- Feeling Blue Meaning
- Origin of Feeling Blue
- Examples of Feeling Blue
- More Examples
- Why Feeling Blue?
- When You’re Feeling Blue
- feel blue
- Example Sentences
- Origin of the of the phrase “feeling blue”
- The Weatherman (No Wonder I Feel Blue)
- Are You Depressed or Just Feeling Blue?
- 11 Things To Do When You Are Feeling Blue
- 1. Whatever you do, don’t listen to Bob Dylan.. Or Adele.
- 2. Cry.
- 3. Go talk to someone.
- 4. Lay around in a big sweater.
- 5. Paint your sadness.
- 6. Go pick some flowers!
- 7. Go visit the local library.
- 8. Build a blanket fort or just sleep on a pile of blankets.
- 9. Clean your room.
- 10. Bake some sweets.
- 11. Know that you are going to be okay.
- Kansas State University
- What To Do When You’re Feeling Blue
Feeling Blue Meaning
Definition: To be sad.
Origin of Feeling Blue
Many cultures relate various colors to different moods, or assign other symbolic meaning to them. For example, in many English speaking cultures, red can signify anger, black can mean death or evil, white can show purity, and green can represent jealousy or a talent for growing plants.
The use of the color blue to mean sadness goes all the way back to the 1300s. Some sources point to Geoffrey Chaucer as the first author to write the word blue.
He wrote Wyth teres blewe and with a wounded herte in his poem Complaint of Mars from around the year 1385. Nowadays, we would write with tears of blue and a wounded heart. This could mean from its very first appearance, blue was connected with sadness.
A scientific study also showed that people with depression might perceive the color blue more than other colors. Therefore, there may be a scientific reason behind this metaphor.
Examples of Feeling Blue
The dialogue below shows two women preparing to attend an important event.
Mila: Betty, why aren’t you ready to go? We worked so hard to plan this event. Now that we’re finally done, you seem like you’re not even interested in seeing its success.
Betty: Of course I want to see how well it all turned out, but I’m just not in the mood. As you know, my doctor diagnosed me with depression. I’m having a bad day and don’t feel like I can leave the house.
Mila: Feeling blue is no reason to miss this event!
Betty: It sounds so mild when you say that I’m feeling blue. I’m actually feeling like life is no longer worth living.
This dialogue shows a couple of roommates talking about a sad movie they watched.
John: Maybe it was a bad idea to watch that movie about the little boy dying of a horrible disease right before going to a birthday party.
Amanda: That’s for sure! I have no idea how I’m supposed to act happy after watching that.
John: Maybe we won’t feel so blue after drinking a few beers.
Amanda: I hope so!
This excerpt is from an article about sight seeing at a festival lights display around Christmas time.
- I first took my teenagers five years ago, when we were sorely lacking in Christmas spirit around our house. It was a tough time for me, because the teens were acting sulky and I was feeling blue because no one seemed to care much about Santa’s arrival anymore. –OC Register
The second excerpt is about a play.
- With stellar performances and inventive technical elements, Tesoro’s “The Drowsy Chaperone” supports the central theme of the musical: Theater is the best cure when you’re feeling blue. –OC Register
The idiom feel blue means to experience emotions of sadness or gloominess.
I’ve always wondered why people use the term “feeling blue” when they are sad. The color that clouded my horizons after Peter died was most certainly gray, not blue. I felt I was in a bad British mystery movie, in the midst of a gray, hazy, dense fog and I couldn’t find my way through the mist. I felt a heavy grey cloud looming overhead about to rain on my soul with even more sadness. My moods were thick with gray, slightly tinged with a touch of red anger, railing at my tragedy. I know that since Peter died, I have many moments when I “feel blue,” but I can’t fault my favorite color for my mood.
Recent research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, showed that sadness and emotion could influence various visual processes that are involved in perceiving color. In this study the results demonstrated that participants who watched a sad video clip were less accurate in identifying colors on the blue-yellow spectrum than participants who watched funny clips. Could this be the causative factor in the expression ‘feeling blue?’
Some say the word “feeling blue” comes from the tradition of ships flying blue flags and bearing a painted blue band when a captain or another officer died. Another origin of “the blues,” is derived from mysticism involving blue indigo, which was used by many West African cultures in death and bereavement ceremonies where all the mourners’ garments would have been dyed indigo blue to indicate suffering. This mystical association toward the indigo plant, translated to the US and the slaves who worked on cotton in the Southern plantations, often singing dirge-like songs referred to as “the blues.”
The word “blue” was first used by Chaucer in about 1385, in his poem, Complaint of Mars. Washington Irving is credited with having first used the term “the blues” in 1807, as a synonym for sadness: “He conducted his harangue with a sigh, and I saw he was still under the influence of a whole legion of the blues.” Irving was shortening the phrase “blue devils” which was a synonym dating back to Elizabethan time to describe a menacing presence. “The Blues” as a musical form, featuring flattened thirds and sevenths, may have originated around 1895, although officially in W.C. Handy’s Memphis Blues.
For me, blue represents tranquility, harmony, peace, and relaxation. My house is decorated in blue and white. I don’t find sadness in blue. Blue is also associated with the fifth chakra, located at the throat and therefore connected to communication. Someone who speaks the truth is “true blue.” I like the color blue. It makes me see clearly and find my way in the world in a calm and coherent manner. I have vowed to continue to look at the blue horizon and avoid the grey clouds of sadness to find solace and comfort in my journey towards restoration.
