Are there lifestyle factors that can help my depression?
Earlier in the week, David talked about the bidirectional relationship between poor sleep and depression. With such a strong link between depression and sleep problems its important you look at the factors you have control over. Things you can do during the day to best manage your symptoms and in turn get a good night’s sleep. In this post, I’ll look at lifestyle changes commonly recommended for depression which can have a positive impact on your sleep.
How can exercise help my depression?
Researchers have provided us with evidence that physical activity can have a positive impact on symptoms of depression and improve outcomes for people with depression.
Regular exercise may alleviate symptoms of depression by:
- increasing energy levels
- improving sleep
- distracting from worries and rumination
- providing social support
- reducing loneliness, especially if exercise is done with other people
- increasing a sense of control and self-esteem
- allowing people to take an active role in their own wellbeing
Remember you don’t have to run a marathon, climb the highest mountain or compete in a cross fit competition, it’s just about getting moving. Throw your runners on, find a friend and just get walking. Make sure its regular and commit to this each week. Everybody enjoys a different form of exercise. If you don’t like walking try yoga or boxing. Keep going until you find the activity that gets you up in the morning, especially cold winter mornings.
Eating well is important for both your physical and mental health. Eating small, well-balanced meals throughout the day will help you keep your energy up and minimize mood swings. While you may be drawn to sugary foods for the quick boost they provide, complex carbohydrates are a better choice.
Rule of thumb: don’t look to certain types of food or drinks to pep you up. Turn to whole foods which will keep you more even during the day, and not wired at night time. Plan your meals so you don’t get caught out and reach for the all too tempting donut at the petrol station. Plan to carry snacks with you during the day.
As we know, sleep has a strong effect on mood. When you don’t get enough sleep, your depression symptoms will be worse. Sleep deprivation exacerbates irritability, moodiness, sadness, and fatigue. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep each night. Very few people do well on less than 7 hours a night. Aim for somewhere between 7 to 9 hours each night. Aim to go to bed and get up at the same time every day no matter how you are feeling. Ensure you are following good sleep hygiene practices.
Make changes in your life to help manage and reduce stress. Too much stress exacerbates depression and puts you at risk for future depression. Take the aspects of your life that stress you out, such as work overload or unsupportive relationships, and find ways to minimize their impact. We have discussed the positive benefits of mindfulness and its role in the management and treatment of sleep, but mindfulness has also been shown to be helpful for depression. Many psychologists run mindfulness based courses which run over 6-8 weeks. For example, Melbourne Sleep Disorders Centre runs mindfulness groups with a focus on sleep.
I would recommend keeping a health diary so you can record how you feel on any given day.
- What makes you feel better
- What makes you feel worse?
- Rate how you felt overall each day.
Changes to your depressive symptoms may take some time but noting positive changes (small or big) will encourage us to continue with these important lifestyle changes.
Jump back over to our post on goal setting when we discussed setting goals to manage sleep apnea symptoms, and use this to set yourself some goals. Remember to only tackle a couple of goals at a time to ensure you have success.
What has worked for you?
If you have success implementing any strategies that have reduced your depressive symptoms we would love to hear about them. Post your comments below.
Need more information about how you can sleep better?
At Sleephub we understand the struggle people endure with sleeping problems which is why we have created a comprehensive FAQs page with information for those seeking information about sleep disorders and potential solutions.