Depression is a sensitive subject, but it’s such a common problem that nearly everyone will experience it in some form.
There are a lot of mixed opinions about whether depression is something we are born with and if it’s something we can treat without pharmaceutical drugs.
Just to let you know where I’m at as someone who has suffered from depression, I believe we don’t need drugs to cure depression, but I also think our DNA might predispose us to it, as well. The reason why I think that is because most of the people in my immediate family have struggled with depression also.
Before we go any further, I want to mention that this is not medical advice. I’m not a doctor, and I have zero formal training in the field of mental health.
I’m only sharing information from my own experiences and from some of the resources I feel are most useful. However, the good news is that there is a lot of science to back up the things I’m going to talk about — if you’re the type of person that just has to know that before you give something a chance.
If you aren’t a regular reader or you haven’t read the posts I’ve published this month, I recommend reading everything I link to in this article because it will provide a closer look at why and how this stuff works.
I’ve never once told you to click on the links in my articles before, so that should indicate to you how important the referenced information is to get the most value from this article.
I’m going to discuss three different ways you can trick your mind out of depression:
- Through your physical actions
- By taking control of your mental state
- By altering the context of your environment
I discovered each one of these things at different times in life, from my childhood all the way up to college. However, since starting HMP I’ve found resources that validate the things I did and further explain why they work and how to apply them.
Take Physical Actions to Change How You Feel
Depression is known as a chemical imbalance. That’s why doctors prescribe drugs to increase the chemicals that make you feel happier.
The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t really create sustainable balance in your brain chemicals and it usually leads to dependency, which worsens depression. (Plus, that’s not even mentioning the fact that most antidepressants list suicidal thoughts and behavior as a common side effect.)
Learn more about brain chemicals: 4 Brain Chemicals That Make You Feel Happy, Loved, and Confident
drug dealer doctor doesn’t want you to know is that you can change your body’s chemistry without the use of drugs. Before I get more into that, I want to tell you how I first discovered this.
During college, I went through a tough bout of depression following a bad breakup. The breakup coincided with dealing with a drug addicted sibling that kept my family in a constant state of worry when she would disappear for days or weeks at a time, plus the fact that I was stressed out about money as a broke college student.
The breakup was just the final push I needed to fall into a state of deep depression.
I couldn’t eat because I had no appetite. I didn’t want to hang out with friends or do things I normally enjoyed. All I wanted to do was sleep so I could dream about a world that wasn’t my current reality.
Looking back, it’s embarrassing to even talk about because it’s just so pathetic. But I know there’s someone reading this who is going through that, so I think it’s important to share truthfully.
Finally, I decided enough is enough. Time wasn’t healing me like everyone said it would, so I decided to take control of the situation.
I read in psychology about the connection between mind and body, and specifically, about an experiment that found smiling could make you feel happier. So I decided to try it.
Every day, I forced myself to walk around campus with a smile on my face, even though it felt so fake. What I noticed is that people immediately treated me differently — people saw me smiling at them and they smiled back, which felt nice.
As dumb as it sounds, it honestly worked.
Little did I know at the time that our body language can control our emotions.
Learn more about body language and mood: How Your Body Language Affects Your Mood and Mindset
If you haven’t read that article I just linked, you need to read it to learn about power poses.
Here are two physical actions that can eliminate depression:
- Force yourself to smile all day. Not a big cheesy grin, but at least enough to where your lips curve up.
- Do two minutes of power poses first thing in the morning, and anytime you’re feeling the haze of depression or anxiety starting to form.
Another thing I did during this time is in regards to the context of my environment, which I’ll get to later.
Control Your Mental State to Create a Happier Mindset
Whether you realize it or not, happiness is a choice.
Happiness is a state of mind, not a destination. We aren’t meant to be happy 24/7 or we wouldn’t be happy anymore, we’d be bored.
Life needs ups and downs to be interesting.
The way to take control of your mind to choose happiness is to first change how you perceive your mind.
Most people think our mind is the guiding force of our body and life. It’s not.
Call it your soul or your higher conscious or your true self or the voice inside your head or the observer — “you” are the guiding force of your body and life.
Coincidentally, Jewel (yes the singer) was on the Ask Gary Vee show recently and she explains this concept perfectly.
“..our minds hijack us, and so a lot of us use “escape” so we can escape our minds. I look at our bodies like an amazing machine and it’s an amazing machine — our brain is not the driver, it’s the steering wheel. So who’s the driver? I think it’s our observer.”