“Your attitude is like a box of crayons that color your world. Constantly color your picture gray, and your picture will always be bleak. Try adding some bright colors to the picture by including humor, and your picture begins to lighten up.” — Allen Klein
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Why Feeling Blue?
Why ‘Feeling Blue’? Where does the blue come from?
Today, the expression feeling blue means feeling down – for instance, www.feeling-blue.com is a website dedicated to depression support. The code ‘blue for bad news’ is so deeply rooted, the color fathered blues music (see Blue Note), named after its nostalgic connotation.
In reality, the phrase feeling blue refers to maritime history and navy terminology, as well as ancient mourning traditions, as explained in the extract below:
‘If you are sad and describe yourself as ‘feeling blue,’ you are using a phrase coined from a custom among many old deepwater sailing ships.
If the ship lost the captain or any of the officers during its voyage, she would fly blue flags and have a blue band painted along her entire hull when returning to home port.’
Source: Navy Terminology @Navy.mil
While the color alludes to sadness, blue also evokes positive values such as motherhood, deities such as the Virgin Mary or Hindu deity Vishnu, peace, institutions, justice (see Blue in American Flag), calm, and the best cheese ever (pictured below), not to mention that blue is actually the favorite color worldwide.
Featured picture: @THE KEEP CALM-O MATIC
Feeling blue, NaBHan @DeviantArt
Picture source: NaBHan @DeviantArt
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Why is blue cheese blue?
Feeling blue? Listen to Something New
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Almost everyone has felt “down in the dumps” at times or had a case of “the blues.” In this state, you may have referred to yourself as feeling depressed. But is this really clinical depression?
An estimated 25 Americans suffer from major depression. So what distinguishes the common “down” feelings felt by most of us with true depression? Actual depression is different from “the blues” in several key ways.
To be considered depressed, an individual must be experiencing significant symptoms for at least two weeks on an ongoing basis. Individuals who are feeling a bit “down” usually shake off these feelings in a few days, if not hours. The “down in the dumps” sensation we’ve all had is noteworthy for being temporary. Without treatment, true depression, on the other hand, can last for months or years, or it can re-occur frequently.
In addition to being longer lasting, true clinical depression is also more intense than a case of the “blues.” Usually, individuals who are feeling “blue” or “down” manage to perform their regular daily activities. Individuals experiencing an episode of depression often are unable to function normally. The depression interferes with work, relationship, and daily activities. In extreme cases, depression can lead to feelings of complete hopelessness and suicidal thoughts or acts.
Feeling “blue” or being down in the dumps” are ways we describe feelings of sadness or melancholy. True depression has a host of other symptoms in addition to sadness. They may include: significant weight loss or gain, insomnia, loss of interest in daily activities, feelings of guilt, helplessness or hopelessness, fatigue/loss of energy, and poor concentration.
Brief periods of feeling “blue” are usually caused by life events that leave us feeling discouraged. From a broken date to the loss of a loved one, the causes can range from minor to major events. Depression can be triggered by a stressful life event, but research indicates that depression is also associated with a variety of genetic and biochemical factors. Some individuals appear to be more “hard-wired” to get depression. The “blues,” on the other hand, are feelings with which almost everyone can relate.
If you or a loved one frequently feels “down in the dumps” or “blue,” consider whether the condition may actually be depression. A physician or mental health professional can conduct an assessment to determine if depression is present and recommend appropriate treatment.
Understanding the difference between feeling “blue” and being depressed can make a difference in the quality of life for an affected individual. With proper treatment, depression can be managed, and individuals can live more enjoyable and productive lives.
When You’re Feeling Blue
When we feel bad, we often think what we should do something to feel better. But have you ever considered that maybe you don’t always need to do anything? Maybe sometimes just being could help you to feel better?
“We can identify quite easily, how human relationships affect our wellbeing. However, we don’t recognise as easily the importance of the physical environment on emotions and moods.”
After work, I started to feel blue. I tried to do many things at home to cheer me up, but nothing helped. Then I asked the children would they wanted to make a short visit to the forest with me. The younger one wanted to go, so we took the car and left even though it was already quite late.
“What is in the environment, is in some form also in our body and mind. When we change the environment, we change our human existence too.”
I picked some lingonberries and Liilia played with moss and blueberries.
Then I just sat down on the ground.
I started to watch the sky and the trees around me.
I touched the berries in my hands.
I breathed deeply and peacefully.
And I listened to the silence of the peaceful autumn evening.
“Merely sitting in the forest and forest viewing can have significant positive effects on our mood compared to the urban environment.”
After awhile my blue mood started to fade away. The smile came back to my face.
“Efficiency and the busy lifestyle can be rewarding; you find yourself desired, a necessary part of the community and society. On the other hand at the same time, you may notice fatigue; It is never enough!”
As we stayed in the forest I recognised the reason for my blue mood too. I’ve made a long journey to accept that I’m not the fastest one. That I am naturally slow and peaceful person. However, during the workday, I had many signals again that it is not ok to be slow. They said “You should be faster, you have to work harder”.
Nowadays I can say that I’ve accepted my natural slowness but that day it got under my skin. But somehow, just being there in the forest, sitting on dry Reindeer lichen, helped me to let go and find the feeling that I am good and enough just the way I am.
“Besides the positive effects on mood and sense of restoration, natural environment can support you to process negative emotions as well.”
I found how just being in nature helps when I was trying to find ways out from my depression. After healing, I started to read more about environmental psychology. I was amazed when I realised that many of the ways that I had independently found are the techniques that are used in environmental psychology when treating patients.
“Just seeing, just being”. Sense your surroundings, see, hear, touch, move. After all it is quite easy.”
