Clinical depression is a real problem. More than 300 million people across the globe are afflicted with this often-debilitating mental health condition, but fewer than 50% of those suffering will ever find effective treatment. Tried-and-true depression treatments such as talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT therapy), and antidepressant medications alleviate depressive symptoms for many patients. Supporting these traditional therapies with certain lifestyle changes can make an even bigger impact on an individual’s overall mental wellbeing.
The therapists at our counseling center agree that these 5 lifestyle changes can effectively reduce the symptoms of depression, especially when paired with talk or CBT therapy:
1. Go with your gut. Hippocrates said it himself centuries ago: all disease begins in the gut. Studies have since shown that 90% of our body’s serotonin production is driven by our gut. Reducing sugar intake, eating whole foods, and saying goodbye to alcohol can naturally reduce inflammation in the gut, leading to a healthier and happier body and mind.
2. Tune out of social media. Though social media has the potential to reinforce positive messages, it’s use has also been linked with depression. Limiting your time on social media will give you more mental and emotional space to process your feelings. Tuning out of social media completely may be unrealistic for some, but reducing your daily social media intake—or taking a few days to detox from the social mediasphere—can improve depressive symptoms.
3. Keep your plans. Making plans is easy. Keeping plans, however, is a bit more of a challenge for those suffering from depression. Human connection and social interaction is important, though— it is proven to help prevent and reduce depression. If you make a point of getting involved in hobbies and interacting in communities of interest to you, it will be easier to keep the plans you make. Start or join a book club if reading interests you. Have coffee with a friend or neighbor. Jump in with a local tennis, bowling or golf league. And most importantly, force yourself to keep those plans—you’ll be glad you did!
4. Exercise. There are mounds and mounds of research that prove how important exercise is for mental health. A quick afternoon walk is all it takes to flood your body with mood-boosting endorphins. We understand that, in the depths of depression, the thought of exercising may feel extremely overwhelming. However, there are a million different types of exercise—a brisk walk, hiking the local trails, swimming, dancing, kayaking, rock climbing, trampoline parks… all we’re saying is there’s something out there for you, you just have to find it!
5. Catch your… zzzz’s. Sure, this is easier said than done. Those suffering from depression often have difficulty getting to sleep, and staying asleep. To improve the quality of your sleep, get into a steady routine: try to get into bed by 10pm and wind down by reading a chapter in your book, watching a favorite TV show, meditating, journaling… whatever slows down your mind and prepares you for the pillow. Lack of sleep directly impacts our mood and cognitive functions, so do your best to give your body the right amount of rest every night.
Of course, these lifestyle changes are not meant as a replacement for talk therapy or antidepressant medications. But, in tandem with more traditional therapies, these small changes can make a big impact on an individual’s overall happiness and mental wellbeing.
One of the biggest challenges in depression treatment is that many people fail to admit they are depressed. If you are suffering from sadness and are afraid to ask those around you for help, please consider contacting our counseling center for a complimentary and confidential phone consultation. We can help answer your questions, alleviate your concerns, and point you in the direction of health and happiness.