How can I cure my depression & anxiety?
This article was recently published on Quora & contains many practical suggestions.
I was clinically depressed for more than half a decade.
Even in the midst of phenomenal business success and achieving a life beyond my wildest dreams, I still went to sleep at night feeling deeply unhappy, alone, and hopeless.
I tried medication… It just made me feel crazy.
I went to therapy… And immediately felt like I was a “Loser” who was incapable of handling his problems on his own (an admittedly immature point of view but my reality nonetheless)
Eventually, I’d had enough.
I decided that I was going to beat my depression once and for all WITHOUT any medication or therapy.
I made the definite decision and said “Enough is enough! I deserve to live a life that makes me happy”
And that one decision has made all of the difference.
Today, I run a 7-figure lifestyle business doing what I love.
Live three blocks from the beach. I’m dating the woman of my dreams. And best of all? I’m deeply and genuinely happy on a daily basis.
This is how I pulled myself out of the pit of depression.
And how you can too.
Let’s do this thing!
Before We Start: Re-framing Depression and Accepting What it Truly Is (A Natural Part of Life)
All too often, I see people demonize and vilify depression.
They make you believe that depression is somehow a bad thing and that you are a “broken” human being for experiencing it.
I call b.s.
Depression is nothing more than a signal, kind of like a “Check Engine” light on your car.
It’s simply an evolutionary mechanism that is meant to let us know that something in our life isn’t working.
Depression itself is never the root cause of the problem… It’s merely a symptom.
Therefore, before you can beat your depression, you must first change your relationship with your depression.
Realize that the negative emotions you are experiencing are there to serve you and alert you to problems in your life that you have yet to address.
Whether your depression has been caused by in-congruent behaviour (e.g. Working a job you hate to make someone else happy), a nutrient deficiency, a chemical imbalance in your brain, or just a crappy hand of cards that you’ve been dealt recently (the loss of a loved one, unemployment, etc.), you must realize that your depression is a sign that something in your life isn’t working.
And now, you have the opportunity to fix it.
So before we go any further, I want you to reframe your depression and express gratitude that your brain is such a powerful machine that it can force you to address problems in your life… Even if you don’t want to.
Once you change your relationship with depression, you have the ability to eliminate the negative emotions you are experiencing on a daily basis.
Accept that your depression exists to improve your life and you will be far better equipped to defeat it.
With that out of the way, here are some tactical ways that you can overcome your depression and reclaim your life starting TODAY.
Part I: Optimizing Your Health to Combat Depression
I would estimate that roughly 80% of patients who are clinically depressed suffer from some form of physical dis-ease.
I don’t mean that they are sick (per-se) but rather that their physical body is suffering from some sort of deficiency whether it’s related to sleep, diet, or exercise.
In my own experience, identifying and resolving these underlying deficiencies is the best step you can take to eradicate your depression and will help you eradicate roughly 80% of your depressive symptoms.
Here are the tactics I used to optimize my body to beat depression.
1. Get 8–9 Hours of High Quality Sleep
Consider the following…
Sleep deprivation has been linked to depression, impaired cognition as well as other conditions.
We live in a society where sleeplessness is worn as a badge of honour. You hear Silicon Valley moguls bragging about sleeping only 4 hours a night as if they’d won some sort of competition.
No, no, no, no, NO!
One of the single most important things you can do to optimize your health and eradicate depression is to double down on the quality and quantity of your sleep and ensure that you are getting at least 8 hours of high quality sleep per night.
To get the most out of your time in the sack, I recommend that you:
- Wake up at the same time every single day (even if you have to take a nap later in the day). This will help regulate your circadian rhythm and ensure proper hormonal function.
- Exercise every day, even if it’s only for 15 minutes. (I’ll talk more about this later). Most studies recommend exercising first thing in the morning to improve sleep quality at night
- Sleep in a pitch black and cold (67 F or lower) room
- Turn off all electronics 1 hour before bed, for every 30 minutes of blue light (the light emitted by your phone and tv) that you are exposed to, melatonin production is inhibited for 60 minutes.
- Eat a high fat snack 3 hours before bed and then stop eating entirely. Your body cannot repair itself properly if it has to allocate resources to digestion while you sleep.
This tiny change will have HUGE benefits for your state of mind and general well-being.
If you do nothing else that I recommend in this response…
Fix your sleep.
2. Exercise Every day for At Least 20 Minutes (Outside if Possible)
The research is clear…
Exercise is one of THE most important habits that you can include in your days.
Benefits include elevated mood, reduced stress and less anxiety and decreased depression.
In fact studies have shown that over a twelve week period, patients who exercised everyday achieved a higher rate of remission than patients using antidepressants!
And you don’t need a fancy gym membership or a $5,000 home gym setup to reap the benefits.
Simply completing 15 minutes of HIIT cardio (High Intensity Interval Training) 4 times a week is more than enough to get the ball rolling.
