According the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 18.8 million adults are living with depression in any given year. Characterized by feelings of despondency and hopelessness, many people who are depressed also suffer from a marked lack of self esteem. They may think they are worthless, ugly, or a horrible person. While psychiatric medications can help some individuals, many people feel that the side effects or health risks are unacceptable. Luckily, there a plethora of natural, holistic approaches to easing depression that do not involve medication.
Causes of Depression and Low Self Esteem
There is no one-size-fits-all explanation as to why these conditions occur. Sometimes it is a combination of events that come together to create them and sometimes it is a single, life-changing event that brings it on full-force. Here are a few situations and conditions that have been heavily indicated as factors contributing to depression.
- the diagnosis of a serious or chronic condition, especially those that are painful
- the death, illness, or incarceration of a partner or other loved one
- unacceptably-high levels of ongoing stress such as war, living in poverty, or being a single parent
- a history of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse
- giving birth (known as Post-Partum Depression or Baby Blues)
Combating Depression and Low Self-Esteem Without Drugs
While medications exist that can help level out brain chemistry in order to lift your mood, some people find the side effects unacceptable. Dizziness, insomnia, blurred vision, gastrointestinal distress, and a feeling of being emotionally flat-lined are not at all uncommon and can negate any positive effect of the medication. Fortunately, there are many non-drug practices you can use to fight off the negative emotions and feelings of both depression and low self esteem.
The American Psychological Association has stated that regular exercise releases endorphins into you blood stream, which in turn lifts your mood. What’s better is that you don’t need to become an elite athlete or a gym rat to reap the benefits. Here are some simple ways to incorporate a little exercise into your daily routine.
- walk at least 30 minutes a day, wandering your own neighborhood with a friend, your dog, or with your iPod
- do a quick 15-minute routine as soon as you wake up with some weights or calisthenics
- dance at length in your own living room to your favorite music
As you begin to see the effects of your exertions, congratulate yourself. Are your legs more defined? Is your waist whittling away? Be proud of yourself and your body! If you’re exercising to lose weight as well as combat depression, take pictures for yourself so you can look at your progress when you’re feeling down.
Laughter is the best medicine, with a sympathetic ear coming in a close second. Make a point of going out with friends or having them over at least once a week. This is especially true if you work from home or are usually otherwise home alone a lot of the time. Depressed people will often withdraw and wall themselves in. Engaging others in conversation, laughing, or even venting about your feelings to a trusted friend can help you sort through your emotions and feel better about yourself. Reaching out to others can help break down the barriers of depression and self-loathing, allowing you to see how much others care for and love you.
Develop an Affirmation
You are in control of your inner monologue, so tell it what to say! Instead of thinking ‘the world is horrible’ or ‘I’m so ugly’, repeat a positive affirmation to yourself. You can do this aloud or in your head. Choose, instead, to tell yourself ‘I am a beautiful human being’, or ‘I choose to love me’. While this may sound hokey, hearing yourself say positive, soothing things can do wonders for your mental state.
While depression and poor self esteem can seem crippling, there are steps you can take to help alleviate them without filling a prescription. Regular exercise, socializing with friends, and stating affirmations to yourself can all work toward creating a happier, more confident you!
If you or a loved one is in crisis or feeling suicidal, reach out to a hotline or professional in your area. Self-help is not a replacement for crisis care.