Depression is a serious mental health condition that negatively affects your mood, energy, and outlook on life. It’s usually marked by feeling blue, having low self-esteem, and loss of interest in engaging and socializing with others. When depression becomes serious, it can be a monster that steals your happiness.
Depression often greatly restricts people from living their life on their own terms; it has significant impacts on not only your mental health but your physical health too. It’s not unusual for people to confuse depression with simple grief – grief is short-lived and people often recover with time; however, depression can be a long-term mental health issue that disrupts people’s lives and requires more than just time to recover from.
Signs of depression
People suffering from depression can experience both physical and mental tiredness, persistent sadness, and hopelessness. Depression can also cause insomnia, loss of appetite, and negative thoughts. Depressed people usually feel drained, exhausted, and depleted.
For years researchers and mental health experts have studied numerous ways of dealing with depression naturally, without the use of medication. Research shows that women are twice as likely to suffer from depression compared to men. A study conducted by the Wolrd Health Organization shows that an average of 322 million people across the globe are suffering from depression. This equals almost 5% of the world population!
Depression can either be managed by medication, therapy sessions, or non-medication – and often a combination of all three. However, in this article, we are going to address non-medication ways to cope with depression.
- Get More Exercise
Daily exercise is often considered the best and most effective way of dealing with depression. Studies show that regular exercises improve our health. Studies have shown that exercise elevates the mood and the energy level – in fact just 3 hours of moderate exercise every week can moderate depression as effectively as Prozac and other antidepressants, according to a study by Dr. Andrea Dunn.
The recommended amount of daily exercise is just 30 minutes, six days per week. And the best part about this, which is often a misconception is that your daily exercise doesn’t have to be grueling! It can be a simple walk, some gardening or cleaning, or even walking the dog!
If you’re stuck for ideas on how to incorporate 30 minutes of daily exercise into your routine, read this great article by Psychology Today to get started.
- Eat a Healthy Diet
Numerous studies have shown a healthy diet can play a part in effectively managing or even preventing depression. Depression affects eating habits in two ways; some find comfort in foods leading to weight gain that can feed the cycle of depression; also, it can lead to lack of appetite.
A healthy diet can benefit your mood in many ways, such as providing:
- Complex carbohydrates (vs simple carbohydrates) which help release energy more slowly into our system, allowing us to avoid the sugar highs and lows that come with junk food. They also give us more energy because the energy is released over a longer period of time and keeps us going all day long!
- Antioxidants (found in berries and other brightly colored fruits and vegetables) which can help eliminate stress and reduce inflammation in your brain, which leads to the brain releasing more of the ‘feelgood’ chemicals that make us happier.
- Omega 3 which is found in fish and fish oil has shown to have links with helping with depression
“That’s great…”, I hear you saying, “but what should I include in my healthy diet?” – well to get you started here are some recommended foods to help manage your depression include:
- Dark, leafy greens
- Walnuts (rich in omega 3 fatty acids which are known to boost your mood)
- Mixed berries (full of antioxidants)
- Seeds and grains
This should definitely be enough to get you started on your journey eating healthy!
Get More Quality Sleep
It’s well known these days that getting enough good, quality sleep is one of the most important things you can do for both your physical and mental health.
Some studies have shown that simply altering the amount of quality sleep you get can have almost immediate positive effects for managing depression.
Some tips for improving your sleep quality and quantity:
- Limit your screen time (blue light exposure), especially before bed! It’s generally recommended to put down your phone, shut down your computer and switch off the TV at least two hours before you go to bed. Instead, try reading a book or doing a puzzle – something that’s relaxing and helps you wind down before sleep.
- Reduce (or eliminate) alcohol consumption – especially before bedtime. Alcohol can interrupt your circadian rhythm and throw your sleep way out of whack, leading to a depressed mood, which can easily become a cycle of poor sleep.
- Limit caffeine intake throughout the day. While it has a lot of health benefits, caffeine also has some negative effects – for example, it can negatively impact your sleep.
- Meditate – meditation is well known to help reduce stress, ease anxiety and calm your mood- the perfect pre-bed exercise!
- Get consistent with your sleep – Your body’s circadian rhythm functions on a set loop and aligns itself with sunrise and sunset. Studies have shown that getting consistency within your sleeping times can help improve your quality of sleep can boost your mood.
If you’re struggling to manage or beat your depression, start by following these three simple strategies outlined above. These are all things that should be able to fit right into your daily schedule without too much disruption or effort, and you’ll start feeling better in no time! But don’t forget, if you’re suffering from depression you should always consult a medical professional first.