The first line treatment for major depressive disorder includes the use of antidepressants and talk therapy, typically making use of SSRIs and a form of behavioral therapy like CBT. However, there is a lot more that can be done to combat the symptoms of depression.
Medication and proper treatment (through either medication, therapy, or TMS) make a difference. But that difference may be overshadowed by conditions at home, which might be conducive to a depressive mood. Here are a few everyday things that might help alleviate depression.
Spend Time with Your Pet
Pets have the tendency to make us feel much better than we currently do. Whether it’s just sitting down with your dog, petting your cat, or showing affection to your pet hamster, there are countless ways in which interactions with our furry companions help us feel better.
Pets help break the feeling of loneliness and make us feel loved. They comfort us and provide us with unconditional affection, no matter how bad we feel. It’s a way to help prove to us that no matter how dire our thoughts of uselessness become, our pets always find a way to remind us that we’re loved and important.
Break into a Sweat
Exercise is a patented way to deal with a depressed mood, but the key is actually getting yourself off the couch and into the mood to workout. Part of accomplishing that is finding a form of exercise that you genuinely enjoy. As hard as that might sound at first, consider how many activities count as exercise.
Anything from a lengthy walk through the park to a dance session can count as exercise, and it’s up to you to figure out what you might like to do best and do it frequently. The only type of exercise that ever really matters is the type you want to do.
Cook a Balanced Meal
Obesity is linked to depression, and weight loss can help – but setting impossible food standards for yourself or pushing yourself through a ‘yoyo diet’ is just going to make your depression that much worse.
Stick to healthy, balanced meals – that means they’re still delicious and flavorful, but easier on the waist, and much better for your physical wellbeing. Consider eating more greens, fewer noodles and bread, and only a few portions of fish and lean meat per week.
Not only will you feel better if you look better, but you’ll genuinely feel better physically. A healthy diet can influence your mental health, and often surprisingly so.
Get as Much Daylight as Possible
Some cases of depression are influenced in part by a lack of sunlight. In these cases, getting more light can be a genuinely helpful solution. If you find yourself particularly hit by the blues around the winter days, consider asking your therapist about the efficacy of phototherapy – UV light boxes can help patients with seasonal affective disorder feel better by giving their body artificial sunlight.
Do Something Creative
Some people paint, others take up pottery, and yet others decide the best way to be creative is to review art and movies – whatever it is that tickles your fancy, consider pursuing it more often. Turn your creative hobbies into a daily necessity, giving yourself at least a few minutes each day to let your creative juices flow and compose something satisfying.
Even if you’re not necessarily happy with the end result every time, it’s the process and the long-term journey that matters. It’s good to express yourself in ways words can’t, and it’s even better to notice your skills improving once you set out to do something more often than just once or twice a week.
It’s not for everybody, but research shows that mindful meditation can help alleviate stress and anxiety, and deal with negative thoughts. How you meditate, however, is often up to you. Some like meditating outdoors, while others prefer a room with a view. For others yet, the place doesn’t matter. But the acoustics might. Some use music while others prefer dead silence. Some people swear by incense.
Trial and error are key here, as there’s no better way to figure out what works and what doesn’t than to simply try it all.
Cut the Booze
Alcohol might feel like a great coping mechanism for when you feel really bad, but it doesn’t help lift your spirits at all. In fact, alcohol can make depressive symptoms and anxiety much worse, rather than relieving you of tension and stress.
Not to mention the risk of turning drinking into a self-medicating habit. Over time, excessive alcohol consumption can play a role in greatly affecting the brain and other critical organs and cut entire years off your lifespan. Consider other ways to deal with stress, like a hot bath or the occasional massage.
Don’t Ignore the Doctor
Depression treatment is important because it’s often critical to helping a person deal with the worst and most severe thoughts, including thoughts of self-harm and suicide. Therapy and antidepressants save lives, even if they don’t work for every patient. And when you find yourself treatment-resistant, there are other ways to help. Transcranial magnetic stimulation, for example, is a type of treatment that has proven particularly effective in treating people with depressive symptoms.
Make a Point of Meeting Friends and Family
Having a social life is important, even if you think of yourself as an introvert. We all need a little access to the outside world, especially to people who genuinely care about us. Having a support system is not only nice as a way to spend the holidays without dreading an empty house, but it can also save your life.
When the going gets really tough, it’s the people who care about you the most who will be there to help you get back on your feet. It’s a good idea to make sure you catch up with old friends and see your family more than a handful of times a year.
Prioritize Deep & Healthy Sleep
Sleep is important for staving off depressive symptoms, and many people with depression don’t get enough of it – or far too much.
A healthy sleep cycle might be difficult to maintain at first, but there are several ways to manage restlessness, including cutting down on caffeine, using melatonin and other sleeping aids (after checking in with your doctor), and tuckering yourself out before the late hours.