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5 Tips To Be Proactive With Depression

Steven Losardo, LMFT

A recent study notes “depression is projected to increase by 2030 to a position of the most significant contributor to illness burden (Irwin & Piber, 2018). Further, the article highlights that only 30% of depressed adults achieve remission (Irwin & Piber, 2018). As a result, The National Academy of Medicine recommends efforts to target depression prevention through development, testing, and new strategies. This blog will highlight five promising strategies you can incorporate now.

That said, depression does not discriminate and is multi-faceted. Seeking professional assistance can be beneficial to help develop the right plan specific for the person. For many, attaining help is part of the healing because they have shame or guilt, thinking, “I should not be depressed, and seeking help is a form of weakness.” Often, prescribing to this narrative results in not reaching out for help when we need it. In part, we are depressing our spirit. 

Tip #1: Mindfulness

Mindfulness is another term for being fully present. Mindfulness meditation aims to suspend our judgment and instead explore our sensations, thoughts, and emotions from an observational standpoint. The purpose is to gain self-understanding.

Is it right for me? Mindfulness meditation is one of the most accessible and widely-practiced forms of meditation because one’s breath acts as a guide. It is excellent for grounding yourself in your body and gaining insight into how your mind processes work. This developing understanding strengthens the ability to navigate anxiety. Meditation’s goal is not releasing the mind to be free from all thought and sit in total silence. Instead, the practice is about being present in the here and now. 

How to do it: (Example from Alvis, 2020)

  1. Sit comfortably in a spot that gives you stability. If on the floor, cross your legs in front of you. If on a chair, rest the bottoms of both feet on the floor.
  2. Sit up straight, allowing your spine to be in soft neutral alignment.
  3. Rest your hands on your legs wherever it feels most natural. You can have your palms facing either up or down.
  4. Drop your chin a little and allow your gaze to soften gently downward. You can close your eyes or leave them open.
  5. Bring your attention to the rise and fall of your breath. Notice the air moving through your mouth or nose. Listen closely to the sound of the air entering and leaving your chest.
  6. Sit in non-judgmental observance of every thought and sensation that arises, and anytime your mind wanders away from the breath, simply notice and gently guide your attention back.
  7. When you are ready, lift your gaze and take a moment to notice how your mind and body feel.

Tip #2: Sleep

Many people with anxiety experience problems with sleep. Poor sleep, in turn, can also exacerbate your anxiety symptoms. Taking steps to improve the quality of sleep is an essential part of improving general health. Extremes of sleep duration, such as sleeping less than 6 hours or more than 8 hours per night, lead to depression (Irwin & Piber, 2018).

Tips (From This Way Up Org. (2021): 

  • See Tip #3 (next) and when you get into bed, if you experience the same thoughts, remind yourself that you have already thought about them for today and postpone worrying until tomorrow.
  • Get out of bed – If you are lying in bed unable to stop thinking about things, get up and do something distracting yet relaxing (e.g., reading a book, listening to classical music). Do not return to bed until you feel sleepy again. If you return to bed and feel the same way, get out of bed again and do something distracting yet relaxing.
  • Do not nap – If you have had a stormy night’s sleep, you are more likely to feel sleepy the next day, which can make it tempting to want to nap in the middle of the day or early afternoon. Unfortunately, this makes it much more likely to have another night of poor sleep; this is because you will not be as tired that evening when it comes time for bed. 
  • Keep a routine – Keep regular sleep times by going to bed simultaneously every night and waking at the same time every morning. Do not sleep late in the mornings, trying to make up for lost sleep. Keeping a sleep routine helps to get your body into a rhythm.

Tips #3: Thought Life

Several studies note setting aside time for problem-solving during the day improves mental health while decreasing anxiety and depression. Suppose you are a worrier. Set aside some time when you are alone and think of ways to solve your problems. Postponing stressful decisions or avoiding facing anxious thoughts only prolongs the experience of anxiety and means those worries are likely to appear when you least need them. “In most cases, the uncertainty which accompanies indecision is much more stressful and unpleasant than living with the consequences of a decision once it is made (This Way Up Org. 2021).” Psychological stress is a risk factor for depression. As we increase stress we escalate the risk of depression. (Irwin, & Piber, 2018).

Tip #4: Exercise

One of the best ways to improve your life is through exercise. Regular exercise with physical activity during the day or early in the evening can improve sleeping patterns and reduce the risk of depression. If you exercise regularly, do not exercise late in the evening, as this may make it more difficult for you to get to sleep (Alvis, 2020; This Way Up Org. 2021).

Tip #5: Have a plan and start small (S.M.A.R.T Goals)

What in life works out how we would like without a plan? Not much, so here we need one as well. While developing a plan, start with one goal and be realistic. One way to do this is using S.M.A.R.T. goals. S.M.A.R.T. goals are defined as one that is specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound. Below is a definition of each of the S.M.A.R.T. goal criteria and questions to assist (Performance management – creating smart goals, 2021 abridged). 

    1. Specific is the What, Why, and How of the S.M.A.R.T. model. What will the goal accomplish? How and why will it be achieved? 
  • Example: Implement the depression management tip No napping to improve sleep. 
    1. Measurable so that you have tangible evidence that you have accomplished five smaller goals for the entire need for your depression management. How will you measure whether or not the goal has been reached (list at least two indicators)? 
      1. Example:  Is this working by August 1 (90 days)? 
    2. Achievable will stretch you slightly, so you feel challenged but defined well enough so that you can achieve them. How am I doing? I do not need to be perfect. Is it possible? Have others done it successfully? Do you have the necessary knowledge, skills, abilities, and resources to accomplish the goal? Will meeting the goal challenge you without defeating you?
  • Example: I understand the nature of the goal is no naps. The goal is a significant enough challenge for you to remain interested in and committed to accomplishing it. I do not need to be perfect. 
    1. Results Focused should measure outcomes, not activities. What is the reason, purpose, or benefit of accomplishing the goal? What is the result (not activities leading up to the effect) of the plan?
  • Example: I can evaluate my performance and develop the skills. I noted that I did not nap for 15 days and then missed two days. Using the celebration of accomplishment, I was able to complete 13 more days with no nap then. 
    1. Time-Bound creates a practical sense of tension between the current reality and the vision of the goal. The goal is unlikely to produce a relevant outcome without this. What is the established completion date, and does that completion date create a practical sense of urgency?
  • Example: Implement my depression management system for me using the smallest goals. After 30 days, I have been successful with not taking a nap. 
  1. Revision Note: Do some trial and error here to find to see if this is working. Ask is, “Is the depression in check?” If not, revise the goal. After 30 days, I see that not napping is thriving, and I will keep that goal going for another 30 days. I will also add another goal, such as keeping a routine.
  2. REMINDER Celebrate as you go! Your ego will tell you that “you are not making progress.” Success comes from a lot of little things done well and very small steps – enjoy the journey. 


Alvis, D. (2020). Compassion Fatigue: Certification training for healthcare, mental health, and

caring professionals. Pesi Inc. Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Irwin, M. R., & Piber, D. (2018). Insomnia and inflammation: a two hit model of depression risk

and prevention. World Psychiatry, 17(3), 359.

Performance management – creating smart goals. Retrieved from: on November 28, 2021. 

This Way Up Org. (2021). Health anxiety program: The good sleep guide. Retrieved from on November 28, 2021.

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