Quotes above are from environmental psychologist Kirsi Salonen who has developed and used 20 years nature-based methods as part of her psychologist’s work and research in Finland. I’m so excited that I got a chance to make SaimaaLife online course with her a couple of years ago. On the course, we taught how to use your mind, body, and surroundings to process negative emotions.
Read more about this 4-week online course “4 Steps to Set Yourself Free from Negative Emotions”.
also have the blues
- to feel sad or depressed
- to miss something or someone to a great extent
- the feeling of desperation because of sadness is also used with the same phrase
- The men in the army have started feeling blue after being on post for more than six months without getting a single holiday.
- It seems that you are feeling blue. Is there something wrong that you would like to share with me?
- I have been feeling blue ever since I have heard that my daughter will be moving abroad for good.
- It is clear why he is feeling blue now that his son has walked out on the family business.
- I feel blue every time I think about that time. It makes me so angry also.
- It is the result of feeling blue for so long that has now started affecting his physical health also.
- After looking my family car in such a terrible condition, I had the blues for months.
The reference to sadness is linked with the word blue. To go blue in the 1800’s referred to the medical condition of a person and meant that he is at the last stage before passing away. This last stage has been synonymised with the emotional last stage of person in this phrase.
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Origin of the of the phrase “feeling blue”
Since the most highly upvoted answer here seems to be based on dubious sources, and since no one else has as yet inquired into the origin of the phrase “feeling blue” (as opposed to the word blue in association with either “blues” or “blue devils”), I did some searching in Google Books for early examples of “feeling blue,” “feel blue,” “feels blue,” and felt blue.”
Early Google Books matches for ‘feeling/feel/felt blue’
The earliest of the lot of matching phrases is from “A Thought or Two on Handkerchiefs,” in The Monthly Traveler, or, Spirit of the Periodical Press (Boston: October 1835):
Some persons, it is true, are uncharitable enough to think the red noses in the community are owing to spirits of wine in some shape ; and the blue noses to spirits of wives and sweethearts ;—but I am not disposed to listen to any idea of the kind. If men drink, the member in question has no right to appropriate more than its share of good things taken in to the system ; and if men can’t keep their wives’ hands off their ears and noses they deserve to feel blue and black besides.
The earliest match for “feeling blue” appears in L. F. Apthorp, “Confessions of a Schoolmaster,” in The Boston Book: Being Specimens of Metropolitan (1836):
Yes—I was attacked, literally, by a legion of live pork. The horrid circle contracted rapidly around me. Flight, in any sense of the word, was impossible. In this agonizing moment the clouds opened and discharged a tremendous shower of — dough-nuts. Henceforth let no melancholic victim of ennui complain of feeling blue, till he has felt the “pelting of the pitiless storm.”
Another early instance of “feel blue” appears in “Our Country Forever!!!” in The Harrison Medal Minstrel (1840):
The TORIES full long have triumphant appeared,
But now they begin to feel blue,
For they know a tyrant has never yet dared,
To stand before Tippecanoe.
(Tippecanoe refers to General William Henry Harrison, hero of the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811 and thirty years later the ninth president of the United States. He was the first President to be elected as a candidate of the Whig party, which originally arose in opposition to Andre Jackson , whom the Whigs viewed as a tyrant; hence the American Whigs’ adoption of the name of the British political party opposed to the King, and their characterizing Jackson’s party as Tories.)
And from Peter Pencil, “Stock-Jobbing in New York,” in Graham’s Magazine (September 1847):
Prices had reached their lowest point precisely at the moment that I had sold out mine, and instead of going down to ninety, as they would have done had I continued to hold, they “rallied,” as the saying is, and rose to par. I looked and felt blue, and counted over my money again and again; I ciphered and calculated for half a morning, in endeavoring to make my loss less than it was. It was of no use, however, for the result of my counting and my ciphering were precisely the same, showing a deficiency of six hundred dollars and the brokerage.
Possible connections of ‘feeling blue’ to other ‘blue’-related terms
Two instances suggest the possibility that “feeling blue” might have come from a longer phrase. From “Benedick’s Lament,” in Punch, or the London Charivari (April 1844):
Oh! the days when we were bachelors, a long time ago,
Were certainly the jolliest a man could ever know!
In happy independence we the cup of pleasure sipped,
And never knew what ’twas to feel blue-devilish or hypped:
No wife had we, nor squalling brats, nor anything so low,
In the days when we were bachelors, a long time ago!
And from James Burn, Commercial Enterprise and Social Progress: or, Gleanings, in London, Sheffield, Glasgow, and Dublin (1858):
Before the year 1847, if an Irishman was a few days without joining in a “row,” he would say that he was feeling “blue-moulded for the want of a bating .” Since the above date, a considerable change has come over the national mind. Father Matthew, the failure of the potatoes, and a more reflective condition of mind, have made the people care less for poteen , and more for themselves. The consequence of which is, that Ireland is, at the present time, the most sober division of the United Kingdom.
“Blue-moulded” is not a term I’m familiar with, but Statistical Survey of the County of Antrim (1812) indicates that it refers to an affliction of wheat that may occur when the grain is improperly threshed:
Threshing is not approved of unless the grain is very dry ; when that is not the case, it is bruised on the barn floor, and grows blue-moulded.
