5 LIFESTYLE Changes for BATTLING DEPRESSION: Maybe It’s Time for a TUNE-UP?

Is there a cure for depression

The basics: the very foundation of optimal performance. As crucial as they are, they’re often forgotten in the whirlwind of life, and we end-up paying for it. Every now and then we need a tune-up. Just now, Dr. Paulk obliges…

When these thoughts overwhelm you, it is important to remind yourself that it’s the depression talking. These negative thoughts (cognitive distortions) aren’t realistic.

Diana Paulk, PhD is a psychologist especially interested in trauma-associated issues – stress, avoidance, worry, anxiety, depression, etc. In fact, she’s certified as an advanced trauma specialist. Dr. Paulk practices at Birmingham Anxiety and Trauma Therapy, Vestavia Hills, AL.

The good doctor pulled together some wonderful information pertaining to lifestyle changes for battling depression. Now, at first glance you may find the info too “basic,” but don’t let complacency fool you. The timing’s always right for a tune-up.

Let’s get after it…

5 Lifestyle Changes for Battling Depression

Reach-out and Stay Connected:

A common tendency when we’re depressed is to withdraw and get isolated. Reaching-out to even close friends and family members can be tough. Combine that with the feeling of shame and guilt you may already be harboring inside and you may find yourself drifting away from people even more.

This is the kind of negative thinking you need to put an end to. Social support is critical to depression recovery. You need to stay connected to people and the outside world to boost your mood. If you don’t feel like there’s anyone to turn to in the moment, consider making new friends. Better still, join a support group.

Look for support people who make you feel safe and cared for. That best person to speak to is someone who is willing to listen compassionately without being judgmental. A good idea is to meet these people face-to-face. Messaging on the phone and on social media is fine, but in-person chats are much better at lifting the fog of depression and keeping it at bay.

This is also a good time to care for a pet. Pets can bring joy and companionship into your life. They will make you feel that you’re needed, which will help you come out of your shell.

Do Things You Once Enjoyed – Even If You Don’t Feel Like It:

What makes depression so challenging is that the symptoms themselves can kill your will and suck-out all the energy from you, leaving you with no desire to engage even in the activities you once looked forward to. Don’t give-in to this lethargic state, as it can only make your depression worse.

So as much as you may not feel like it, find time to cook just like you used to do, and go to the gym like before. Obviously, the depression won’t end immediately, but gradually you’ll feel more upbeat and energetic as you make time for these activities.

Coping activities that worked for you in the past are a great place to start. If you’ve been depressed in the past, recall activities that helped you get over the bad moments. Even small actions like taking a shower count. You can also listen to upbeat music or take a walk to a museum or park.

Get Regular Exercise:

When you’re depressed, just getting out of bed can seem like a daunting task. But, again, you have to get through this barrier. So get out of bed and exercise a bit. Research shows that regular exercise not only helps to relieve depression, but can also prevent relapse.

Depression is often characterized by a reduction in levels of the neurotransmitters glutamate and GABA. When the depressed person returns to normalcy, the neurotransmitters are restored. In fact, studies show that exercise activates the metabolic pathway that can help replenish glutamate and GABA.

The good news is that you don’t have to sprint for hours daily. As little as a 10-minute walk may be sufficient. If you can exercise for a combined 30-minutes every day, you could reduce your symptoms by up to half. And your fatigue will improve significantly.

Exercise is also one of the most demanding tasks to ask of the brain. It engages it a lot more than intellectual pursuits, such as, say, chess or mathematics. This means that when you’re fully engaged in exercise, you won’t have the time for negative activities (such as self-pity).

Eat a Healthy Diet:

The foods you eat directly impact how you think and feel. Certain foods are known to aggravate depression, while others can help fight the symptoms. You need to choose your diet wisely, avoiding depression-aggravating foods, and focus on meals that can help you get over the condition.

But before we even mention the good and bad meals, never skip meals when fighting depression. People with depression often loathe food, frequently staying away from it for long periods of time. This is bad for your health and can make you feel irritable and fatigued. Do your best to eat something at least every three to four hours.

