Having depression is like a constant uphill battle. You want to start your day, but you feel too fatigued to leave your bed. Or you want to try something new, yet you fear failure. It could even be a combination of both. Understand that you’re not alone, depression can leave you feeling empty and helpless.
Usually, people seek medical treatment to cope with their depression. However, living with depression doesn’t always mean taking prescriptions and attending therapy sessions. There are small changes you can make in your daily life that can have a big impact.
Here are 10 ideas to help you naturally fight depression, in small steps that can work for you.
1. Improve your sleep hygiene
We all know that there’s a correlation between sleep and your mood. Getting less than seven hours of sleep can lead to sleep deprivation. You may feel drained and gloomy short term, but the long-term effects of sleep disturbance can have severe health consequences, such as depression, heart conditions, and type-2 diabetes. To improve your mental health, sleep experts advise people to assure they have good sleep hygiene. This looks like reducing your screen time when you unwind before bed, creating a relaxing environment, establishing a bedtime routine, and having consistent wake-up times and bedtimes.
Whether your issue is sleeping too much, instead of not getting enough sleep, consider giving these small steps a try, to start getting restful sleep.
Set an alarm to make sure you go to sleep and wake up at the same time. If you have an iPhone, use your clock app to create your weekly sleep schedule.
In addition, listen to sleep-inducing sounds 30 minutes before you go to sleep. These could be rain sounds or ocean waves on YouTube, a sound machine from Amazon, or white noise, such as a fan.
Try a weighted blanket as well. The pressure from the blanket increases the amount of serotonin, which reduces anxiety and creates a calming effect.
2. Consider exercising
Going to the gym can be intimidating and it’s normal to feel that way. However, exercising doesn’t mean training for a triathlon or leaving the comfort of your home. To see results, set time aside for a 30-minute low-intensity workout every day to start improving your mental health and quality of life. The best part is most of these workouts are free and you don’t need equipment. YouTubers like Chole Ting have weekly workouts that can help you tone the areas of your choice.
Apart from this, think about exercising outside. It can be as simple as going for a walk. We all have to start somewhere. This may be difficult since seasonal depression typically begins in the fall, but sunlight can be a great way to fight depression. Getting between 5-15 minutes of sunlight, can increase your vitamin D levels and release serotonin. Plus, we all can benefit from fresh air. If sunlight is insufficient in your area, try incorporating vitamin D supplements into your diet. Ask your doctor if it’s okay to take vitamin D before you give it a try.
Although research shows that exercising can be a mood boost, it can be difficult to start. From lack of energy to no motivation, it can be challenging to work out consistently.
Trust me! We’ve all been there!
Making your friend your accountability partner can give you the push you need to get started. Not only are the both of you committing to a routine, but you’re maintaining a social connection.
3. Eat foods that help with your mood
When you eat well, you feel good. There’s a connection between your mental health and your diet. If you consume a lot of processed foods, which are high in sugar, sodium, and fat you may have a slow reaction time, make unsound decisions, and feel anxious and depressed. When you’re struggling to fight depression, it can feel like a drastic move to change your diet. But you can include healthy foods little by little, instead of quitting cold turkey.
Foods that can help you fight depression
Nuts, especially walnuts, are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been proven to enhance brain function and decrease depression.
Dark leafy vegetables
Spinach, kale, broccoli, and romaine lettuce amongst other dark green vegetables, are linked to having immune-boosting effects. In 2015, a study linked depression to a 30% increase in brain inflammation. This means you may feel irritable, have memory loss, and fatigue. Thankfully, dark green leafy vegetables can help with different types of inflammation. So, you may start feeling better mentally and physically.
Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and pomegranates have the highest antioxidant activity. Antioxidants are compounds that reduce free radicals, such as reactive oxygen and nitrogen, which are byproducts of breathing. Despite free radicals supporting several functions in the body, an excessive amount can damage cells and cause diseases. When antioxidants decrease free radicals, the process also compresses oxidative stress which leads to depression.
According to the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, studies show that people with depression have decreased levels of folate. Folic acid, also known as folate, is the natural form of vitamin B9, and tomatoes have plenty of it. Folic acid can help with reducing depressive symptoms by increasing the production of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.
4. Recognize self-sabotage
Most of the time we want to feel better, but we can be our own worst enemy. If you suffer from depression, self-sabotage can be a part of your daily routine, sometimes without you even knowing it. This may look like isolation, fear of failure, trying to be perfect, or being disorganized. In reality, these behaviors may seem small, yet they’re damaging to our mental health.
Undoubtedly, procrastination takes the cake for self-sabotage. This means we delay an important task to do something that has low priority. This may look like treating yourself by watching a few episodes, or a season, of your favorite show for leaving the house yesterday or finally getting out of bed. Procrastination can look different for everyone. But the moment you feel like you’re too tired or may lack motivation, think about breaking up your to-do list into smaller tasks, so you can feel less overwhelmed.
If you have difficulty concentrating, you might want to consider listening to binaural waves to help boost your focus.
Also, consider reading self-help books like The Mountain Is You, so you can understand why people may participate in self-sabotage, and how to control it.
5. Give deep breathing a try
When we take a deep breath from our stomachs, we’re allowing more air to enter our bodies. This can trigger our nervous system to calm down, and decrease the production of cortisol, which is known as the “stress hormone.” So, the next time you feel overwhelmed or have a panic attack, observe how you’re breathing. Our breaths become shallower when we’re stressed.
6. Establish a routine
Having depression can make following a routine or starting one, seem like hard work. But having a routine is actually beneficial to your mental health, by giving you a sense of stability, while you’re feeling lost or anxious. So, take the time to create a schedule and make sure to include self-care.
7. Practice gratitude
You may not have everything that you want but take a moment and look around you. You have everything that you need, and you can lessen your depressive symptoms, by being thankful for it. Research has proven that expressing gratitude can have long-term positive effects on your mental health.
You can say your gratitude while you’re getting ready in the morning or write it down in your journal.
8. Add greenery to your space
Another great way to fight depression is bringing the outdoors in. In 2007, a study revealed that a bacteria in plant soil triggered the release of serotonin. If you didn’t know already, serotonin is a mood lifter and decreases anxiety.
The type of plant you want to bring into your space is completely up to you. But eucalyptus and lavender not only have green elements, but they’re perfect for aromatherapy and stress relief.
9. Try listening to upbeat music
Depressed people tend to listen to sad songs, which can worsen your mental health. It’s time to change the tempo! In a study about Music Intervention in Treating Depression, experts revealed listening to upbeat music can limit depressive symptoms and create positive emotions.
10. Reward yourself for what you achieved
No matter how big or small, all goals and good habits are worthy of a celebration. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to bring out the confetti (unless you want to). But if you finally have a consistent wake-up time or went for a walk today, instead of laying in bed, recognize it. You can treat yourself to a face mask or buy a new journal.
Always remember small steps can have a huge impact, so be proud of yourself!