Depression is a common mental disorder that affects over 121 million people in the world. It is listed among the top causes of disability across the globe, but the good news for those who may suffer from it is that 80% to 90% will recover. Though there is no guarantee you can completely prevent depression, there are many ways to decrease your likelihood of getting depression or experiencing a relapse.
Believe it or not, exercise is essentially a natural antidepressant. In fact, a recent study showed that exercise, CBT, and certain medications all show similar effects. To get the most out of your workout, do weight-training and cardio, which has shown to be even more beneficial than just one or the other (and that’s for your waistline, too).
Exercise helps boost your mood because it releases endorphins in your brain, which makes you feel better. Exercise also helps your brain make new neural connections.
50% of people who have one major episode of depression will relapse, and the likelihood goes up if you’ve had more than one episode. But exercising, eating right, and taking care of your body can limit the chance of recurrence.
Get the right amount of sleep.
In addition to helping your body function at its best, it is a mood regulator, easing your mind. People, especially young people, are prone to depression and other mental illnesses if they regularly get an inadequate amount of sleep. To keep your mind and body in tiptop shape, aim for a solid 7 hours a night, if not more.
Researchers advise 8 hours of sleep a night for optimum performance, but that is not always possible in today’s hectic world. Only you will know the amount of time you truly need to function at your best, figure that time frame out and do your best to hit that goal every night.
It turns out all the millions of stimuli your brain has to sort through every second really take a toll. Through the day, the brain accumulates so much information it just slows down. Recent research has shown that enough sleep gets rid of the things that keep your brain from performing well.
Eat a healthy diet.
Eating a low-fat diet, rich in vitamins, nutrients, omega-3s (found in fish), and folic acid can be helpful for mood regulation and balance. You are what you eat, after all. If you eat healthy, you’ll feel healthy – inside and out.
Excessive sugar consumption often correlates to higher instances of depression. Since eating a lot of sugar causes your glucose levels to spike then drop low, it can make you feel irritable, anxious, and depressed.
Avoid alcohol and drugs.
Alcohol is a depressant that can alter your mood without you even realizing it. What’s more, those at risk for depression are also at greater risk of alcohol abuse and developing alcoholism. To be safe in the short and long term, just avoid it.
One glass of red wine a day has been shown to be beneficial in some studies.
Monitor your overall health.
Depression is associated with a greater risk of heart disease and diabetes. Those with depression and other mental illnesses tend to have higher rates of ‘’physical’’ illnesses than people without mental instabilities. It works the other way, too – the more physical ailments you’re suffering from, the more likely you are to be depressed. So stay on top of your health!
Keep in mind that some medical conditions share symptoms with depression. For example, thyroid issues and hormone imbalances can make you think you’re depressed. Getting regular medical care will help you get the correct treatment for your condition.
Visit your doctor regularly for routine physical check-ups. This on top of eating right and exercising will ensure that your body is setting your mind up for success.
Focus on having a positive attitude.
Much of life is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you feel like you’re going to fail, odds are you might. To avoid spiraling downward, work on thinking positively. This will make living in the day-to-day infinitely easier.
If you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts, put a stop to it. Tell yourself, “I’m going to think about that tomorrow.” And then you know what happens? Tomorrow, you forget what it is you were going to think about.
Don’t blame yourself.
Taking everything on your shoulders and viewing everything that goes badly as your fault is a one-way ticket to having the blues. Instead, realize that the world is incredibly large, there are a million factors at play, and you are only one of them. Learn to accept what you can’t change and focus on changing what you can.
Being depressed has do with your brain misfiring. You have absolutely zero control over that. The only thing you have control over is who you are and how you feel. You are not to blame for anything else!
Getting out of your head and into the zone of helping others helps keep you busy, your mind buzzing with positivity, and helps you feel good about yourself and the world around you. Volunteering cultivates a positive attitude ‘’and’’ helps better the world. It’s a win-win.
Not sure where to start? Talk to your local hospital, church, school, or daycare. You can also do work at soup kitchens, homeless shelters, animal shelters, and children’s homes.
Work on your passions to find an outlet ‘’and’’ to cultivate your self-esteem.
Filling your time with things you enjoy and are good at it is really the only way you should spend your time. Not only does it help you find an outlet and distress, but you’ll feel good about yourself, too, having mastered a skill.
Don’t have one that comes to mind? Great! This is the perfect reason to pick up that hobby that you’ve always to pick up but “never had time for.” So whether it’s piano, painting, archery, or metal welding, go for it. You’re the only thing standing in your way.
Manage your stress with activities like yoga, acupuncture, meditation – or even video games.
In today’s world, it’s all too easy to get stressed out. It’s important for everyone, not just those who run the risk of depression, to have de-stressing habits. To bust your stress levels, consider taking up yoga, pilates, meditation, acupuncture, hypnosis, talk therapy, or even just taking time out regularly with your friends.
