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Ask HN: Effective methods to fight depression?
137 points by humility 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 110 comments

These are the ways I effectively stave off my depression, for me personally hitting every point is extremely important:

* Proper diet

* Consistent sleep schedule

* Maintaining a social support network (and having a dog)

* An hour of light to moderate cardio _every_day_ (walking my dog forces me to do this, but I also bike to work and go rock climbing.) My anxiety melts away when I do cardio.

* Focus on my hobbies and individualism

* Self-guided CBT

* Medication for ADHD when I'm working on something that is too painfully boring to work on (armodafinil)

* Focusing on pragmatism and thoughtfulness in every action (or at least, aspiring to)—Check out stoicism and virtue ethics

I have struggled with major depression for years, but have finally clawed my way out of it and am trying to proactively safeguard myself from ever slipping back into my own personal hell. Life is damn good, but I have to stay vigilant. Godspeed. And remember, treating the physical symptoms comes first.

Great summary, in additional to all the other great replies.

I’ll simply add two more.

Keep asking for help, trying new things. Someone somewhere has an answer for you. It also helps if you have someone in your life to serve as your “patient advocate”, keeping you honest, on track, to help calibrate your self reporting.

Anxiety and depression are wicked hard to untangle. My own recent example:

My sweetie now has some hearing sensitivity issues, magnifying the other issues. After much effort, we finally determined that age onset tinnitus has become a factor. Validation and mitigation steps helped to make progress on other fronts (eg improving sleep).

This is an excellent list and fairly close to what I do. Diet and exercise can be game changers.

I jog for exercise. When I'm dealing with a deep bout of depression, nothing works better than a fast mile. A comfortable pace for me is about 8-8.5 minutes per mile. If I want to break out of depression, I'll run the first mile around 7. The resultant runner's high almost immediately shocks me out of the depression.

I'd also add meditation/prayer to the list, plus I see a professional therapist every two weeks.

Meditation is a great addition to the list and I can't believe I glossed over it, it played a huge part in my recovery. I try to live life in a state of flow, if that makes sense—"Be thoughtful" is my mantra when I slip out of it.

Important ADHD medication note: Armodafinil is a narcolepsy medication being used off-label for OP here. It's only FDA approved for treating narcolepsy. Usage in ADHD treatment is both novel and highly individual.

Thanks for the addendum. It's prescribed for ADHD off-label more frequently than most people realize, and I've been prescribed strattera, concerta, and adderall before settling on armodafinil.

I don't feel as if I have depression, but I am lonely.

I want a dog, but I'm afraid I won't have the time to take of it.

Same here. But I've noticed that a lot of people in my same situation have a dog and make it work. I am more seriously considering it because it's something I truly want and I have a feeling money can solve some of the challenges that I keep imagining.

I have very similar feelings.

That was such a useful summery of what I've arrived upon less clearly. CBT and Stoic really gave me a lot.

great answer

* Drugs - you may have to try a few to find what works for you. Cymbalta worked for me for a while, but then I slipped back hard. Now I have Abilify in addition to the Cymbalta and I'm doing much better.

* Sunlight. Get outside. I have seasonal affective disorder on top of major depression, and if I don't get enough light, the suicidal ideation comes back. I have a lightbox but its not as good as the real thing.

* Exercise. I know. This one sucks. This might not be possible until the meds bring you back up to a baseline-functional. Try to get a walking buddy, and just take a short walk once a day. Walk outside to get extra sunlight as a bonus. You don't have to do a major workout, even just a 15 minute walk is better than nothing. Try to get a friend to walk with you. Not only does having someone to talk to make the walk go quicker, but it also gives you someone you have to be accountable to about walking. Or if you can't get a walking buddy, find a favorite podcast or something that you only listen to on walks. Make it something to look forward to.

* See a doctor and take care of anything else that's also going on. Get your thyroid checked. Get your blood sugar checked. Hypothyroidism or diabetes will make depression worse.

* Good sleep is vital. Maybe ask your doctor about a sleep study too, if you snore. You might have sleep apnea, and not getting good sleep will make your depression worse.

* Try to eat better. This one is hard too, and like exercise, might not be possible right away. "Better" is pretty subjective and nutrition is a volatile subject, so I'm not going advise a specific diet, but if you're eating pizza and fast food every day because you don't have the energy to cook, changing that will help.

On the subject of depression meals— pre-prepped salads are a great way to combat this. They're cheap, easy to make when you're having a good day, and you can make a few days worth in advance. When you're feeling down all you have to do is put it in a bowl, and you have a healthy meal.

I hate repeat meals. Are there any configurations of this that avoid that challenge or keep for a long enough time that I could spread the salads out more?

That's a solid list but what I found most important part is rarely shown.

Positive human contact. Hugs, cuddles, and conversation can make a huge difference. We are social animals and it really does make a difference.

Right on. I don't suffer from depression but my partner does. Because I don't have much experience with it myself, at first I was completely clueless about how to be helpful and supportive. Eventually I realised that just being around, ramping up my own affection and gregariousness just a bit, and not obsessing about the depressive state is already noticeably helpful.

Hugs and cuddles are not things you can do yourself. Not everybody has the privilege of having those options so you might as well list things like winning the lottery. If you do have money though, I have found that massage can be at least a partially acceptable surrogate for other types of human contact and social interaction, if you are in a location where that’s an option.

