Depression is a common, but severe mental health condition that can make it difficult for you to feel happy, content, or motivated on any given day. Causes for depression include a wide range of factors such as stress, a family history of depression, or changes in hormones or brain chemistry. However, having the tools and information to overcome depression can empower you to take back your life and maintain good overall health for years to come.
Here are seven ways to overcome depression so you can start feeling better and get back to being the best version of yourself:
Note before getting started: Above all, the best advice is to consult a medical professional if you need help.
1. Exercise Regularly
Exercise offers a substantial number of benefits when it comes to your health, and it is one of the best ways to fight and overcome depression. First, exercise causes your body to release endorphins - natural “feel-good” chemicals that reduce pain and boost happiness. The term “runner’s high” describes the euphoric feeling people experience from released endorphins after a long bout of aerobic exercise.
Exercise also helps to regulate your hormones, contributes to a good night’s sleep, and can increase your confidence and self-esteem - all of which are effective ways to reduce depression. Researchers have even found that exercise supports the growth of nerve cells in the brain and improves nerve cell connections to relieve depression.
If you don’t exercise regularly now and aren’t sure where to start or what to do, try finding a fitness app that can help you discover workouts you will actually enjoy. Subscribe to the 8fit app to access a variety of workouts that match your goals and lifestyle, and for help with nutrition and meal planning. 8fit also offers guided sleep meditations so you can let go of any lingering anxiety and get a better night’s rest.
2. Eat Healthy Foods
People often overlook how nutrition affects mental health, but certain foods can have a significant positive or negative impact on your mood. Some of the worst foods for mental health include sugar, trans fats, processed foods, and refined carbohydrates like white bread, donuts, and cake. Any of these foods can cause a spike in blood sugar, which contributes to inflammation and increases the risk of heart disease - which is all associated with depression.
Healthy whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, fish, and poultry are loaded with nutrients that naturally boost energy, metabolism, and mood. These foods can help you maintain a healthy hormonal balance and reduce stress and depression-related symptoms. Talk to your doctor or a nutritionist about how healthy foods can be a critical tool in overcoming depression, or try a Google search to find a variety of foods that are known to help with depression.
In addition to eating healthy foods, make sure to eat regularly throughout the day, and don’t skip meals. Being “hangry” is a real thing that can happen when you skip a meal, which causes a decrease in blood sugar levels and an increase in cortisol and adrenaline. Eating healthy foods throughout the day can help with both depression and hanger effectively.
3. Expose Yourself to Sunshine
In addition to stimulating your body’s production of vitamin D, sunlight increases serotonin levels to lift your mood and can give you a calm and focused mental outlook. Getting a little sunshine every day - with sunscreen to protect your skin - may also help you sleep better at night and reduce your risk for diseases such as internal cancers and multiple sclerosis, in addition to reducing depression.
Fifteen minutes of direct exposure to sunlight every day is enough to combat depression. Open the drapes and blinds in your home every morning and step outside for a break if you usually spend most of the day indoors. If you suffer from a type of depression called seasonal affective disorder or live in a region like Alaska where daylight is minimal at certain times of the year, invest in a light-therapy box that mimics natural outdoor light.
Worried about cost? Here's what to do if you can't afford therapy.
4. Get Plenty of Quality Sleep
A good night of quality sleep can make you feel happy, motivated, and indestructible. Sleep allows your mind to reset and refreshes your body, which helps balance hormones and brain chemicals. Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, can cause your cortisol levels to spike and has been shown to contribute to a wide range of health conditions, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, as well as depression.
Anxiety and restlessness are common symptoms of depression, which can affect your ability to get a good night’s rest, and it can be even more difficult to overcome depression if you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep. Common symptoms of depression also include early awakening, insomnia, and restless sleep.
To help yourself fall asleep more quickly, make sure your sleeping environment as comfortable as possible. Lower the thermostat, invest in cozy bed sheets, and be sure to avoid caffeine and late-night snacks too close to bedtime. You can also try practicing mindfulness meditation, aromatherapy, or the 4-7-8 breathing technique.
5. Do Things That Make You Happy
Remind yourself that finding a way back to happiness is possible - even if depression is causing you to feel sad, guilty, hopeless, or fatigued. General discontent and loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy are symptoms of depression; however, you can break this cycle by taking small, daily steps toward resuming hobbies or activities that used to bring you joy or a sense of accomplishment.
Try picking up that new book by your favorite author, or expressing yourself through music or art, or plan an outing to a museum, the movies, or even a coffee shop. If you don’t have a strong support network in your life currently, sign up for a cooking or photography class or visit a yoga studio to bring some balance to both your mind and body.
6. Develop a Solid Daily Routine
Depression can make you feel helpless, or lacking any control over your life and the direction in which it’s going. Incorporating structure in your life and developing daily routines can help you regain a sense of control and optimism in your ability to steer your life in the direction you choose. Having a daily routine also helps you stay busy and gives your mind less time to dwell on worries or losses.
It may help to map out your daily activities in a planner or a notebook, with times listed next to each activity. Writing down the time you plan to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the time you plan on being at the gym, and the times you plan to do activities that you enjoy can give your life more structure. It makes it easier to follow through on your planned activities even when depression makes you feel that all you want to do is stay home.
At the end of every day, it is also helpful to take some time to reflect on how each activity affected your mood, using a scale of 1 to 10. Maintaining this practice can help you identify which activities are routinely positive and which may be possibly contributing to feelings of depression. You can use this insight to change up your routine or lifestyle and improve your mental health.
7. Limit Alcohol Intake
When used in high amounts or regularly, alcohol depletes nutrients in the body and causes fluctuations in brain chemicals, which increases the risk of depression. Many people who struggle with depression turn to alcohol to escape or numb the symptoms of sadness or grief. However, alcohol can actually worsen symptoms of depression or may have even been the original trigger that induced the onset of depression.
If you’re suffering from depression, limit your alcohol intake or stop drinking altogether - at least until you start feeling better. Alcohol is only short-term avoidance; in the long-term, alcohol will not heal depression and will likely make symptoms worse. If you’re tempted to have a drink, step outside to get fresh air and clear your head, take a walk, or distract yourself with music or a book until the craving subsides.
If you think you may have a problem with alcohol and also suffer from depression, there are many sources of help, including AA meetings and professional treatment. Alcohol treatment professionals can talk to you about how to overcome depression and substance abuse at the same time.
Here are tips specific to menopause depression.
8fit and anything published on this website or the app are not substitutes for professional medical advice. Please consult a licensed healthcare professional before taking any action based on something you've read.