Depression Slideshow: Tips for Exercise, Diet and Stress Reduction
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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 ease symptoms of depression. Exercise, changing your diet, and even playing with a pet can improve your mood. Click to the next slide to see how you can start regaining control of your life.
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 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. Although there is no specific diet that works for depression, a healthy diet can be part of an overall treatment plan. Build your diet around plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to help boost your physical and emotional health.
Choose Foods to Boost Your Mood
Some studies suggest omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12 -- especially for people for may not get enough of these nutrients -- may ease the mood changes that are part of depression. Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel contain omega-3 fatty acids. So do flaxseed, nuts, soybeans, and dark green vegetables. Seafood and low-fat dairy products are sources of B12. Vegetarians who eat no meat or fish can get B12 in fortified cereals, dairy products, and supplements.
Try Low-Fat Carbs for a Pick-Me-Up
Serotonin is a brain chemical that enhances your sense of well-being. Carbohydrates raise the level of serotonin in your brain. Low-fat carbs such as popcorn, a baked potato, graham crackers, or pasta are options. Vegetables, fruit, and whole grain options also provide fiber.
Drink Less Caffeine to Improve Mood
Do you really need that third cup of coffee? Anxiety can accompany depression. And too much caffeine can make you nervous, jittery, or anxious. While possible links between caffeine and depression haven't been definitively established, cutting back on caffeinated drinks may help lower your risk of depression and improve sleep.
Treat Your Aches and Pains
Feelings of depression can be related to pain. 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 almost as well as 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 improve your mood.
Choose an Exercise You Enjoy
If you don’t like to run, you won't last long training for a marathon. But you will stay with a moderate exercise you enjoy. For instance, try walking, 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 can be treated with light therapy or exposure to artificial sunlight, antidepressants, and psychotherapy.
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 you 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 alone, 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.
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Cleveland Clinic: "What is Seasonal Depression?"
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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.