Treating depression effectively means doing more than taking your medications and going to therapy. The more you adapt your lifestyle to ensure your body and mind are healthy, the more adept you will be at responding to the challenges of depression.
Here are some ways you can improve your lifestyle to complement your depression treatment. As always, consult with your doctor before making any changes.
The easiest way to improve your diet is to cut out the junk. Avoiding foods high in refined sugar, and foods packed with saturated fats should be your first step. Begin incorporating healthy foods. Some of those foods include:
Two of the types of fatty acid found in our diet are omega-3 and omega-6, which can be found in fish, nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables, and olive oil.
The messengers within the brain, called neurotransmitters, are made of amino acids. Levels of several neurotransmitters are related to mental health, so include amino-acid-rich foods—such as meat, dairy products, and certain fruits and vegetables in your diet.
Some research suggests that eating carbohydrates actually help to stimulate the production of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. Carbohydrates also help the body to absorb the amino acid tryptophan more effectively. And the brain runs on glucose, which is derived from carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates can be found in whole grains, legumes, vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, and fruits such as oranges and pears.
Exercise increases your body’s production of natural antidepressants. A study at Duke University showed that many people who exercised 30 minutes a day for four months experienced alleviated depression without the use of medications. Other research has shown that exercise reduces stress, improves mood, boosts self-esteem, and provides restful sleep.
Losing weight not only improves your self-esteem and overall health, but also may give your mind the boost it needs. You don’t have to starve yourself or hop on a fad diet. Eating right and exercising regularly is the tried-and-true method for losing weight and keeping it off. The more you incorporate those two things into your lifestyle, the more likely you’ll be able to stick with them.
Meditation is the practice of engaging in a mental exercise—such as deep breathing or repetition of a phrase (mantra)—to achieve some kind of benefit. The goal in the Buddhist tradition, where meditation is rooted, has been spiritual enlightenment. However, modern practices also focus on stress relief and relaxation. Meditation can help relieve anxiety that sometimes accompanies depression. If depression is disrupting a person’s sleep habits, deep-breathing techniques can help calm the mind in order to sleep better.
A common complication of depression is lack of sleep. You lie awake in bed at night with a brain that will not calm down. Or you wake in the middle of the night and cannot get back to sleep. Fatigue from a lack of sleep may add to the symptoms depression. Proper sleep hygiene is an important part of a depression treatment plan. Having a calming bedtime routine that helps you wind down and following a consistent sleep schedule can help improve the amount and quality of sleep.
Depression can be alienating, but the right network of friends and loved ones can help you overcome your problems. Spending time with positive, supportive, and loving people can help you through your darkest times.
Stress is a part of life, but chronic, long-term stress can be debilitating, especially for someone with depression. Because stress builds upon itself, it’s essential to regularly combat stress with calming, soothing experiences. Stress management is personal, so you are the best person to decide which healthy activities will help you. Some ideas to consider include:
- watching your favorite movie
- reading a good book
- practicing a hobby
- listening to music
- writing in a journal