How To Overcome Depression

This guidance to ease depression comes from a psychotherapist who doesn't shy away to share her own journey out of the grips of depression. The tips are honest, based on personal experience, and supported by real life examples from the author herself.
Andrea Wachter is a psychotherapist, Marriage and Family Therapist, author and speaker who uses her professional expertise, humor and personal recovery to help others.
how to overcome depression
Andrea Wachter is a psychotherapist, Marriage and Family Therapist, author and speaker who uses her professional expertise, humor and personal recovery to help others.

Psychotherapist, author and Insight Timer teacher Andrea Wachter shares guidance and practical tips from her own healing journey to overcome depression. If you are more of a listener than a reader, you might want to listen to the audio version of this article:

  1. 8 Tips To Overcome Depression Andrea Wachter 31:49

How To Overcome Depression: 8 Tools To Escape The Grip Of Depression

The path that led me to want to help others was rocky and dark, to say the least. I spent many years in the grips of depression and I know only too well what it’s like to live in hopelessness and despair. During my darkest days, I felt very alone, but I know now that I wasn’t.

Millions of people battle the dark depths of depression every single day. And if you are one of those people, I sincerely hope that this essay will benefit you in some way.

I’d like to share eight tools that can help ease depression. I will be sharing with you all the things that helped me climb out of depression and then became the foundation of the work that I do with others. Of course, like most simple tips, many of these concepts will sound much easier said than done. But since we get better at what we practice, the more you practice, the more they will become your new normal.

1. Retrain Your Brain

We all have our share of losses and challenges in life, but the main cause of depression is not usually our life circumstances. It’s the way we think about and interpret them.

Unfortunately, when we’re depressed we tend to have a lot of negative beliefs and believe our thoughts. When I was struggling with depression, I wholeheartedly believed every thought that popped up on the screen of my mind. My thoughts seemed and felt so true. I even gathered evidence to support them and ignored evidence to the contrary. If I was depressed about being single, my mind only saw happy couples out in the world. My well-worn beliefs refused to allow me to take in that there were millions of single people around me as well. Not to mention millions of unhappy couples.

Read more: Andrea Wachter proposes and reflects on six ways to overcome negative body image epidemic that has sickened our society.

If I was struggling with my body image, my mind zeroed in on people I was convinced were confident and comfortable in their bodies and I was sure that I never would be. It was as if my depressed self was on trial and my mind was the prosecuting attorney gathering evidence that I was not okay and that everyone else was.

Eventually, after lots of help from others and a good dose of willingness from within, I learned that I could take a stand against my internal programs. I learned that I could disagree with discouraging thoughts and eventually delete them, and you can, too. One thing that helped me challenge my depressed convictions and retrain my brain was a little rhyme I would recite when negative thoughts were getting the best of me. It went like this,

I have no clue if that’s true.

So if I caught myself thinking that someone else had a perfect life, I would challenge myself by saying, I have no clue if that’s true. If I thought I’d never feel any better than I did, I’d say to myself, I have no clue if that’s true.

We really can’t know anything other than the facts in this very moment. So challenging our pop up thoughts with a little reality check can really help. We may not have a choice about the automatic thoughts that pop up on our internal screens, but we do have a choice about whether we want to believe them or delete them.

2. Decline Depressions Suggestions

As a psychotherapist, I often find myself encouraging people to follow their hearts, listen to their feelings and go with their gut instincts. That is unless they are depressed.

This is because when we’re depressed, we’re not always in the best position to make wise decisions regarding our self-care. Of course, sometimes we can tell the difference between the voice of depression and our healthy self, but sometimes depression can drown out our wise inner knowing and be mistaken for the truth.

When I was depressed, my voice of depression used to convince me to isolate, oversleep, binge eat, starve myself, zone out on TV, use mind-altering substances or just give up.

