I find that using a preventative approach towards depression is an absolutely critical part of an overall treatment program. Many of us that live with a type of low-grade, chronic depression (dysthmia) will find this approach most effective.
Because while it may take a tremendous amount of energy to get motivated and begin one of these activities -- with a little planning and determination, we can implement "relaxation" activities quite easily.
1. Read. A lot of us have devoured scores of motivational and self-help books, hoping that we could "read" ourselves out of our depression. But this time, I want you to read strictly for enjoyment. Strictly for no reason other than to enjoy the story. That's why I like to read a few chapters of a novel before I go to bed. It relaxes me and allows me to escape.
2. Turn Everything Off. We have been living in such an "techie" world these days, that we always have something plugged in and on in the house. The radio. The TV. The kids electronic toys. The dishwasher. The blow dryer. But if you take 15 conscious minutes out of your day and just turn everything off - zero sound - and sit or lay down. You will first discover how tremendously difficult it is at first, but with more practice you will find it to be the most "centered" part of your day.
3. Eat Something Yummy. There are tons of studies and statistics, as well as it being self-evident that chocolate increases our serotonin levels and makes us feel better in times of physical (menstrual cycle) or emotional stress. So could you pass the Hershey's bar please?
4. Take a LONG Shower or Bath. Bathing has been used as a relaxation technique for centuries. Why change that now? While many of us tend to take quick showers in order to get to work etc. - we should set aside a special time where we can pull out the candles, pour the bubble bath, and just relax. Another thing I find that works are those menthol shower tablets that you can use if you are congested - they work just as fine if you're not - and are relaxing.
5. Take A Nap. I profess that I do not use this but my husband does. In high moments of stress, he will absolutely take a 20 minute nap and wake up refreshed and ready to handle the task at hand.
6. Exercise--but fun! Pick something physical that you LOVE to do and go do it. Go to the nearest Y and take a swim. Bike ride. Roller skate. Think of things you use to do when you were young. Jump rope (double-dutch was my fav'!).
Exercise is proven to decrease symptoms of depression and will benefit you twice-over if you love what you are doing.
7. Laugh. Laughing is therapeutic. I've read studies that suggested in a trial of cancer patients - that the ones who laughed on a regular basis lived longer than the other control group. So while I love television dramas too - why not try a sitcom this season, or go to a comedy show, and laugh your bootie off!
8. Get The Spirit. Millions of people can't be wrong -- you can find peace, solace, and serenity when you seek something spiritual. Whether that is in church, temple, mosque, or through mediation, chanting, etc.
9. Pamper Yourself. Do something nice for yourself. My favorite is to get a massage. Pre-economic slump, I would do it completely up and go to my favorite spa in Manhattan and get the works. But nowadays, I can still pamper myself by going to a massage school and getting a great massage for a steal or even having my hubby give me a great massage. Nothing beats the loving hands of a spouse :-)
10. Sex. Sex is proven to be a very relaxing and calming activity. My gynecologist is a popular speaker around the country, and she is always touting the physical benefits of sex (with orgasm). Now don't worry if you don't have a partner. In her research, she has found that it doesn't really matter if the release is found with someone else or by our own hand (masturbation). Sex is absolutely a great way to alter your mood.
Lisa Angelettie MSW, "GirlShrink" is a psychotherapist, author, and certified Life Coach. Her site GirlShrink.com is the #1 "Advice & Counseling" site on the web. For more information on how to beat your depression naturally - without drugs - visit her site: NaturallyDepressionFree.com