Depression is a remarkably complex disease with many causes and many possible treatments, different for every individual. I've realized rather recently that two major antidepressants are actually very simple. We just need to realize they're there. Once we do, and once we start acting upon them, they make a sizable dent in the issue, and help us explore issues and treatments more adeptly.
Nailing the basics
Maslow's hierarchy of needs provides a framework that, while not definitively provable, makes intuitive sense. It suggests that we must meet certain survival needs to achieve higher-order objectives like love and friendship.
Many of us, myself included, try to circumvent this hierarchy. We think we can skip food and sleep and still do great work. Technically this is possible, but it's a very unlikely scenario. Simply put, we perform and feel better when we are well-rested and well-fed. Any attempts to life hack by avoiding these necessities is destined to backfire at some point—and probably calamitously.
For people struggling with depression, meeting these needs may seem like the least of our problems. And indeed, solving them won't magically fix interpersonal, financial, or emotional problems. But it will set us up for success. Our minds and bodies will be ready to deal with stress and can do so more adeptly. The problems simply seem more manageable when we manage our bodies carefully. Respecting ourselves by eating and sleeping properly also boosts our self esteem, which opens up new opportunities for us to advance.
The very act of choosing to do something rather than nothing is itself rewarding. We feel a greater sense of agency; we are more in control of our own path.
Spending time on passions
Once we operate at a basic functioning level we are ready to pursue higher causes - our passions and goals. Oftentimes depression distracts us from these, so much so that we feel we have lost them. Rediscovering old passions and cultivating new ones is tough, but it's an essential step in being healthy.
The key here is not to stop with ambitions. The key is to act on them. Go take a yoga class. Go check out that museum. Download a trial of Illustrator and start designing.
By actively practicing what we're interested in, we develop skills and work products, and in turn build our self confidence. We spend our time on meaningful pursuits rather than self-defeating boredom.
We often aren't skilled with our hobbies when we start out with them. I can personally attest to this. It can be discouraging. The key here is to set manageable goals, and commit to meeting them. When I was working on an infographic, I paused midway through and questioned why I was doing it. It didn't look breathtaking yet and I was struggling. Then I told myself that I would see it through to the end, even if it wasn't perfect. And I did. The result was decent - neither fantastic nor terrible. I proved to myself that I could follow through on a project like this, and that I could put together an infographic. I proved and improved my skills with design.
I look back on that project fondly. It boosted my self confidence at the time and thinking about it still does today.
The more experiences like these that we choose to pursue, the healthier we will be.