There have been studies that suggest getting less sleep can help depression: https://newatlas.com/sleep-deprivation-depression/51407/

My suggestion was more about sleep quality than quantity. If you have undiagnosed sleep apnea, you are probably not getting sufficient sleep no matter how long you're in the bed.

I've always heard from neuropsychs that an all nighter is a good reset, especially for people who may build up imbalances of one kind or another. I always thought it was because it got the body to actually sleep and detox etc. the next time it got the opportunity. Then again, I may be a bit manic/depressive so it is also something that makes riding out the waves less unbearable.

While that's true the studies I've reviewed talked more about a debilitating amount of sleep (like 16-20 hrs/day) vs. a consistent amount (8-10) and a regular schedule.

A few years ago my wife (a psychologist specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy) and I (programmer) collaborated on an article about CBT: http://cbtsanfrancisco.com/cbt-is-for-hackers/

CBT matches a software developer's mindset really well (at least in my view) and should be looked into.

Yes, I agree. Thoughts affect your feelings, but often it isn't obvious because there can be a delay between thought and feeling. Also if the thought or belief is something that has been running in the background for a long time, something your dad always told you, something like that, then the thought can be hard to even see, it just blends in with the background.

Journaling therefore helped me, the disciplined kind where you write down all the thoughts you're having, at least to do with something that is bothering you. Then after each thought, you further journal by sharply analyzing the thought: basically, is it true?

Its interesting that I have developed my own model that closely resembles this (although it is not as complete). Its annoying that there is so much good information out there(like your article), but its largely inaccessible if you aren't familiar with the relevant jargon.

Something I struggle with is specifying my emotions sufficiently. Does anyone know of a complete reference? Something that includes common causes would be best (such as: stuck on a problem you can't solve -> frustration). I have seen some relevant books but they tend to be more gimmick than substance

Do not ask here, go to the doctor. Depression is a symptom which can have different causes (I had a depression from social anxiety at a point in my life).

A good psychiatrist will treat the cause (for example, by recommending some therapy, like CBT), not just symptoms. And will not just prescribe medications, which do work quite well though.

> Do not ask here

I disagree with this. It's still valuable to hear from people with direct experience. Good professional help is a great idea if it's available to you. In the UK for instance, mental health seems very much underfunded within the NHS.

Right, I should have said "do not just ask here". If professional help is not available in your country, I am sorry, although I do not believe it's that bad in the UK. But as with any medical advice, one shouldn't just take it from the Internet.

It is far from a settled question whether depression is best framed as a medical problem, for everyone.

Finding a good doctor is harder than finding a good mechanic these days...

Been a long time since I've seen an Ask HN from someone looking for strategies to get their car running again.

I'm bipolar which is quite different to depression in a number of ways, but one thing I've found helps a lot and others have reported too is accepting that is will always be with you and manage it rather than fighting it.

Rather than trying to cure it completely, which isn't likely to happen, learn to monitor the matter and mitigate its effects instead. This can remove the cyclical nature of the problem, whereby failing to deal with it to your satisfaction causes you to sink further into the darkness, reducing the severity of problem periods.

(This of course may not work in severe cases, in those professional help and/or medication may be needed.)

Beyond this, as others have already mentioned:

* Maintain good health with exercise and decent diet. Some like myself find exercise to be directly therapeutic, for others the benefit is still very real but not as immediate. If you try something and hate it, try something else - I like running, I know people who can't stand that but enjoy swimming/cycling/climbing/walking/<other> instead.

* Try to maintain a routine, especially a good sleep schedule (this latter part could go with "maintain good health" above). This can be easier said than done as the condition can affect both the ability to sleep and the recuperative efficiency of what sleep you do get, but lack of sufficient good sleep can exacerbate many mental instabilities/imbalances.

* Make sure your routine involves the outside world at least in parts, even (perhaps especially) if you are "not in the mood today".

* Talk to people if you can.

* Consider medication if recommended. You might be wary of being stuck on it for life, but in many cases being medicated for a short while can give you a short break from the worst symptoms making it easier to find the impetus to start following the other advice and build a routine that helps you manage yourself.

I don't think my depression is very severe but sometimes I do just feel in a slump. Like my day to day is too routine. My work is not tangible (it's digital & knowledge). I feel the urge to be outside more. Also, my normal day does not utilize all my energy, so I'm usually having difficulty falling asleep. So I stay up late and then after 2-3 days I'm exhausted and have a good night sleep. This cycle is not fun.

That said; I like to embark on a project that is atypical from my day to day. It's usually a DIY home project. I've built decks, sheds, greenhouses, landscaping, etc. I enjoy the process of research (youtube videos), planning, sourcing materials & tools, and the actual building. Sometimes I've gotten in over my head and had to hire some extra labor (eg. moving 4 yards of soil is more work than it sounds like). If this is not practical for you, volunteer for habitat for humanity or something similar.

This helps by; * getting outside * exercise * encourages good sleep pattern * joy of project completion w/ tangible results * not my goal but it does result in gaining praise of others. Friends/coworkers/family all want to know how the project is going, which fuels my desire to finish it, then they all want to see the end result and are usually impressed even though I don't think I do anything difficult they just wouldn't even attempt it

I've recently watched Tim Ferris's pod-cast with Dr. Gabor Mate who is well known for his work with people who suffer from ADHD (including himself), Depression and various types of addiction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9B5mYfBPlY. It's rather a long interview (2h 23') that touches on many topics (Depression, ADHD, Ayahuasca), but IMO well worth time invested. Very insightful as to the ways one might take when it comes to improving his/her own wellbeing.

