According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental disorders account for 4 out of 10 leading causes of disability worldwide. In 2020, major depression will lead the pack of mental illness as the cause of disability among women and children across the globe. Whether you’re having a temporary bout of the blues or you're suffering from an episode of clinical depression, there are lifestyle changes and diets that can help you cope. Please note that if your symptoms go beyond two weeks or you have been diagnosed with clinical depression (or other mental health ailments), you need to consult your doctor before working out a treatment plan. [via Everyday Health].
1. Structure your life.
For a person suffering from major depressive disorder, to even get out of bed can be a difficult task. According to Dr. Joseph Goldberg of WebMD, “depression can strip away the structure from your life. Setting a gentle daily schedule can help you get back on track.” Start by writing to-do lists, beginning with small, daily tasks like household chores. Make sure you tick the items off before the end of the day. Work your way to weekly, monthly, and lifelong goals, such as enrolling in a class or pursuing your secret dream of traveling.
2. Fix your sleeping patterns.
One of the most common symptoms of depression is insomnia (lack of sleep) or hypersomnia (excessive daytime sleepiness). Getting back to healthy sleeping habits won’t happen in an instant, but you can start by adjusting your habits. “Go to bed and get up at the same time every day,” suggests Goldberg. “Try not to nap. Take all the distractions out of your bedroom—no computer and no TV. In time, you may find your sleep improves.”
3. Add mood boosters to your diet.
“There is no magic food or supplement that will fix depression in a heartbeat, but there are specific nutrients that can help ease depression in the long run,” reports SOS (Survivors of Suicide) Philippines, an online support group for Filipinos undergoing depression and other mental health issues. To help prevent mental health disorders and uplift your mood in the long run, increase your intake of the following: vitamin B12 and folate (beetroot, lentils, almonds, spinach, liver, chicken, and fish), vitamin D (natural sunlight, breakfast cereals, breads, juices, and milk), selenium (walnuts, and poultry), and omega-3 fatty acids (cod, salmon, halibut, and nut oils).
4. Avoid food and drink depressants.
According to a report by Psychology Today, “Nutritional epigenetics is a two-way street: Some foods promote health and others bolster disease. To avoid the latter, you should steer away from foods that make you feel depressed.” While the occasional alcohol and daily coffee is fine, consuming too much can do more harm than good. Heavy alcohol and extreme caffeine consumption can deplete serotonin, which makes people prone to anxiety and depression. Junk food and sugary treats—no surprise there—are also culprits in promoting a crash-and-burn feeling. “Maintaining a steady blood sugar level is important to achieve even-keeled energy levels [via Psychology Today]. Try reducing your intake of coffee, tea, and processed foods to see if there’s an improvement in your mood after a few weeks.
5. Exercise cheats.
It’s easy to tell a person to exercise, but someone suffering from clinical depression often exhibits physiological symptoms such as fatigue, lethargy, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. Psych Central recommends exercise cheats—activities that don’t seem like exercise but actually get you moving and burning calories. Meet up with a trusted friend at a location a few blocks from your coffee shop or mall of choice, and then walk to the place together. Take your dog out for daily walks or volunteer to walk a friend or relative’s pet around the village. Engage in a light outdoor activity or hobby like gardening or washing your car. These small steps count. In time, when you get your groove back, you can try more rigorous exercises and sports.