Health Library

Lifestyle Changes to Manage Depression

Change Your Expectations Delay Important Decisions Participate in Activities That May Make You Feel Better Be Patient Find Social and Spiritual Support Lower Your Stress Exercise Regularly Eat a Healthful Diet

Depressive disorders can make you feel very tired, worthless, helpless, and hopeless. These feelings and thoughts may make you feel like giving up. Just remember they’re part of the illness. They really don’t represent what’s really going on.

This will get better with treatment. There are other steps you can take to help yourself. These may help you ease your depression:

  • Change your expectations
  • Delay important decisions
  • Participate in activities that may make you feel better
  • Be patient
  • Find social and spiritual support
  • Lower your stress
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a healthful diet

Depression takes a lot out of you. Be realistic about your goals, duties, and tasks. Stay as active as you can. But don't overdo it by taking on more than you can handle.

Break large tasks into small ones. Then set some priorities. Let your family and friends help you. Don't feel guilty if you can’t do as much as you normally would. This involves tasks at work. You need to focus on getting well.

This may not be the best time for you to change jobs, get married, or move. If you're thinking about taking on stressful tasks, talk about it with others. They may be able to help with a different point of view.

You may feel like pulling away from the world and doing nothing. But staying active can make you feel better faster. Get out of the house. Try exercise, join a social group or sports team, or just go to a movie or ball game.

People don't quickly get better from depression. Be sure not to expect that of yourself. You will slowly start to feel better. Keep in mind that negative thinking is a part of your illness. It most often gets better as it’s treated. Staying active with other people will help you feel less alone.

A network of supportive relationships is helpful for both treating and preventing depression. Supportive relationships serve as a buffer against stress, which can sometimes bring these feelings on.

Strong spiritual faith is associated with a lower risk of depression. Spiritual faith can be found in the context of organized religion or in something less structured. Taking part in these in a group setting can give you social support.

A variety of relaxation techniques can help you cope with stressors that bring on depression. You can try meditation, deep breathing, progressive relaxation, yoga, or biofeedback. These techniques help you to pay attention to tension in your body and release it with exercises that help quiet your mind and relax your muscles. You can also reduce stress by getting enough sleep, rest, and recreation.

Regular exercise eases stress. Aerobic exercise and yoga can ease stress and make you feel better. Aerobic exercise can raise the levels of certain brain chemicals that affect mood. Other benefits of exercise are weight loss (if needed), better muscle tone, and higher self-esteem. Yoga gives you the benefits of stretching and deep relaxation.

You may feel better when you eat a healthful diet that is low in saturated fat, high in fiber, and rich in vitamins and minerals.

If you want to take herbs and supplements, talk to your doctor first. B-complex vitamins (B6 and B12) may be helpful, more so if you don’t get enough of them. Omega-3 fatty acids (found in cold-water fish, fish oil, and flax seeds) may also help to treat depression.

References

Depression alternative treatments. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T474293/Depression-alternative-treatments. Updated August 9, 2018. Accessed October 5, 2018.

Depressive disorders. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/mood-disorders/depressive-disorders. Updated May 2018. Accessed October 5, 2018.

Depression (mild to moderate). EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/biomedical-libraries/natural-alternative-treatments. Updated September 2, 2016. Accessed October 5, 2018.

Depression. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml. Updated February 2018. Accessed October 5, 2018.

Major depressive disorder (MDD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116638/Major-depressive-disorder-MDD. Updated August 23, 2018. Accessed October 5, 2018.

Nutt DJ, Kessler RC, Alonso J, et al. Consensus statement on the benefit to the community of ESEMeD (European Study of the Epidemiology of Mental Disorders) survey data on depression and anxiety. J Clin Psychiatry. 2007;68(Suppl 2):42-48.

10/30/2009 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T474293/Depression-alternative-treatments: Carney RM, Freedland KE, Rubin EH, et al. Omega-3 augmentation of sertraline in treatment of depression in patients with coronary heart disease: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2009;302(15):1651-1657.

9/04/2013 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116638/Major-depressive-disorder-MDD: Sánchez-Villegas A, Delgado-Rodríguez M, Alonso A, et al. Association of the Mediterranean dietary pattern with the incidence of depression: the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra/University of Navarra follow-up (SUN) cohort. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009;66(10):1090-1098.