I had a rather milder form of depression few years ago (with symptoms such as low-self esteem, loss of motivation to work, eat, exercise and pretty much all standard symptoms except suicidal thoughts). One thing that helped a lot to break negative thought patters and to start pro-actively coping with my own issues was attending few Ayahuasca sessions. I'd recommend it only if you find really experienced, trustworthy, practitioner such as Dr. Gabor Mate and if you are healthy enough (health heart, you cannot use antidepressants and other, prescribed or not, psychoactive drugs and you should do specific diet few week prior to it). Some claim that it's worth 10 years of psychoanalysis. I don't not know how much truth is in that claim, but in my case it really gave me immediate relief, sense of a fresh start and valuable insights about why I'm the way I'm. Of course, a real work starts after it when it takes time and effort to integrate these insights into your everyday life (but I felt motivated to do so).

For me, the number one thing is GET SOME SUN. It’s amazing how quickly the back of my brain stops muttering about suicide when the sun comes out. A sun lamp can help but only so much; I have a 2’ square one I got in the depths of my second winter in Seattle that I keep on a mechanical timer during winter, so I can never forget to turn it on when I get up.

Exercise changes my mood a lot.

Also having a project you give a shit about and are makin regular, visible progress on helps.

Also, I've found that 'warm white' lighting (those with more yellow wavelengths and fewer blue wavelengths) at night generally helps your feeling of wellbeing.

Have a goal in life. What do you want to achieve in the long term?

This is a very hard question. Most people don't think about this because they are too depleted in the short term addressing problems in the lower levels of Maslow's hierarchy. Often these are very real, hard, if somewhat mundane and unfair problems that they must solve (unfair in the sense of inheriting those problems by virtue of where they are born or what standing their parents have in society, etc.)

Once you are past the point where your basic needs and material comforts (including reasonable employment, vacations, healthcare, disposable income, etc.) are satisfied you have fought for and struggled to come to a station in life where you can redefine yourself because you are past the point of fighting the system now.

But it is an illusion to think that this station in life is "comfortable" and that the choice to redefine yourself is a literal option. And this is where I think many people end up becoming depressed (no science, just based on my empirical observations). Rather it's important to realize that you have to redefine yourself now and set yourself a higher goal.

Again, what do you want to do with your life? Think about this really hard, look at what you enjoy doing, where your natural talents lie, and which pursuit will bring you the greatest satisfaction.

Once you decide what that is for yourself, you need to relentlessly prioritize progress on that goal for the rest of your life, in the present (aka, Time is the most valuable thing on your hands). This is hard, and there are ups and downs along the way, and many opportunities to "soft quit" (like being distracted by other goals which have greater allure in the moment), but if you stay the course it is guaranteed to bring you great satisfaction, and self esteem, the great barrier between you and depression. You will realize your true potential in running up against the wall between you and your goal everyday, and the recognition that you are capable of such perseverance, and the continual progress you make in the long run will become a great source of satisfaction.

Medication does work. I had depression for about a year, and they gave me Paroxetine. It is very effective. It was a bit complicated to get off the med, as I got some side effects when I stopped (sensations of falling down, that kind of thing).

Anyway, probably best to talk to a doctor about it.

Hypericum extract is supposed to help in episodes of mild depression and is much less problematic that strong meds.

These medications carry black box warnings from the FDA, which means they should be used as a last resort due to significant side effects. It's great that they worked for you, but they are objectively very dangerous and should not be used unless absolutely necessary.

Depression is potentially fatal.

Thirty percent of all clinically depressed patients attempt suicide; half of them ultimately succeed in taking their own life.

It is crystal clear that the risk–benefit ratio is in favor of antidepressants.

First, go see a medical professional. I am not a medical professional, and these things work for me. Consider this anecdata.

* balanced diet, to a proper schedule

* quality sleep, to a proper schedule

* quality work, to a proper schedule

* quality exercise, to a proper schedule

* real-life interactions with (positive) people

* no social media; fight the FOMO

* vitamin D supplements

* cannabidiol (CBD) oil and magic mushrooms

…and in the abridged words of Nick Offerman – "Go outdoors; remain".

> * real-life interactions with (positive) people

> * no social media; fight the FOMO

I feel like a major problem with life today is how social media has become a funnel for social interaction, and that for many people it's difficult to cut out the harm of it, without also cutting out your social life. That's not to say that it's impossible, and I'm sure some people here have successfully maintained their social life in the absence of social media.

I struggled with it for such a long time. About 6 months ago I realised I was dumping time, energy and sanity into someone else's platform. I made the decision to stop posting, then stop reading about other people's wonderful lives, then deleted my previous posts, and it's been positive overall. Cutting out negative people from my life made more of a difference overall, but the dopamine hit from swipes, likes and other such facile BS has gone. Sure, I have less interaction with people, but the quality has gone up.

what worked for me:

Compassion - getting out of bed was a win some days. That's OK. This shit is serious, and you can die from it. Have some compassion for yourself.

CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) - finding my values and starting to live by them was the key take-away from this.

Meditation - mainly learning that my thoughts aren't "me" and that I can ignore them with no consequences. Especially the ones that replay every bad thing I've ever done.

Exercise - Some days I did no more than put my running gear on and get to the front door before heading back to bed. That's OK. I ran a 12km "fun run" (it wasn't) within six months of starting running. I still run regularly.

