Depression can cause you to feel sad, helpless, and hopeless for long periods of time. It can also come with physical symptoms like insomnia, pain, and lack of energy, and keep you from living your normal life. Depression can happen to anyone, at any age or stage of life. If you think you may be dealing with depression you can take a depression test to get a better idea and be sure to talk with your doctor. If you’re battling depression, these 10 everyday strategies could help.
In Western medicine, clinical depression is typically treated with medication and psychotherapy (talk therapy). Whether talking with a mental health professional or getting the conversation started with friends or family, talking about how you feel is important for dealing with your depression. A mental health professional can help you address your problems and support you in developing coping mechanisms to deal with what you’re going through.
If you know someone who you think may be suffering from depression, check out this guide to opening a conversation and directing them to the help they need.
Used for relaxation and introspection, meditation is a practice of self-awareness that works to focus your mind in the present moment without judgement. Meditation may ease mild to moderate depression by enabling you to put aside the fears and worries that fuel it. In some studies, meditation was shown to offer as much relief from depression symptoms as antidepressants. If meditation still doesn’t seem like your style, check out these Five Meditation Alternatives for Non-meditative Folk.
In addition to increasing blood flow to the brain and relieving stress, exercise provides a temporary mood boost by releasing endorphins. It has also been linked to long-term benefits in people battling depression by encouraging the brain to rewire itself in a positive way. Studies have shown that jogging for a half-hour three times each week can work as well as antidepressants or psychotherapy in treating depression in some cases.
Finding the motivation to begin exercising can seem like a huge feat when you are depressed, so starting with just five minutes of any activity you enjoy—like walking—and slowly increasing the duration over time can help.
Having trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep, or even oversleeping are all common symptoms of depression. However, getting the right amount of sleep each night is important for your well-being. Bringing your sleep pattern back into a healthy rhythm can be a significant support for easing your depression.
Try setting a routine: go to bed and get up at the same times each day, resist the urge to nap throughout the day, and make your bedroom a dedicated space for sleeping by removing TVs, computers, and other distractions. You can check out more sleep tips here.
The foods you eat can impact your mental health in big ways. Studies show that people who eat diets high in processed meats, sweets, and refined cereals are more likely to report symptoms of depression. On the other hand, those who eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fish are less likely to report such symptoms. Plus, eating a well-balanced diet can help support your other efforts to ease depression.
Trying something new initiates chemical changes in your brain, increasing the amount of dopamine and associated feelings of pleasure and enjoyment. One study on older adults showed that depressive symptoms decreased alongside an increase in leisure activity hours. If you need a bit more of a nudge to delve into a new activity, check out this article on how to forget failure and embrace change by trying something new.
Motivation can be hard to come by when you’re battling depression. Setting yourself small daily goals—simple things like washing the dishes—can give you a sense of accomplishment to help fight back against depression. As you begin to feel better, you can start adding more and bigger goals. Sharing these goals with a friend or family member can make you feel more accountable and committed to attaining them.
Noted as an effective depression treatment by the World Health Organization, acupuncture has shown some potential in reducing symptoms of depression. In one small study, those who received eight weeks of acupuncture—whether targeted or not—had a noticeable improvement in their symptoms over those who received no acupuncture at all. Another study on post-stroke depression patients showed that acupuncture delivered similar results to the antidepressant medication fluoxetine.
Promoting relaxation and stress reduction, combined with its lack of side effects, massage can be a useful tool in easing depression symptoms. Research shows that an hour-long massage can lower cortisol—the stress hormone—by an average of 30 percent and boost serotonin by an average of 28 percent, improving your ability to fight feelings of pain, anxiety, and sadness. In one study, depressed teens who received massage therapy experienced changes in their stress hormone levels, reducing symptoms of depression in the process.
Evidence suggests that omega-3 fatty acids and folic acid could work to ease depression. You can find omega-3 fatty acids in foods like salmon and folic acid in leafy greens. You can also get them in the form of supplements.
Further, studies show that herbal supplements like St. John’s wort and S-adenosyl-methionine (SAMe) may be useful in treating symptoms in mild to moderate cases of depression. However, always be sure to consult your doctor before taking any new supplement, especially if you’re already taking prescription medications.