We’ve all felt it – we get stuck in a funk sometimes and need to pull ourselves out. However, for people with depression, it can feel like a gargantuan task to try and get going again. Well-meaning friends, family, and co-workers who don’t understand depression may say unhelpful things like, “Just snap out of it!” or “Can’t you think happier thoughts?”
Depression is a very real health condition that affects millions of people. It’s essential to seek treatment for it and re-train our neural networks both during therapy and in conjunction with treatment.
There are things you can do throughout your day that can give you a bit of a boost between treatments and facilitate recovery. The list below contains evidence-backed suggestions that can help provide relief between depression therapy sessions. Tackle suggestions one at a time so you don’t become overwhelmed.
1. Move around
“Go workout” may be completely unrealistic when all you want to do is lie on the couch, and maybe that’s all you have the energy for at the moment. But you don’t have to hit the gym to start seeing benefits. Even a few jumping jacks can trigger your body to release endorphins, which will give you an energy boost and improve mood. The scientific research on exercise in depression is good, and while it can be daunting to start an entire fitness program, even a little bit of exercise counts. Do a few squats, go for a walk, jump rope for 1 minute, shadow-box, or do any physical activity that gets your heart-rate up and your blood pumping. Exercise not only improves mood, it can also increase cognitive function. You’ll be taking care of your physical body as well as your mental well-being.
2. Spend time in nature/greenery
You can combine this tactic with exercise or not, but either one is helpful. Sitting outside is fine if you can’t find it within you to exercise. After spending a short amount of time outdoors, you may begin to experience feelings of mental wellness and rejuvenation. Being in green spaces reduces our cortisol, or stress hormone, which is a significant factor in depression and anxiety. One study reported a reduction in feelings of depression after about 30 minutes in nature, along with improved blood pressure. The authors of this study noted that increased frequency and duration of time in nature were associated with better outcomes.
3. Practice gratitude
Gratitude is a very hot topic these days and for good reason: not only is it scientifically proven to reduce stress, anxiety and depression, but it feels wonderful. Gratitude calms the nervous system and puts you into relaxation (parasympathetic) mode instead of fight-or-flight (sympathetic) mode. It’s tough to be mad at someone or feel sad when you’re focused on feeling grateful. The object is to reflect on and open yourself up to the people, experiences, opportunities and situations for which you are truly appreciative. It can be helpful to keep a gratitude journal, but even a napkin or e-notes can serve as a platform for documenting your gifts in life. Write down three things—big or small—that you’re grateful for each day and see what happens.
While long-term application of healthy habits yields the best results, even one or two of these daily activities will help improve mood and outlook as the brain adapts to an influx of positive emotions in your regular routine. Focus on recovery and keep the healthy habits going!