Positive lifestyle choices to help depression
If you are looking to make positive lifestyle choices to help with depression, there are a number of small and simple things that you can do to make a difference.
We understand that depression can leave you feeling low and tired, where taking good care of yourself is often the furthest thing from your mind. However, being proactive and making the time for self-care is something that is extremely important and can really help to relieve your symptoms.
While the positive lifestyle choices outlined below can help with depression, it is also important to seek professional treatment and therapy to fully overcome or manage your mental health condition. At Priory Group, our mental health specialists can provide you with access to this treatment for depression so that you can live the healthy and happy life that you deserve.
Look after your physical health
Being active improves our mental wellbeing and is a positive lifestyle choice that you can make to help with depression. It stimulates the release of dopamine, endorphins, norepinephrine and serotonin - the brain chemicals that help to regulate our mood.
Build exercise into your schedule so that it becomes a normal part of your routine. Also make sure that you do something you enjoy so that you feel motivated to carry on. See if there are any local classes that interest you, get your bike out of the shed or set yourself challenges on your fitness tracker. Even getting out for a brisk walk for 10 minutes every day can help to clear your mind.
Set a sleep routine
The relationship between depression and sleep is complex and affects people differently. You may find that you struggle to get to sleep, feel tired all the time, or sleep more than usual.
In the hour before bed, spend time relaxing to unwind and get ready to sleep. Try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation. Alternatively, you may find reading or listening to music just as calming.
Try not to be distracted by screens which can keep you awake, and where possible, turn off the blue light on your mobile phone a minimum of an hour before bed. Also, dim your lights in your room to support your body in preparing for sleep.
If you struggle to switch off when you get to bed, a positive lifestyle choice to help with depression is writing down any stresses, frustrations and worries beforehand and making a to-do list of things you can action the next day. This gives you the opportunity to set aside any concerns that you would typically think about when trying to fall asleep. It can also trick your brain into believing you have solved the problem, which reduces the risk of you waking up in the night anxious.
If you go to bed and lie awake for more than 15 minutes, get up and do something relaxing. Don’t go on your phone or turn on the TV as the bright light can trigger your brain in believing it is time to wake up. If you need a light, make sure it is kept dim and as small as possible, so for example, if you wish to read a book, try to get a light you can attach to your book that only illuminates the page. Lying in bed when you can’t sleep can make you feel even worse, so only try going back when you are tired rather than allowing your brain to ruminate due to the engaging in nothing but trying to get to sleep.
For those who wake up in the night, the strategies that you can use to get to sleep can help you to stay asleep too. Also avoid taking naps during the day, or limit their length to 30 minutes. Cut down on any alcohol consumption as this can interfere with your sleep cycle, and try not to go to sleep on a full bladder. Also try not to watch alerting or high action TV or movies before bed as this can reduce your body’s ability to produce melatonin.
Getting out of bed in the morning can be a real struggle for people with depression. Focus on one simple thing you have to do to help you get up, whether that is making a cup of tea, feeding the cat or brushing your teeth. It can help to only think about what to do for the next 5 minutes as opposed to the full day ahead which can feel overwhelming. Once you are out of bed, recognise the big step that you have taken, and use this drive and energy to complete another simple task in the next 5 minutes.
What we eat can make a big difference to our mental health as well as our physical health, so looking at and amending your current diet is a positive lifestyle choice that you can make to help ease depression symptoms.
Take the time to plan and make regular meals throughout the day, as missing meals can lead to low blood sugar, which can impact your mood and fatigue. It can help to bulk prepare or cook your meals in advance, including snacks which can reduce the temptation to not eat anything or regularly eat meals that aren’t not nutritionally healthy. Avoid high sugar foods as they can cause surges and dips in energy, leaving you tired and low. Instead, try to introduce foods that are rich in folic acid (such as avocado and spinach) and omega-3 acids (such as salmon and tuna) as these have been known to help to ease symptoms of depression.
Connect with other people
Speak to family and friends
While you may feel uncomfortable talking about your feelings, the people who care about you will want to listen and help you to feel better. If you don’t feel up to meeting face-to-face, phoning or texting regularly can also be beneficial. Having the chance to chat about your thoughts and feelings can often feel like a burden has been lifted – remember, a problem shared is a problem halved.
If you feel that you aren’t close enough to anyone to talk about your thoughts and feelings, or aren’t up to it, the Samaritans helpline is open 24 hours a day and there will always be someone at the other end of the phone who you can talk to confidentially.
Meet new people
When you have depression, it can be easy to isolate yourself, as you have little energy and can often feel that people won’t want to be around you. However, spending all your time alone can lower your mood, and prolong any feelings of worthlessness and loneliness that you have.
Are there any new groups or clubs that you’ve always wanted to try? In these settings, it’s natural to talk to people you don’t know so can be a great way to meet new people. Getting involved in a group activity is a positive lifestyle choice to make as it can also boost your self-esteem and confidence, which may have been lowered as a result of your depression.
Recognising the things to be grateful for in your life
People with depression often ignore the positive aspects of their life and focus on the negatives.
To combat this, write down three things you are grateful for about your life every night and reflect on them in the morning in order to stop yourself ruminating on destructive thoughts. Also, take note of what places, people and activities bring you joy. Write everything on a list so that you can take stock of all the positive elements in your life. This can help direct your mind to the positive aspects in the day rather than the negative which we are instinctively designed to do.
Getting the right treatment for depression
Remember, depression is treatable and while reaching out for professional treatment can be daunting, it is an important step to take towards feeling better.
At Priory Group, our specialists will work with you to determine the best form of treatment for you. There are many different avenues of support available, including talking therapies as well as antidepressant medication if deemed necessary. An inpatient stay at one of our hospitals may also be beneficial, giving you time away from your everyday life to focus on you and your mental health.