Th connection of “feel blue” to “blues” is explicit in “A Discourse by President Heber C. Kimball, Delivered to the Tabernacle, Great Salt Lake City, April 2, 1854,” in Journal of Discourses by Brigham Young, volume 2 (1855):
Now suppose my wives and my children would take the same course to please me, and be subject to me, as I am to brother Brigham , would there be any sorrow, or confusion, or broils? No, there would be no sorrow, there would be no blues in my family. I am never blue when I do brother Brigham’s will ; but when I do not do it, I begin to grow blue ; and when brother Brigham does not do the will of God, he begins to feel blue. It always makes my family feel blue when they will not do as I wish them ; and I suppose it affects almost every family so in this town.
“Feeling blue” and “feel blue” begin to appear in Google Books publications from the 1830s. It seems highly likely that the wording arose naturally from earlier slang terms involving the word blue. Here are two early (and potentially relevant) entries from Francis Grose, A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1785):
BLUE, to look blue; to be confounded, terrified, or disappointed.
BLUE DEVILS, low spirits.
John Barrett, Dictionary of Americanisms, first edition (1848) shows a similar range of meanings in U.S. English slang usage:
BLUE. Gloomy, severe; extreme, ultra. …
BLUE DEVILS. To have the blue devils is to be dispirited.
Either term could reasonably be interpreted as providing the immediate referent for early use of the phrase “feeling blue.”
The Weatherman (No Wonder I Feel Blue)
to feel blue – Examples:
1) I feel blue when my dog dies.
2) You feel blue when you lose your job.
3) He feels blue when his wife leaves him.
4) She feels blue when her husband leaves her.
5) We feel blue when we lose the game.
6) You (all) feel blue when it is a cloudy day.
7) They feel blue when they have to cancel their vacation.
8) Even though it is sad to know that someone you care about is feeling blue and down, it is kind of comforting to realize that we’re not alone.
9) Don’t ruin your future because you’re feeling blue.
10) If you woke up feeling blue today then the chances are you are not alone.
11) That’s what was missing, that’s why I’m feeling blue, I hadn’t done anything creative for a few days.
12) Music is a powerful tool — so when you’re feeling blue, use it to get you out of a slump.
13) Talk to someone. It sounds obvious but feeling blue at this time of the year is perfectly normal for many people.
14) Now that you are better, you must stop feeling blue.
15) Giving or accepting an embrace when someone is or we are feeling blue is not a display of weakness.
16) Next time whenever you feel blue and want to give yourself a lift just read inspiring quotes
17) Most of us feel blue or get down from time to time.
18) I’d really feel blue if I didn’t think you were going to forgive me.
19) I thank them for always making an effort to energize me whenever I felt blue, for making me laugh.
20) Ian was at a loss as to why he felt blue.
Are You Depressed or Just Feeling Blue?
Bad things happen, and we all experience periods of sadness in life. Sadness is a normal, healthy reaction to many events, and most people start to feel better over time as they deal with their emotions. But people who are depressed can’t beat their feelings of extreme sadness, no matter what they do, and their depression symptoms can continue for a long period of time. Depression is not just a matter of feeling blue; it’s an illness that needs treatment.
Depression Symptoms: Are You Depressed or Just Sad?
Many things can cause sadness — a divorce or a bad breakup, losing a friend or loved one, financial troubles, and other stressors that are difficult to accept and deal with. Over time, your mind and body begin to cope with what’s happened and make adaptations, and the feelings of sadness diminish.
Depression symptoms are different from sadness in that they last longer and are often much more severe. Physical symptoms can add to emotional symptoms, and depression can begin to interfere with all aspects of your life.
Depression: The Emotional Symptoms
What does depression feel like? Common emotional depression symptoms include:
- Always feeling sad
- Constantly thinking negative thoughts that you can’t stop or control
- Feeling hopeless, guilty, or worthless as a person
- Being extremely irritable
- Thoughts of suicide
- Problems concentrating, remembering, or thinking
- Finding no enjoyment in anything, even things you once liked to do
- Crying a lot
Depression: The Physical Symptoms
How does depression affect you physically? Here are some of the physical depression symptoms that often accompany the emotional ones:
- Sleep problems, either sleeping too much or too little
- Eating issues, like having no appetite or overeating
- Weight fluctuation, either losing or gaining a lot
- Aches and pains in your joints and muscles
- Frequent headaches
- Feeling exhausted and lacking energy, even when sleeping a lot
- Abdominal pain or problems with digestion that don’t get better with treatment
Depression: How Symptoms Can Vary
Depression symptoms can be different for men and women, old and young, and even from person to person, so if your symptoms don’t perfectly match those listed, it doesn’t mean you aren’t depressed. Symptoms can be severe or relatively minor. What’s important is how often you experience them.
Any combination of these symptoms must be present for at least two weeks, on just about every day for most of the day, for them to be considered depression symptoms.
If symptoms like these — save for suicidal thoughts — appear on occasion or when you’re having a bad day, you probably aren’t depressed. Ongoing symptoms might indicate that you are.
Depression: Getting Help
Depression is serious. People with depression have an imbalance of chemicals in the brain that trigger sadness, sleep problems, and other symptoms, and keep them from getting better on their own.
The important thing is to recognize depression symptoms and get help, especially if you are having suicidal thoughts. Contact a friend, family member, or suicide hotline immediately, and learn about depression treatment.
Even without suicidal thoughts, experiencing depression symptoms should lead you to speak with your doctor and get recommendations for treatment options, including a referral to a therapist or psychiatrist to help you deal with your feelings. Depression can be managed with medication, psychotherapy, or both, but you have to start by asking for help.
Learn more in the Everyday Health Healthy Living Center.
11 Things To Do When You Are Feeling Blue
Here are some things to do (or not do) when you are sad. Whether it is the stress of school or a heart break, hopefully, this list will help you be a little more okay.
