top of page

The One-Percent Solution

for Depression

What Is the One-Percent Solution?

I coined the term "One-Percent Solution" to remind myself that I can't solve the whole problem of depression, anxiety, illness, or other circumstances, but I can make a small adjustment to make myself feel one-percent better. The cumulative effect of tweaks becomes significant progress because we begin to feel empowered over our condition rather than thinking of ourselves as a victim to it.

The One-Percent Solution for Depression

Depression sucks the life out of you. I know, because I’ve suffered through the depths and lengths of depression for more than thirty years. Depression can take you lower than you ever thought possible and can last longer than you think you can endure.

When you’re mired in depression, it’s easy to feel stuck. It feels like you’ll never get better. It feels like you have no control over how you feel. Let’s work on that. Let’s try to push back depression with tiny little adjustments (not even big enough to call “steps”). See if you can tweak how you feel, just a wee bit, and you’ll feel a tiny bit of control.

With three decades of experience with depression, I’ve learned a number of things that help. The most important is what I call the One-Percent Solution.

What if you could feel one percent better each day? One percent isn’t much. It doesn’t take much effort to feel one percent better. It doesn’t mean you have to tackle the whole depression problem at once. You just have to do one thing today that will make you feel a tiny bit better. If you can improve by one percent each day, you’ll feel better soon.

Ideally, the One-Percent Solution would mean you’d feel 100% in 100 days. That may or may not be the case, but I can guarantee you, based on personal experience and scientific facts, that if you attempt to feel one-percent better each day, you’ll feel empowered. Depression may linger, but it will not have control over you like before. You’ll gain the upper hand. 

Since I’ve started using this technique, my depression cycles are shorter and milder. If it can work for me, it will work for you. 

One percent. You can do that. Think of things that will make you feel one-percent better. Make a list. I’ve included a few examples to get you started.

  • Take a shower.

  • Make your bed (or even wash it!).

  • Open the blinds to let in more light.

  • Read your Bible.

  • Call a friend.

  • Eat a piece of fresh fruit.

  • Take a walk.

  • Sit in the sunshine.

  • Sing out loud!

  • Dance to your favorite music.

  • Do some stretches.


Now it’s your turn. Use this space to jot down ten things that might make you feel one-percent better. It doesn’t take much to feel one-percent better. Think small adjustments.





















Over time, continue to think of ways to make yourself feel one-percent better than the day before. It’s such an easy goal to achieve! You don’t have to conquer the whole problem. You don’t have to climb out of the pit all at once. Just focus on small actions that make small improvements. You’ll be amazed at how effective this is.

The above text is from week 1 of Push Back Depression: Experience Daily Improvement for Depression. This 21-day workbook focuses on one topic per week:

  • The One-Percent Solution for Depression

  • Take Out the Trash in Your Mind

  • Breathe Truth through Biblical Affirmations

Each week includes seven days of Scripture, biblical affirmations, and simple exercises to help you apply the concepts to your situation.

120 Action Steps for the One-Percent Solution
You can push back depression a tiny bit each day. What would make you feel 1% better right now? If you’re not sure, here are some ideas.

  1. Take a shower.

  2. Wipe down with a wet rag if you don’t have energy for a shower. Clean feels better.

  3. Take a relaxing bath.

  4. Make your bed.

  5. Do the laundry

  6. Organize your space.

  7. Tidy up your room.

  8. Sit outside to get some fresh air and sunshine (Vitamin D elevates mood).

  9. Take a Vitamin D supplement in the winter.

  10. Maintain a power pose (think superhero stance) for five minutes.

  11. Stand or sit up straight (posture affects mood).

  12. Write down three positive things.

  13. Describe a time you were happy.

  14. Practice deep breathing, with your stomach rising and falling, as you go to sleep.

  15. Think about your breathing several times a day or whenever you feel anxious or experience physical pain. An easy technique to remember is to “smell the roses and blow out the candles.” Inhale deeply as if smelling the roses and exhale through your mouth as if blowing out the candles. Deep breathing releases positive endorphins—or as I prefer to call them, “happy dolphins.”

  16. When you look in the mirror, notice something you like about yourself.

  17. Be your own cheerleader and applaud your own progress.

  18. Remember how far you’ve come.

  19. Compliment yourself for something you’ve done well.

  20. Take a mindfulness moment to identify what you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch.

  21. Take a time out because a quick break will often improve attitude and focus.

  22. Take a walk and identify what you experience through your senses.

  23. Do something you used to enjoy because forced fun may actually turn out to be fun.

  24. Light a candle.

  25. Buy yourself flowers.

  26. Watch a favorite movie.

  27. Read a favorite book.

  28. Turn your phone off.

  29. Cook your favorite meal.

  30. Go out to dinner.

  31. Meet a friend for coffee.

  32. Develop a soothing bedtime routine.

  33. Listen to soothing music to calm yourself.

  34. Listen to upbeat music to cheer yourself.

  35. Eat a small bit of expensive chocolate.

  36. Practice gratitude by thinking of three things you are thankful for today.

  37. Color a coloring page downloaded from the Internet or from a coloring book. Coloring can be calming and has a surprising ability to improve decision making, countering the decision paralysis that accompanies depression).

