Major depression is one of the most common, but treatable mental disorders in the United States. Yet, an overlooked area in fighting depression is lifestyle. If you or someone you know is depressed, consider these 5 lifestyle changes.
- Diet and the gut: We know that people with depression have different diets, and perhaps different gut microbiomes than people without depression. The gut is sensitive to emotions and impacted by gut bacteria which makes diet a factor to consider when trying to help your mood. Eat a diet that is largely plant-based and includes a variety of plant foods. Diversity in those plant choices is important because the more diversity we have in our microbiome (the gut), the better. Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, tomatoes are good choices. Basically, you want a diet low in processed foods and rich in plant foods, e.g., vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and grains. These foods support a more diverse gut microbiome and may improve your mood. In contrast, diets high in the consumption of red meat, refined grains, sweets, high-fat dairy products, butter, potatoes and gravy are associated with an increased risk of depression.
- Exercise is well-known to improve mood. But when you are depressed, it is easy to put exercise aside because you don’t feel like doing it. However, when you exercise, natural endorphins are released in the brain that make you feel better. Exercise also helps you get out of your head. It distracts you from the negative thoughts that come with depression.
- Sleep problems can lead to an increased risk of depression. Lack of sleep impacts mood, cognitive functioning and motivation. Disrupted sleep, no matter the reason, can lead to emotional changes. So, work on getting a good night sleep to improve mood.
- Rest your mind. When it is time to sleep, turn off all electronics, lights, noise and distractions like the TV. The blue light in screens overstimulates the mind and suppresses melatonin, a hormone that helps you sleep. Make sure the bedroom is darkened, maybe read a book or your Bible, get comfortable and do some deep breathing or a relaxation technique. Focus on God, pray and allow your body to relax along with your mind.
- Stay connected: Isolation is bad for depression. When we are isolated, we easily get discouraged. Everyone needs social support. Connecting to a church might be an answer. Force yourself to get involved in a local church even if you don’t feel like it. It can only help. Join a group. Find people with whom to do life with. Social support prevents a host of mental and physical health problems. Going it alone only leads to more depression. And remember to connect daily and regularly with God. You are never really alone. His presence is with you and in you.
Making a change in one or more of these areas could make you feel so much better and help you to combat the symptoms of depression.Lifestyle changes to help depression