1. Whatever you do, don’t listen to Bob Dylan.. Or Adele.
Go ahead. Get it out of your system. You will feel much better. It has actually been proven that crying is healthy. It reduces your emotional stress. If you hold in those tears, you are actually putting yourself at risk for cardiovascular disease and stress-related disorders.
3. Go talk to someone.
Whether it is a paren or friend, this usually can help you out a lot. Sometimes you just want advice on your situation or maybe you just want someone to comfort you. You aren’t a burden to anyone, so go talk to those who love you most. They understand that people aren’t always happy.
4. Lay around in a big sweater.
Because, I mean, why not? Optional: fuzzy socks.
5. Paint your sadness.
I know this sounds very cheesy, but painting is so calming. Go buy a cheap canvas, some paint, and go to Pinterest for some inspiration (or just wing it). You don’t even have to be an artsy person. My canvas normally just looks like blobs of color. People probably think that this is on purpose. Shh, don’t tell them that it was actually supposed to be a turtle…
6. Go pick some flowers!
Unless you’re allergic.. Then please do not pick any flowers. I am not responsible for any of you having allergy attacks. If you are safe to pick flowers though, put them in a pretty vase in your room. It will add a little light to your life right now.
7. Go visit the local library.
Even if you don’t have any intentions of checking out books, it is a very calm place and nobody minds you being there. It’s free and, I mean, what is better than being surrounded by books?
8. Build a blanket fort or just sleep on a pile of blankets.
It’s really just your personal preference. I know nothing that feels better than building an awesome blanket fort and binge watching Netflix. Sometimes blankets are all you need.
9. Clean your room.
If you are feeling overwhelmed or unorganized, this can always help. Go through items you don’t need anymore. Wash your clothes and blankets. I’m sure your parents won’t mind at all.
10. Bake some sweets.
This kind of goes with painting your sadness. Pinterest has easy and cheap recipes to try. This will help you get your mind off of some things and keep you busy for a while. And who doesn’t like dessert?
11. Know that you are going to be okay.
Whether or not you believe it right now, everything will work out for the best. Your feelings are important and you matter. There isn’t anything wrong with being a little down sometimes. Go through the list a few times if you have to, put on some Sara Bareilles and jam out. And remember, there are always cupcakes.
Make sure you can tell the difference between sadness and depression. Look up the warning signs of depression if you or a loved ones bout of sadness lasts for longer than two weeks. Depression affects every one in ten adults in the United States. When it comes to depression, don’t try to tough it out, just make an appointment with your doctor or therapist.
It’s not news that depression has become a kind of invisible epidemic, afflicting millions of people. We live at a time when depression is approached as a disease. That has a good side. Depressed people are not judged against as weak or self-indulgent, as if they only need to try harder to lift themselves out of their sadness. Yet depression, for all the publicity surrounding it, remains mysterious, and those who suffer from it tend to hide their condition — the medical model hasn’t removed a sense of shame. When you’re in the throes of depression, it’s hard to escape the feeling that you are a failure and that the future is hopeless.
Before considering how to handle depression, let’s ask the most basic question: Are you depressed? The bad side of the medical model arises when people rush to be medicated because they don’t like how they feel. Doctors barely bother to get a correct diagnosis, because the easiest thing to do — and the thing that patients demand — is to write a prescription.
Let’s see if we can get beyond this knee-jerk reaction.
Becoming sad or blue isn’t a sure sign of depression. Life brings difficulties that we respond to with a wide range of normal emotions: sadness, anxiety, resignation, grief, defeated acceptance, helplessness. Moods are cyclical, and if these feelings are your response to a tough event, they will subside on their own in time. If they linger, however, and there seems to be no definite cause or trigger, such as losing your job or the death of a loved one, depression is accepted as the conventional diagnosis.
Depression isn’t one disorder, and even though an array of antidepressants have been thrown at the problem, the basic cause for depression remains unknown. For a diagnosis of major depression, which is more serious than mild to moderate depression, at least five of the following symptoms must be present during the same two-week period:
- Depressed mood (feeling sad or empty; being tearful)
- Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities
- Significant weight loss when not dieting, or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite
- Insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too little or too much)
- Slowing of thoughts and physical movements
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
- Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or specific plan for committing suicide
If you can count five or more of these as being present, know that your list must contain “depressed mood” or “diminished interest or pleasure” before you’d be considered medically depressed. We’ve come to recognize different kinds of depression that fit certain circumstances:
- Dysthymia is mild, chronic depression. It must present for at least two years for a diagnosis of dysthymia.
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that generally arises as the days grow shorter in the autumn and winter.
- Postpartum depression begins after a woman has given birth and may get worse as time goes on.
Even though no one knows exactly what causes depression, it is clearly a state of internal imbalance. Balance is essential for the healthy functioning of both your body and your mind. The upsetting factors that make it more likely you will get depression form a long list: genetic predisposition, being female, death or loss of loved one, major life events (even happy ones, like a graduation), other mental illnesses, substance abuse, childhood trauma, certain medications, serious illness, and personal problems such as financial troubles. What these things have in common is that they disrupt the normal balancing mechanisms of mind and body. A treatment that aims at restoring balance therefore makes the most sense, and you can participate in these.
Re-balancing yourself forms its own long list of things you can do:
- Be aware that you are depressed and seek help.
- Treat your body well, including exercise.
- Reduce stress.
- Get enough sleep meaning a minimum of eight hours a night.
- Address situations that would make anyone sad, such as the wrong job, a bad relationship, normal grief, and serious loss. Don’t passively wait for time to heal your wounds.
