How to Overcome Depression: 8 Tools to Improve Your Mental Health

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.

Depression drains our energy and makes us feel like we are worthless. But these negative thoughts are not true. We deserve just as much love as everyone else does. While antidepressant medications can help against depression, we also need to try our best to re-teach ourselves to love and care for our minds and bodies. 

These tips for fighting depression are based on what has helped me climb out of my depression. My name is Andrea Wachter. I am a psychotherapist, author, Insight Timer teacher, and am in recovery from depression. You don’t have to do all this perfectly, and you won’t retrain yourself overnight — the important part is to try.  

If you are more of a listener than a reader, you can listen to the audio version of this article:

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

Key takeaways

  • Challenging our automatic thoughts can help us re-train our brains to accept or dismiss them.
  • Sometimes, choosing the opposite action of what our depression suggests we do can actually help us feel better. 
  • Find safe support, from someone you trust, to share vulnerable thoughts and feelings with.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, mindfulness, and Internal Family Systems are examples of therapy modalities that can help with depression. 
  • Evaluate how you spend your time and try to find activities that fill your spirit, both while you’re doing them and long afterward.
  • Take care of your body through sleep, nourishment from food, movement, maintaining personal hygiene, avoiding self-medicating, and seeking medical care that you trust.

Struggling with depression? You deserve love. Practice self-compassion from a wide variety of our free self-love meditations and find one that works best for you. 

How to beat depression: 8 tools to get you started

Millions of people battle symptoms of depression every single day. In 2020, 18.4% of U.S. adults reported that they had been diagnosed with depression at some point, according to the CDC.

Below are eight tools that can help ease depression based on practices that helped me. Of course, like most simple self-help tips, many of these concepts are easier said than done. But since we get better at what we practice, the more we practice, the more they will become our new normal. 

Remember, you don’t have to get it all perfect right away.

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 events — although they can be challenging. It’s the way we think about and interpret them.

“. . .the main cause of depression is not usually our life events — although they can be challenging. It’s the way we think about and interpret them.”

Unfortunately, when we’re depressed, we tend to believe a lot of our negative thoughts. But we can learn to take a stand against our internal programs. One way we can challenge our negative thinking and retrain our brains is by reciting a rhyme or mantra when negative thoughts get the best of us, like “every cell in my body is alive and beautiful.” 

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. 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 your negative thoughts center around your body, read Andrea Wachter’s reflection on six ways to overcome the negative body image epidemic.

We truly can’t know anything other than the facts at this very moment. So challenging our pop-up thoughts with a little reality check helps. 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.

Need a little help learning to retrain your brain? Try this guided meditation on retraining your brain, which includes a brief lesson on the science behind this practice.

2. Do the opposite of what your depression tells you to

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 a depressive episode and our healthy self, but sometimes depression can drown out our wise inner knowing and be mistaken for the truth. We shouldn’t isolate or watch TV all day. We need to take care of our well-being, like taking a walk, reading, listening to something inspirational, or following a guided meditation on an app like Insight Timer.

Let me give you an example.  

I remember once when I was in a deep depression, I had plans to meet a friend for dinner and a movie. 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. She encouraged me to show up and told me I could be exactly as I was. So despite my strong desire to isolate, I showed up and I ended up feeling uplifted and less depressed than before I went.

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.

If you need motivation for a walk or outside excursion, we’re here to help. Try Andrew Johnson’s guided energy boost meditation, designed to rejuvenate and revitalize you when you’re feeling lethargic or down.

how to overcome depression-woman hugging knees looking glum

3. Upgrade your mind mood

When we are depressed, an unkind mind dominates our thoughts, saying things like “why bother” and “I’ll never be happy.” We have to make a conscious decision to work toward upgrading our thoughts to a kinder, positive mind, or quieting our mind by turning our attention to something that is factually present in the here and now — otherwise known as reality.

As we gain more awareness of our depressive thoughts and more ability to change them, we 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 a safe support group or person

A safe support person is someone who:

  • understands and accepts you
  • respects you and welcomes all your feelings
  • doesn’t judge you or try to fix you
  • hears and cares about when you express your feelings

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. But 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 mental health professional who is trained in depression treatment.

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, many other modalities of psychotherapy can help with clinical depression:

  • 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, neuro-linguistic 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 psychotherapy used to deprogram and reprogram the subconscious mind. A hypnotherapist guides people into a deep, relaxed state and then gives suggestions for relaxation and positive changes to their well-being.

You don’t have to make an in-person appointment with a professional to learn about EFT. In this meditation on EFT tapping, certified Clinical EFT Practitioner and Mindfulness Coach Stephanie Labay provides an introduction to this practice, including a guided meditation.

5. Change harsh monologues to compassionate dialogues

It’s common for us to be hard on ourselves when we are depressed, and yet it’s when we’re depressed that we need kindness and compassion the most.

Imagine how you would speak to children or family members if they were experiencing feelings of sadness — in a very kind and compassionate way. Healing does not come from harshness. If it did, we would probably feel better by now from our harsh monologues.

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 look at how to do that.

How to be kind and compassionate to yourself

If we break down the word depression, we get “depress.” Pressing down. So often we are taught to press down our emotions, and they end up turning into a big ball of depression. 

Part of overcoming depression is learning how to identify and express our emotions and receive the compassion we need for them.

That said, learning to speak with self-compassion isn’t always intuitive. If you need some guidance in this area, try this guided meditation on loving-kindness with self-compassion, which will point you in the right direction.

