Major Depressive Disorder is a life-altering illness that can seriously limit a person’s ability to meet daily demands or even function normally. It is not the blues, nor is it a bad day or even a bad week. It is simplistic to believe that it will go away on its own, or that all you need is a little bit more grit. However, it is also simplistic to believe that your choices don’t make an impact. Here are some lifestyle choices that have been shown to help ease depression.
Your mind depends heavily on a healthy sleep-wake cycle. A master biological clock, called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), runs your sleep-wake cycle. The SCN works in tandem with the sun, sending out hormones and chemicals throughout the day to signal factors such as wakefulness, sleepiness, hunger, and mood. When your sleep-wake cycle is out of whack, your SCN becomes imbalanced and it struggles to regulate your mood. In addition to getting enough sleep–7-9 hours each night for adults–it is important to sleep at the right times. Early to bed, and early to rise may not make someone wealthy and wise, but it does greatly affect your health.
Another lifestyle choice with a major impact on your emotional health is your diet. Your brain needs healthy foods to function at its best. There is a high correlation between refined sugar and a worsening of depression. Sugar and other processed foods cause inflammation and an overabundance of free radicals within the brain. When free radicals run rampant, oxidative stress occurs. Antioxidants reduce free radicals in your body to ease your depression. Try to eat more antioxidant-rich foods, such as whole fruits and vegetables, and limit your intake of refined sugars and other highly processed foods.
Studies show that exercise can be as effective as an antidepressant for some people. The hippocampus is smaller in the brain of people with depression. Exercise releases a host of endorphins, boosting your mood even after a workout. Amazingly, exercise can promote cell growth within the hippocampus and form new connections, relieving depressive symptoms. Exercise might be the last thing you want to do when you are depressed, but it has a snowball effect. Just five minutes a day can boost your mood enough to motivate you to do more over time.
Depression might require medication and therapy to treat. It is important that you take your mental health into your own hands and get the help you need. At the same time, there are things you can do to help. Exercise, a healthy diet, and getting into a good sleep schedule can make a very real difference.
Check out this article on how to get more motivated for exercise!