Finding something larger than myself to contribute to - giving with no expectation of reward is amazingly good for depression. Finding a community and a way of contributing to it was a life-saver. Literally.

Therapy/Counselling - ultimately, acknowledging that I was not coping, facing up to my demons, and working through my shit in therapy has got me out of it all and back to a place of mental health. I still talk to my therapist about my emotions once a week, and it still helps. I don't know why.

What didn't work for me:

Diet - I lived on 2 litre ice cream tubs. One a day, eaten with a spoon straight from the tub. Meh, I didn't commit suicide, so winning. I have just about managed to shed the weight I put on (seven years later).

Anti-depressants - I was on these for about six months, and they just dulled everything and gave me no way out. I think I'd still be depressed if I'd stayed on them.

I don't expect that what worked for me will work for you. You're going to have to walk your own path on this.

But... seven years later, my life is totally different, completely amazing, and I'm a much better person for having gone through it. It can be a positive experience. I look back and consider how many times I came close to suicide, and I'm so grateful that I managed to avoid that. I'm genuinely happy and enjoying my life now, and that seemed impossible back then. Just keep breathing, and things will change.

Best of luck.

Exercise. Certainly not as sexy as Ketamine. But it's effective. There's lots of studies... here's one pulled out of the bag: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC474733/

I've tried pretty much everything for fighting depression - drugs, meditation, the lot. The only thing that consistently works is running nearly every day. I assume any intense cardio will do, though something outside is obviously better.

I think a lot of the first line remedies for depression (such as exercise, increase social contact, sleep better, etc) highlights the issue with empirical methodologies used to describe experience. Correlation really becomes causation at a certain point.

People who sleep well, have strong social lives, and exercise frequently are rarely depressed. This isn't because of some biochemical reaction, but simply doing the above doesn't fit the definition of depression.

The problem with relying on exercise as a coping mechanism is that you may get injured and therefore will have no fallback.

Depends on why you're depressed.

If there's a chemical component, well, you either address that chemically, or you try to fix everything else and live with what remains.

From a general "life circumstances" perspective, exercise, as jppope said. For myself, I like ultimate frisbee. It's social, and it has a free-flowing, read-and-react style of play that's a very healthy break from how I normally operate.

I find that light helps me (I may suffer from seasonal affective disorder).

Psychologically, one view is that anger signals a blocked goal, and depression signals an impossible goal. If that's what's going on, it might be worth figuring out what the impossible goal is. If it's truly impossible, the only thing left is to let go of it as a goal.

Some people find meditation to be helpful (or prayer, if you believe that God exists).

I had a few friends with depression, here are some things that worked:

1. Let go of societies values and expectations. If you feel a pressure to be successful, let that go. Swallow your pride, stay away from the desire to fullfill other people's expectation of you (if you can).

2. Help people around you. If you are a good musician, start a meetup group in a park and teach people how to play guitar. If you are good at coding, start a meetup group in the public library to teach people how to code. Limit your students to 2-3 and try to make a deep, positive impact in their lives.

From my experience, practicing empathy and helping others around me helped alot. Be aware though, don't fall into the trap of trying to measure success by quantity. Its better to help 2-3 people become REALLY REALLY good than to help 100 people get average skills.

This helped me.

The other thing that helped me was redefine your rock bottom as your norm. As status quo. As the default. As the x axis of happiness chart. As not sadness or happiness but neutral.

And every ounce of happiness on top of that is a blessing.

* Exercise.

* Predictable sleep patterns. Set an alarm both to wake up and go to sleep.

* Get out of your home, even if you don't feel like it. You'll be glad that you did.

* Sort out any anxiety - it can lead to depression.

* Take at least 5000 IU vitamin D.

I'm not a doctor, and you might want to talk to one. Have said that...

One overall health trick I wish I had started doing when I was younger is fasting. Over the last 10 years, I've done maybe 2 dozen fasts of 3 days or longer. I've done 3 fasts of 7 days or more. It helps to clarify things mentally, not so much during the fast, as afterwards.

Whether exercise is an answer really depends on what kind of depression you have. If you suffer mostly from lethargy, then you probably aren't able to exercise. In that case it's probably best to see a doctor, and perhaps take anti-depressants.

If your depression mostly consists of bleakness/sadness, exercise might help, or it can make things more intense. Therapy can help, if you can find the right therapist.

I've taken up fasting recently as well. I can't speak to effectiveness wrt depression, but as someone who's been overweight for years, it's really helped with my relationship to food and how I eat. The realization that just because your brain is telling you you're hungry doesn't mean you need to eat was really important for me and it's given me such a feeling of control that no other dieting or calorie-restricting scheme I've ever tried has.

Sam Altman talked about [0] delaying his breakfast so effectively he would fast for 15 hours each day.

[0]: https://blog.samaltman.com/productivity

I was really depressed when I used to consume caffeine. I thought that I was depressed and that I was treating it with caffeine, which may have been true very very early on when I first started using caffeine, but was for a long time not true anymore. I was depressed from caffeine. Extremely anxious, exhausted. I quit caffeine about 2 months ago and I feel 80% better. The remaining feelings of anxiety etc. feel actually manageable without caffeine and I feel optimistic that with more exercise, meditation etc I'll be at about 90 to 95%. I don't think reaching 100% is possible given that life is suffering at its core, but I can internally change my attitude and mindset to be the happiest in spite of that.

