Powerful techniques to optimize your emotions, beliefs, and behaviors

Overcoming Depression

"What causes depression? Isn't it more than a simple chemical imbalance in the brain? What methods overcome depression?"

**Warning if you are suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts consult with a therapist. **


Most depressions (I'm not talking about bipolar here) do have a brain chemical component, but that chemistry is a result of actions or lack of them, distorted thoughts, poor sleep, poor eating habits, lack of exercise, self-criticism, poor social connections, and rumination/worry among other causes.

The major causes of depression are likely from a combination of any of the following.

Higher ranking causes:

*Rumination. Rumination, that negative internal chant, not only lowers mood during waking hours, it assails us with "over dreaming" if we fall asleep ruminating. This
"over dreaming" leads to early waking. This gets the stone tumbling downhill to fatigue, down moods, and a disinclination
to be active. Stopping rumination is a major target for folks who want to shed depression.

*Distorted negative thinking not only constructs rumination, it forms the basis of our self-critical voice and paints our environment and how we view others with dark strokes.
Challenging and changing distorted thinking is one powerful road out of depression.

*Self-acceptance is a keeper. Having a self-critical and negative inner voice will turn on the probability of depression and leads to rumination.

*Poor sleeping habits can add to the potential for developing depression. We need that 7 to 8 hours per night to have a sunny mood and sustain our energy. Poor
sleep changes our brain chemistry and makes us tired.

*Lack of meaningful, important, and pleasurable activities. These sorts of activities make life worth living and lift our mood. They also crowd out rumination, lead to physical activity and a sense of control over our lives. Having a sense of control over our lives is something most depressed folks lack.

*Lack of a social network and poor social skills. Having friends and gabbing either in person or on the phone or IM is important to our mental health. We share our feelings during these times and expand our view of the world around us. Poor social skills make it hard to connect with others and sustain vital relationships.

*Poor diet. Lack of essential vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, proteins, antioxidants, fiber, fat, and plenty of fruits and veggies can challenge our brain chemistry and make us more depression prone.

*Lack of winter light and Vitamin D can be contributing factors to Seasonal Affective Disorder which in turn can lead to a major winter depression. Light boxes, early morning walks, sitting by a brightly lit window, and taking Vitamin D3 all inhibit Seasonal Affective Disorder.

*Chronic high-stress and adrenal burnout can launch a bout of depression.

*A lack of assertiveness skills will hurt our chances of maintaining our boundaries, having control over our lives, and getting what we prefer.

*Traumas and very upsetting events can tip the scale. These can lead to higher stress, poor eating, and poor sleeping that can snowball into depression.

*Having important and meaningful goals and visions and following through on them will lift our moods.

*Lack of physical exercise can lead to poor overall health and down moods. Exercise is important for our health and well-being.

Lower ranking causes:

*Illness and hormonal imbalances can tip someone over into the lower mood and depression column.

*Environmental stresses can roll out the rug for depression.

*Addictions and habitual self-defeating behaviors can lower our moods and make us depression prone.

*Suffering from anxiety can block us and shepherd us in the direction of depression. Anxiety needs to be overcome.


Folks who look at depression through the framework of biology will tend to see only biological causes and biological interventions (antidepressants). They may not give credence to other causes and potential agents of change. Research shows us that depression can be successfully overcome through physical exercise, structured activity, changing distorted beliefs, utilizing social networks and so forth. None of these natural activities provide "side-effects" save for minor exercise injuries. All of these natural activities and belief change methods do alter our brain chemistry and are mostly inexpensive.

Many individuals are very successful with drug-free methods for overcoming depression. Studies show that physical exercise, structured activities, changing distorted beliefs, utilizing social networks and the like perform better than anti-depressants and lead to fewer or no future depressive episodes. In research analyses of anti-depressant study outcomes anti-depressants often just edged placebo controls. Not impressive. Anti-depressants can be costly and often possess uncomfortable side-effects. Many first prescribed anti-depressants have little or no effect on depression. Often patients are forced to "try out" one, two, or several other brands before they find a minimal fit. Patients, when they eventually wean themselves off their anti-depressant prescriptions, may go through a period of feeling ill.


To compound the antidepressant picture whistleblowers wrote an article in the January 2008 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. In this article researchers pointed out that several major pharmaceutical companies "doctored" reported research on the efficacy of antidepressant medications and left out negative studies or wrote up negative reports in such a way as to make them sound positive.  This article sent a shockwave through the psychiatric community and left the impression that antidepressants were nothing more than overpriced sugar pills with nasty side effects. 


Click here for the article that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine.



I believe these to be the better helps for overcoming regular depression:

*Halting distorted thinking can be extremely helpful in overcoming depression. Being able to recognize and change distorted and absolutistic thinking goes far in blocking the kinds of distorted thinking that negatively effects our perceptions, brain chemistry, moods, energy levels, and outlook. See our Tips on Thought Distortions and Chapter 6 in "Your Emotional Power" and visit "Changing Distorted Thinking" at

*Squashing rumination with the "Thought Chiller" or the "Rumination Breaker". Ending the repetitive negative inner chant of rumination can help a person make great strides in terminating depression. Especially important is turning off rumination prior to bed where rumination can do most of its damage by causing over dreaming and early waking. Writing down your ruminative thoughts to put the brakes on rumination. Stopping rumination improves mood, leads to better sleep, and raises our energy levels. If you want to unload depression with some speed breaking rumination prior to sleep is a key. Visit the "Thought Chiller" and the "Rumination Breaker" in the A-Z technique list at Read the appendix on depression
in "Your Emotional Power".