I remember once when I was in a deep depression, I had plans to meet a friend for dinner and a movie. Well, I called to tell her that I had to cancel because I was really down and I probably wouldn’t be very good company anyway. Well, she encouraged me to show up and she told me that I could be exactly as I was. So despite my strong desire to isolate, I showed up and I actually ended up feeling uplifted and less depressed than before I went.

I did the opposite of what my depression was telling me to do or, in this case, not to do. I learned that when I was depressed and thought I should isolate, I should do exactly the opposite and reach out to a friend. When my voice of depression wanted to watch TV all day, I had to push myself to take a walk, read, or listen to something inspirational. Back then it was self-help cassette tapes, today we have endless options with blogs, books, podcasts, and meditation apps like Insight Timer.

Unfortunately and ironically, depression often zaps the energy and motivation we need to do the very things that will make us feel better. So learning to do the opposite of what your voice of depression suggests will help you begin to climb out of the pit.

Read more: Explore what is meant to step outside of your comfort zone into a state of optimal anxiety.

3. Upgrade Your Mind Mood

In my work with clients, I like to teach what I call three different mind moods:

  • unkind mind,
  • kind mind and
  • quiet mind.

They’re all pretty self-explanatory. But suffice it to say that an unkind mind dishes out negative and critical thoughts. A kind mind is when we’re thinking positively or kindly toward ourselves and others. And when we’re in a quiet mind mode, we’re simply in the present moment and our minds are at peace.

Let’s say you become aware that your unkind mind has been running the show. Here you are going about your day and you become aware of thoughts like, “why bother”, “things are hopeless”, “I’ll always be depressed”, “I’ll never be happy” or “everyone else has more…” — fill in the blank.

Now you’re at a crossroad. You can keep recycling and believing the thoughts that your unkind mind is dishing out, or you can make a conscious decision to either upgrade your thought to a kinder one or to quiet your mind by turning your attention to something that is actually factually present in the here and now, otherwise known as reality.

As you gain more awareness of your depressive thoughts and more willingness to upgrade them, you will start to get some breaks in the regularly played unkind mind programs.

Read more: While much societal emphasis is placed on the importance of having a strong, fit, healthy body, less attention is paid to developing healthy emotional muscles. Explore ways to train your emotional fitness.

4. Seek Safe Support

First, let me say what I mean by safe support. A safe support person is someone that you feel really understood and accepted by. Someone you feel respects you and welcomes all your feelings. A safe support person doesn’t judge you or try to fix you, and when you express your feelings to a safe person, you feel really heard and cared about.

Hopefully, you have at least one or two safe and trusted people in your life. If you don’t, I hope you’ll seek out that level of support. You may also have some people in your life who you know are not safe for you to be vulnerable. That’s really important information. And you may know some people who have the potential to be safe if you decide to test the water and find out.

I remember the very first time I decided to test the safety level of a friend with the topic of depression. I was deep in the thick of major depression at the time and I confided in my friend that I was having suicidal thoughts. Her response was complete and total silence. I’m talking not one word. We sat there in painful, awkward silence and I ended up feeling even worse than before. I know now that she had zero skills to deal with such intense information and we were both pretty young at the time, but it left me feeling even more alone and despairing and it would be years before I would risk sharing my dark secret again. The next time, however, I chose a professional counselor who really got me and really knew how to respond. And boy, did I feel the difference.

So if you’re not sure if someone is emotionally safe to share your deeper feelings with, they may be able to meet your needs or hear your respectful requests and if not, there are many other potentially safe people to reach out to when you’re ready. A safe support person could be a friend, a family member, or a professional. If you are looking for a therapist, you might consider someone who has cognitive behavioral therapy skills as well as mindfulness training. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) will help you learn to challenge and upgrade your thinking and mindfulness will help you learn to live without becoming lost in your thoughts.

In addition to CBT and mindfulness, there are many other modalities of therapy that can help with depression — too many for me to list here, but I will say and briefly explain a few of my favorites: IFS, EMDR, EFT, and hypnotherapy.