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.

6. More spirit fillers. Fewer 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 improve our well-being. So we just kill time, and then we feel even more depressed. And so it goes.

One of the best ways to overcome depression is to make lifestyle changes that make sure we are sufficiently feeding our spirit. We don’t have a choice about being someone who has been struggling with depression, but we do have a choice about how we fill many of the moments in our day.

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.

We need to identify our time killers so we can take them out of our daily lives. Keep in mind that some time killers give us short-term feelings of relief but leave us with long-term regret. Here are some questions to help you identify your time killers:

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

Now that we know what our time killers are, we need to find spirit fillers — activities that feed our spirit. These look different for everyone. One person might love regular exercise and another person might find it to be a chore. And they might not be the same thing every time. For example, a nap might feel like a spirit filler and in another, it feels like a loss of interest since you’ve already been in bed most of the day.

 Spirit fillers are often acts of self-care like:

  • closing your eyes and meditating
  • being with yourself and your emotions
  • going out on a walk for some fresh air
  • reaching out to a friend

non-attachment happy senior relaxed

If you need a little guidance on how to decipher which activities fill your spirit and which deplete it, join certified life coach Laura Linehan in this intention-setting practice. You’ll reflect on your week, decide which parts worked for you, and set intentions for the week ahead.


7. Practice physical self-care

Sometimes when we struggle with depression, it can be very challenging to practice good self-care. And 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 our 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 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. Research from Antioxidants shows that a balanced diet — particularly one that includes fish, fruit, and vegetables — is aligned with a lower risk of depression.

But how we eat can often be just as important as what we eat. Learn to slow down, savor your food, and connect with your body in this free mindful eating meditation.


Depression can often lead to insomnia or hypersomnia. One of the best ways to fight depression is 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 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 sleep meditation, for example, and still get some good rest.

This deep sleep guided meditation can be a helpful place to start if you’re having trouble staying asleep. It’s an hour long, so not only can it help you nod off, but it can guide you into a deep sleep that will allow your body to rest and recharge. 


Oftentimes, depression feels very heavy, and it can make it very hard to feel like moving our bodies. However, regular exercise can really help to get our endorphins and energy levels 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 practice physical wellness on a regular basis — whether that’s a walk in nature, a stroll around the block, some simple stretches or a local class.

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. Major depressive disorder makes it hard to get ourselves to move our bodies, but we rarely regret it after we do.

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


Sometimes mental health problems can render us with such low energy that we can experience a loss of interest in the basics like showering, bathing, teeth brushing, flossing, and dressing in clean, well-kept clothes. 

We can start to break the cycle of depression — even a tiny bit — by encouraging ourselves to maintain basic hygiene, whether we want to or not. Besides the benefit of treating our body better, it can sometimes have the added effect of lifting our spirits a little bit, too.

Substance use or abuse

It can be so tempting to want to self-medicate, numb out, or check out of a mental illness with mind-altering substances. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, people commonly experience alcohol use disorder and mood disorders (like depressive disorder) at the same time. And while the effects can often feel good while we’re altered, they can 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 from a healthcare provider.

Medical care

Whether you’re being treated by a general practitioner, a naturopath, or a functional medicine practitioner, it’s so important to have medical care from someone you trust. It can help to have a full exam, including lab work, to rule out deficiencies or excesses. 

Your practitioner will create a treatment plan and may recommend antidepressants, herbs, supplements, or other modalities that help ease the effects of mental illness. And like all the tips we’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 mental health conditions, 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 lives will bring if we give up on ourselves.

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.

Use mindfulness to start overcoming depression

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 struggle with depression and addiction.

If you are battle-weary from depression, try challenging your next dark thought. 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. And remember, it’s not about getting it perfect — it’s about trying and practicing until it becomes the norm.

Looking for more information on using mindfulness to manage depression? Sign up for Andy Hobson’s 10-day course, “Managing Depression with Mindfulness,” to learn techniques and concepts that can help you understand the thoughts and emotions caused by depression.  

And if you’re looking for guidance on something else, Insight Timer offers over 200,000 free guided meditations from leading psychologists and spiritual teachers. You can choose from 12,000 meditation groups to find a supportive community or learn more about many of the topics we’ve discussed here today through our wealth of free resources.  

FAQs about how to overcome depression

What helps people cope with depression?

Mindset changes such as retraining your brain to challenge discouraging thoughts, choosing to do the opposite of what your depression is telling you to, turning toward kind thoughts, and learning to quiet your mind can all help with beating depression. Finding a trusted confidant with who you can share your vulnerable thoughts, and learning to fill your time with activities that nourish your spirit can also help. Also, seeking help from a qualified healthcare provider is important when dealing with depression.

What are the symptoms of depression?

Symptoms of depression include daily feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, worthlessness, frustration, restlessness, and helplessness that last at least two weeks. Other signs include having less energy, fatigue, trouble sleeping, oversleeping, or changes in appetite.  

What lifestyle changes can I make to help manage depression?

Try to get at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity, eat healthy meals, go to bed and wake up around the same time every day. Avoid self-medicating with substances (even caffeine can count here), and make time to connect with people you trust. Additionally, seek help from a qualified medical doctor.

How much physical activity do adults need?

The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise every week, along with two days of muscle-strengthening exercises. Also, any activities where you can move instead of sitting can help increase your physical activity.

***Disclaimer*** This information on possible ways to overcome depression should not replace the specialized training and professional judgment 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 or if you are self-harming. 

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.


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