Depression is a serious mental health disorder that affects almost 300 million people around the world. For the past several years, public awareness about the importance of mental health has been increasing. In fact, several movies about depression attempt to explain more about the condition. Many common mental and physical symptoms of depression—lack of energy, low mood, sleep disturbances, changes in appetite, etc.—can impact daily life in a significant way. When this happens, it can help to utilize coping strategies for dealing with depression that are both available and backed by science.
While a combination of some type of therapy—such as psychodynamic therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, or cognitive behavioral therapy and medication is typically the first-line treatment for depression, making certain alterations to your daily routine can produce noticeable benefits. For example, engaging in regular exercise, spending time with supportive family members, and practicing self-care tips can all contribute to relieving depression symptoms and improving your mental well-being. Below, we’re going to discuss common lifestyle changes that you can implement in order to alleviate symptoms of depression and manage stress more effectively.
Lifestyle Changes For Managing Depression
There are many reasons people put a focus on lifestyle changes when treating depression. Some adults aren't comfortable taking medication and would rather utilize a natural approach. Others may simply want to supplement medication and their preferred type of psychotherapy with methods that they can practice at home or when they aren't in family therapy sessions. Some people live with a mild form of depression that may require less thorough treatment. If you experience depression, the following lifestyle changes might be helpful for you.
The best methods for addressing depression are often different from individual to individual; you might find that some of the following tips work better than others. For example, engaging in small tasks or participating in positive events at a local park may help boost your mood. Take note of what works for you and consider creating a daily routine that incorporates several different methods for coping with fatigue, feeling exhausted, and improving energy levels.
Eat A Balanced Diet
Providing your body and brain with important nutrients can help give you additional energy and manage your mood. There is a proven link between Western diets—which often feature processed foods that are heavy in refined sugar and fat—and depression. Consider eating a balanced diet that is based around fresh vegetables and fruits, lean meats like fish or chicken, whole grains, beans, and nuts. Meal prepping is an effective way of incorporating a healthy diet into your life. For example, batching nutrient-rich meals ahead of time may make it easier to eat a balanced diet throughout the week, cope with stress, and make you feel good. If you find that you’re struggling to eat a healthy amount food and are exhibiting symptoms of an eating disorder such as binge eating disorder or bulimia, you may need to get in touch with a health professional as well as a therapist well-versed in this comorbidity.
Providing yourself with compassion and tending to your own needs is important, especially when dealing with severe depression or trying to not worsen depression. If you experience depression, a self-care routine is your opportunity to relax and do things that enrich your life. Self-care can include meditation, journaling, reading, cooking, taking a bath, or almost anything else that promotes mental, emotional, and physical wellness. Consider keeping a habit tracker so that you can remember to practice self-care regularly and maintain control over your well-being, reducing the risk of negative outcomes.
Limit Alcohol Consumption
There is a proven bidirectional relationship between alcohol use and depression. This means that alcohol consumption can lead to symptoms of depression and vice versa. Many people use alcohol as a way of coping with difficult-to-process emotions produced by depression, but this can make symptoms worse. If you’re living with depression, consider limiting your alcohol intake or abstaining altogether. A 2014 study found that the intensity of consumption was more of a factor in exacerbating symptoms of depression than the frequency of consumption. So, avoiding binge drinking may be particularly important.
Get Plenty Of Sleep
A good night spent sleeping can boost your energy, immune system, and overall mood while providing help for depression. Depression can impact the quality of the sleep we experience, though, which may create a compounding effect. If you’re experiencing suboptimal sleep quality, consider creating a nighttime routine that helps you wind down. This can include reading, tending to personal hygiene, making herbal tea, and doing other things to prepare yourself for sleep. It can also be important to avoid your phone for an hour before bedtime as its blue light can affect your ability to fall asleep.
Science points to physical activity as a healthy way of alleviating symptoms of depression. When you’re active, your brain produces endorphins that can boost your mood. These positive outcomes can be experienced after just five minutes of exercise. Exercise has also been shown to have more long-term positive effects when it comes to depression. In a systematic review, one study, researchers found that implementing an aerobic fitness regimen for several months could produce benefits for up to a year when it came to depressive symptoms. Additionally, exercise can help address physical health concerns that may contribute to depression.
Almost anything that increases your heart rate can help—running, swimming, kickboxing, yoga, lifting weights, and so on. Consider creating a routine that will allow you to get regular physical activity. If you find that you have trouble getting motivated, it can help to have an exercise partner who can keep you accountable and help you stay consistent.
Get Into Nature
Several studies have demonstrated that getting into nature can help alleviate symptoms of depression. One found that individuals who walked in nature for an hour and a half showed decreased signs of depression compared to participants who walked through a traffic-dense urban area.
These studies have found that any natural environment, whether it is a city park, a community garden, a forest, or a tree in a backyard, can help people to relax and feel happier. So, if you live in a city, you can still reap the benefits of nature. If you can, though, try to get away from populated areas intermittently by visiting forests, beaches, or state parks.
Additionally, if you are living with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), you might be lacking in your exposure to the sun, which helps our bodies to process and utilize vitamin D. Getting outside and soaking up the sun for at least 30 minutes a day has been shown to alleviate symptoms of mild depression, especially in winter months.