The highlights are from 4:02 to 6:30, 11:57 to 14:30, and what she says about mindfulness starting at 21:48.
By now you realize, you aren’t “tricking” our mind out of depression — you are in control of your mind.
You simply decide to feel happier.
When negative thoughts start throwing you off course, you have to put the observer back in the driver seat and steer your mind into a positive direction.
Below are three techniques for controlling your state of mind.
1. Mental Framing
Find a positive way to view your current situation. Every negative situation has the potential to make you better by either forcing you to get stronger, get smarter, or adapt in some way.
If the love of your life leaves you for someone else — good, now you can find someone better. (Read 4 Reasons Why You Should Never Date an Ex Again)
If you just got fired from your job — good, now you have a reason to go get the job you really wanted.
If you just lost a loved one to cancer unexpectedly — imagine how much stronger you are going to be when you recover and how proud they would be of you for the person you will become.
It’s not always easy, but you have to view life in a way that benefits you, instead of holding you back.
We’re simple creatures. More simple than we like to believe.
Yes, affirmation sound like woo-woo nonsense, but they can be effective for programming your mind.
Find a phrase that drives you and live by it. For most of my life, my driving affirmation has been Make Progress or Make Excuses.
3. Mindfulness or Gratitude
When you are grateful, you can’t be sad or angry or depressed.
If you live in America, you’re already in the top 1% of people in the world.
There has never been a better time in history than today to be alive.
Spend time being in the moment, observing the experience of life and focusing on what you already have.
There’s a reason mindfulness and gratitude practices are taking the world by storm — they fucking work!
Alter the Context of Your Environment to Create the Mood You Desire
Last but not least, we need to maintain control of our environment to avoid depression.
Your environment provides the context for your life at a given moment.
I first figured this out as an introverted kid who had no idea what it meant to be an introvert because we live in a world where most people are extroverted.
I noticed I would get tired, irritable, and often depressed when I was around large groups of people for long periods of time without any kind of break.
As a result, I started to dread these situations and got a lot of anxiety leading up to them, but I didn’t understand why because I usually had fun while I was there.
Eventually, I realized I just needed time to myself each day to recharge. I turned my bedroom into my sanctuary and started spending a lot more time in there alone. As long as I got some alone time, all of this random anxiety and depression wouldn’t occur.
Later when I was going through that spell of depression in college, I realized that I was creating depressing context by listening to depressing music and staying locked in my bedroom too much.
I asked myself, what would my environment look like if I was happy? I’d be hanging out with friends, listening to more cheerful music in the car, seeking fun activities to do, etc.
That’s what I would encourage you to do — ask yourself if your environment is creating a positive or negative context for your life?
- Do the people around you lift you up or bring you down?
- Are you avoiding activities or social events you would normally enjoy?
- Are you consuming stuff that’s depressing in nature (music, TV, etc.)?
Think of it like this — if your current environment was a scene in a movie, would it look depressing or not? If so, you need to make some changes.
If you want to dive deep into topics of affirmations and controlling your mental state, I recommend reading Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins.
If you want to get deeper into the research behind body language and how it affects your mood and the way others perceive you, I recommend reading Presence by Amy Cuddy.
If you don’t care about all the technical stuff and you just want some steps for practical application of mental framing and posture techniques, I recommend Gorilla Mindset by Mike Cernovich.
If you have traumatic experiences from your past that you can’t seem to let go of, I recommend reading Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry.
If you want to better understand the most important brain chemicals (that get unbalanced and lead to depression) and how to control them with your behavior, I recommend reading Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek.
If you are driven by physical challenges, I recommend checking out The Wim Hof Method. (Learn more: Strengthen Your Mind and Body with the Wim Hof Method
If you are an introvert and struggle with low energy or unexplainable depression, I recommend reading Quiet by Susan Cain.
If you want to understand how habits are formed and how to take control of your habits, read my book Hacking Your Habits.
Shameless plug, I know — but I didn’t write this book because there’s a high demand for it. I wrote it because I knew it was one of the most important things anyone could learn to improve their life.
99 Habits For Those Who Want it All
This FREE guide includes 99 action steps to get in shape, feel excited to start the day, and accomplish more in less time!
What do you think? Do you agree, disagree or have any thoughts to add? Let me know in the comments below.
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