20 Ways to Fight to Depression

Angst and Desire
2 min readOct 26, 2023
Photo by J W on Unsplash

In 1820, the Reverend Sydney Smith sent a letter to Lady Morpeth to console her on her depression. Titled, “Advice concerning low spirits”, the letter contains 20 suggestions on how to lift her spirits.

The letter has become a classic for a reason — its advice is timeless, wise and compassionate, and presented in full below:

Foston, Feb. 16th, 1820

Dear Lady Georgiana,

Nobody has suffered more from low spirits than I have done — so I feel for you.

1st. Live as well as you dare.
2nd. Go into the shower-bath with a small quantity of water at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation of cold, 75° or 80°.
3rd. Amusing books.
4th. Short views of human life — not further than dinner or tea.
5th. Be as busy as you can.
6th. See as much as you can of those friends who respect and like you.
7th. And of those acquaintances who amuse you.
8th. Make no secret of low spirits to your friends, but talk of them freely — they are always worse for dignified concealment.
9th. Attend to the effects tea and coffee produce upon you.
10th. Compare your lot with that of other people.
11th. Don’t expect too much from human life — a sorry business at the best.
12th. Avoid poetry, dramatic representations (except comedy), music, serious novels, melancholy sentimental people, and every thing likely to excite feeling or emotion not ending in active benevolence.
13th. Do good, and endeavour to please everybody of every degree.
14th. Be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue.
15th. Make the room where you commonly sit, gay and pleasant.
16th. Struggle by little and little against idleness.
17th. Don’t be too severe upon yourself, or underrate yourself, but do yourself justice.
18th. Keep good blazing fires.
19th. Be firm and constant in the exercise of rational religion.
20th. Believe me, dear Lady Georgiana, Very truly yours.

Context

Although Smith is little discussed nowadays, he was a celebrated wit and essayist in his own time, and counted Byron, Walter Scott, Dickens and Queen Victoria as just some of his fans. He is also rumoured to be the basis for the character of Henry Tilney in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.

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Angst and Desire

Curating the best of life advice from Philosophy, Psychology and Literature.