During this time of year, we see more instances of depression and low mood in ourselves, and in those around us. This is most common in areas like the Midwest, and upper Eastern part of the country where daylight is at a premium and sunshine is a rare commodity.
After months of long, dark and gloomy days, even the best of us can’t help but be impacted to some degree. This is actually not your fault as the lack of sunlight means that your body is now producing less natural Vitamin D and serotonin, which can help boost one’s mood. So what are some proven scientific ways that can help a person become happier despite the gloomy days?
Exercise naturally boosts chemical endorphins and has had positive effects on depression. You don’t have to go out of your comfort level or capabilities. Remember that doing a little will go a long way, so get moving!
2) Eat Healthy
There is no “depression diet”, but we do feel well when we eat well. Including high omega-3 fatty acid foods, lean protein, fruits and vegetables will make a noticeable difference from consuming more carbohydrate-loaded or sugary food.
3) Sleep More
Sleep is vital to your mood and overall wellness. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, as this not only helps with your disposition but with letting your body achieve a normal and restful routine. It can also help restore the functions of our immune system, letting us fight diseases better even more.
One tip is to avoid drinking caffeine-loaded drinks after 2 PM as doing so has been proven to cause sleeplessness and other issues.
Another is to remove distractions from your bedroom, such as the television. Try not to look on your phone to read articles or play games before your bedtime as the harsh light from the screen stimulates the brain even more. When you follow these tips, you will notice that your mind and body will get accustomed to falling asleep as soon as you lie on your bed.
4) Attend Therapy
Therapy can teach you to deal with your negative thoughts, a huge factor in depression. When we are depressed, we tend to think of the worst of a situation and turn it into a catastrophe, even if it isn’t. A therapist can help you challenge the reality of those thoughts, and can also help you replace them with more positive and realistic ones.
When you are depressed, you may feel hopeless. You may feel like no one likes you and that you do not have a support system. You view every experience as if it will go wrong. A therapist can instill hope with small victories. He or she can make you realize that you do have a support network that not only likes you but has been reaching out to you. During sessions, you may also get to realize that many times, things turn out all right.
Consistently challenging thinking and learning to have a more accurate outlook on life can have a positive impact on your mood. Research shows that individuals with mild depression actually benefit more from talk therapy than they do from tajubg anti-depressants. Those with moderate to major depression benefit the most from a combination of therapy and the right anti-depressants.
5) Do Something New
Trying something new can actually change your brain chemistry, as doing new things can activate chemicals related to mood. So this means there is no better time to get out of your comfort zone than when you are depressed, even if every part of your mind and body tells you otherwise.
6) Go Back To The Things You Love
Depression often makes us feel that things that we once enjoyed are not fun anymore, but that is just the depression speaking. If you get out there and engage in things that you loved, you will be surprised that you might actually find yourself having fun.
Is that a smile I see? It is like teaching yourself to have fun again, and this can be done if you put in the effort.
7) Get More Light
Light therapy boxes have been shown to be effective with the increased depression most of us experience during the winter months, as they simulate natural light. Coming from Chicago, this occurrence impacts many.
Light therapy boxes have not only become more accepted, even the Mayo Clinic writes about their effectiveness, and they have come down tremendously regarding price so that more people can buy one for their own. You can get them through home medical companies, or even online through outlets like Amazon.
Making a little light therapy part of your morning routine can have a great impact on your day. Use it while you have your coffee, read your paper and check your e-mails!
8) Take Natural and Medical Supplements
While there are very promising studies and research that show that supplements can help to naturally improve depression, you should always make a point to speak with your doctor before starting them. There is a misconception that supplements are natural, and therefore cannot cause you harm, but they can interfere with current medications. We all react differently to substances. You are also encouraged to do your own research on supplements before leaping head first into taking them.
The most promising supplements are fish oil, SAMe, St. John’s Wort, and Folic Acid. Research also shows that Saffron is effective for mild depression, so if you love the spice, pile it on!
9) Turn To Eastern Practices
Other natural alternatives to treat depression include yoga, meditation, and acupuncture! While there is not a ton of research on their effectiveness, those who practice these report positive results. Also, who would not benefit from incorporating these into your life in general? I cannot think of a better reason to go do a treatment or exercise that is relaxing and effective!
Dr. Nikki Martinez
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