Since I haven't seen it in the other suggestions I'm going to throw my more psychological/philosophical answer into the pile.

"Distract yourself and find an even bigger, nearly intractable, problem to solve."

I can't tell you what that is, it's not that kind of suggestion. But think of the metaphorical image of Christ carrying his cross (just the image, not the rest of the cultural baggage). Something like that, huge and barely manageable, something no one else can do, something that leaves you exhausted at the end of the every day, but proud and satisfied.

Hope. That is the single most effective solution. Working out,dieting and spending regular scheduled time on yourself helps as well. but in essence depression is one way to say "the mind is starving from lack of hope"

Find out the things,people and concerns that matter the most to you and find hope. With or without reason,find hope.

No matter what other solution you might use, if your hope problem is not fixed then you're probably only fixing symptoms.

I like to say that when you're feeling crappy, think of the one thing you feel least like doing and then do it. When I'm feeling down the last thing I want to do is exercise but, honestly, it's the best remedy for me. I find that diet has a lot to do with it as well. I avoid heavy foods and big meals in general as the lethargy felt afterwards definitely contributes to feeling down.

Anecdotally, I've heard people have had success with Nootropics/supplements like L-Theanine, Ashwagandha root powder, or even products like Procera Mood blend. Check out /r/nootropics for some ideas in that realm.

Also on reddit, there are again, anecdotes saying that a LHCF (Low-carb, high-fat aka ketogenic) diet has been huge in improving people's moods. (/r/keto).

Usually that also leads to working out, which of course can have a huge impact not only on your health but also on your mood. I know some people don't feel the endorphins like others, but it's worth a shot at least.

Of course, also ensuring time set aside for yourself (reading, "getting out", etc.) is also key. You need to rest and recharge. Unplug everything one day a month (minimally, or every weekend!) and work on resetting things internally.

And I know some people may disagree but I think even pharmaceuticals can be helpful for a period of time when used wisely. Don't be afraid to talk about it with people. We are born to be relational people—work on building some relationships better.

Many nootropics will greatly amplify the feelings of depression (by personal experience and anecdotal experience of others). This may be because many of these substances interact with neurotransmitters like choline. Excess choline can lead to depressive-like symptoms.

That said, many non-nootropic supplements can be highly effective for depressive symptoms. I love 5-htp for a temporary serotonin boost. I use it for 2-3 days at a time until my mood improves.

1. Medication.

Medication isn't a cure-all, but makes everything else so much easier. If you skip this one, the next set of things will probably just turn into new topics with which to beat yourself up.

(PS: Go to a real psychiatrist, if you can. Doctors don't give nearly so good prescriptions).

2. Structure.

Have set times in which you eat, sleep, see people. Do these things even if you don't feel like it. If your body isn't constantly starving or sleep-deprived, you will have an easier time.

Your psychiatrist will probably tell you this.

(Optional:) 3. Don't drink, try to get lots of fiber.

Alcohol reduces your liver function, reducing its capacity to process stress hormones. Lacking fiber reduces throughput in your guts, slowing the expulsion of stress hormones. This step is optional - it makes a difference for me.

(Optional:) 4. Try and identify things that bother you.

Living with broken windows is a good way to stay depressed. Try and identify things that are bugging you, and try to honestly, proactively, and productively deal with them.

Exercise. You won't find a more potent combination of good chemicals and confidence boosters. It can be a form of focused meditation. Plus it will get you out of your room, help you get better sleep, make you want to eat better... the list goes on. Exercise is the foundation of physical and mental health.

Meditation. I'm doing zen meditation approximately for 4 years. It helps me to find real reasons behind my most complex emotions, a way to untangle this complexity, and solve them for good.

The most important point of meditation is to apply the lessons to the daily life. i.e. if you find one of your behaviors is the root cause of bad events or feelings, you need to change the behavior, otherwise nothing will go better (You can exchange behavior with a belief, feeling, or anything else).

Meditation is not a tool to feel better as the more popular approaches say. It's a precise instrument to introspect unto one's self, and change for the better.

I'm not telling it's easy or a silver bullet, but when applied correctly it's very powerful indeed.

Grooming. Shower, soap, brush teeth, shave. But beyond that, go to the aesthetician and get a facial. In addition to feeling like a million bucks, I have reason to believe that receiving grooming treatment from another primate triggers dopamine release and or beneficially lowers cortisol levels. I can't cite any sources but I recall that idea from my undergraduate work in animal behavior.

There is plenty of research [1] on various relevant topics, but if you're depressed, I recommend a JFDI and test approach.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4672226/ et al.

Currently have some friends and family members pursuing help.

Exercise is key. Probably a hard one to implement, but makes the largest difference in all.

Speak to a counsellor. Pragmatic, impartial perspective seems to be a good addition to other methods.

Eat well. A crap diet will put a lot of drain on your body and its part of a terrible cycle.

I've heard mixed impressions on things like SSRI's, but they can help over the short term to tear you away from burying yourself in negativity. I've heard over the longer term they become rather insufferable due to emotionally suppressive nature of them.

If anxiety is a part of it, other pharms like Citalopram can be a great help to manage attacks and help you see the 'other side' as it were.


Self-realization through small or big achievements. When I was 9 years old, I failed to build a U-shaped magnet based electric motor and make it work no matter how hard I've tried. It remained in my brain for years as a source of negativity (failure, anxiety). When I finally realized it over 30, it helped me to feel better. Identify areas of personal issues, and do whatever you can do. Currently I'm trying to build an ML based cat/dog photo matching algorithm to match lost/found/get pet-related instagram/facebook/social media posts. If I succeed with 3 matches and help some pets and humans get happier, I will be happier.

