Ways to Overcome Depression

Overcoming Depression

Carolina Conte / Getty Images

The first thing you should know about overcoming depression is that it is possible. Your choices matter and can make an impact on the course of your illness.

Fortunately, lots of research has been done on some of the lifestyle choices and treatment options that can potentially shorten a depressive episode or decrease the likelihood of a relapse.

Depression is such a complicated illness and effects each individual differently. It makes sense then that there isn’t one silver bullet for recovery from depression. Successful management of depression is typically achieved using a multi-pronged or the ‘come at it from all angles’ approach.

Here is some of what we know about what you can do to help overcome depression.

Press Play for Advice On Mental Strength

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares 10 lessons about building mental strength. Click below to listen now.

Follow Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts

Lifestyle Changes

Sometimes, making some changes to your lifestyle can help to improve your depression.


There is some evidence that exercise can lead to improvement in mild to moderate depression.

However, you should know that some studies are inconclusive about the benefits of exercise on depression or show that the benefits are not long lasting. But don’t put away your sneakers just yet.

Physical activity can still be a constructive coping mechanism, provide temporary relief or distraction from negative emotions and be an integral part of self-care, all of which contribute to the management of depressive symptoms.

Limit Your Alcohol Intake

Watching your alcohol intake is another important step in the battle against depression.

In the short term, alcohol can feel great, alleviate boredom and lessen anxiety. For these reasons, alcohol can be a bit too appealing to the depressed individual. It can feel like a quick fix and easily become an inappropriate way of self-soothing.

Frequent alcohol use can lead to unwanted consequences such as dependence, sleep disturbances and may actually worsen your mood.

This is not to vilify your glass of wine with dinner, but alcohol is a mood-altering substance that should be approached with caution if you are prone to depressive episodes.

Alcohol added to a festive celebration is quite different from alcohol added to the sadness and anxiety that comes with depression.

Keeping your relationship with alcohol in check can be crucial to keeping your depression in check. Taking a step back with periods of abstinence can help you evaluate the role alcohol is playing in your life.

Make Time For Fun

When was the last time you had fun or had one of those belly laughs that feels like an ab workout? Making time for pleasurable activities and nurturing, quality relationships that bring you joy is an integral part of defeating depression.

Although depression isn’t always a direct result of your present life circumstances, it is a factor. Your day should include some amount of fun.

Simple acts like connecting with a loved one, a bubble bath or watching a comedy can help you connect to happiness, even if it’s briefly.

Sometimes good times just happen, but you are not alone if you find yourself having to mindfully pursue and make time for a bit of bliss. In other words, take fun seriously.


The catch about lifestyle changes that help with depression is that, sometimes, you can be too depressed to set those positive changes in motion.

For those individuals who are stuck in that thick, immobilizing mud of depression that makes brushing your teeth or making your bed feel insurmountable, starting an exercise program may not be realistic.


Medication can be used to diminish your symptoms enough to get started with healthier habits. Medication; however, is not a replacement for healthier habits.

Antidepressants sometimes get a bad rap, but they are shown to be safe, effective and can significantly shorten the duration of a depressive episode.

Find a prescriber who can discuss your options with you and who makes time to listen to all of your questions and concerns. You should feel heard and that you have a clear understanding of what you can reasonably expect regarding side effects and benefits.

Many people often wait too long to try medication and view it as a last resort option. While it may not be the best option for everyone, it's possible that it may work well for you.

When Medication Might Be a Good Option

The standard used in medicine is that the effects of an illness have to be worse than the side effects of treatment for that illness. In other words, if your depression symptoms are more debilitating than the potential side effects of medication, then taking an antidepressant it might be a good choice for you.

If you're considering medication, speak with your doctor or therapist; they can help you determine whether it's a good option for you.


The following procedures may be used for treatment-resistant depression, or when a patient is not responding to treatment:

Talk Therapy

Psychotherapy can be a great outlet and an opportunity to view your life through a more objective lens. A therapist’s job essentially is to hold space for you to talk through your issues without fear of judgment.

As common as depression is, it can still be an extremely isolating experience. Therapy can help you feel less alone.

The helplessness and hopelessness of depression can obscure a path to meaningful change. A good therapist can help you with this and contribute to lasting recovery from a depressive episode.

Maintain a Long-Term Relationship With Your Therapist

The truth about depression is that for some, it is a re-occurring illness and many can go on to have several bouts over the course of their lifetime. This makes having a sustained relationship with a mental health professional a good idea.

Depending on what you need at a given time, you can increase or decrease the frequency of the appointments, while maintaining a therapeutic relationship with someone whose approach to therapy works for you and who knows your story.

This is particularly important because the process of finding a therapist or psychiatrist that has time for you, takes your insurance and with whom you connect with is a daunting task for someone in the midst of a depressive episode.

Alternative Treatments

Some people report benefits from the following treatment modalities despite the lack of direct evidence:

Positive Self-Talk

Many people understand that consistent exercise can change your body but some don’t accept that you can apply that same approach to changing the way you think.

Tune in to the tone and content of your inner chatter and work on changing it if it isn’t positive.

Many of us say things to ourselves that we would never dare say to another person. Do you call yourself an idiot when you spill a cup of coffee or can’t immediately master a task at work?

If so, you would benefit from working on changing that. Carve out time every day to speak lovingly and gently to yourself. Try doing it while you shower or just before bed.

Setting the intention to diminish negative inner chatter is an important mental shift that can help with overcoming depression.

A Word From Verywell

Dealing with depression can be daunting but knowing that there are things you can do to manage your mood can be empowering. Your daily habits can help or hinder you on the road to recovery from depression.

If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Schuch FB, Stubbs B. The Role of Exercise in Preventing and Treating DepressionCurr Sports Med Rep. 2019;18(8):299-304. doi:10.1249/JSR.0000000000000620

  2. McHugh RK, Weiss RD. Alcohol Use Disorder and Depressive DisordersAlcohol Res. 2019;40(1):arcr.v40.1.01. Published 2019 Jan 1. doi:10.35946/arcr.v40.1.01

  3. Sarris J, O'Neil A, Coulson CE, Schweitzer I, Berk M. Lifestyle medicine for depressionBMC Psychiatry. 2014;14:107. Published 2014 Apr 10. doi:10.1186/1471-244X-14-107

  4. Agius M, Bonnici H. Antidepressants in use in clinical practicePsychiatr Danub. 2017;29(Suppl 3):667-671.

  5. Ribeiro Â, Ribeiro JP, von Doellinger O. Depression and psychodynamic psychotherapyBraz J Psychiatry. 2018;40(1):105-109. doi:10.1590/1516-4446-2016-2107

By Margaret Seide, MD
Margaret Seide, MS, MD, is a board-certified psychiatrist who specializes in the treatment of depression, addiction, and eating disorders.