If you are suffering from depression, you know that you might still have bad days even when you are receiving proper treatment. There are some lifestyle changes you can make that will help you manage depression. Note that these are not a substitute for qualified professional care; you should seek treatment if you are dealing with the symptoms of depression, particularly if they last longer than two weeks or if they are severe. For mild depression that doesn’t require treatment and for moderate to severe depression that is being treated with counseling and/or medication, however, check out these 7 things that can help you manage depression symptoms.
Getting enough exercise is as good for both your mental and physical health. You already know the physical health benefits of exercise, which include:
- a stronger heart
- lower blood pressure
- a reduced risk of some cancers
There’s also evidence that exercise can help reduce symptoms of both anxiety and depression.
If you don’t have time for a full workout each day, don’t worry: As little as 30 minutes of exercise per day, even if it’s broken into three 10-minute sessions, is enough to increase your physical and mental health, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Try parking far enough away from your office building so it takes you 10 minutes to walk into the office and out to the car, going for a quick walk on your lunch break, or taking the dog for a walk after dinner and you’ll more than meet your daily needs. Finding ways to fit little amounts of exercise into your daily schedule is an easy way to help manage depression.
Everything seems more difficult when you are sleep-deprived, and depression symptoms are no exception. Sleep deprivation can lead to worsening depression, and worsening depression can lead to insomnia, creating a vicious cycle. Getting enough sleep can do wonders for both your physical and your mental health.
Here are a few methods to help you improve your sleep hygiene:
- make sure your room is not too hot or too cold
- get into a relaxing before-bed routine
- avoid stressful activities for an hour or two before bed
If you have tried these strategies and still having trouble getting to sleep, then you should see a sleep specialist.
You’ve probably heard that you should get out of the house for some fresh air and sunshine each day. It turns out that there is some merit to this when it comes to your mental health. Your body creates vitamin D in response to being exposed to the sun, and a deficiency of vitamin D can actually cause symptoms of depression. Not only that but being outdoors in the fresh air simply feels good to most people. If you are in a climate that gets cold in the winter, talk to your doctor about being tested for vitamin D deficiency. If you are deficient, supplements might help (but don’t take them unless you need them because it is possible to overdose on this fat-soluble vitamin).
For some people, yoga can boost the effectiveness of depression treatments and can also make people with untreated depression feel better. The type of yoga most recently studied was Iyengar yoga, which focuses on alignment, good posture, and breathing exercises. If you can make it to a yoga class or practice yoga on your own at home twice per week, you might see benefits within a few weeks. There are no contraindications unless you are physically unable to do the exercises, so just check with your physician to be sure that you are in good enough health.
5. Social Interaction
It’s a catch-22 for people with depression: Social interaction is a great way to boost your mood, but depression symptoms often make people not want to leave the house and be social with others. If you are looking for a way to manage depression, do what you can to make plans with friends. Note that you don’t necessarily have to leave the house; if you are having a bad day, try inviting a friend over instead.
The jury is out on whether social interaction via a screen is as helpful. While face-to-face interaction is generally better, online interaction is better than none at all. There are even depression chat rooms that are overseen by therapists that can help you if you feel like you can’t interact in person.
Many people who have pets consider them members of the family. Having a cat, dog, or another furry (or scaly or feathery) pet gives you someone to take care of and share life’s challenges with. If you are depressed, a soulful look from your dog or the sight of your cat pouncing on a piece of thread on the carpet can turn your mood around temporarily.
Caring for a pet also gives you something to live for; just as the parent of young children wants to be around to see those children grow up, a pet owner wants to be around to take care of their furbaby. If you cannot adopt a pet of your own, you might have access to someone else’s pet to stroke and walk.
Finally, you’ve heard the adage that laughter is the best medicine. Sometimes when you are depressed, finding something to laugh about can be difficult, so it’s good to treasure those moments when they come. Make more of them by watching funny movies, looking for funny videos on the Internet, or just talking to a friend who has a great sense of humor.
Laughter has several mental health benefits, including the following:
- Helps people cope with loss
- Reduces stress
- Help people recover from even severe depression when combined with appropriate treatments
Find out what tickles your funny bone and begin a collection of books, images, movies, television shows, and recorded comedians that will make you laugh. Use them on days you haven’t laughed enough to help manage depression and see if it makes you feel better.
If you have depression, lifestyle changes are extremely important, but seeing a mental health professional is also essential. Make an appointment with your primary care physician, who can screen you for depression and refer you to the appropriate specialist.