Volunteer for a cause you care about. Serve a meal in a soup kitchen. Prepare dinner for a homeless shelter. Do overnights in a shelter. Work with animals at an animal shelter. Pick up beach trash. You will feel better.

You need to change some habits to fight depression. Habits are hard to change. My theory, extended vacations in a place where time is more amorphous (yes they still exist) are great for habit breaking and setting.

In short, the one recommendation I don't see here is take a long, well deserved vacation. In my experience, the main complications in vacations are from other people... so don't be afraid to go on vacation by yourself, either, it keeps it simple.

(Camping is great for long vacations. KOA's are great in-between location campsites too for example.)

There's some early evidence that psychedelic mushroom-assisted psychotherapy can be effective: https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2018/01/29/magic-m...

In my experience, it boils down to a few things:

- maintaining a healthy lifestyle

  - regular exercise

  - maintain a (somewhat) healthy diet

  - get enough sleep

  - do outdoor activities

  - build habits/routines such as a morning routine to get a strong start to the day

- engaging in activities which you love

  - what are your interests? You should focus on doing something that you love in your spare/free time.

- have some level of social engagement

  - Friends/colleagues/family/counselor/significant other - any of these will do. As human beings we are naturally social creatures, the extent of this depends on an individual basis. But certainly having someone to talk to (and I mean personally, not just via text messages/applications, but hearing someone's voice, interacting with them in person).

- helping others

  - When you help other people, it in turn provides a good feeling within yourself. Have you ever made someone else smile or laugh? How does it make you feel.
Ultimately, as human beings we tend to feel as though we are here to serve some purpose. I am not going to digress down that rabbit hole of a discussion, however I think that sometimes this can become a void that we need to fill. Performing activities that we consider meaningful help to provide that sense of purpose in our lives which ultimately can push us away from the feeling of depression, loneliness and feeling estranged from the world.

*Edit: meditation is a great way to close the gap between yourself and that annoying voice in your head. It's not an easy task to accomplish, but IMO if you can achieve success in meditation it can make a world of a difference

Along with the good suggestions here I would add try to face the issues that make you unhappy. Somethings have no answers but sometimes there is and you have yet to find it. Also is your depression cyclical? Could be a mood disorder like bipolar depression. Psychiatrist can figure it out. Be honest at the doctors office. Your word is usually all they got to go on.

Lots of very useful suggestions, but I'd also add:

a) Be patient with yourself. Whether it is therapy, medications, etc. these things take time. Months, at the very least.

b) You may have to switch multiple therapists, after investing a few weeks with each (multiple sessions). This is exhausting. But stay the course. Hard as it is.

c) Medication: You may have to try different drugs; they may not work. They most likely will have side effects even if they are not helping. This process is also draining.

Therefore, in addition to patience, if you can, let someone else know you are trying & going through this, so that they can remind you to be patient. To give yourself & the process time.

Edited to add: This essay [1] by Zach Hollman, is really really great for a very personal, insightful, reflective assessment of how hard it is, and what a battle it can be.

[1] http://zachholman.com/posts/the-depression-thing

Some have found success with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation when traditional methods (meds, CBT, exercise) don't work.


The Mood Notes app is helpful for identifying thinking traps. It asks you how you feel, and then it guides you to think through why you might be feeling not so great, and identifying those thought patterns (thinking traps) which may be forming the basis for those feelings.


Or if you don't want to purchase an app, here is a list of thinking traps to get you started. When you're feeling blue, think about what thoughts may be contributing to your feelings, and whether those thoughts might fall somewhere on this list.


I'll probably be flamed into the ground for saying it, but I do get a pretty reliable mood lift from drinking alcohol. That's not a great long-term strategy, but if the alternatives are making it through another day and not, it's a useful tool to have in your bag.

Addiction, of course, is a real concern.

Alcohol for depression is like taking Tylenol and applying a bandaid to an infected wound. The pain goes away. You can't see the wound any longer. Yet the infection will still be there to cause damage.

Don't get me wrong: I understand the appeal. Forgetting about your problems for a spell is actually quite nice. As you said, it can be easy to fall into a trap of addiction that only exacerbates the original issue while compounding others. So it's actually bad short-term, because the moment you sober up next morning, that rain cloud will still be floating overhead.

Unlike infection, depression is not curable in general. If you had an incurable infection, taking Tylenol and using band-aids might very well be a reasonable approach. Everything's a trade-off.

Everyone is different, but often after I sober up, I feel reasonably good for hours or days. Cured? No. As above, there is no cure.

A significant benefit of alcohol is that relief is more or less instant. That's good in itself. But it's also a useful lesson. Black moods suck, but they come and go, and the feeling that won't is just a feeling.

I don't care for analogies, but I'd liken booze to steroids. Harmful if taken in excess over long periods, but useful, even life-saving in some situations.

Some types of depression are curable. There is temporary depression and chronic depression (less curable). But I believe or hope that all depression is treatable.

Recommending alcohol for depression is dangerous because alcohol is a depressant, it might make you even more depressed. Not only that but it can lead to addiction and the creation of bad habits - to drink when you're depressed. Before you know it you might become a depressed alcoholic and you will have two behavioral issues to fight instead of one, and they will be compounded because if you ever take psychiatric drugs to aid your depression, alcohol will not mix well.

