Do-It-Yourself Therapy: 10 Practices For Self Care

African American couple exercising outside in park

Approximately 1/3 of adults in the U.S. will meet criteria for a DSM-IV-TR (the psychiatric handbook) diagnosis in their lifetime. That is a lot of people, especially considering that most people see themselves as “normal” and everybody else as “crazy.” The most common diagnoses are depression and anxiety — which have even higher prevalence rates among women and those with fewer social-economic advantages (education, income, employment).

READ: 11 Natural Remedies for Anxiety

Most people (40–60%) never receive any mental health treatment. Common reasons for not receiving treatment include believing that the problem isn’t bad enough yet, the problem will go away on it’s own or that mental health treatment will not be effective. Additionally, a significant proportion of people do not receive treatment due to embarrassment and stigma associated with being in therapy or taking antidepressant medications.

Receiving mental health treatment is important and beneficial for many, particularly those who have severe disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, or chronic and acute depression or anxiety. However, there are a number of behavioral steps that ALL people can take to improve their mood, well-being and daily functioning. Therapists trained in evidence based psychotherapy interventions can be invaluable in helping individuals increase motivation and implement these cognitive and behavioral strategies. However, with discipline, drive and determination many of these wellness practices can be implemented independently.

1. Get up, get dressed and get out of your home everyday. Lack of motivation, tiredness and fatigue, isolation and withdrawal are common symptoms of depression. Simply “going through the motions” of carrying out your typical daily routine is the first step in improving your mood.

2. Practice gratitude. When feeling down, you may distort your thinking to focus on only the things that aren’t going right in your life. This is called tunnel vision. Establish a routine of waking up and identifying the things in your life for which your are grateful. Expand your purview to notice the small daily pleasures that are already occurring in your life.

READ: Make Your Own Gratitude Jar!

3. Establish structure to your daily schedule. When people are depressed they often stop doing the things that they enjoy. They feel tired and unmotivated, and tell themselves “i’ll do it when I feel better.” However, there are mental health benefits to faking it until you make it. Sometimes the behavior comes first and feeling better comes second. Create a calendar of activities. Include obligations (work, doctor’s appointments, errands) and pleasures (exercise, movies, reading).