Depression is a mental illness that has severe repercussions for our moods and emotional states. Depression can drain your energy and motivation, causing you to feel cut off from everyone and making the simplest tasks feel impossible. According to the National Network of Depression Centers, one in five Americans is impacted by depression at some point during their lives. Depression recovery is difficult and often happens over extended periods of time; however, outside of clinical treatments, there are things you can do to help alleviate depression symptoms.

Taking the first step to naturally alleviate your depression can substantially boost your mood and energy. Here at Brain Forest Centers, we are passionate about doing everything we can to help our patients fight their depression, so we’ve compiled this guide of five activities to help alleviate depression.

Get Enough Sleep

One of the most common symptoms of depression is fatigue; the disorder completely zaps all of your energy, often by causing sleep disturbances. People with depression often have difficulty sleeping or sleep too much. For those fighting depression, it is important to get eight hours of healthy sleep every night. “Sleep deprivation can impact daily work performance, cognitive functioning, and exacerbate symptoms of depression,” Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, NYC based physician, told Bustle. “It may also have deleterious effects on your overall health. Try and achieve at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night and maintain good sleep hygiene.”

The amount of sleep you get is as important as having a healthy sleep routine and sleep habits. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day can help you sleep better throughout the night. Try not to take naps so as to maintain your sleep schedule, and avoid screens for 30 minutes before bed; the light from screens causes activity in the brain that makes it difficult to fall asleep. Healthy sleep habits and patterns can make fighting depression much easier.

Do Something You Enjoy

When depression makes you feel like you have no energy or motivation, it can be easy to give into those feelings and not indulge in things that usually bring you happiness. Fighting those feelings and pushing back against the temptation to stay in bed can relieve symptoms of depression. It doesn’t have to be anything monumental, so long as it’s relaxing and enjoyable.

A 2010 review of studies found that listening to music can alleviate depression symptoms, and this process has a cumulative effect, becoming stronger the more you do it. This happens because music can strengthen your reception of positive feelings. Spending time outside has been proven to help improve mental health, most likely due to sunlight exposure that can increase serotonin levels. Taking a walk at lunch or planning a weekend hike can help you soak up some sun, elevating your mood instantly. Getting together with friends and family can help solidify your support system, an important part of battling depression. Face-to-face time with the people who love and support you can help bolster your attempts to relieve your depression. No matter what the activity is, it is important to keep doing things you enjoy when you are struggling with depression.

Meditation

Stress and anxiety can worsen symptoms of depression, so it’s important to practice techniques that help lower your stress and bring more balance to your day. Research has shown that activities such as meditation, journaling, deep breathing, and yoga can help relax those struggling with depression and improve their sense of well-being.

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine showed that as little as two and a half hours of meditating per week can alleviate symptoms of depression. “Meditate or engage in mindfulness or spiritual practice five to ten minutes a day,” says psychologist Erika Martinez. “It calms the mind and can stabilize the mood throughout the day.” Consider signing up for a beginner meditation class or research guided meditations online.

Eat Healthy and Hydrate

One of the most important parts of fighting depression is making sure your body has what it needs to fight symptoms on a physiological level. If your diet doesn’t include the nutrients necessary for your brain to regulate your emotions, the fight will be much harder. What you eat and drink has a direct effect on your mood, so focus on eating more lean meats, fruits and veggies, and grains, while eliminating stimulants like caffeine and sugar and depressants such as alcohol.

Preservatives and processed foods can also have negative consequences for your brain and mood, so try to avoid trans fats and foods with high levels of hormones. Sugary snacks and fast foods can lead to a drastic decline in mood and energy, so try to cut those out as much as possible. Citrus fruit, spinach, beans, and chicken can boost your B vitamins, important nutrients in the fight against depression.

Dr. Allana Polo, certified naturopathic physician, recommends adding foods high in tryptophan to your diet: “Elevated levels of tryptophan have been shown to boost serotonin, the body’s feel-good hormone. You can take in more foods with tryptophan like egg whites, cod, spirulina, and soybeans.” Making the suggested changes to your diet can have an amazing effect on your mood.

Exercise

Mental health research has always shown that physical activity helps relieve symptoms of depression. “Most doctors treating chronic depression would like their patients to exercise,” says Dr. Peter Kramer, a clinical professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University. Some studies even suggest that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants!

You do not have to run a marathon or start benching weights every day to experience these effects; just walking a few times a week can have amazing results. “Regular exercise seems to encourage the brain to rewire itself in positive ways,” says UCLA psychiatrist Dr. Ian Cook. Dr. Wendy Suzuki, professor of Neural Science and Psychology at NYU, explained how exercise can have this effect: “Exercise can increase levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine, and endorphins. These are some of the same neurotransmitters that we know are decreased in depression, and increases in these neurotransmitter levels are what gives people that mood boost after a good workout.” Short walks around the blocks or a few minutes on an exercise bike can quickly relieve many symptoms of depression.

Contact BrainForest Centers

At Brain Forest Centers, we understand the importance of doing the work necessary to alleviate depression. Check out our website to learn more about what our services, centered around neurofeedback therapy, can do for you. We’d be happy to help however we can!