Sometimes your pet really can be your best friend, and that's good therapy. When you play with him, you take your mind off your problems. And when you take care of him, you're focused on something outside yourself, which can be therapeutic.
Eat Smart to Lift Mind and Body
No specific foods treat depression, but a healthy diet can be part of an overall treatment plan. Build your meals and snacks around plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Choose Foods to Boost Your Mood
Some studies say omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12 may ease the mood changes of depression, especially for people who may not get enough of these nutrients. Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel have omega-3s. So do flaxseed, nuts, soybeans, and dark green vegetables. Seafood is a good source of B12, but vegetarians can get it in fortified cereals, dairy products, and supplements.
Try Low-Fat Carbs for a Pick-Me-Up
Carbohydrates raise your level of the brain chemical serotonin, which enhances your sense of well-being. Go for low-fat options like popcorn, a baked potato, graham crackers, or pasta. Carbs from vegetables, fruit, and whole grains are even better choices -- they also give you fiber.
Drink Less Caffeine
Do you really need that third cup of coffee? Anxiety often happens along with depression. And too much caffeine can make you nervous, jittery, or anxious. While scientists haven't found a clear link between caffeine and depression, cutting back on it may help lower your risk for the condition and improve your sleep.
Treat Your Aches and Pains
When you hurt, it's hard to stay in a good mood. Work with your health care team to treat your depression and your pain.
Work Out to Change How You Feel
Exercise works almost as well as antidepressants for some people. And you don't have to run a marathon. Just take a walk with a friend. As time goes on, move more until you exercise on most days of the week. You'll feel better physically, sleep better at night, and boost your mood.
Choose an Exercise You Enjoy
If you don't like to run, you won't last long training for a 10k race. But you will stay with an exercise plan you like. You can take walks, go golfing without a cart, ride a bike, work in your garden, play tennis, or go 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
Connections with other people can help you overcome the sluggish, lonely feelings of depression. Join an exercise group or work out with a friend. You'll stay in touch and have support to keep yourself on track.
Be Sure You Get Enough Sunlight
Do you feel more depressed during darker, cold months? You may have seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It's most common in the winter, when there's less sunlight. You can treat SAD with light therapy, antidepressants, and talk therapy.
Explore Your Creativity
Painting, photography, music, knitting, or writing in a journal are all ways you can explore your feelings and express what's on your mind. 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 add to your depression symptoms and make it harder to recover. Learn to relax and you 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, warm bath.
Get Involved in Your Community
When you spend time with people or causes you care about, you can regain a sense of purpose. And it doesn't take much to get started. You can volunteer with a charity. Or join a discussion group at the library or at church. You'll feel good about yourself when you meet new people and do new things.
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 Sleep You Need
Depression makes it hard to get good rest. Some people sleep too much. Others can't fall asleep easily. As you recover, relearn good nighttime habits. Start by going to bed and getting up the same times each day. Use relaxation techniques to help you drift off. Quality shut-eye makes your mind and body feel better.
Avoid Alcohol and Drugs
They can slow your recovery from depression or stop it in its tracks. They can also make the condition worse and keep antidepressants from working well. If you have a problem with substance abuse, ask for help now. You'll have a far better chance of getting past depression.
Stick to Your Treatment
Exercise, a healthy diet, and other good habits may help you feel positive about your life. But 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 harming yourself, get help right away. And never stop or change your treatment without discussing it with your doctor.
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American Psychological Association: "Depression and How Psychotherapy and Other Treatments Can Help People Recover," "Mind/Body Health: Stress."
Cleveland Clinic: "What is Seasonal Depression?"
Coppen, A. Journal of Psychopharmacology, January 2005.
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: "Food and Mood."
Harvard Health Publications: "Depression and pain," "Exercise and Depression."
Lucas, M. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2011.
National Mental Health Association: "Alcohol and Drug Abuse and Depression."
National Mental Health Information Center: "Alternative Approaches to Mental Health Care."
National Sleep Foundation: "Depression and Sleep."
Wurtman, R. Obesity Research, November 1995.
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.