I've had two suicide attempts, several years apart. I thought my life was hopeless- had tons of different diagnoses from major depression to bipolar to borderline and lots of drugs (started ~13 and lasted for 10 years). I am really happy today. I think I was so depressed back then that I wasn't even capable of imagining a better future.

The thing that helped me the most was exercise. Exercise is a keystone habit that begins a gratuitous beneficial cycle. When I had enough energy after taking lots of baby steps, I decided to take ownership to improve my life and started exercising and training for a 5k using the couch to 5k program. The running tied in with my new love for stoicism helped me develop discipline. When you're able to run for 40 mins without stopping, you raise your pain threshold and increase your willpower. Plus you get the positive effects of natural dopamine, runners high. They talk about this in the book The Power of Habit but you can have one habit that kickstarts a chain of events. The exercise gave me energy, discipline, and confidence, that helped me find a partner. I had terrible social skills and major issues so therapy helped me navigate that and my partner gave me support, accountability, hope, and love.

I've suffered from depression on and off all my adult life. I've tried about a dozen medications, and seen many therapists, with negligible results. The first thing that ever helped me was meditation. I found that the proximate factor in most of my depression with negative habits of thought about myself, i.e. rumination. I found it is much, much better not to think at all, than to think negatively. Training myself to stop thinking was the first effective tool I ever had to combat depression. The next thing I have since found that helps a lot is to have some kind of ethos or systematic view of what life is for, that works for you. I don't think it matters too much what it is, but find something that isn't either nihilism or the denial of all systems of thought.

Everyone here is giving great advice. But the real problem with depression is that you can know exactly what you need to do, and still be unable to do it. Like the feeling of trying to scream in a nightmare and nothing comes out. I've yet to figure out how to get over that.

Deep breathing. That's covered my the meditation recommendation, but since a lot of people won't try the whole meditation approach I wanted to call it out separately. No training is required, just breath slowly and deeply while focused on the air moving in and out.

Hard to provide good advice without knowing why you're depressed. Given that, there are a few things that are probably going to be helpful:

* Stop caring what other people think. This is at the root of so much suffering it's ridiculous. Other people will try to guilt you into caring if they know you think this way, they're just being selfish, ignore it.

* Find the positive aspects of things that initially appear negative. Challenges are opportunities for growth.

* Forget your big goals. Learn to set small goals you can achieve today, and trust that your daily success will lead to long term success.

* Find something to be passionate about, and chase it. If your life is just an endless procession of unpleasant chores, of course you're going to be depressed.

Correct me if I am wrong. It looks programmers are more prone to get depression(or obsessive disorders). I am thinking if this is related to the thinking patterns of programming, which is quite 'unnatural' if you think about it.

Try physical work if you don’t like to exercise without purpose. Perhaps maybe get a night job waiting tables or doing something outside your comfort zone. Get out, talk to people, fight depression by fighting your comforts! Stop eating processed sugars & foods. Cook all your own meals. Find someone on Instagram to look up to (body builder, The Rock, super models, anyone!) have goals you know you can achieve and ACHIEVE THEM! Learn a martial art, do deep breathing exercises, meditate, yoga, go into the wilderness and listen to the silence. Just don’t sit in your comfort zone and play pity party games by yourself. No one likes a victimizer.

The biggest, fastest and easiest change that improved my depression was getting a light alarm:


The usability of this model is terrible, but it changed my life, allowing me to get up consistently before 7AM without being groggy. Surprisingly it was the "sunset" feature that fades natural yellow sunlight light into a deep red that really helped by allowing me to fall asleep consistently when I wanted to.

I can't guarantee it will work for everyone, but it made a large difference in my life.

I've done a little skimming of answers here. There seem to be a lot of diet and lifestyle answers here. I don't suffer from depression, but I successfully manage a different condition with diet and lifestyle.

Let me suggest two things:

1. Start a food and health diary. Start recording what you are going currently in order to establish a baseline before making any changes.

2. Make only one change at a time. Stick with that change a minimum of a week before trying anything else. Longer is better, but if you are in bad shape and need to make a lot of changes, waiting 2 to 4 weeks can be burdensome. But at least wait a week so you get some idea of what the change does for you.

- Sunlight, sleep, exercise, healthy living, TLC.

- Removal of stressful situations/folks/commutes/TV/News/Media/WWW from life.

- Get some work done. Paradoxically much happier after accomplishing work than procrastinating, which causes worry.

- Supplements? https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16225531

- Do something you've never done, see below.

- And oh, skydiving!! Can forcefully knock you out of a rut: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16837748

- Beyond that seek pro help of course.

Here's one writeup that seems comprehensive, and from a "hacker-like" perspective: http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/06/16/things-that-sometimes-h...

I concur with the "meta" answer implied by many folks here:

Try many things: Data shows different things work for different folks.


Don't give up: Data shows working consistently is a pre-requisite & often a benefit in and of itself.

Consider changing the "story" you tell about your life. Perspective is incredibly powerful.

Connect to other people - social relationships are really important to happiness, long term.

(and shameless plug: the service I started, Campfire (campfire.care), is one way to connect to people deeply around difficult topics).

