While depression is a serious mental health condition that requires professional attention and treatment, there are also ways that an individual can alter their lifestyle to help manage the symptoms. There is no cure for depression; however, incorporating simple daily habits can go a long way for reducing symptoms, improving mood, and enhancing mental health. Let’s take a more in-depth look at depression, then discuss the healthy habits that can be helpful for coping with depression.
What is Depression?
Depression is much more than temporary sadness. This mood disorder (also referred to as major depressive disorder) causes ongoing disruption to an individual’s mood, thought processes, motivation, and ability to carry out daily activities. There is not one singular cause of depression; it develops as a result of a complex combination of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors.
There are various forms of depressive disorders that may occur as a result of unique circumstances, such as seasonal affective disorder, postpartum depression, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). While symptoms of depression may vary among each individual, some common signs and symptoms of depression include persistent feelings of sadness, worthlessness or helplessness, increased irritability, extreme fatigue, difficulty concentrating, changes in eating or sleeping patterns, and thoughts of suicide. If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, reach out for help immediately through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.
Treatment for depression often looks like psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be beneficial for helping an individual to explore the connection between their thoughts and behaviors, and developing strategies for managing depressive symptoms. For more advice and information about depression and treatment, visit BetterHelp.
In addition to professional treatment, there are also daily habits an individual can adopt that can be helpful for managing depression.
7 Daily Habits for Managing Depression
1. Maintain daily structure. As depression can make it difficult to get out of bed sometimes, having a meaningful daily routine (whether it includes school/work, exercise, socialization, volunteering, hobbies, etc) can be very helpful. This provides a sense of structure and purpose amidst the loss of control that often comes with mental illness.
2. Pay attention to your diet. Fueling our body can have a significant impact on boosting mood and energy levels. Try to reduce consumption of processed foods, refined sugar and saturated fat. Instead, incorporate more whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats, and fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet.
3. Move more. While exercise may be the last thing someone experiencing depression feels like doing, it can have many positive benefits on enhancing mood and reducing stress. Instead of thinking of exercise as having to hit the gym for an hour, simply focus on ways you might move your body more. This could look like a brief walk around your neighborhood, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or putting on your favorite song and dancing.
4. Prioritize sleep. Depression can make falling or staying asleep difficult; while in turn, lack of sleep can exacerbate symptoms of depression. Think about how you might develop a calming bedtime routine and try to stick to a consistent sleep schedule the best you can.
5. Surround yourself with support. It is common for an individual with depression to isolate themselves from friends and family members. Try to push back against the urge to withdraw and let in the supportive people around you. Continuing to spend time with others and cultivating positive connections is imperative for mental health, even if it takes extra effort to engage instead of isolate.
6. Keep stress levels at bay. Find what works best for you to manage stress, whether it is engaging in a hobby, journaling, listening to music, or watching a favorite TV show or film. Having healthy outlets for managing stress can prevent it from building which may trigger depressive symptoms.
7. Be gentle with yourself.
- Above all, remember that living with depression is an ongoing journey of learning how to cope with symptoms and live meaningfully. Know that there are going to be difficult days and times where you feel like you are taking a step back– this is all part of the recovery process. Remember to be gentle with yourself every step of the way.
Seeking Further Support
If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of depression and have not yet sought out support, consider reaching out to a mental health professional. There is treatment available that can help you to feel better and increase your quality of life. You are not alone, and there is always healing and hope.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.