Mindfulness—the process of fostering a sense of awareness and presence—has been shown by many researchers to calm the mind and provide mental health benefits to people who are living with depression. Mindfulness is meant to bring your attention to your present thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Importantly, the act requires you to accept the present and not pass judgment on your thoughts or emotions. This is helpful for breaking negative cyclical thought patterns you might have while experiencing depression.
To practice mindfulness, sit or lie down in a relaxing position while taking deep breaths. Bring your attention to what’s going on internally and what you perceive around you. Identify your feelings (hunger, frustration, pain, happiness, etcetera) and recognize your thoughts as they enter your head without judging them. Take note of how things look, smell, and feel. Slowing down and remaining present can help you relax and avoid ruminating on intrusive thoughts.
Smiling has been shown to improve mood. This idea is not new—in fact, in 1872, Charles Darwin wrote, "The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it." However, what has been more recently discovered is that even faking a smile can improve mood. One study found that participants who forced themselves to smile by biting on a pen (use their teeth, not their lips) experienced greater confidence and improvement in mood.
Other tips for making yourself smile and laugh include watching a funny movie, listening to a comedy podcast, or searching online for funny websites. Although this may not work for you always, sometimes finding the humor in things can help.
How Therapy Can Help
A growing number of studies point to online therapy as an effective way of addressing symptoms of depression that may impact our ability to live a healthy life. In a long-term study of over 1,000 clinical patients who sought treatment for depression, researchers found that online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) significantly improved symptoms of depression. Cognitive behavior therapy aims to help individuals reframe negative thought patterns that may lead to maladaptive behaviors or emotions, such as those often associated with a depressive disorder.
Online therapy can connect you with valuable support and helpful resources as you work through symptoms of depression. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you’ll have the ability to chat with a licensed therapist from the comfort of home, through video call, voice call, or in-app messaging. You can discuss types of depression and treatments for depression, and your therapist may provide resources that may help reinforce certain concepts and keep you consistent as you manage symptoms of depression in between sessions.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are general methods used to treat depression?
If you’re depressed or coping with bipolar disorder, the general methods are medications and talk therapy. Your doctor will work with you to create the depression treatment that is right for you.
How can I lift my mood?
Here are some tips on how to improve your mood:
- Spend time with people you love and who boost your mood, such as friends or family. If those people are long distance, you might plan phone calls
- Social activities, such as joining a group or volunteering may improve your mood.
- Physical activity. This can be as simple as taking a walk outside. Evidence-based research shows that even just being outside can boost your mood
- Try not to ruminate on negative thoughts. Discussing negative thoughts can be helpful, but fixating on those negative thoughts is unlikely to help you or reduce stress
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
- Sleep on a regular schedule
- Avoid alcohol abuse and drug abuse. Drug abuse will only exacerbate any mental illness. Drug abuse and mental illness often go hand in hand. Drug abuse can also lead to additional ailments down the line
You may ask your doctor if folic acid or fish oil would be helpful in your case.
If you’re depressed or believe you’re showing warning signs of depression symptoms or another mental illness, you can reach out to a health care practitioner for depression support. You can use search engines to look for frequently asked questions about mental illness and treatments before your appointment so you know what you want to ask.
How can a sad person be happy?
If you’re depressed or believe you have warning signs of another mental illness, you could consider the list above and should also speak to a mental health professional about your depression symptoms to get health information and a depression treatment plan.
If coping with depression or another mental illness is still difficult, consider a support group. Support groups are helpful because they bring together individuals who are going through similar experiences and provide them with emotional support and coping resources. Many churches have faith based support groups, so if you are looking for a faith based support group, a local church or religious group may be a good place to start. You could also consider a faith based support group if you do not believe the faith based approach would be detrimental to your healing. Support groups are particularly common for people with a mental illness, a substance use disorder issue, or both a mental illness and a substance use disorder.
You may also ask your health care provider what other human services and health services are available to you, including human services and health services in the local community. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services may have additional information.
Coping with major depression or another mental illness is possible. You just need to find the depression support right for you.
If you are currently in crisis, you can reach out to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
What is the best medicine for depression?
Antidepressants are the medications that are typically used if you’re depressed. The most common types of antidepressants include:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
- Atypical antidepressants
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
It’s recommended that you speak with a health care provider before taking any new medications.
What is the primary cause of depression?
Like with many a mental illness, there is no one single cause to depression. Many factors can cause depression and usually those factors overlap in some way. Genetics likely play a part, but other factors contribute to it, such as stressful life events, illnesses, or drug abuse and alcohol abuse.
What is the number 1 mental illness?
Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses, with approximately 264 million people affected by it. If you’re depressed, you’re far from alone. Lots of people are coping with depression.
How can I be happy single?
To improve your mood, consider the benefits of being single. (Resist negative thinking: negative thinking rarely helps any situation.) A lot of the benefits center around knowing who you are. Here is a list provided by a Time article:
- You’re more open to what life throws at you
- You have time to get in touch with yourself
- You have a chance to figure out what you want in life
- Being in a relationship isn’t right for everyone
- You have a chance to become financially responsible
- You can make self-care a priority
- You can learn to enjoy your own company
- Your confidence can increase
If you believe that you may be coping with depression or that you may have a mental illness, you can reach out to a healthcare professional for help. Look up frequently asked questions about mental illness beforehand to learn what you can and so you know what to ask.
What helps people cope with depression?
What is the fastest way to cure depression?
How do people overcome their depression?
Can u ever get rid of depression?
What vitamin is a natural antidepressant?
What happens if depression is not treated?
Do people go back to normal after depression?
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