s also important to keep in mind that sometimes certain situations may be “trivialized” when we don’t use the proper terms for them.

For example, how many times have you heard someone say “I’m depressed”? Probably quite a few. And most certainly, it wasn’t always about this disorder as such. So, when is it really considered depression? Let’s take a look at the main clinical manifestations of this condition and what activities can help a person to cope with it.

What is depression?

All treatment begins by explaining what you’re hoping to work through is really about.  Even if the person can describe his or her symptoms very well, he or she isn’t always able to integrate them into a whole and understand how they feed and influence each other.

Since this is a phenomenon as complex as it is universal, psychoeducational is key when it comes to depression. In this sense, it’s important to know that it is a mood disorder in which the most typical signs are related to a feeling of sadness, apathy, listlessness, and loss of interest.

Of course, we’ve all felt this way at some point in our lives. However, a depressive condition is characterized by impairment in the person’s functioning and daily life and by the chronicity and intensity of the symptoms. It’s not just “having a bad day.”

what is depression?
Depression is a chronic state of sadness in which the person is unable to do their daily activities.

We think you may also enjoy reading this article: Summer Depression: Causes, Symptoms and How to Deal With It

8 self-help activities to cope with depression

Due to its chronic nature, depression should be treated by a mental health professional, either a psychologist or a psychiatrist or a combination of them both. However, as a complement, it’s possible to implement some self-help activities to cope with it. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most relevant ones.

1. Exercise

One of the best self-help activities to cope with depression is physical activity and sports. This is because it stimulates the release of substances linked to well-being.

Therefore, it’s important to dedicate several times during the week to getting moving. It’s possible to choose from many different activities ranging from a walk at a slow pace to a dance class.

2. Take care of your body

In relation to the previous point, we must be clear that the body is a temple. Neglecting grooming, food, and other care will take its toll. Depression has a physical correlation beyond the cognitive and emotional.

So, although it may sometimes seem difficult, it’s important to look in the mirror and recognize that neatness and care are almost a testimony of the thoughts that are inside our minds.

3. Take care of how you talk to yourself

Many people with depression tell themselves that they’re failures, that their lives are meaningless, and that they’re unimportant. They repeat this so much to themselves that their brains end up capturing these messages. To cope with depression, it’s important to learn to treat yourself kindly and lovingly. Understand the difficulties, but also learn to trust in your abilities.

Respect starts with yourself, and cutting the negative spiral of bad thoughts and reproaches is a small step to a great start. So, instead of repeating mistakes or weaknesses to yourself, it’s better to recognize your achievements and the effort to get ahead.

A simple exercise is to leave notes in different places reminding people – or yourself – of your values. You can also ask a family member to talk about the qualities they see in you. This allows you to link your mind with pleasant and positive experiences and cut the pessimistic cascade.

4. Ask for help

It’s not necessary to solve everything by yourself. In the moments in which you experience the sensation of not being able to go on, the best thing to do is to ask for help. You can either consult a professional to start treatment or talk to a friend or family member. Seeking help is a valuable and necessary resource that shouldn’t be ignored.

5. Look for moments of happiness and well-being

It’s always possible to incorporate happiness and well-being into your everyday life. Perhaps depression has made you forget when you last experienced joy. However, it’s not about experiencing “big events.” On the contrary, it’s about appreciating the small pleasures of everyday life.

  • Do you like music? If so, spend at least 10 minutes lying down just to enjoy your favorite songs.
  • Do you like photography? Take 15 minutes to capture images during a daily walk.

It’s not about doing any new or bold actions, but about doing what’s within reach. For the days when feeling good is difficult, you can keep a list of your “top 30 wellness activities” with pleasurable activities to do for a month.

Ideally, you can make this list according to your interests, but you can also try a “standard” list or someone else’s to help you dabble in other things.

6. Keep a diary

A good idea is to keep a “depression evolution diary.” No cheating here! It’s not about turning it into a “black” story about life, but about learning to control the time you spend on dark, intrusive thoughts versus healthy ones.

So, you can decide that you will spend 25 minutes a day completing the journal, for example: 8 minutes can be devoted to your “catharsis” and writing about the discomfort. However, the remaining 17 minutes will be used to highlight what you accomplished that day, how you felt about it, and acknowledge your accomplishments.

7. Practice relaxation and breathing techniques

Practicing exercises to stretch the body and oxygenate it works very well to calm the mind, connect with serenity and take some time to pause. Lighting a candle or taking a warm bath can also be helpful.

self-help activities for depression
Relaxation and breathing exercises decrease tension and promote well-being.

8. Try to stabilize your sleep cycles

In the presence of depression, it’s possible to sleep too many hours or, on the contrary, to have difficulty sleeping. It’s important to have adequate sleep hygiene, which involves the following measures:

  • Maintain a strict bedtime and wake-up routine
  • Avoid caffeine consumption
  • Put the technology aside at least two hours before bedtime

Like this article? You may also like to read: Post-wedding Depression: How to Recognize and Overcome It

It all starts with a first step

It’s possible that when you finished reading the recommendations on self-help activities for depression, some of the following ideas came up; “I understand that it’s good for me, but I just have no interest in doing it,” or “I just can’t get out of my head,” or “I try, but it’s hard.”

These thoughts and feelings are signs of depression. It’s like a movie playing over and over again in your head. Even so, it must be clear that every path begins with a first step and with a single, small movement that interrupts that inertia.

This first step doesn’t have to be “perfect.” It doesn’t have to find you in your best mood or when you’re “vibrating high.” Perhaps you may feel like it’s very difficult and that it requires immense effort. In fact, it often really is so.

Therefore, it’s necessary to give your mind another type of “food.” Let it understand that there are other possible realities, as well as other thoughts, feelings, and acts to take control of oneself.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Kanter JW, Busch AM, Weeks CE, Landes SJ. The nature of clinical depression: symptoms, syndromes, and behavior analysis. Behav Anal. 2008 Spring;31(1):1-21. doi: 10.1007/BF03392158. PMID: 22478499; PMCID: PMC2395346.
  • Bogaert García, Huberto (2012). LA DEPRESIÓN: ETIOLOGÍA Y TRATAMIENTO. Ciencia y Sociedad, XXXVII(2),183-197.[fecha de Consulta 17 de Agosto de 2022]. ISSN: 0378-7680. Disponible en: https://www.redalyc.org/articulo.oa?id=87024179002
  • Pilkington K, Wieland LS. Self-care for anxiety and depression: a comparison of evidence from Cochrane reviews and practice to inform decision-making and priority-setting. BMC Complement Med Ther. 2020 Aug 10;20(1):247. doi: 10.1186/s12906-020-03038-8. PMID: 32778171; PMCID: PMC7418416.
  • Botto, Alberto, Acuña, Julia, & Jiménez, Juan Pablo. (2014). La depresión como un diagnóstico complejo: Implicancias para el desarrollo de recomendaciones clínicas. Revista médica de Chile142(10), 1297-1305. https://dx.doi.org/10.4067/S0034-98872014001000010

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.