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5 Universal Principles for Overcoming Depression

by Jan 4, 2024

Every depression is unique.

However, there are certain principles that you can remember when you start experiencing a depression (or if you’re in one now).

Let’s look at all the ways that you can use the principles to guide you through your struggle, even when it feels harder than ever.

  1. It Does Not Serve You to See It as Permanent

If you’ve been diagnosed with depression, it does not mean you are doomed to suffer it forever.

People can and do recover. 

If you choose to see it as something you “are” and not something that you are currently struggling with, then you won’t be inclined to even try to get better.

Here are some better ways to view it…

  • It’s better to look at depression as a signal. It’s a sign that something is amiss in your life and needs to be addressed, even if you aren’t aware of what it is yet.
  • It could be that you are a highly sensitive person reacting to your environment. It could be that you are not prone to depression so much as you are prone to strong emotions. Things upset you that may not upset other people. You can choose to see this as a gift, as fuel for creative endeavors, or as motivation for bringing positive change to the world.
  • It could be something you had not previously considered. There may still be reasons for your depression that are unknown to you, and you still need to find out more about what makes you tick.

Takeaway: See depression as a storm to weather, and if you navigate it properly, you can make it to better days.

  1. Take a Hard Look at Your Habits and Your Environment

The bad habits that diminish us and the good habits we avoid can pile on our psyches without us realizing it.

Maybe your environment is the source of your stress. Maybe you’ve become so accustomed to chaos, neglect, or abuse that you’ve ceased to see it as a problem, and your depression stems from ignoring these issues in your home or workplace.

Here are some good habits to practice if you’re going through depression and their depression-fueling opposites:

  • Maintaining good hygiene, even when it’s a struggle to get out of bed, vs. neglecting to shower, shave, and brush your teeth out of lack of motivation.
  • Raising the energy levels in your body by engaging in some form of regular exercise vs. letting depression plant you in one place for days. 
  • Choose creative or stimulating activities to cope with depression vs. aimless internet scrolling on websites (YouTube, Reddit, TikTok) that soothe your depression temporarily but always cause you more pain in the long run.

Takeaway: As best you can, try to divorce yourself from the parts of your daily routine and environment that bring you trouble and replace those with anything that might uplift you, whether that be better friends, music, an art form, or a new place to live.

  1. Consider That You May Have Some Trauma

A lot of people don’t believe they have any trauma. They look back on their childhoods and conclude that everything was “normal.”

But when they start going to therapy, they realize that things aren’t as normal as they thought.

You discover that childhood experiences can color your perception of yourself and the world and that they may be contributing to the depression you’re experiencing in the present.

Anyone looking to heal from depression would benefit from examining and working through old traumas. You can start becoming aware of those moments when childhood creeps back up on you. And once you are aware, you can learn how to give yourself what you need.

Takeaway: Being unaware of traumas could be what’s keeping you in your depression cycles.

  1. Change Self Talk and Negative Beliefs

The most practical way of addressing depression is by examining the negative thoughts themselves.

In a depression, self-talk is devastatingly negative: “I’m worthless; this is hopeless; what’s the point?”

If you can take control of these beliefs, or at least get a hold on why they might be occurring so frequently (past trauma?), then you can start to work with them.

Test your negative beliefs against reality. Then, you can build a new foundation for your beliefs grounded in fact.

After multiple rounds of doing this and backing it with positive action toward improving your circumstances, you can fill your mind with more positive beliefs. Compassionate self-talk breaks the virtual reality that your overly negative beliefs and attitudes have over you.

Takeaway: Self-compassion is a learned practice. Being in a depression is the time when it counts most.

  1. It May Just Be a Season of Life

This is a perspective you can take if nothing has been working thus far.

It could be the case that the depression you’re going through will pass on its own.

That might sound ridiculous right now, but you can choose to look at this period as a season of life and not a permanent state. Even if it’s been months or longer, emotions will still fluctuate, and things rarely stay the same.

Takeaway: Do the best you can to keep your life together and keep yourself well until you start feeling different. Depression may pass on its own.

If You’re Still Struggling…

If you can only change one aspect of your mindset when you’re depressed, change this: You’re in a fight, so see every inch forward as a victory. 

  • You made it out of bed — Victory.
  • You took a shower — Victory.
  • You picked some clothes up off the floor — Victory.
  • You made it to therapy — Victory.

One more thing: Talk to someone about it. If there is a single person in your life that you can share your pain with, do not keep it inside you. See telling them your pain as another victory because it always takes courage to do so.

Depression is like a weight that makes everything more difficult, but you can make it through to better days if you can do the following…

  • Do not see it as a permanent state of being.
  • Consider it a passing season.
  • Critically examine your daily habits and your environment.
  • Address past traumas.
  • Dismantle old beliefs and replace them with ones that serve you.

Do not stop. Even if it’s difficult. Keep giving yourself chances, and keep going no matter what.