  38. Write in a journal.

  39. Draw a picture.

  40. Scribble if you think it will help.

  41. Take a nap.

  42. Wrap yourself snugly in a blanket like a burrito. The swaddling effect is calming.

  43. Go to the gym.

  44. Drink plenty of water.

  45. Heat a healthy meal.

  46. Eat a piece of fresh fruit.

  47. Open the blinds to let light in.

  48. Experiment with aroma therapy through scented candles or essential oils.

  49. Take meds as scheduled.

  50. Use a guided meditation (the Abide app has good, Bible-based meditations).

  51. Read, listen to, or watch a daily devotional (the YouVersion app has thousands of devotionals).

  52. Listen to worship music and sing along if you can.

  53. Binge watch a favorite show.

  54. Brush your teeth.

  55. Engage in any form of art (paint, sculpt, crafts, etc.) because art engages the right-brain, which elevates mood.

  56. Pamper yourself with skincare steps you tend to skip (facial, etc.).

  57. Indulge in a mani-pedi at home or at a salon.

  58. Talk to a friend. Everyone needs to be heard, especially when you feel down.

  59. Dance to music as a means of self-expression or worship.

  60. Stretch your body to reduce stiffness and increase blood flow to muscles.

  61. Write down your strengths.

  62. Write down how big your God is.

  63. Keep your hands busy (origami or a fidget tool).

  64. Quote biblical affirmations.

  65. Write a letter to God and write down his reply.

  66. Play an instrument or sing because music activates unique parts of the brain.

  67. Do something for someone else.

  68. Recount the times God came through in the past.

  69. Recall favorite memories.

  70. Give and receive human touch, which is known to reduce blood pressure, calm anxiety, and more.

  71. Leave the house.

  72. Find a new hobby or engage in an old one.

  73. Smile. Don’t feel like smiling? Put a pencil between your teeth. It uses the smiling muscles, which tricks the brain into thinking you’re smiling. Over time, your brain will then trick you into actually smiling.

  74. Ask for help. Don’t go all lone-ranger while you’re depressed. Everyone needs help sometimes.

  75. Write down your thoughts. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones.

  76. Say “yes” to activities you might otherwise decline. Get out of your depressed comfort zone a little.

  77. Let people in, rather than using depression as a fortress to keep everyone out.

  78. Describe yourself the way your best friend would: what you’re good at, what you’ve achieved, and why you’re awesome.

  79. Get out in public. Go places where you are surrounded by people but you don’t have to engage—café, library, museum, park, or people-watching at the mall.

  80. Spend time with animals.

  81. Spend time in nature, enjoying God’s creation.

  82. Exercise. Even mild exercise releases neuro-chemicals that act like antidepressants.

  83. Extend grace to yourself. Treat yourself the way you would treat a friend.

  84. Pray.

  85. Organize something, even a desk drawer, to gradually create a less chaotic environment.

  86. Turn off social media.

  87. Make lists of anything—affirmations, gratitude, your strengths, favorite things, etc.—to build confidence and elevate mood.

  88. Recharge when needed. Everything else can wait.

  89. Listen to and follow your heart and the leading of Holy Spirit.

  90. Look back to see how far you’ve come (not to berate yourself).

  91. Ask “Why?” Curiosity curbs depression.

  92. Tame your “should” responses. Make sure you do (or don’t do) things for the right reasons.

  93. Give yourself permission to change your mind.

  94. Press pause. Step away. Do something else. Or take an extended break, if needed.

  95. Take care of business—pay bills, apply for a job, or make a dreaded phone call. You’ll feel relief when it’s done.

  96. Build yourself up. Be kind to yourself. Resist the urge to punish yourself.

  97. Learn something new.

  98. Nurture your mental and spiritual health by learning about depression, coping techniques, and mental health resources and tools.

  99. Change the tempo of your life. Slow down if you’re busy. Get busy if you’re inactive.

  100. Face down your inner resistance. Overcoming resistance brings hop of a better life. Feel the resistance, see it for what it is, and do what you need to do. Resistance fades as you lean into it. You’ll feel empowered, too.

  101. Accept yourself and embrace your quirks.

  102. Reduce external chatter. Too much input can be confusing.

  103. Take an extended leave from social media. Six months off social media can change your mental health for the better.

  104. Reduce notifications. Consider turning off all alerts. Put yourself in control. Check in with social media when you choose, not when notified.

  105. Write down five things that went well today. Okay, well, in the depths of depression you might need to write down five things that didn’t totally suck today.

  106. Challenge your brain. Write with the “wrong” hand. Take a different route to work or for your walk. Rearrange the furniture so you have to learn new patterns.

  107. Memorize a Bible verse or at least write a biblical affirmation (a short summary statement) based on a verse.

  108. Work a sudoku puzzle. Figuring out the numbers uses just enough brain power to drown out other obsessive, anxious thoughts. This can be helpful at bedtime.

  109. Decompress for five minutes by sitting with your own thoughts (no devices, etc.).

  110. Worry for five minutes and then give it to God and refuse to worry the rest of the day.

  111. Get a step counter (or app) and try to go one step more each day. Make it a game to see if you can beat the previous day’s count.

  112. Get enough sleep.

  113. Start your day with something pleasant so whatever the day may hold, you already enjoyed something.

  114. Plan to do something exciting in the morning to motivate you to get out of bed.

  115. Arrest your negative thoughts and put them on trial by writing down all the arguments against them.

  116. Volunteer one hour a month.

  117. Detox from technology. Some people declare Sunday to be a technology free day. You might choose a different detox, but it’s good for your mental health to take a break. Take control of technology rather than letting it control you.

  118. Set boundaries on work.

  119. Enjoy a protein breakfast to get you through the morning without crashing.

  120. Identify unrealistic expectations of yourself.

This list is available as a PDF for easy reference. If you have a mental health first aid kit, you could print a copy to keep in your kit to help you think of solutions when you're struggling.

bottom of page