Many lifestyle changes can help ease the burden of living with depression. Strategies that work for one person may not be right for another, so trial and error is typical.

Depression can be severe and life-altering, affecting the quality of life and the happiness of those who live with it. It’s also a common condition. It affects about 18.4% of people in the United States every year.

Some common techniques may help with managing the symptoms of depression.

Help is out there

If you or someone you know is in crisis and considering suicide or self-harm, please seek support:

If you’re calling on behalf of someone else, stay with them until help arrives. You may remove weapons or substances that can cause harm if you can do so safely.

If you are not in the same household, stay on the phone with them until help arrives.

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Exercising regularly is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. Exercise can help in the treatment and prevention of depression in several key ways:

  • It increases your body temperature, which can have a calming effect on the central
    nervous system.
  • It prompts the release of endorphins in the brain, boosting mood.
  • It reduces immune system responses that may worsen depression.

All types of physical exercise can help treat depression, but moving regularly can help you get the benefits. To get more exercise, you can:

  • Join a sports team or studio (like yoga or kickboxing), where you’ll be part of a community and be active.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Making it a habit is the best way to maintain the fitness level that is most effective in preventing depression.

Learn more about exercise, depression, and the brain.

Research has shown that spending more time on social media can worsen feelings of depression and low self-esteem. Social media can be addicting, but for many people, it’s a necessity in order to stay connected with family, friends, and even coworkers.

Even if cutting it out completely isn’t realistic for your lifestyle, limiting social media time can help prevent depression. You can do this by:

  • deleting all social apps from your phone to cut down on instinctive use
  • using website-blocking extensions that only let you use certain sites for a preset amount of time
  • only going to social media with a purpose and avoiding “doom-scrolling” or logging on just to pass the time

Having a strong support system and an active social life is important for our mental health. Research has shown that a lack of social support can contribute to worsening depression symptoms.

Make sure that you’re regularly connecting with friends and family, even when your lives are busy. Attending social events when you can and finding new hobbies that could help you meet new people can all help you build new relationships, too.

Have you ever walked into a cereal aisle and been suddenly unsure which one you wanted to buy? Researchers think that having too many choices can actually cause significant stress that can lead to depression.

The psychologist Barry Schwartz, author of the book “The Paradox of Choice,” describes research that shows that when faced with too many choices, those who aim to make the best possible choice — “maximizers” — face higher rates of depression.

For many of us, our lives are filled with choices. Which outfit do we wear, and should we buy yogurt, eggs, bagels, English muffins, or sausage for breakfast? The pressure of making the right — or wrong — choice is thought to contribute to depression.

If making choices stresses you out, simplify things. You can:

  • Learn to be decisive more quickly.
  • Reduce the decisions you’ll have to make during the work week. Plan out your outfits
    and have your meals prepped and ready to go. You can even try using apps that randomize your options and choose for you for a bit of fun.

Chronic stress is one of the most avoidable common causes of depression. Learning how to manage and cope with stress is essential to improve mental health.

To manage stress, you can:

  • Avoid overcommitting to things.
  • Practice mindfulness or meditation.
  • Learn to let things go that you can’t control.

Stress can be one of the trickiest causes of depression to manage. Meeting with a therapist can be a great way to learn effective strategies for coping with stress when it pops up.

Continue reading about the best places for guided meditation online.

If you’ve already experienced one depressive episode, there’s a higher chance you’ll experience another. That’s why maintaining your treatment plan is so important.

This includes:

  • continuing prescription medications and never stopping them abruptly
  • having “maintenance” visits with your therapist every so often when in remission
  • consistently practicing the strategies and coping mechanisms your therapist taught you

Getting plenty of high quality sleep is necessary for both mental and physical health. In fact, having insomnia is significantly associated with a higher chance of developing depression.

To get better sleep, you can:

  • Avoid screens for 2 hours before bed (including your phone!)
  • Meditate before bed
  • Use a comfortable mattress
  • Avoid caffeine after noon

We’ve all met that person who just makes us feel bad about ourselves. Sometimes, they’re an outright bully and other times, they subtly put us down to make themselves feel better. They may even be someone who takes advantage of us.

Surrounding yourself with supportive people is important, but knowing when to distance yourself from those who contribute to your stress can make a difference as well.

One study from 2012 found that negative social interactions were linked to higher levels of two proteins known as cytokines. These two proteins are associated with inflammation, as well as depression.

Research has shown that regularly consuming a high fat diet can have effects similar to those of chronic stress when it comes to causing depression. In addition, an unhealthy diet can also deprive your body of vital nutrients it needs to maintain physical and mental health.

To minimize the chances of worsening depression with your diet, consider:

  • eating balanced meals with lean protein and lots of fruits and vegetables
  • reducing high sugar and high fat foods
  • eliminating processed foods from your diet as much as possible
  • incorporating more omega-3s into your diet with foods like salmon or nuts

If a doctor has given you specific diet guidelines for your health situation, be sure to follow those.

Weight fluctuations due to stress and depression can result in low self-esteem, especially once you start adding in the judgments and criticisms of other people — for many, this can become a vicious cycle. Public health experts have found a clear correlation between being overweight or underweight and experiencing depression.

Exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and eating well should help with maintaining a healthy weight. If you’re finding it difficult to manage your weight as a result of depression, consider speaking with a doctor or therapist.

People with other chronic conditions have a higher chance of developing depression. Chronic conditions aren’t something that can be avoided, but in many cases, it may be possible to manage them.

If you live with a chronic condition, you should always:

  • Speak with your doctor if your condition or symptoms get worse.
  • Follow your treatment plan carefully.
  • Take your medications and follow your doctor’s recommendations for lifestyle changes.

A number of different prescription medications can cause depression as a side effect.

Read prescription labels carefully before taking them. If you’re concerned about taking a medication you’ve been prescribed, talk with your doctor and see if other medications or treatments can resolve your condition without depression as a side effect.

A few medications that can cause depression include:

Excessive use of alcohol and any drug use not only has a link with higher chances of depression but also high chances of depression relapse. Limit alcohol intake and eliminate any drug use as safely as possible.

The sober curious movement, which has guidelines for moderation, can be a great place to start if you’re thinking about cutting back.

Learn more about depression relapse.

Smoking can raise the chance of depression. To stop smoking, you can:

  • Focus on your reason for quitting and remind yourself of this every time you’re tempted.
  • Know what to expect ahead of time as you reduce your use.
  • Tell your friends your goals and ask them to help hold you accountable.
  • Quit at the same time as a friend.

15 tips for quitting smoking.

Once you’ve learned your own depression triggers, you can begin to avoid them. Some larger and more universal triggers, however, are unavoidable parts of life. Examples of unavoidable depression triggers could be the anniversary of a death or a divorce or knowing that you’ll see your ex and their new partner at your child’s school function.

To plan for these triggers, you can:

  • Know that it’s coming up, and think through what it will entail.
  • Make plans with a friend or ask someone to check in with you after a difficult event.
  • Remind yourself that you will get through it.

If you’re concerned, you can also make an appointment with your therapist for more tips to help manage it ahead of time.

Depression is a common mental health condition that can greatly impact your well-being and overall happiness.

Finding ways to manage depression can greatly improve your quality of life, but what works for one person may not work for another, and it often takes trial and error to find effective strategies.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, consider contacting a mental health professional for help.