- Regain a sense of control.
- Examine your reactions to difficult situations. You will often find that reacting with helplessness, passivity, retreating inside, and turning passive lie at the root of your depressed state.
- Spend time with people who give you a reason to feel alive and vibrant. Avoid people who share your negative responses and attitudes. Depression in some sense is contagious.
- Rely to a minimum on antidepressants and apply your main efforts to other therapies. Pills should be as short-term as possible. They work best in removing the top layer of sadness so that you have a clear space to address the real underlying issues.
- Talk about your problems and share your feelings with those who can listen with empathy and offer positive steps.
- Make friends with someone who has recovered from depression or is handling the condition well.
Find a wise person who can help you to undo your most negative beliefs by showing you that life has other, better possibilities.
Because everything on this list requires a choice, bringing yourself back into balance means that you are aware enough to make decisions and have the ability to put them into practice. Quite often depressed people feel too helpless and hopeless to face the right choices, in which case outside help is needed, meaning a therapist or counselor who specializes in depression.
Here’s a general picture of how to make a plan for your own healing.
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, works as well as medication for many people. It may be used alone or in combination with other forms of treatment. Studies have shown that psychotherapy can cause changes in brain function similar to those produced by medications. Focused, goal-oriented forms of therapy such as cognitive-behavior therapy appear to be the most effective in treating depression.
Diet may play a part in protecting against depression. Mediterranean countries have low rates of depression compared to countries farther to the north–and it isn’t just because they get more sunlight or have a more relaxed way of life. One large-scale study tracked almost 3,500 people living in London for five years and found that those who ate a Mediterranean diet were 30 percent less likely to develop depression. Researchers speculate that the foods in the Mediterranean diet may act synergistically together. Olive oil, nuts and fatty fish are rich in omega-3 and other unsaturated fatty acids, and fresh fruits and vegetables contain flavonoids and phytochemicals that are full of antioxidants and folates (B vitamins).
Aerobic exercise is a very effective for depression. It’s been shown that moderate aerobic exercise done just 30 minutes a day, three times a week, can reduce or eliminate symptoms of mild-to-moderate depression and can help with severe depression.
It’s well known that exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, the “feel-good” chemicals (which function as neurotransmitters). Less well known is the startling effect of exercise on the structure of your brain. Exercise stimulates the creation of new nerve cells in the hippocampus, your brain’s center of learning and memory, so that it actually increases in size. This is especially relevant because depression, unless countered with effective therapy, causes the hippocampus to shrink in size. Exercise has also been shown to raise levels of serotonin and norepinephrine and to multiply the number of dendrite connections in neurons.
Yoga has been shown to lessen stress and anxiety and promote feelings of well-being. Communication between your body and your mind is a two-way street. Certain yogic practices can signal the brain that it’s all right to relax and prompt the parasympathetic nervous system to initiate the relaxation response. For instance, slow, deep, conscious breathing is also a vital element of yogic practice. This form of breathing is very effective in prompting the relaxation response to counter elevated levels of stress hormones. Someone with depression might be advised to practice “heart-opening” postures that elongate their thoracic spine. They may be told to stand with their shoulder blades drawn together so that their lungs are lifted and they are able to breathe more freely. An important component of yoga is paying close attention to what’s going on in the body at all times and locating and releasing any areas of tension. Yoga should ideally be practiced with the guidance of an experienced teacher.
Meditation can be a useful treatment for both stress and mild-to-moderate depression. Numerous studies have examined the effects of mindfulness meditation, designed to focus the meditator’s attention on the present moment. One study measured electrical activity in the brain found increased activity in the left frontal lobe during mindfulness meditation. Activity in this area of the brain is associated with lower anxiety and a more positive emotional state. Subsequently, the researchers tested both a group that hadn’t meditated as well as the meditators for immune function. They did this by measuring the level of antibodies they produced in response to a flu vaccine. The meditators had a significantly greater reaction, which indicates they had better immune function.
I know that the easiest solution is to pop a pill, and in this country powerful forces back up the promise that drugs are the answer. Keep in mind that antidepressants only alleviate symptoms, and that in the long run couch therapy has proven just as effective in changing the brain responses associated with depression. The real goal should be to re-balance your life, gain control over the disorder, understand who you are, and elevate your vision of possibilities for yourself. All of that is harder than opening a pill bottle, but every positive choice leads to real healing and a much better life in the future.
For more information go to deepakchopra.com.
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Kansas State University
The Blues and Depression What You Can Do To Overcome Them
Feeling lonely, gloomy, uncertain? Nearly everyone has had the blues at one time or another. You can get stuck in these feelings so much that they drag you down.
You don’t have to be stuck! You can overcome the blues and beat depression. Here are some tips. No one tip or combination works for everyone. Experiment to see what works for you.
What you can do
GET OUT OF BED:
One of the most important things you can do is get up at about the same time every morning (even weekends). Preferably, that means about 7 a.m. or earlier. You might not feel like it but Get Up. Such regularity helps your body function more normally so you’re more likely to feel normal.
Light helps your body function better. So turn on a lot of lights as soon as you arise. Open curtains to get more sunlight. Better yet, go outdoors into the sunshine as soon as you can. Remove any eye wear so light will enter more readily (glass cuts out some of the sun’s rays). But don’t stare at the sun, of course.
Be active right away — oxygenate! That means getting up and walking around your dwelling for five or 10 minutes, or perhaps riding an Exercycle. Mild exercise gets the blood flowing and transports more oxygen throughout your body (especially to your brain), helping you feel mentally alert and alive.
