for better mental health

Depression

Information about depression, its symptoms and possible causes, and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips on caring for yourself, and guidance for friends and family.

This page is also available in Welsh (Cymraeg).

Coronavirus (Covid-19) is impacting all our lives, and we know that the usual advice might not quite apply. Some ideas for looking after yourself may feel unrealistic right now. And some treatment and support options will be harder to access, or may be unavailable for a while. But we hope that you can still find information here that helps you understand what you're going through, and find a path forward.
You can also find lots of resources in our coronavirus information hub. And our page of coronavirus useful contacts can direct you to more support.

What can I do to help myself for depression?

Experiencing depression can be very difficult, but there are steps you can take that might help. This page has some suggestions for you to consider:

It might feel hard to start talking about how you are feeling, but many people find that just sharing their experiences can help them feel better. It may be that just having someone listen to you and show they care can help in itself.

If you aren't able to open up to someone close to you, the Samaritans run a 24-hour helpline that you can call to talk to someone confidentially.

Read Jess' blog about how talking about her depression made her feel less alone.

"[What helps is] surrounding myself with friends and family who understand without pointing it out, who treat me normally but recognise that everyday life can be a struggle sometimes."

Peer support brings together people who've had similar experiences to support each other. Many people find it helps them to share ideas about how to stay well, connect with others and feel less alone. You could:

See our pages on peer support for more information about what peer support involves, and how to find peer support that suits you. If you're new to online peer support, you might find it helpful to read our information on online mental health.

Read Sue's blog about finding a place to fit in at her local peer support group.

"I find reading other people's experiences makes me feel less like I'm alone in this. It's actually made me feel more comfortable."

Mindfulness is a way of giving your full attention to the present moment. Some studies show that practising mindfulness can help to manage depression.

Some structured mindfulness-based therapies have also been developed to treat these problems more formally. For example, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for the management of depression.

See our pages on mindfulness for more information about what it involves and how to get started.

"Mindfulness does help me with my mental health issues. It's not the cure and it won't work every single time, but it has helped me to alleviate anxiety and depression by centring my thoughts."

Experiencing depression can make it hard to find the energy to look after yourself. But taking steps to look after your physical health can make a difference to how you feel:

  • Try to get good sleep. For lots of people who experience depression, sleeping too little or too much can be a daily problem. Getting good sleep can help to improve your mood and increase your energy levels. See our pages on coping with sleep problems for tips to help.
  • Think about your diet. Eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar stable can make a difference to your mood and energy levels. See our pages on food and mood for more tips.
  • Try to do some physical activity. Many people find exercise a challenge but activities like yoga, swimming or walking can be a big boost to your mood. If you don't feel confident doing exercise, you could start off with smaller activities - such as gentle chair-based exercises in your own home - and build from there. See our pages on physical activity and your mental health for more information.
  • Try to look after your hygiene. When you're experiencing depression, it's easy for hygiene to not feel like a priority. But small things, like taking a shower and getting fully dressed whether or not you're going out of the house, can make a big difference to how you feel.
  • Try to avoid recreational drugs and alcohol. While you might want to use recreational drugs or alcohol to cope with difficult feelings about yourself, in the long run they can make you feel worse and can prevent you from dealing with underlying problems. We have more information about how recreational drugs and alcohol can affect your mental health.

Read Karl's blog about how exercise helped him manage his depression.

"I try to keep active, even if that's just getting out of bed, washed and ready before 10am, so that the days don't become an endless blur of nothingness."

  • Try joining a group. This could be anything from a community project or a sports team to a hobby group. The important thing is to find an activity you enjoy, or perhaps something you've always wanted to try, to help you feel motivated.
  • Try new things. Trying something new, like starting a new hobby, learning something new or even trying new food, can help boost your mood and break unhelpful patterns of thinking and behaviour.
  • Try volunteering. Volunteering, or just offering to help someone out, can make you feel better about yourself and less alone. Your local Volunteer Centre and the charity Do-It can help match you with a volunteering opportunity in your area.
  • Set realistic goals. Try to set yourself achievable goals, like getting dressed every day or cooking yourself a meal. Achieving these things can help you feel good and boost your self-confidence, and help you move on to bigger goals.

Read Vidura's blog about how street dancing helped him treat his depression.

Keeping a mood diary can help you keep track of any changes in your mood, and you might find that you have more good days than you think. It can also help you notice if any activities, places or people make you feel better or worse. There are many freely available, including diaries from Bipolar UK and MoodPanda.

Spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health problems like depression. For example, research into ecotherapy, a type of formal treatment which involves doing activities outside in nature, has shown it can help with mild to moderate depression. This might be due to combining regular physical activity and social contact with being outside in nature. See our information on nature and mental health for more tips.

Taking time to look after yourself, such as doing something you enjoy, can help to support your recovery and improve your quality of life. Take a look at our information on improving your self-esteem, improving your wellbeing and managing stress for further tips.

"I've made a list of things I usually enjoy, like knitting or playing the guitar, and I try to do little bits of these activities when I'm feeling low."

Some people find these ideas useful, but remember that different things work for different people at different times. Only try what you feel comfortable with, and try not to put too much pressure on yourself. If something isn't working for you (or doesn't feel possible just now), you can try something else, or come back to it another time.

This information was published in March 2019. We will revise it in 2022.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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