Ohh, didn't know this topic existed
So I was chronically and pretty severely depressed for most of my childhood and adolescence, and now I never get depressed. I agree wholeheartedly with all the advice saying to take care of your physical health. Your body and mind are tightly connected, so if you keep yourself physically healthy it's like having a big ally in the "fight" against depression.
A really useful advice I haven't seen so far is meditation, so I'll elaborate on that ~ it's not some mystical woo-woo thing, it's firmly established nowadays by science to be very healthy and useful for depression and many other mental problems (Warning: long post ahead ) -
How to meditate - first, clearing up confusion and stuff:
If you go on the Internet, you will get a hundred different sources telling you a hundred different ways to meditate, which isn't very helpful. So I want to simplify it - the basic process of meditation is nothing more than paying attention. Very simple and surprisingly difficult, especially at first.
What specifically to put your attention on generally doesn't matter that much. It's popular to focus on your breathing. Some people advocate chanting a word or sound. Some say stare at a spot on a wall or a candle or something. Some say focus on a part of your body, like your heart; some say to focus on a particular thought. But really it doesn't matter, the important thing is just to pick something and stick with it.
Posture is also often emphasized. Some will cross their legs on the floor, some will do that impossible "lotus posture" thing, some will sit on their knees, some will sit in a chair. The important thing is just to sit with your back straight and be still. And this isn't some magical rule, it's just that you'll probably find over time that it's easier to stay aware and pay attention that way. If you lay down you might fall asleep, if you slouch your mind becomes a bit dull, if you stand up you'll want to move around more. If you don't believe me then just do it however, it's not a big deal.
The Actual Process:
- Sit there. Preferably with good posture.
- Pay attention to your breath (or whatever else it is, I'll use breath as the example).
- Random thoughts will start popping up. Each time one appears, no matter what it is, just gently acknowledge it and let it go, bringing your attention back to your breath.
- Just keep doing this for a while. For as long or short as you like, but in my experience it works best if you keep at it for at least several minutes.
- When you are done, whatever peace or calmness you may feel, try to let it stay with you for a while. Don't just jump up and go, "well that's it, back to the grind "
- If at any point you accidentally get carried away into a train of thought, whenever you recognize it just acknowledge that it happened and bring your attention back to your breath as usual. This will happen a lot. It's normal.
- It's important not to treat the random thoughts as something bad. You're not "failing" or "doing it wrong" because you keep having distracting thoughts. The point isn't to "empty your mind" or anything - the process of recognizing your thoughts for what they are (just thoughts) and refocusing your attention over and over is the point.
- Don't worry whether you're doing it right. It's easy to feel like you're doing it wrong for some reason - maybe you've heard it's supposed to be peaceful and you don't feel peaceful; maybe you're expecting some kind of result and nothing's happening. But part of the point is to practice just being there without a "success vs. failure", "right vs. wrong", "needing to accomplish something" mindset. There's a paradox here - if you're worrying about whether you're doing it right, you're not doing it right. That worry is itself just a thought, which you should acknowledge and let go like all the other thoughts.
- Related to the others, but don't take it too seriously. You should be gentle and light-hearted about it, not treating it like a battle or a chore. If you find yourself getting frustrated or restless, just acknowledge the feeling for what it is, let it go, and keep going. If you can't manage that, just quit. Not permanently (don't give up!) but for the time being just walk away.
A variation that helped me:
One way of meditating that helped me sometimes when I was depressed was to make the focus of attention the feeling of depression itself. One thing that I realized was that it was basically a physical feeling - a kind of lethargic heaviness all over the body, a fogginess in the head, and usually a distinct feeling similar but different to nausea concentrated in the chest. Maybe it can be somewhat different for others, I don't know.
I would sit there and just pay attention to this sensation - this physical feeling of being depressed. Examine it, as if from the outside, with a kind of curiosity. I realized that this wasn't just part of depression or a symptom of depression - it was depression. If viewed from one angle, it was a mental phenomenon, but viewed from another angle, it was just a physical phenomenon.
This helped me to view it as something separate and not be influenced by it as much. It wasn't me, it wasn't a part of me, it was this separate thing that I could look at from the outside, like a scrape on your knee. This didn't instantly cure everything, but I was more able to go about my life, and seeing it as just an ordinary sensation was quite empowering. I'll emphasize that what helped wasn't thinking of depression as a separate entity from myself, but actually experiencing it as such, which first happened by meditating on it like this. And I could only really hold my attention on the feeling of depression itself without getting swept away too much by negative thoughts once I had practiced recognizing thoughts and letting them go, as above.
Anyway, meditating is hard, but over time it works, as evidenced by the fact that I've hardly experienced depression at all in a couple years, despite having it nearly constantly for probably a decade before that.
Hope some of this will be of use to somebody ~