Select and play some energetic, happy music as you dress and have your breakfast. The audiovisual department of most libraries has albums and tapes you can check out.
Begin your breakfast with protein (i.e., meat, eggs, peanut butter, nuts, cheese). When you get up, your body chemistry is ready to convert food, especially protein, into long lasting energy. To balance your most important meal of the day, add an orange or other fresh fruit and whole grain cereal or whole grain bread.
TALK WITH SOMEONE:
One of the quickest ways to beat the blues is to interact with others. You might not feel like doing that – you’d rather avoid people when blue. So make lt easier on yourself. Talk with someone you enjoy about a subject you enjoy so there is definite give and take.
And, force yourself to say “hello” to the persons next to you in class, those where you live, anyone around.
The long-term (four hours or so) effects of caffeine are depression. Try to limit coffee to no more than one cup in the morning. Coffee can make you more alert for an hour or so, but later you get an opposite reaction. Caffeine tends to increase the release of insulin in the blood, and insulin lowers the blood sugar level. When you have low blood sugar levels, you begin to feel less sure of yourself, and have low energy levels, which can lead to the blues or depression.
Sugar might give you an initial rush of energy, but within an hour or so the blood sugar level can become low, and when it’s low you may feel low, too.
The caffeine/sugar cycle. It’s easy to get caught in the caffeine and sugar cycle — having coffee, caffeinated soft drinks, or something with sugar every two hours or so to “stay up.” For example, cola contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar plus caffeine equal to about half a cup of coffee. In addition to bringing on the blues, this cycle can result in dependence, poor nutrition. and obesity — reasons to get down on yourself even more and feel blue.
Fiber helps food go through your digestive system at a proper rate, giving a more constant energy supply. Highly processed foods merely provide a quick surge of energy which can be followed by depression. You can maintain fiber in your diet by eating an orange or grapefruit rather than just drinking the juice. Eat fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, and whole grain breads and cereals.
STRESS B COMPLEX:
Some persons report receiving help by taking a concentrated vitamin B complex. You’ll find these called something like “Stress B” or “B 50.” This is controversial. Some nutritionists say, “Yes, this really should be considered,” and others say, “No, this is not a good Idea.” You can try some and decide whether or not it helps you. If it does help, then perhaps you should consult a nutritionist to see if there are other ways you can augment your diet.
Changing your routines is another way to help shake the blues. Choose a different combination of clothes to wear, walk rather than drive, take a different route, eat at a different place. Do something different to help break the routine.
It’s hard. Getting up in the morning, turning on the lights, eating a nutritious breakfast, keeping busy–keeping such a schedule is not always easy.
You might need help for the first few days, someone to help you form good habits, get you out of bed, turn on the lights, make sure you have a good breakfast, someone to help you be more active. One good way is to make a contract with a friend or friends who want to see you change. It might seem embarrassing, but those friends want to see you healthy and happy rather than depressed and difficult to be around. Note: If you feel that you need the help of someone for more than three or four days, you probably should make an appointment with a counselor or psychotherapist. You don’t want to wear out your friends!
Good old-fashioned support works wonders. Most of us have not developed “support systems.” We need to think about that idea ahead of time, if we have the tendency to feel blue, so that the supports can be available when needed. Plan ahead by filling out the last section of this publication and keep it handy. In addition to developing your own resources, you might know of some community support groups for persons with the blues. Call the local mental health center to see if there are some groups you might be a part of. Some places to call for leads at K-State will be listed at the end of this brochure.
What do I do when I feel myself coming down with the blues?
Recognize the change in yourself when you are “coming down” with an emotional slump. Don’t deny it or feel guilty. Rather, take charge of yourself right away.
Perhaps taking a day off and doing some favorite things will restore you. Get more exercise: walk, garden, cycle, swim. You might not feel like it, but exercise is one of the best depression breakers and preventers.
Put a smile on your face and pretend that you are happy. Stand straight rather than falling into that slouching, depressed posture. Sound hokey? Well, it isn’t. Research demonstrates that forming a facial expression actually changes how you feel inside. And pretending to feel an emotion results in actually feeling it. Frowners feel sadder. And the depressing effects last for hours. So smile: at yourself and others, even trees or dogs or cats. Sure, it’s tough to smile when you’re feeling blue. The extra effort you muster to do it will help you break the blues.
Wear bright, happy clothes and pretend you are happy. You will then find yourself happy. Maybe, even wear a goofy shirt or blouse or cap so you can see others smile with you. Dressing cheerfully and pretending can beat the blues.
SEEK OUT HUMOR:
See a funny movie, read a humorous book, or listen to a comedy tape/CD. When you see a really funny cartoon, make a copy and save it. Consciously decide to use and employ these things when you find yourself coming down with the blues. Singing can help — make yourself do it.
It’s worth stating again: Exercise is a great way to break depression. Walk, go to the Rec Center and ride an Exercycle, swim, or climb stairs if it’s too cold or hot outside.
Do not give in to those inner blues that say, “I don’t feel like it.”
Doing almost anything constructive will be beneficial.
When you’re feeling good, prepare yourself for future “dips”. Fill out the following Blues Busters form. Keep it handy so you can use it when you need it.
Things I Enjoy Doing (write a list of things that have made you feel happy in the past)
People I Can Call (write a list of your current supports, include names of those people you hope to develop as friends in the near future)
NAME(S) PHONE NUMBER
Some Other Resources
AT KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY:
- Counseling Services, 1105 Sunset Ave, Room 101, (785) 532-6927 Call for an appointment with a counselor
- Family Center, 139 Campus Creek, (785) 532-6984 Contact the Clinic Coordinator for an appointment
- Center for Advocacy, Response, and Education, Holton Hall, (785) 532-6444 Individual and group support, resource materials
For other resources on the Internet
See our LINKS page for some suggestions.