A lot of good advice here (exercise/social contact/diet/sleep/CBT), but here's my primary suggestion:

Take small steps toward self care, and realize you won't feel like doing any of them beforehand (even though you'll feel better for having done them). For example, cook for yourself. Clean one room in your house. Mow the lawn. Shave. Take one piece of trash out of your car. Say hi to a neighbor. Do one set of pushups.

Give yourself permission not to get better all at once.

in last year I moved to different country, cheated and divorced. Here is my methods:

* go to gym (3 days in a week, set a realistic goal) * try to run a marathon! (doing exercise really helps, it makes you happy!) * consistent sleep, healthy food (11pm - 7am or earlier) * go out! Escape from home. * stay away from social media, prn, drugs, netflix and chill * go out! Again! * use vitamine D regularly (helps a lot)

(never used medicals)

The most effective method I know of is to buy 10 Litecoins, because they'll be worth $100k+ each within 3 years. Then you're set.

Some ideas I put together previously towards coping with depression, but most are covered here by other posters: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15455259

We nowadays seem to bound very common and natural feelings under the term 'depression' that it's now become very ambiguous to actually reflect about the core issue.

Psychodynamic therapy look at the human mind has a very complex thing and take a holistic approach in order to help people gain insight about themselves (or, their-self's).

In contrast to CBT or other therapeutic interventions that are mostly about un-learning maladaptive behaviors and thought patterns, mastering new 'techniques' or repeating affirmations, psychodynamic therapy tries to help people gain self-awareness about the things that we usually never see but are always there. It's developed upon the work of Freud on psychoanalysis, but further advancing his core-ideas and take a more modern and refined approach.

Freud once said that the goal of therapy is to "transform neurotic misery into common unhappiness." What he meant by that is that there is a very basic truth that we all humans share - it's hard to be human. It involves a lot of suffering. Mostly what causes the suffering is hidden and we're unaware of it.

I highly recommend the book "Why Do I Do That?" by Joseph Burgo. It's a psychodynamic-based self-help book. Reading it was probably one of the best things I've done in my life. It allowed me to gain insight about myself, increased my self-awareness about the things I do and why I do them, allowed me to look into what motivates me in life and what holds me back.

One caveat: it's hard. I procrastinated on reading this book for months. It probably took me 8 months to read through all of it (and it's just about 200 pages, I think). But at the end I made myself read into it and really take in and follow the exercises, which I highly recommend to put yourself fully.

The author is highly empathetic, I almost developed father-like affection toward him while reading it. He guides you through it, and make sure to tell you that you're all right and help you through all the hard stuff. He makes a point that you might get procrastinated reading it and invite you to become aware of it and still keep on. You also gain an incredibly valuable knowledge about human nature, our human needs, and what happens when they're not met. I also started to see other people, in general, much more beautifully, how we are all complex animals that long for love and affection, and how our past is remarkably influential and shaped our lives.

All in all, whatever you do, I just want reassure you that you're alright.

My two easiest strategies are to exercise (cycle, rock climb, hike, walk) and to engage with pets (high energy terrier and average energy cat for me). If I'm not doing either of those things, I find my mood deteriorates significantly.

This is what I did:

Stopped drinking. Joined AA/NA. Started seeing a therapist. Started going outside more and exercising. Started hanging out with positive people and removing the bad influences in my life.

Consistent sleep (CONSISTENT - not volume) + Exercise & TALKING TO A PROFESSIONAL ONCE PER MONTH - MINIMUM - are the 3 "principal components" of my treatment strategy.

This might not apply to everybody with depression, but here's something that can sometimes help:

Take responsibility for your life. Stop blaming other people, society, your employer, etc. for your woes. Take a hard look at yourself and consider how you contribute to your own misery, how perhaps you use that misery to confirm your sense of victimhood. This trick makes you feel both justified, and completely miserable. By abandoning the concept of blame, and considering what you can do right now to live according to the principles you believe deep inside you to be right, you can escape this cycle and make the world a better place.

It's an idea I've been playing with lately.

Read Greek philosophers e.g. Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius.

Does anybody have a workbook or schedule template that'd be a good starting point for a depressed person trying to look after themselves?

I found this workbook really helpful [0]. It's a seven week CBT course you can do yourself. I'd argue that it'd be useful for anyone who wants to identify their values and then better align their thoughts and actions with those values. But CBT is also a proven method for treating depression. Good luck :)

[0] "Retrain Your Brain: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in 7 Weeks: A Workbook for Managing Depression and Anxiety" - www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01M0ILKMQ/ref=oh_aui_d_detailpage_o02_?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Stay strong! Life is ups and downs. If you're going through a down, the up is waiting for you down the road. Cheers.

two hacks that work without too much effort - cold water in the shower - intermittent fasting

Find creative expression that you feel excited about and act upon it

Avoid HN.

Redesign your life

A crucial part of this is realising what's stopping you from redesigning it, and getting rid of that. Often it's false assumptions, like that you need the job you hate, or to live where you don't want to be.

stop wasting time on HN, Reddit, Facebook, news sit s

Move out of urban or suburban hellscapes. Move to the country. Get off social media. Remove strivers and other hedonic treadmill users in your life. Live simply.

Don't do pills unless you're legit suicidal. Natural things like meditation and exercise are the way to go.

Take some time off work or school and make building healthy habits your one and only priority.

Take the time to reassess your life. Depression is usually a symptom of living by other people's values. Take responsibility for yourself as a human and exercise your freedom of choice, deeply.

Or just numb yourself with chemicals into whatever square hole you're trying to fit in. that's the way to make your metrics, right?

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