Lifestyle Changes to Manage DepressionEn Español (Spanish Version)
Depressive disorders can make you feel exhausted, worthless, helpless, and hopeless. Negative feelings and thoughts may make you feel like giving up. It is important to realize that these negative views are part of the illness and usually do not accurately reflect your actual circumstances.
Negative thinking fades as treatment begins to take effect. In the meantime, there are some simple lifestyle measures you can take to ease depression.
- Adjust your expectations.
- Postpone important decisions until your depression has lifted.
- Participate in activities that may make you feel better.
- Be patient with yourself.
- Increase your social and spiritual support.
- Reduce your stress.
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat a healthful diet.
Depression takes a lot out of you. Therefore, you need to be realistic about your goals, responsibilities, and tasks. Stay as active as possible, but don't overextend yourself with more activities and responsibilities than you can handle.
Break large tasks into small ones, set some priorities, and do what you can, as you can. Let your family and friends help you. Do not feel guilty if you are unable to do as much as you normally do. You need to focus on getting well.
This may not be the best time for you to make big transitions such as changing jobs, getting married or divorced, or moving. If you are considering making an important decision, discuss it with others who know you well and may have a more objective view of your situation.
Though you may feel like withdrawing from the world and doing nothing, staying active can speed your recovery from depression. Getting out of the house to exercise, go to a movie or ball game, or participate in religious, social, or other activities may help.
People rarely “snap” out of depression so don’t expect that of yourself. As you recover, you will gradually start to feel better. Remember that negative thinking is a part of your illness, and it usually improves along with the depression.
A network of supportive relationships is beneficial for the prevention and treatment of depression. Supportive relationships serve as a buffer against stress, which can sometimes trigger depression.
Strong spiritual faith is associated with a reduced risk of depression. Spiritual faith can be found in the context of organized religion, or in something less structured, such as meditation. In a group setting, it can provide the additional benefit of social support.
A variety of relaxation techniques can help you cope with stressors that may contribute to depression. Examples include meditation, deep breathing, progressive relaxation, yoga, and biofeedback. These techniques help you to pay attention to tension in your body and release it with exercises that help quiet your mind and relax your muscles. You can also reduce stress by getting adequate sleep, rest, and recreation.
Regular exercise helps you relieve stress and may help prevent or reduce depression. Aerobic exercise and yoga have been found to be particularly beneficial for reducing stress and improving mood. Aerobic exercise can raise the levels of brain chemicals that affect mood, such as endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine. Other benefits of exercise include: weight loss (if necessary), increased muscle tone, and higher self-esteem. Yoga provides the benefits of stretching and deep relaxation.
You may feel better physically and emotionally when you eat a healthful diet that is low in fat, high in fiber, and rich in vitamins and minerals. Specific dietary factors that may be beneficial in depression are the B-complex vitamins (found in whole grains) and omega-3 fatty acids (found in cold-water fish, fish oil, and flax seeds).
Depression. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/healthinformation/depressionmenu.cfm. Accessed March 24, 2007.
Depression: you don’t have to feel this way. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/046.xml. Accessed March 24, 2007.
Dunn Al, Trivedi MH, Kampert JB, et al. Exercise treatment for depression. Am J Prev Med. 2005;28:1-8.
National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/.
Nutt DJ, Kessler RC, Alonso J, et al. Consensus statement on the benefit to the community of ESEMeD (European Study of the Epidemiology of Mental Disorders) survey data on depression and anxiety. J Clin Psychiatry. 2007;68(Suppl 2):42-48.
Last reviewed April 2007 by Janet Greenhut, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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