  • IFS stands for Internal Family Systems. It’s also known as parts work. IFS holds the view that our minds are made up of different sub-personalities or parts and an IFS therapist helps people understand and heal their wounded parts.
  • EMDR stands for Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. EMDR is highly regarded for treating trauma, but many people have been reporting a decrease in depression from it as well. An EMDR therapist will guide you through specific eye movements and other bilateral stimulation that may include gentle tapping or noninvasive movements.
  • EFT, or Emotional Freedom Techniques, is also referred to as tapping or psychological acupressure. EFT is a form of counseling that draws on alternative medicine including acupuncture, neurolinguistic programming and energy medicine. Once someone learns EFT, they can also practice the technique on themselves, which makes it very accessible, not to mention free of charge.
  • Hypnotherapy is a form of therapy used to deprogram and reprogram the subconscious mind. A hypnotherapist guides people into a deep, relaxed state and then give suggestions for relaxation and positive changes.

So again, those are just a handful of my favorites. There’s many more, but it can really help to find a modality and a therapist that fits for you. Hopefully you have some safe people in your life already and if not, I hope you will seek out loving, compassionate, non-judgmental support, and eventually, you can also be that way towards yourself.

5. Change Harsh Monologues To Compassionate Dialogues

It’s so common for people to be hard on themselves when they are depressed and yet it’s when we’re depressed that we most need kindness and compassion.

Imagine how you would speak to a child or a dear friend if they were feeling down. Hopefully, you would communicate with them in a very kind and compassionate way. Healing does not come from harshness. If it did, you would probably feel better by now because I’m guessing you have not spent the majority of your time being compassionate and kind towards your depressed emotions.

Sadly, many people with depression spend the majority of their time beating themselves up and then feeling bad about feeling bad, but fortunately, we can turn this pattern around and every moment we get another chance. Healing begins when we meet our emotions with tenderness and empathy. Let’s take a brief look at how to do that.

How To Be Kind And Compassionate To Ourselves

If we break down the word depression, we get “de-press”. Pressing down. So often we are taught to depress or press down our emotions and they end up turning into a big ball of depression. So part of overcoming depression is learning how to identify and express your emotions and receive the compassion you need for them.

You may have unresolved feelings that led to developing depression in the first place, you may have emotions about your depression and you might have feelings as a result of depression. They all need compassion and honoring.

And as we learn how to face, feel, and respond to our own emotions in healthy ways, we can free them from our bodies and experience more periods of release and relief.

Here’s a little exercise you can practice either now or later. You can do this exercise in writing, your imagination or out loud when you have some privacy. Or it might feel better for you to do this exercise with a safe support person. If you decide you’d like to try it on your own, you can either do it now along with me:

  1. Exercise For Kindness And Self-Compassion Andrea Wächter 2:01

6. More Spirit Fillers, Less Time Killers

Very often, the cycle of depression feeds on itself. We feel depressed, so it’s really hard to find the motivation and energy to do the uplifting things that have the potential to feed our spirits. Then we feel even more depressed. And so it goes.

This tip is about raising your awareness of how you fill the hours in your day. It’s far too easy to spend our days doing things that fill our time, but don’t necessarily fill our spirits. I know it can be hard to break out of our usual routines and do something that’s new or different or that might bring up emotions. But in the end, finding activities to fill our spirits helps so much with decreasing depression and increasing peace.

Of course, everyone needs to find what feeds their spirits. One person might love gardening and another person might find it to be a chore. One person might enjoy cooking and someone else doesn’t like cooking at all. It’s such an individual exploration, but the bottom line is, if we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to keep getting what we’re getting. If you have been spending a lot of time in negativity, inactivity, or isolation, in order to lift your spirits, you’ll need to make some changes.