Some of the foods you should avoid include sugars and refined carbohydrates. Baked goods and sugary snacks are bad for mood. They can also drain you of energy. Aim to cut these out as much as possible.

While doing that, increase your vitamin B intake. Fill your meals with citrus fruit, beans, eggs, leafy greens, and chicken (if you don’t consume meat, find nutritional equals). Also, expose yourself to sunlight for at least 30-minutes every day for vitamin D, as deficiencies may exacerbate mood challenges.

Recognize and Conquer Your Self Criticism:

Depression is often accompanied by unending self-criticism and a self-destructive mentality. When depressed, people tend to be drawn into a world where sadness and hopelessness cloud all other thoughts. If you’re to overcome your depression, you must rise above these negative thoughts and feelings and start taking more control over your life.

When these thoughts overwhelm you, it is important to remind yourself that it’s the depression talking. These negative thoughts (cognitive distortions) aren’t realistic. They are all imaginary and just there to cloud your judgment.

You can get over them. It won’t be as easy as telling yourself to “think positively,” but through effort, you can get them out of your mind. How? By being compassionate about yourself. If an inner feeling is telling you to forego an activity you actually enjoy, then surely that feeling must be wrong. Shun it.

That Will Be That

So there you have it, major lifestyle changes you can take to the depression battlefield – and win.

Again, at first glance, they may seem way too basic; however, I’m thinking many of you said to yourselves while reading, “Oh, that’s right.” or “Shoot, I forgot about that one.”

Yep, the timing’s always right for a tune-up. Thank you, Dr. Paulk.

***Oh, something very important to remember: A thought does not equate to an experience.

Be sure to check-out Dr. Paulk’s practice website and blog.

And don’t forget to peruse hundreds of Chipur mood and anxiety disorder-related titles.

  • malachite2 December 8, 2017, 7:18 pm

    “If you don’t feel like there’s anyone to turn to in the moment, consider making new friends.” let’s see, I’m depressed and tending to isolate, and I have few friends and don’t feel I can dump on –excuse me- “reach out” to them because, chances are, if I’m depressed, they won’t want to be around me.

    Perhaps you’re familiar with the research that treats people w/depression as having an infectious disease? As in, you don’t want to be around “down” or troubled people because it makes you more likely to be so. then there’s the “I feel so much better since I got rid of all the “negative” people in my life” approach. Unfortunately, one of the sx of being depressed can be seeming to be negative. So I guess to make new friends or keep your old one you have to hide your feelings and thoughts and put on a positive facade. Is that right? And will that improve my mental status?

    It takes a special person to stick around and continue to be a friend. To look for ways of continuing to share time w/someone who’s depressed. There just aren’t that many special people around, and even those who exist, get tired. May have their own problems and need to ration their energy.

    In the US world of “you gotta be positive” or people shy away from you (unless they seeking to exploit your vulnerability/neediness), depressed me is supposed to ‘go out & make new friends.” And how would that happen? Particularly in small towns? Rural areas? Do tell. Particularly if you’re not religious. Support groups? Don’t think so. Plenty of AA, NA, because there’s a ton of substance abuse, (and quite often domestic/child abuse that goes with it) in small towns/rural areas, (and larger towns and cities) but other support groups? Maybe for cancer survivors. Mental health assistance of any kind is historically underfunded in the US, it’s even more true of areas outside of prosperous major metro areas. Unless, of course, you have great insurance or lots of money.

    It can also be more difficult to make new friends once you’re out of your 30’s–whether you’re depressed or not. Meetup.com is not the panacea (assuming there are even meetup groups doing an activity you’re interested in) it’s sometimes presented as. Nor is volunteering (which I do and have tried other volunteer activities in the past).

    I often wonder what kind of world mental health therapists and counselors live in, as it seems to be quite different from the world I and some of the people I know live in.

    • Chipur December 9, 2017, 2:19 pm

      “I often wonder what kind of world mental health therapists and counselors live in, as it seems to be quite different from the world I and some of the people I know live in.”

      Don’t know about other therapists and counselors, but this counselor has personally been to the worst of worlds and back – multiple times. So now what?