*Natural mood elevation can be found in exercise (aerobics, walking, running, strength training), sound sleep, pleasurable activities, recalling pleasurable memories, and eating high protein meals without carbs early in the day. Look into Omega 3 oils, Vitamin D, L-tyrosine, L-phenylalanine, and B-complex supplements. Taking anti-depressants ought to be a last resort and only if you are severely depressed. According to studies anti-depressants are not as good as exercise, cognitive style therapy, improved social interaction, and taking action on pleasurable, important, and meaningful activities in their ability to lift depressed persons' moods. Prescriptions for anti-depressants can be costly. Often anti-depressants take a week to two weeks to begin to lift moods if at all. Very often folks have to try several brands before they get one to work successfully for their depression and they often encounter uncomfortable side effects and weight gain. If you can, take up walking, jogging, swimming, aeorobic movement, strength training, or elliptical exercise. These activities work quickly on raising moods, are cheap, and don't have many side-effects (Walking can be done by just about anyone).

*Daily committing to and following through on important, meaningful, and pleasurable activities is one way to overcome depression. The Action Maneuver shows how to unhook from emotional paralysis and take action. Being absorbed in meaningful and important activities gives us a sense of control over our lives and elevates our moods. See a "Call to Action" and the "Action Maneuver" in the A-Z techniques list at

*Self-Acceptance. A major keystone in overcoming depression is being able to accept ourselves (no negative self-labeling) and treat ourselves in a caring and loving manner just because we choose to do so. It’s important to learn to accept ourselves unconditionally. We can lay off downing ourselves and accept ourselves,
even though we may have negative traits and behaviors. We can accept ourselves and see our self as something separate from what we do and our physical traits. See the appendix on Self-acceptance in "Your Emotional Power".

*Begin to notice what's positive now and in the near future. Creating goals and visions and carrying
them out helps us put our attention on what's positive and absorbing. See The Creator and The Goal Maker in the A-Z list at Visit the chapter on "Creating a Preferred Future" in "Your Emotional Power".


*Being assertive, being able to express your thoughts and feelings, and having good interpersonal skills in place can help with depression. See our "Assertiveness and Anger Learn-in in the Emoclear Forums at Yuku.

*Behavior repatterning. Certain kinds of behavior like inactivity, procrastination, and rumination heighten depression. Doing behavioral repatterning with the Behavioral Repatterner can halt stuck and self-defeating behavior. Read about the Behavior Repatterner in "Your Emotional Power". Visit the "Pattern Tree" and the "Habit Cracker" at the A-Z list at

*Do more of what you find enjoyable, meaningful, and important. This helps crowd out the negative rumination and down moods. To get started see a "Call to Action" and the "Action Maneuver" at


*Recent research at Washington University in St. Louis and at the University of Arizona has shown that people who have long, deep, and meaningful conversations, rather than chit-chat tend to be happier.  They are happier than people who spend more time alone or who just make small talk.  Long, deep, and meaningful conversation turns on emotional well-being and likely makes for deeper connections with others.


*Get in the habit of giving others genuine compliments and spotting positive things about them. This habit will often draw complements back and will build a more positive outlook.

*Accept that weaknesses and mistakes are part of our innate human fallibility. People make mistakes and shouldn't be put down for them. Indecisiveness and lack of commitment strengthen the possibility of depression. Helplessness and hopelessness leads to depression as does feeling like a victim with no control or choices. These are all targets for change. See our Depression Learn-in at the Emoclear Forums at Yuku.

*More recent research has shed a positive light on placebeo treatments for depression.  Placebo treatments, basically the power of suggesting hope and positive outcomes, coupled with a therapist's authority, attention, and concern, appears to work as well as any active therapuetic measure such as psychotherapy or exercise.  Be mindful that the consumer has to believe in hope and positive outcome for the placebo approach to work.

*If anxiety is interfering with your life, find ways to overcome it. Read Appendix One: "Tips on Anxiety and Depression" in "Your Emotional Power". See the Anxiety Learn-in in the Emoclear Forums at Yuku.

Common mistakes people make in attempting to overcome depression are these:

*Not doing anything beyond using a prescription anti-depressant. There's more effective ways to deal with depression than just anti-depressants.
Anti-depressants seldom keep someone from having return bouts of depression. While they may temporarily change moods, they seldom if ever lead to a permanent change in thinking and habitual behavior. Therapy or self-help involving changing distorted beliefs, activities, physical exercise, and social interaction helps keep the wolf from the door.

*Failure to target rumination. Rumination is a major player in depression because not only does it depress, it also causes early waking which leads to fatigue and increasing depression.

*Avoiding working on your distorted thinking by challenging it and changing it. It's these thoughts that slug us down

*Focusing on feelings. Working directly with depressed feelings will tend to magnify them and create more of the same. Better to focus on breaking rumination, mood elevating activities, and taking action on what's important, meaningful, and pleasurable.

*Trying to work on self-esteem when it's far more advantageous to learn to unconditionally accept ourselves.

*Not standing up for what you want through being assertive.

*Not taking advantage of exercise and its mood lifting affects.

*Failure to notice eating habits affects on depression. Eating lean proteins like lean white meat or whey protein in the morning without carbs will leave someone in a more upbeat mood. It's an effective way to alter brain chemistry without negative side-effects.
Take care, Steve