Taking control

Being sad is one thing, being depressed is another.

Nobody welcomes feelings of sadness, but feeling down is sometimes part of life. When feeling down, people often wonder, “Am I depressed?”

Many people who think they are merely sad may be struggling with depression. On the other hand, many people who are extremely sad and worried may not be depressed. Because we associate depression with its primary symptom of sadness, many of us struggle to tell the difference between these two common psychological states.

While it may not seem to matter what you call it when you or a loved one is hurting, it is important to understand how these conditions are different.

Millions of people struggle with untreated depression each year. This also impacts friends, family and work relationships. The better we can recognize depression, the more we can reduce its impact. Depression is treatable and people can recover to enjoy more positive, healthier lives.

What is the difference between sadness and depression?

Sadness is a normal human emotion and is usually triggered by a difficult, hurtful, challenging, or disappointing event, experience, or situation.

Depression is an abnormal emotional state, that affects our thinking, emotions, perceptions, and behaviors.

Depression affects all aspects of our lives, making everything less enjoyable, less interesting, less important, less lovable. Depression saps our energy, motivation, and ability to experience joy, pleasure, excitement, anticipation, satisfaction, connection, and meaning.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Anxiety, apathy, general discontent, guilt, hopelessness, inability to feel pleasure, loss of interest, mood swings
  • Lack of concentration, slowness in activity and thought, or thoughts of suicide
  • Early awakening, excess sleepiness, insomnia, or restless sleep
  • Agitation, excessive crying, irritability, or social isolation
  • Excessive hunger, fatigue, loss of appetite, or restlessness
  • Weight gain/loss
  • Poor appetite, repeatedly going over thoughts

You can take control today!

Overcoming depression may not be quick or easy, but it’s far from impossible. You do have more control than you realize, even if your depression is severe. The key is to start small and build from there. Feeling better takes time, but you can get there by making positive choices for yourself each day.

The things that help the most are the things that are the most difficult to do. Decide to do the best you can one day at a time and consider implementing any of the following suggestions.

Get moving

Walking, jogging, Zumba, or kickboxing; exercise has been proven to turn on happiness genes!  To get the most benefit, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. This doesn’t have to be all at once—and it’s okay to start small. A 10-minute walk can improve your mood for two hours.

Eat healthy

What you eat has a direct impact on the way you feel. Reduce your intake of foods that can adversely affect your brain and mood, such as caffeine, alcohol, trans fats, and foods with high levels of chemical preservatives or hormones (such as certain meats).

Boost your B vitamins

Deficiencies in B vitamins such as folic acid and B-12 can trigger depression. To get more, take a B-complex vitamin supplement or eat more citrus fruit, leafy greens, beans, chicken, and eggs. Always check with your doctor before starting any supplement, especially if you’re already taking medications.

Get enough sleep

Aim for eight hours of sleep. Depression typically involves sleep problems; whether you’re sleeping too little or too much, your mood suffers. Get on a better sleep schedule by learning healthy sleep habits.

Keep stress in check

Not only does stress prolong and worsen depression, but it can also trigger it. Figure out all the things in your life that stress you out, such as work overload, money problems, or unsupportive relationships, and find ways to relieve the pressure and regain control. A daily relaxation practice can help relieve symptoms of depression, reduce stress, and boost feelings of joy and well-being. Try yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation.

Turn the lights on

Sunlight can help boost serotonin levels and improve your mood. Whenever possible, get outside during daylight hours and expose yourself to the sun for at least 15 minutes a day.

Do things that make you feel good

You know what you like or used to like. Consider making a list. You might enjoy a specific hobby, reading a good book, or listening to music.


You might not WANT to, but watching funny movies, YouTube Videos, anything that makes you laugh, WILL release oxytocin and endorphins, turning on your happy genes.

Be thankful

Find something or someone to be grateful for every single day.  Consider writing them down or journaling about them. We always have things to be grateful for, even if it doesn’t seem that way. So, take a moment and count your blessings!!!


Don’t do this alone!  Be a friend to someone, and allow others in.  You’ll be surprised at the outcome. Strike up a conversation with strangers, be a big brother or sister, adopt a pet.  The law of reciprocity states those who bring happiness into the lives of others will reap it for themselves.

Experience nature

Being out in nature can help us feel calmer and grounded. Consider going for a walk in the woods, having a picnic in the park, or sitting by a lake.

Challenge negative thoughts

Depression puts a negative spin on everything, including the way you see yourself and your expectations for the future. The trick is to identify the type of negative thoughts that are fueling your depression, and replace them with a more balanced way of thinking. It takes practice, but in time you can beat back those negative thoughts before they get out of control.

When to Get professional help for depression…

If you’ve taken self-help steps and made positive lifestyle changes and still find your depression getting worse, seek professional help. Needing additional help doesn’t mean you’re weak. Sometimes the negative thinking in depression can make you feel like you’re a lost cause, but depression can be treated and you can feel better!

Don’t forget about these self-help tips, though. Even if you’re receiving professional help, these tips can be part of your treatment plan, speeding your recovery and preventing depression from returning.

If you think you or a loved one might be depressed, it is important to seek the counsel of a trained mental health professional for diagnosis and treatment. Depression is an extremely common mental illness and there are many treatments that benefit most people.

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