Think about the ways that you spend your time. Not just the usual things you do each day like work, school, childcare or meal preparation, but the things you do in between the things you do:

How do you spend your discretionary time? What do you do when you first wake up in the morning? What is your mental state when you shower or bathe? What do you do while you eat your meals? What do you do when you prepare for your day or drive to work, school or errands? What do you do if you have an unexpected 15-minute break in between scheduled events? What do you do when you first get home from work or school or transition from day to night? What do you do when you prepare your dinner or wind down in the evening? What do you do right before you fall asleep at night? How do you spend your weekends or days off?

This is not about beating yourself up. This is about increasing your awareness of how you spend your time. Are you spending the majority of your moments in time killers or are you doing things that you would consider spirit fillers?

One of the best ways to decrease depression is to make sure you are sufficiently feeding your spirit. You may not have a choice about being someone who has been struggling with depression, but you do have a choice about how you choose to fill many of the moments in your day. It might be much easier to numb out on social media than to close your eyes and meditate and actually have to be with yourself or your emotions. It might be way more tempting to zone out on TV all day, but getting a walk and some fresh air or reaching out to a friend could potentially feed your spirit much more than yet another hour of TV.

Read more: Andrea Wachter describes two scenarios of how to deal with morning anxiety. Which scenario do you choose for yourself?

It’s also important to look at how you think something will leave you feeling afterwards, not just how it feels to do it. Some things give us a short term feeling of aah, but leave us with a longterm ouch. Other activities might be more challenging to do at first, but leave us with a longer-term feeling of relief. Try to keep your awareness up and consider making a list of activities that you would consider time killers and a list of the things you would call spirit fillers.

Some things might clearly be spirit fillers or time killers for you, but not necessarily every single time. In one instance, a nap might feel like a spirit filler and in another, it feels like checking out since you’ve already been in bed most of the day. Having a favorite cookie might feel like a lovely treat one day and another time it doesn’t feel loving if you’re already full from the meal and dessert you just had. Playing a game on your smartphone might feel like a spirit filler one evening and yet the next day it might be a time killer if you’ve already been on the computer for a few hours. So see if you can increase your conscious awareness by regularly asking yourself “Is this a time killer or a spirit filler?”

Meditation has been shown to decrease ruminative thinking and help ease or even overcome depression. Discover our free library of meditation for depression. The practices offer a source of compassion, support, and understanding:

  1. Expanding The Heart Andrea Wachter 7:00
  2. Feeling Safe In This Moment Andrea Wachter 10:04
  3. Releasing Toxic Ties Andrea Wachter 9:40
  4. Healing Session For Depression Andrea Wachter 8:47
  5. Anchoring Into Presence Andrea Wachter 8:44

7. Properly Charge Your Body Battery

Sometimes when people struggle with depression, it can be very challenging to practice good self-care. In fact, some people take better care of their smartphones and devices than they do their own bodies.

How often do you forget to charge your phone compared to how often you forget to properly nourish yourself or get adequate sleep?

Taking care of your body might sound like a common sense tip, but it’s too important for me to skip over.

When depression is high, logical thinking and energy levels tend to be low — making it far too easy to neglect our bodies. And yet, taking good care of your body can really help to decrease depression. So how well are you taking care of your body battery? Let’s take a look.


When people are depressed, it can often lead to a loss of appetite and/or overeating. How are you doing at lovingly nourishing your body? Are you making daily efforts to eat a balance of all the various food groups and stay properly hydrated? These are really important ways to manage blood sugar, energy levels, and depression.


Depression can often lead to insomnia or hypersomnia. It’s so important to try to get enough sleep and to have a reasonable sleep schedule. It’s far too easy to stay up way too late and sleep the day away when we’re depressed. These habits can really add to the isolating pattern of depression. Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule, and even if you can’t fall asleep right away, you can still listen to a guided meditation, for example, and still get some good rest.