HELP YOURSELF is created by Counseling Services
© 1989, 1997 Kansas State University
What To Do When You’re Feeling Blue
Everyone has an occasional time of feeling down. Some people may be clinically depressed while others have bouts of feeling blue or times of low energy. Regardless of the frequency or the cause, and whether or not you are on medication, you can lift yourself out of the doldrums with a few techniques. I suggest that those who encounter such distressed feelings have a few of these antidotes ready for quick access.
Appreciate the Good Stuff
Acknowledging the good and beautiful in your life is a great daily practice. Making a list of what you appreciate can lighten your mood instantaneously. You can do it by yourself, or better yet, call a friend and inspire each other. Make the sky your limit! Think of events in history that have inspired you or people who have made you thankful just to have known them. Appreciate the person who cuts your hair exactly as you like, the school crossing guard who volunteers even during a torrential downpour, politicians whose values match yours, your boss, your spouse, your kids, your co-workers, and don’t forget–appreciate yourself for all the things you accomplish!
Eliminate the Negative
In the short run, you can turn off news and TV programs that cause you distress and even stop reading the newspaper. Fill the space you create with media that is uplifting.
If your discouraged moods are significant or frequent, it might serve you to stop interacting with negative people. This may require a big effort and great ingenuity on your part. It may be that ultimately you would be doing yourself and the other people a favor by being truthful. You might say, “I’m having trouble keeping a positive outlook these days, and when you are always finding fault people, I start to feel down. So, I’m going to skip our weekly coffee klatch for a while.”
If the weather or the short days are bringing you down, try to block the outside views and fill your space with as much light as possible. You might even get full spectrum light bulbs for your living and work space where you spend the most significant part of your day.
When you find yourself in the downward spiral of negative self talk, do something startling such as splashing cold water in your face or slamming your hand on a table and declaring, “Stop!” Other activities might include percussive activities like hoeing in the garden, chopping wood, jumping rope, or simply stomping around.
A fine way to distract yourself is to put on some favorite music and dance for a while. Some people find great release in planning and cooking a meal, baking cookies, or putting up a batch of jam. Others get lost in a complicated puzzle or computer problem. Keep a list activities you enjoy so that all you have to do is look at the list for a distraction when you’re dragging along so low that ideas are hard to come by.
Have a ready library of uplifting media. This might include favorite movies, TV programs, music, poetry, or books. I often suggest that clients create fantasies that put their minds and hearts in a more favorable frame. You might remember a particularly wonderful event or create one in your mind. This kind of virtual vacation can brighten a very dull day.
You don’t have to run marathons to get the positive effects of exercise, you can feel revived and uplifted with as little as 20 minutes of brisk walking. Better yet, you can combine two of these techniques at once by putting on music you like and dancing.
Be of Service
Nothing takes you out of the blues as much as helping someone else. On the spur of the moment, you might call a neighbor and offer to take her kids to a movie or do the grocery shopping. You could cook dinner for a friend or take dessert to a colleague. For more extensive service, you could volunteer to work at a soup kitchen or deliver Meals on Wheels. One of my friends feeds babies at the local Children’s Hospital and another tutors illiterate adults. I organize the volunteers for a local music group. That way, I get to hang out with the musicians and go to their concerts. Pick some service that interests you and it’s likely to make you happy, even if you have to drag yourself out the door to do it.
If you notice that you have suddenly found yourself feeling grumpy or inexplicably down, review what was going on in the few hours prior to the feeling descending on you. You may find that you had a conversation that left you feeling unsettled. It might be that you didn’t say what you meant to say or you withheld the truth of how you felt. Sometimes it might be that you didn’t set good boundaries and you need to speak up.
This is not an easy thing to do. It takes finesse to tell the truth in a way that doesn’t make the other person wrong. The best way to do this is to make “I” statements. Talk about how you feel, not about what the other person is doing. You can’t say, “I feel you are a jerk!” because the jerkish person will simply get defensive. In this case, you could say, “When you act like that, I am afraid someone is going to get mad and start a fight with you.” Another common boundary-setting statement is, “When you act like that, I feel that you don’t like me or you are angry with me.”
Challenge Negative Thoughts
If you have an Inner Critic that is giving you grief, start making a list of all the things this critic says about you. Then look at each statement and ask these questions:
• Is this true?
• How do I know it is true?
• How do I act because I believe this is true?
• How would I act if I didn’t believe this was true?
Have a Buddy
It’s wonderful to have someone who will support you when you are feeling down. You can discuss the ideas you develop from this article and enlist a friend to help you engage in the some of the uplifting activities.
You are ultimately responsible for your own happiness. Actually, no one knows better than you what satisfies you or makes you happy. You can help yourself far more than you think by being proactive. Some day when you are feeling particularly good, go through this list and create your own Antidote for the Blues Kit.
© 2006, Jacqueline Hale
Jacquie Hale has tapped 30 years of health care experience, an advanced degree in Natural Health, and her expertise as a Life Coach to create programs and materials that bring calmness and purpose to people who are committed to having a better life.You can buy her book, Serenity Is an Inside Job: How to Relieve Stress and Reclaim Your Life and review her services on her website. www.serenitycoach.com. Send email to [email protected] or call her for a sample coaching session at 510-548-2585 (Pacific time).