Not into yoga and acupuncture? No problem. Activities like reading, knitting, cooking, and video games work well, too. So long as you find them relaxing and not stressful!
Try to take at least 15 minutes of “me time” every day, even if it’s just sitting in your office chair and zoning out. Relaxation isn’t being lazy – it’s making sure you stay at your best.
Think of what you’re grateful for every day.
“Thinking positively” is so much more easily said than done. If you don’t regularly do it, it’s pretty difficult to start. To ease into the process, think of 3 things you’re grateful for every day. Make it a point to wake up in the morning and do it automatically. This will get your mind primed for positivity and be encouraging throughout the day.
Write them down, too. That way you can go back into your journal and review all the wonderful things you have going for you. When you wake up one day and it’s hard to come up with something, turn to this book to get started.
Get talk therapy.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (or talk therapy) has shown to be widely helpful to anyone – we all have problems and issues that need talking out and require a wise ear to listen. Having a therapist isn’t a stigma anymore – it’s you being proactive about your mental health. It doesn’t mean you have an issue, it just means you’re self-aware, conscious of your mental state, and want to be the best person you can be.
Getting talk therapy is just that – you talk about what you wish to talk about and a therapist guides you through possible solutions. For many, positive thinking and retraining the brain to establish new thinking patterns is what’s focused on.
If you’re not interested in therapy (be it due to finances, scheduling, etc.), make sure you have a friend or two you can lean on in the worst of times. Having a shoulder when you need it is infinitely valuable. Just make sure you’re there for them, too!
Join a support group.
If you’ve struggled with depression before, you know just how bleak every minute can feel. Joining a support group will not only keep those minutes at bay, but it’ll help you find people that know what you’re going through and, what’s even better, you’ll be able to help them.
To find one in your area, talk to your doctor, psychologist, church, or even your friends. Depression is such a common problem that just about everyone knows someone that is dealing with it – if they don’t deal with it themselves.
Keep those that love you close.
Without friends and family, all of us are likely to go a little bit crazy, prone to depression or not. Having a social network we can lean on is an incredibly important part of feeling secure and happy. Keep them nearby for when you need them and for when they need you.
When you don’t feel like seeing others, try to make yourself be social anyway. These are the times when it’s most important. When we’re feeling down, it’s impossible to see that others could draw us out of the reclusive mood we’ve wrapped ourselves up in and help us feel better.
Always make time for fun.
It’s becoming more and more of a rat race out there. Students have to study more to succeed, workers have to work harder to climb the ladder, and the stakes are higher and higher. It’s easy to get wrapped up in school and work, thinking we “have to” or “should,” but that is so far from the truth. We all need time for fun or life will get us down in the dumps before we realize it.
Make it a point to take a night or two off for yourself. Hang out with your friends and family. This will strengthen your connections with those around you, and help you feel happy and secure.
Don’t take on too much.
It seems like everyone these days is doing some sort of balancing act, and most of the time it’s to their detriment. Instead of spreading yourself thin and pulling out your hair, limit what you take on. Say no when need to. Investing your time in just a few things will prove much more fruitful, make you feel productive, and keep you breathing calmly.
It’s okay to say no sometimes, even to favors that your friends ask. You cannot be three places at once and handle three people’s problems. If you feel yourself being spread thin, take a cue from yourself and relax. It’s all your body needs.
Know your vulnerabilities.
Everyone goes through mood swings. If you know when you’re going to experience bad moods or feel vulnerable, you can counteract it. For some, it’s hormonal. For others, it’s an old anniversary, birthdays, or death. Accept that you’ll feel vulnerable during this time and surround yourself with others, make plans, and keep your mind off of it until it passes.
Being aware of your situation is the best thing you can do for yourself. Knowing how you feel when you feel it will make any emotion easier to handle and deal with as you please. It’ll be easier to talk about with others, it’ll be easier to make sense of, and it’ll then be easier for it to go away.
If you’re worried about a relapse, don’t stop taking your medication.
If you were prescribed medication for a previous depressive episode, don’t stop taking it when you feel better. In fact, it’s recommended that you continue taking it for 6 months afterward to keep your body in the same routine.
Talk to your doctor about this. Plenty of people are anxious to get off their medication and every body reacts differently. Talk to your doctor about what he or she thinks, and follow his or her advice
Seek treatment at the earliest sign of a relapse.
If you start experience over a week of irritability and sadness, consult your doctor or therapist immediately. These things are easiest to tackle when tackled early.
Remember: it doesn’t matter how many times you fall down. All that matters is that you get back up. Don’t measure your success on the stability of your emotions; all you can do is simply be strong and carry on.