Medically Reviewed – EVERYDAY HEALTH
Lifestyle Factors That Affect Mood
When you have depression, you can find ways to take control of your life and manage your treatment even beyond medications. Making some lifestyle changes can boost your mood and help alleviate many of your symptoms, including low self-esteem. “Minimizing stress as much as possible is a good idea when you’re depressed, especially unnecessary or avoidable stressors that people can be pulled into when they’re depressed,” says Erik Nelson, MD, a psychiatrist and assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio.
Talk to a Therapist
Working with a therapist is often an important part of successfully managing depression. “Psychotherapy will focus on helping people adjust their lifestyle in ways that are possible, minimize their stress, and cope with stressors,” says Dr. Nelson. Among the issues that you can address together are how to improve your self-esteem, switch from negative to positive thinking, and practice stress management.
Express Yourself in Writing
Writing in a journal is great therapy and can help you manage depression. You can relieve stress by being open about your thoughts, feelings, and concerns in your writing — and stress management is an important part of living well with depression. Be totally honest in your private journal. Writing down your feelings and challenges with depression can release pent-up emotions. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel after putting pen to paper for just a few minutes each day.
Boost Your Self-Image
People with depression often experience low self-esteem, so finding ways to feel better about yourself is an important aspect of treatment. Practice positive thinking by focusing your thoughts on your best qualities. You can also make lifestyle changes that can improve your self-esteem, such as eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and spending time with friends who make you feel good about who you are.
Stick to a Schedule
Maintaining a healthy and regular routine is very helpful for people with depression, says Nelson. “Many times with depression, people’s motivation drops,” he explains, making them feel unproductive and fueling feelings of low self-esteem. Schedule an activity that you have to do every day — make it one you really enjoy — and aim for as much balance as possible in your life.
Depend on Others
Friends and family can help you feel better about yourself when depression brings you down. Allow yourself to lean on loved ones when you need them. They can encourage you to follow your treatment plan, exercise, eat a healthy diet, and generally take care of yourself — all steps necessary to get better. You can also join a support group for people with depression for the chance to talk to others who understand what you’re going through.
Getting plenty of rest every night is a must for your mood. People with depression often have noticeable sleep disturbances — they either sleep too much or not enough. Go to bed and wake up on a regular schedule, and never skimp on your ZZZs. Feeling run-down will exacerbate your symptoms of depression and make it more difficult to be social, get exercise, and manage stress.
Enjoy the Emotional Benefits of Exercise
Exercise offers physiological benefits that can help people going through depression. Physical activity relieves stress and can make you feel great. Plus, the satisfaction you get from finishing an engaging and challenging workout can boost your self-esteem as you get stronger and more physically fit. When you fight depression with a regular exercise routine, you’ll feel better emotionally and physically.
Make the Food and Mood Connection
“Diet and nutrition are very important,” says Nelson, and cites omega-3 fatty acids as an example. Some studies have shown that a higher daily intake of omega-3s, which you can get in fish like salmon or through fish oil supplements, can improve mood. There are many connections between elements of diet and good nutrition and depression, adds Nelson. Eating a healthy diet can make you feel healthy, fit, and attractive, which improves self-esteem, while feeling unhealthy can worsen depression and play into negative self-perception, he says.
Say No to Liquor
Alcohol isn’t the answer when you’re struggling with depression, but many people turn to liquor to attempt to escape their illness. However, drinking can make the symptoms of depression even worse, and alcohol may also have a negative interaction with medications you’re taking to control depression. A healthy lifestyle is needed to manage depression, and avoiding drugs and alcohol is one key to a healthy lifestyle.