Oftentimes, depression feels very heavy and it can make it very hard to feel like moving our bodies and yet, moving can really help to get our endorphins and life force going again. So hopefully, if depression is making it hard for you to get moving, you can push past it and find some ways to move your body on a regular basis, whether that’s a walk in nature, a stroll around the block, some simple stretches or a local class.

One thing that helped me move my body when I was in my darkest days was to tell myself I could go for five minutes and if I wanted to stop, I could. Sometimes I stopped after five minutes, but most of the time it actually felt surprisingly good and I wanted to keep going.

If depression makes it hard for you to move your body, try thinking about what types of play and movement you used to enjoy as a kid or before you got depressed and consider giving those a try. I find that most people with depression find it hard to get themselves to move their bodies, but they rarely regret it after they do.

Read more: Learn how your asana practice in yoga can open a new awareness of body, mind and spirit.


Sometimes depression can render us with such low energy that even the basics like showering, bathing, teeth brushing, flossing and dressing in clean well-kept clothes can seem like heavy chores. You can start to break the cycle of depression even a tiny bit by encouraging yourself to do basic hygiene whether you want to or not. Besides the benefit of treating your body better, it can sometimes even have the added effect of lifting our spirits a little bit, too.

Substance Use/Abuse

It can be so tempting to want to self-medicate, numb out or check out with mind-altering substances. And while the effects can often feel good while we’re altered, they can actually end up contributing to the depressive cycle. If you are using or abusing drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, or even caffeine, try to be conscious of the effects they may be having on depression and get some help with that.

Medical Care

Whether you’re being treated by a general practitioner, a natural path or a functional medicine practitioner, it’s so important to have medical care from someone you trust. It can really help to have a full exam including lab work to rule out any deficiencies or excesses. Your practitioner may recommend medicine, herbs, supplements or other modalities that can help ease depression. And like all the tips I’ve mentioned so far, this is not about perfection. This is about increasing your awareness and self-care and learning how to treat yourself and your body like you would treat a loved one.

Read more: Explore six simple, but impactful acts of how to practice self-love every day. 

8. Hang Onto Hope

Hopelessness is the hallmark of depression and depressive thinking. If you are struggling with depression, it is so tempting to think that this is the way it always will be. But life takes different twists and turns and we don’t get to know what the next chapter in our life will bring if we give up on ourselves.

A client of mine suffered from a major depression that largely centered around loneliness and comparing herself to her seemingly happily married friends. Despite my regular reminders that life stories can change, she was convinced that hers never would. But her story did eventually change and she is now married and enjoying her new chapter in life. Additionally, a few of her seemingly perfect and happy friends who she used to compare herself to are now divorced and facing new chapters of their own.

The bottom line is that things can change. The voice of depression may try to convince you that they won’t, but they can and they often do.

How To Overcome Depression: In Conclusion…

We all experience sad, challenging chapters in our lives just as we all experience change. And regardless of whether or not our outside circumstances drastically shift, if our minds change, everything can change. This is why some people have very few resources and swear that they are the happiest people on the planet, while others have literal fame and fortune and yet they struggle with depression and addiction.

If you are battle weary from depression, try challenging your next dark VOD. Try doing the opposite of what the voice of depression suggests. Try upgrading an unkind mind mood to a kinder, quiet one. Seek out safe support from someone who really understands. Practice compassionate inner dialogues and more spirit fillers than time killers. Make sure you are properly charging your body battery and see how the next chapter unfolds. Thank you for joining me. Take good care.

***Disclaimer*** This information on possible ways to overcome depression should not replace specialized training and professional judgement of a health or mental care professional. Please always consult a professional first before making decisions about your own circumstances. Please seek professional help immediately if you have thoughts of harming or even killing yourself or others, if you are abusing substances, if you or others are in any danger of harm. Find professional services here: Mental Health America, Australian mental health services and support, mental health support services in the UK, Canadian mental health support and services.

Meditation. Free.