So, now you know that diet plays a big help in alleviating depression. But did you know there’s also lifestyle changes that can play a big role as well? Let’s have a look at a few of the lifestyle changes that are supported by research.
Ok, ok, bear with me here. I’m not suggesting you burn incense or start spouting Zen phrases, or even sit cross-legged on the floor if you don’t want to.
Meditation has two simple aspects to it when you cut through the add-ons. It has deep breathing, and awareness, which is why it’s so effective for depression.
The deep breathing helps to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, allowing your body to feel safe and able to relax. It can also lead to the release of calming neurotransmitters and reduces inflammation.
The awareness aspect allows you to connect with your body and find out what’s going on. If you’re sad, you can locate that sadness, observe the thoughts behind it, and often this will reduce the sensation. It can reduce your overwhelm and leave you feeling able to continue on in your life. It’s also great for if you experience anxious symptoms as well – you can find the thought process behind the feelings, and question it.
Mindfulness meditation has consistently been found to be effective in depression and anxiety, so give it a go. There are plenty of free resources and guided meditations available. I use Meditation Oasis as a source of guided meditations online. Smiling Mind is my go-to app on the go.
Ahh, the ever elusive sunshine (at least in Melbourne!). We love it, but we’ve been told to avoid it because of melanoma risk. The problem is, it’s messing with our mental health, so it’s time to get back out there.
Light and the sunshine stimulate the production of your serotonin. That’s why many people have depressive symptoms in wintertime. It regulates your circadian rhythms, which controls hormones such as cortisol and DHEA, keeping them within healthy limits.
It also boosts your vitamin D, which is needed for many of your hormones. Light box therapy is commonly used to alleviate depression, but your best bet is the real deal. Try getting some light exposure every morning when you wake up. Then follow it with about 10 minutes of sun in the middle of the day to optimize vitamin D production.
Of all of the lifestyle changes, this is probably the hardest when starting. It can be really hard to find the motivation to move when you’re depressed. But even small amounts of effort consistently can make a big impact on your mental health.
Even walking around a single block, playing fetch with your dog, or pulling out a couple of weeds in the garden can give you a boost of endorphins that can make you feel happier.
Research shows that regular exercise can be moderately effective in depression, so it’s definitely worth incorporating into your health plan. Some research shows that even 15 minutes 3 times a week can have a significant impact on depressive symptoms. So you don’t need to become a gym junkie or cardio bunny to feel the effects.
If you’re depressed, you might think you sleep enough, or even too much. But the quantity isn’t the only factor – the quality is the most important aspect. Poor sleep can lead to stress hormone dysregulation, poor repair of tissues, slowed metabolism, an an increase in depressive symptoms.
A few tips to get a good night’s sleep include:
Dim the lights. Our bodies can get confused by our bright lighting late into the night. Try to use small lamps instead of overhead lights while winding down for bed so your body knows it’s time to rest.
Don’t overeat or undereat at dinner. Overeating can keep your body digesting when it should be repairing, and can give you a gurgly tummy as well. But insufficient food or even skipping the meal can spike your cortisol and keep you alert.
Deep breathe or meditate. This is a perfect time to fit it in and activate your parasympathetic nervous system to help you slip right into a deep healing sleep.
Lifestyle changes solo are all well and good. But depression, like mental health conditions, is not something you have to battle alone. Seeking appropriate help from health care practitioners is essential in recovering safely. It’s up to you who you see, but many people find they do well with a team of a GP, a psychologist, and a nutritionist, as it is a holistic approach.