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5 Ways to Help Deal With Depressive Thoughts

You shouldn't ignore your feelings. You don't have to hide them, or feel guilty for thinking the way you do. Acknowledge the fact that you are having them and realize that they are not your fault.
03/15/2016 05:01pm ET | Updated March 16, 2017
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A while ago, I was out with friends having a few drinks. Everybody was enjoying themselves, letting their hair down and soaking up the atmosphere. Then it happened.

It's like an out-of-body experience. One minute you're enjoying yourself, and the next you're on the outside looking in. Everything suddenly seems pointless. Your smile is forced, your spine goes cold and your mind feels damp. You want nothing more than to just go home, close the blinds and wait for the mental fog to clear.

It took me a while to acknowledge that I had depressive thoughts. While I've never suffered the full blight of the disorder, my experience and family history means I remain vigilant for warning signs that may mean more than a passing bad mood.

Of course, I'm not the only one to have thoughts like these. According to the NHS, depression visits one in 10 of us at some point in our lives. The World Health Organization suggests there are 350 million sufferers worldwide, although the real figures are probably higher.

I am no expert, and proper medical help should always be sought in the first instance, but here are a few things I've found that help keep my depressive thoughts in check.


1. Acknowledge Your Feelings

In the wonderful and essential book Reasons to Stay Alive, author Matt Haig charts his battle with depression and makes a number of helpful points for those suffering from this "disease of thoughts."

The one that struck me most is that you shouldn't ignore your feelings. You don't have to hide them, or feel guilty for thinking the way you do. Acknowledge the fact that you are having them and realize that they are not your fault.

2. Talk to Loved Ones

There's still an unnecessary stigma around mental health. People with depressive thoughts are worried about being seen as strange or abnormal, or being treated differently by their peers if they acknowledged how they felt.

Those who do summon the courage to speak up are often told to "cheer up!' as they "have no reason to be depressed!" Don't let this ignorance belittle your feelings, or prevent you from sharing them with the ones you love. Having depressive thoughts isn't something you have to justify, but talking to your close friends and family can really help lessen the burden.


3. Stay Away from Alcohol

Drinking is an easy, tempting way of blanking out depressive thoughts. There's a certain bliss in the numbness that it provides, dulling the edges of your neuroses and making everything bearable, even for a short while.

In my experience though, it only makes things worse. Aside from the nasty hangovers, it has been shown to exacerbate depressive thinking and should generally be avoided whenever you're feeling low.

4. Exercise

A wealth of evidence suggests that exercise is an effective way to combat depressive moods. The next time you feel down, go for a walk or a run if you can and see if it makes you feel better. Just make sure it's at a level that suits you, and seek medical advice if you're unsure.


5. Realize That Things Will Get Better

Right now you probably feel like life will never get better. You feel like you'll always be stuck at the bottom of the well, clawing for a foothold in the dark.

Of all the things depressive thoughts do to you, they also lie. It may not seem like it now, but things will improve. You will be able to enjoy the simple pleasures of life again, like talking with loved ones or seeing a good movie. Just hold on and know that this isn't permanent, and that it isn't you.

These are the things that help me. I hope they help you too.

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If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.