Being depressed can make you feel helpless. You’re not. Along with therapy and sometimes medication, there’s a lot you can do on your own to fight back. Changing your behavior — your physical activity, lifestyle, and even your way of thinking — are all natural depression treatments.
These tips can help you feel better — starting right now.
1. Get in a routine. If you’re depressed, you need a routine, says Ian Cook, MD. He’s a psychiatrist and director of the Depression Research and Clinic Program at UCLA.
2. Set goals. When you’re depressed, you may feel like you can’t accomplish anything. That makes you feel worse about yourself. To push back, set daily goals for yourself.
3. Exercise. It temporarily boosts feel-good chemicals called endorphins. It may also have long-term benefits for people with depression. Regular exercise seems to encourage the brain to rewire itself in positive ways, Cook says.
4. Eat healthy. There is no magic diet that fixes depression. It’s a good idea to watch what you eat, though. If depression tends to make you overeat, getting in control of your eating will help you feel better.
5. Get enough sleep. Depression can make it hard to get enough shut-eye, and too little sleep can make depression worse.
6. Take on responsibilities. When you’re depressed, you may want to pull back from life and give up your responsibilities at home and at work. Don’t. Staying involved and having daily responsibilities can help you maintain a lifestyle that can help counter depression. They ground you and give you a sense of accomplishment.
7. Challenge negative thoughts. In your fight against depression, a lot of the work is mental — changing how you think. When you’re depressed, you leap to the worst possible conclusions.
8. Check with your doctor before using supplements. “There’s promising evidence for certain supplements for depression,” Cook says. Those include fish oil, folic acid, and SAMe. But more research needs to be done before we’ll know for sure. Always check with your doctor before starting any supplement, especially if you’re already taking medications.
9. Do something new. When you’re depressed, you’re in a rut. Push yourself to do something different. Go to a museum. Pick up a used book and read it on a park bench. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Take a language class.
10. Try to have fun. If you’re depressed, make time for things you enjoy. What if nothing seems fun anymore? “That’s just a symptom of depression,” Cook says. You have to keep trying anyway.