Tips for Recovering From Depression
If you’ve had depression, you know how hopeless you can feel. It’s important to get professional treatment. But there are things you can do to help ease symptoms of depression. Exercise, changing your diet, and even playing with a pet can help improve your mood.
Let Your Pet Nuzzle Blues Away
Sometimes your pet really can be your best friend -- and that’s good therapy. When you play with your pet, you take your mind off your own problems. Also, when you take care of your pet you’re fulfilling a commitment to something outside yourself. Caring for others can be very therapeutic.
Eat Smart to Lift Mind and Body
There’s a connection between mind and body. A healthy diet not only fuels your body, but it also helps you feel better. Watching calories is important. So is limiting fat and sugar. Build your diet around plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to help improve both your health and stabilize your mood.
Choose Foods to Boost Your Mood
Some studies suggest omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B-12 may help ease mood changes such as depression. Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel contain omega-3 fatty acids. So do flaxseed, nuts, and dark green vegetables. Seafood and low-fat dairy products are good sources for B-12. Vegetarians who eat no meat or fish may take supplements.
Try Low-Fat Carbs for a Pick-Me-Up
Serotonin is a brain chemical that enhances your sense of well-being. Carbohydrates -- when eaten alone without protein -- raise the level of serotonin in your brain. Low-fat carbs such as a baked potato, graham crackers, or pasta without meat may help lift you out of a blue funk.
Drink Less Caffeine to Improve Mood
Do you really need that third cup of coffee? Anxiety is a common symptom of depression. And too much caffeine can make you nervous, jittery, or anxious. So cutting back on soda, coffee, tea, and chocolate can make a big difference in your mood. It can also help you sleep better at night.
Treat Your Aches and Pains
Chronic pain can cause depression, and depression can make pain worse. Work with your health care team to treat your depression and your pain.
Exercise to Change the Way You Feel
For some people, exercise works as well or even better than antidepressants. And you don’t have to run a marathon. Just take a walk with a friend. As time goes on, increase activity until you exercise on most days. You’ll feel better physically, sleep better at night, and feel less depressed.
Choose an Exercise You Enjoy
If you don’t like to run, you won’t last long training for the marathon. But you will stay with a moderate exercise you enjoy. For instance, try golfing without a cart, riding a bike, working in your garden, playing tennis, or swimming. The important thing is to pick something you like. Then you’ll look forward to it and feel better when you do it.
Exercise With Others for Support
Staying connected with other people helps overcome the lethargy, exhaustion, and loneliness of depression. Join an exercise group or exercise with a friend. You’ll stay connected. And you’ll have support to help you stay on track!
Be Sure You Get Enough Sunlight
Do you feel more depressed during darker, cold months? You may have seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. SAD is most common in the winter when there’s less sunlight. SAD is often treated with light therapy or exposure to artificial sunlight. Ask your doctor if light therapy is right for you.
Explore Your Creativity
Painting, photography, music, knitting, or writing in a journal: these are all ways people explore their feelings and express what’s on their mind. Being creative can help you feel better. The goal isn’t to create a masterpiece. Do something that gives you pleasure. It may help you better understand who you are and how you feel.
Make Time for Mindful Relaxation
Stress and anxiety can increase your depression symptoms and make it harder to recover. Learning to mentally relax can help restore a sense of calm and control. You might consider a yoga or meditation class. Or you could simply listen to soothing music while you take a long, hot bath.
Become Actively Involved
Being involved with others can help you regain a sense of purpose. And it doesn’t take much to get started. Try volunteering with a charity. Or join a discussion group at the library or at church. Meeting new people and doing new things will help you feel good about yourself.
Keep Friends and Family in Your Life
The people who love you want to support you. If you shut them out, they can’t. If you let them in, you’ll feel a lot better. Call a friend and go for a walk. Have a cup of coffee with your partner. You may find it helps to talk about your depression. It feels good to have someone listen.
Get the Healthy Sleep You Need
Depression interferes with healthy sleep. Some people with depression sleep too much. Others can’t fall asleep easily. As you recover from depression, relearn good sleep habits. Start by going to bed and getting up the same time each day. Use relaxation techniques to help fall asleep. Healthy sleep makes you feel better physically and mentally.
Avoid Alcohol and Drugs
Alcohol and drugs can slow or prevent recovery from depression. They can also make your depression worse and interfere with the medicines you take for depression. If you have a problem with substance abuse, ask for help now. You’ll have a far better chance of recovering from depression.
Continue Your Treatment
The steps outlined in these slides may help you feel positive about your life. But by themselves, they’re not enough. They won’t replace medical treatment or talk therapy. Depression is a serious illness, and it carries a risk of suicide. If you are thinking about suicide, seek help immediately. And never stop or change treatment without discussing it carefully with your doctor.