Sometimes it feels like the world is getting the best of you and you're just trying to manage. Everyone feels at least glimmers of those feelings from time to time depending on what's going on in their lives, but for some, depression is more than just a dose of disappointment. You likely know that there are medications and other medically-based treatments that can alleviate depression, which are affective. If, however, you want to make an extra effort, there are also lifestyle changes that can help reduce depression and the difficult emotions that can come along with it.
Whether your feelings of depression or a depressive episodes were triggered by a specific instance, most of the time, there are some things you can do to combat depression beyond heading to the doctor's office or speaking with a qualified therapist. (That being said, if you suffer from depression and need help, qualified therapists and other healthcare providers are there to help you). These lifestyle changes can give you a sense of ownership over your mental health and recovery and empower you to stick with it. From exercise to meditation, here are some things you can add to your daily routine to help ward off depression and feel better.
If you've ever seen Legally Blonde, you likely remember the iconic quip about exercise leading to endorphins, which "make you happy." All of that aside, according to the University of Minnesota, exercise can be beneficial for those experiencing depression and anxiety because it raises self-esteem and self-confidence, gives you a feeling of empowerment, and creates or strengthens social networks. And, yes, the chemicals that help boost your mood are endorphins (as well as serotonin).
2. Say Goodbye To Junk Food
Pass the cashews, please. Although feeling low might lead you to believe you need "comfort food" to help you feel better, you actually need to embrace healthier foods if you want to reduce depression. Changing your diet to incorporate more fatty acids, amino acids, and complex carbs can help balance the neurotransmitters in your brain and boost your mood, according to Healthline.
3. Sleep Tight
Sleep is important for your overall health and well-being, but did you know that it can also help reduce depression? According to a 2014 study conducted by researchers in Sweden, there's a link between sleep disturbances and depression. In the study, 83 percent of those with moderate to severe sleep issues also had depression. Making sleep a priority can be difficult, but it might be well worth it in the long run.
4. Limit Stress
Stress wreaks havoc on your health, both physical and mental. According to a post that Dr. David Sack penned for Psychology Today, incorporating a yoga or meditation practice into your routine may help reduce depression. The practices go hand in hand, and are very easy to practice from the comfort of your own home if you're not comfortable venturing out to a formal class.
5. Drink Less Alcohol
According to the aforementioned resource from the University of Minnesota, those with depression should try to refrain from consuming alcohol, which might exacerbate the problem. If someone is abusing alcohol as a way to cope with their depression, the alcohol abuse should be addressed as its own problem.
6. Embrace Your Support System
If you're depressed, it can be easy to both crave community and withdraw from those close to you. According to the previously-mentioned Healthline article, spending time with your support system can help propel you through and alleviate your depression.
7. Smile More
Practically no one likes to be told to smile more, I know. But in an interview with Psych Central, professor of geochemistry Jane A. Plant, argued in favor of smiling to help reduce feelings of depression. She goes into greater detail in her book (which she wrote along with co-author Janet Stephenson), Beating Stress, Anxiety and Depression: Groundbreaking Ways to Help You Feel Better. Although the book is controversial because it advises eschewing drugs in favor of solely using lifestyle changes to treat depression, Plant noted that it may help those experiencing mild depression. Ultimately, it's not likely that smiling will cause an adverse reaction, but it may not be the key to alleviating your depression altogether. If lifestyle changes aren't making enough of an impact, it is still wise to speak with a qualified healthcare provider to see what else can be done.