Obviously, more is better. But if you are in a state of deep depression, it can feel overwhelming to try exercising every day for an hour or more.
Start with 15 minutes 3–4 times a week and I promise you will feel a difference in your mood, mindset, and quality of life.
3. Use Food As Your Medicine
Most people underestimate the impact that the foods they consume have on their state of mind and general well-being.
However, after a phenomenal study was conducted by Felice Jacka Ph.D. at Deakin University in Australia, we can conclusively state that dietary changes can significantly reduce or completely eradicate depressive symptoms.
I’ll save you from all of the dreary details of the study and instead provide you with a list of foods to avoid and consume.
Here is a list of encouraged and discouraged foods:
- Encouraged foods: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, low-fat/ unsweetened dairy, raw unsalted nuts, lean red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, and olive oil
- Discouraged foods: sweets, refined cereals, fried food, fast food, processed meat, soft drinks.
- Beverages: maximum two sugar-sweetened beverages per week and maximum two alcoholic drinks per day, preferably red wine with the occasional screw-up 😉
By simply changing what you eat, you will notice an immediate reduction in your depressive symptoms and show up in your days with more energy, enthusiasm, and joy.
Sounds crazy, I know.
But give it a go for yourself and tell me it doesn’t work.
4. Use These Supplements to Beat Depression Even Faster
There’s no single pill you can take that will magically make your depression go away.
Heck, even the pharmaceuticals that are so readily prescribed take weeks to work and often require multiple attempts to find a medication that gets the job done.
However, the following supplements have been proven through years of research and clinical trials to aid in combatting depression and improving mental health.
Just make sure you find a high-quality brand for each one and consume them on a regular basis
5 HTP: 5 HTP or 5-hydroxytryptophan is a fantastic natural option for increasing serotonin levels. This natural percussor to serotonin was studied in an experiment where 63 individuals took 300 mg of 5-HTP for 6 weeks. At the end of the study, researchers found that 5 HTP can have the same depression relief as traditional SSRI’s without the negative side effects.
Fish Oil: Fish oil is rich in omega 3 which are tremendously important for optimal brain health. Studies have shown that many depressed individuals suffer from low levels of omega 3’s and their depressive symptoms were significantly reduced or completely eradicated by adding this essential building block into their diets.
B Complex Vitamins: B complex vitamins (especially b6 and b3) have been shown to help your body conserve more of the amino acid tryptophan allowing the body to convert it into serotonin. A 2004 study of 140 individuals found that nearly all clinically depressed patients had low levels of vitamin B6 in their bloodstream.
L-Theanine: The amino acid L-theanine, which is a derivative of the amino acid found in green tea has long been known to release GABA into the brain, a wildly calming neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation but which is difficult to absorb through traditional supplements. I recommend putting 100 Mg of L-theanine into your morning coffee to increase the presence of GABA in your brain while simultaneously preventing a caffeine crash later in the day.
Vitamin D3: Most American’s suffer from chronically low levels of vitamin d. We no longer spend time outside and, as a result, we no longer have the same concentration of vitamin d in our blood. Many studies have concluded that increasing vitamin D levels by supplementing with 10,000 IU or more per day can significantly reduce depression in patients.
Tumeric: Tumeric has been shown to have a host of beneficial properties. Among those is that it increases the synthesis of BDNF of brain-derived nootropic factor, an essential hormone for optimal cognitive function and mental health.
Holy Basil: Holy Basil has long been known to be a powerful healing agent. Among its healing properties is that it can lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and ease stress and tension, all of which are powerful antidepressant factors.
5. Go Full Monk Mode and Meditate Daily
Meditation is the equivalent of shutting out all of the open tabs and programs on your computer to free up the RAM and increase your processing power.
It is one of the single most powerful weapons in your arsenal to fight depression.
There’s a mound of research showing the positive benefits of meditation, including deactivating the anxiety and depression centres in the brain.
Meditation is also proven to help:
- Lower blood pressure
- Alleviate symptoms of insomnia
- Reduce depression and anxiety
- Reduce pain
- Reduce symptoms of IBS
- Aid in smoking cessation
Meditation is one of nature’s miracle drugs. And it’s completely FREE.
I recommend that you start small, meditating only 5 minutes a day for your first week.
You can use an app like Headspace if you want to have a more structured experience or you can simply go to YouTube and search “10 Minute Meditation”.
Slowly work your way up until you are meditating for at least 20 minutes a day 5–7 days a week.
I promise that your life will never be the same once you commit to this practice.
Part II: Mindset and Life Hacks to Eradicate Depression and Live an Amazing Life
While fixing physical deficiencies through sleep, exercise and diet is often enough to send your depression into remission, oftentimes there are other steps that you must take in order to fully conclude your battle with the so-called black dog.
