In a person’s battle against depression, taking care of oneself is crucial.
Adapting and making different lifestyle choices after a depression diagnosis, like exercising, avoiding alcohol and drugs, eating well and being social, are common areas that people work on first.
But there are other ways a person with depression can brighten their mood, including these recommendations from a group of doctors and experts.
Track Your Sleep
“Sleep is like the brain’s wash and rinse cycle,” explains Dr. Drew Ramsey, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University.
“During sleep, it deals with a lot of junk and waste products. The brain is just as active at sleep as during the day, it burns as many calories, and sleep lets it heal itself.”
We suggest tracking your sleep with a free sleep app that monitors how much, or how little, sleep you’re getting every night.
“Eight hours a night is actually incredibly rare for most people,” he continues. “When you see the digital data, it helps people enact behavioral change.”
Socialize, with Care
“Being around people rather than isolating yourself can be helpful in warding off depression if you choose to be around people who will lift your spirits and ease your pain; that is, people who are positive thinkers, who are caring, kind and supportive of you, are fun and/or easy to be around,” says Alison Ross, adjunct associate professor at the Graduate Center, City University of New York.
Related: 5 Foods to Help You Fight Depression
That means avoiding toxic people, or people that are more self-centered and ‘him or her’ focused, rather than ‘you’ (ie. Hanging around that friend that won’t stop talking about him or herself, and what’s going on in their life only).
Depression can come in waves, with people experiencing good days, and not so good days.
“They have good days and not such good days. It goes with the territory,” Ross says. “It’s great advice – and proven through research – that exercise helps fight depression, but it’s hard to exercise when you’re feeling sad. So, give yourself a break. Nothing worsens feeling depressed than berating yourself for not doing the ‘healthy’ things you’re supposed to be doing. Be compassionate towards yourself.”
Even if you’re only up for a short walk to the convenience store to pick up a few snacks, or to the end of the block for a bit of fresh air, it’s a start.
“Doing something is better than nothing,” she says.
Learn to Play an Instrument
“Music is a unique emotional experience, and creating music is a powerful way of human expression,” says Ramsey.
“You don’t have to be great. I just play a few songs, but you can demonstrate skill acquisition, and it is very pleasurable.”
Make a Personal Space at Home
People battling depression can feel isolated and disconnected from everything; Ross thinks they are “in search of home.”
With young adults on the move more than ever these days – from their hometown to college, from college to their first job, from one job to another, from one apartment to another – they may not have a warm, personalized living space where they feel comfortable and at ease.
“Hang photos of yourself with family and friends or posters and artwork you like on the walls. Invest in at least one piece of furniture that’s the most comfortable, cozy or cool thing you own.
“Get involved in a DIY project that will take your mind off your sadness – for example, put up bookshelves, buy a chest of drawers at a flea market and paint it, organize that drawer of socks, you get the idea,” Ross adds.
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