Rising out of bed at the same time each day improves depression by setting the body’s internal clock. That clock is run by neurohormones, and those get misaligned during depression. Start your day with energizing activity, the type of things that make you want to stay up all night and are slightly addictive (in other words, the things that too many of us do late in the evening). Trouble waking up? Try the next step for help with that.
By creating a virtual sunrise in your bedroom, these gradually lift the brain from deep sleep to full awakening. The result is better energy and less depression. They are effective against winter depression, according to five clinical studies, and are helpful throughout the year for everyday fatigue.
You don’t need to exercise intensively to treat depression. Brisk walking, slower than a jog but faster than a walk, will do. The dose is 30 minutes a day, or 45 minutes every other day. It works as well as an antidepressant, and prevents depression even better than an antidepressant. It also causes brain cells to grow and strengthen, improving memory and concentration. Stuck indoors? Try Happy Walk or Walk at Home videos.
Too tired for brisk walking? Try a stroll in the forest. A 90 minute walk in the woods reduces depressive rumination and improves concentration better than a similar walk in the city or suburbs. It also changes areas of the brain involved in depression. Walking near lakes, rivers, and oceans has a similar effect. Simply sitting and absorbing natural surroundings can help. In fact, research shows that any contact with nature, from tending a garden to petting a dog, has mood benefits.
Regular activity lifts depression, particularly if it’s the absorbing type that allows you to get out of your head for a while. These are different for each person, but might include sports, board games, puzzles, conversation, a good book or TV show (particularly if there are no advertisements), cooking, knitting, art, music, dance, spiritual activity, walking, volunteering, gardening, researching, and engaging projects. If you can work at least an hour of absorption time into each day it will slowly built up to a good antidepressant effect.
Depression is a mind-body illness, involving disruptions of stress hormones, body temperature, and inflammation as well as brain chemistry. What’s good for the body tends to be good for the mind, and practices once restricted to luxury spas are now being used to treat depression. Massage, yoga, mindfulness meditation,warm baths, and rhythmic breathing are just a few. Sudarshan Kriya is a breathing practice used in yoga that can enhance the growth of brain cells and improve depression even when antidepressants haven’t worked.
These devices purify the air by creating negative air ions. It was through an accidental discovery in the 1990’s that we learned they also treat depression. Since then, around half a dozen studies have confirmed that benefit, especially in winter depression. The fresh scent they give off is reminiscent of waterfalls, rain forests, and ocean breezes.
This Mediterranean-style diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, and olive oil. No foods are outlawed and calories are not restricted, but weight loss can be a side effect. In two clinical studies, it treated depression with an effect that compared well to an antidepressant. It also sharpens memory, cuts the risk of dementia in half, and prevents a host of medical problems. It even works if you follow it half-way (just not as well).
These healthy oils provide the coating brain cells need to be more flexible. They improve depression, bipolar, memory, and irritability. They also lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and help prevent many health problems including cancer, stroke, skin and eye disease. Most products don’t have the right ingredients for mental health, so check our list of approved products below.
These healthy bacteria are found in yogurt and picked foods and can also be packed into a daily capsules. They work through the mind-gut connection to reduce inflammation and improve brain function. In over ten controlled trials, they improved depression, anxiety, and memory. In one study they lowered the hospitalization rate for people with bipolar disorder by a factor of 3.
Restful activity before bed can deepen sleep. Examples include meditative music, aromatherapy, dim lights, and a warm bath. Nocturnal blue light, which comes from electronic devices and energy-efficient bulbs, has been linked to depression, and special glasses that filter it out have significant benefits for sleep and bipolar disorder.
This structured therapy for sleep realigns the two biological forces that drive sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has concluded that it is more effective than sleep medication, and it has mood benefits as well. It treated depression in over a dozen clinical studies. Your therapist may be able to guide you through the steps, or you can use an online program, a free app, our or brief guide.