Once you’ve taken action on the first part of this response, I recommend that you begin including some of the following habits and activities into your daily life to completely eradicate your depression once and for all.
1. Clear Your Mind with a Daily Journal
Your brain is just like any other organ in your body.
If you don’t regularly take the time to clean it out and empty the clutter, eventually it will become so clogged up it won’t function the way it was intended.
Think about it like this…
If you drink a few glasses of water you will fill your bladder up and feel the urge to go and urinate.
If you ignore this urge and continue drinking water, eventually your bladder will continue swelling until it either explodes or you pee yourself.
This is just how your brain works.
If you don’t take the time to regularly empty your mind through journaling or “Brain Dumping” as I like to call it, your mind will be so full that it will feel like it’s going to explode.
But this isn’t just my opinion.
Studies have shown that individuals who journal on a regular basis have higher levels of emotional control, lower levels of depression, and a greater ability to manage anxiety and worry.
I recommend that you spend 10 minutes every morning writing down the loops that are running in your head.
The impact will be profound.
2. Express Gratitude Daily
Dayly gratitude is like putting a supercharger on your “Anti Depressant” engine.
It is one of the most effective and long lasting habits to beat depression once and for all.
Gratitude can help increase happiness by more than 10%…
That’s equivalent to the happiness boost you would experience from doubling your income!
It’s also been shown that improving sleep increases your odds of career success, and improve the quality of your romantic and platonic relationships.
And the best part?
It costs nothing and takes less than 2 minutes a day to practice.
I recommend that you put a pen and notepad by your bed and write down five things you are grateful for every single morning and then write out 3 wins and 5 more gratitudes right before you go to bed.
By beginning and ending your days with gratitude, you will hardwire your brain to focus on everything that is right with your life instead of everything that isn’t working.
And I can tell you from personal experience, once you do this, your life will never be the same.
3. Laugh Until Your Stomach Hurts Every Day
You’ve heard the expression “Laughter is the best medicine” right?
Well there’s a lot more truth to this statement than you probably realize.
Laughter has been shown to:
- Strengthen the immune system by activating cells that attack viruses.
- Lower blood pressure for some by inducing relaxation and preventing the release of stress hormones such as cortisol.
- Trigger the release of endorphins which give you a sense of well-being. These endorphins are also natural painkillers.
- Reduce stress and anxiety because it naturally relaxes you. Laughter induces your heart rate to slow down and your blood pressure to decrease.
- Increases our creativity as it encourages a new perspective to look at things.
- Improves our mood through social connection and an increased feeling of belonging. Laughing with friends can decrease feelings of alienation and lowers our risk for depression.
I recommend that you binge watch funny Netflix shows, attend comedy clubs, and watch stand-ups in your spare time.
Yes… I’m giving you permission to goof off on the internet. As long as it makes you laugh until your stomach hurt.
4. Spend More Time in the Great Outdoors
I personally believe that our disconnection from the natural world is the #1 leading cause of depression.
10,000 years ago, we were surrounded by plants, animals and awe inspiring views on a daily basis.
Today, we live in air-conditioned boxes.
We wake up in our box room, sit in a box to drive to work, spend 8 hours sitting in a box staring at a screen, and then come home and watch another box until we fall asleep!
But this isn’t just my personal opinion…
Plenty of research has been done on the how spending time in nature affects depressed patients.
In fact research has found that walking in nature reduced depression scores in nearly 71% of patients!
But here’s where things get really interesting.
When the researchers compared the effects of walking in nature to a control group that walked through a shopping centre, they found that only 45% of shopping centre walkers reduced their depression scores with 22% of them actually citing increased feelings of depression!
If you are serious about beating depression, then do yourself a favour and GET OUTSIDE.
I strongly encourage you to spend at least 3 hours a week walking outdoors, whether it’s at your local park, along the beach, or through the mountains.
Get out of your box and get into the world.
I promise you will feel a difference.
5. Make the CHOICE to Live in a Beautiful State
At the end of the day, the single most important decision that you can ever make is the decision to live in a beautiful state.
Considering all that we know about the physical and neurological effects of depression, it might sound weird for me to tell you to simply choose to live in a beautiful state and eradicate your own depression.
It can’t be that simple, right?
Well, yes and no.
I’m not suggesting that you can simply snap yourself out of a depressive episode by saying “Meh, I want to be happy!”
But I am saying that depression and happiness are a choice.
You can choose to do the work necessary to beat your depression or you can choose to continue living in a dark and miserable state.
You have the power to decide how you feel and what you will and will not tolerate from your life.
Choose to live in a beautiful state. Accept responsibility for your emotions. Notice the negativity as it arises and make a conscious effort to redirect your thoughts and emotions to a more empowering place.
Accepting responsibility for our emotional states and internalizing the fact that living in a beautiful state is a choice is hard to believe, I know.
But the fact remains… You have a choice.
So what do you choose?