Just as our body needs exercise and nutritious food to make us healthier, our brains need certain activities to keep our mental health at its best. Our moods are affected by both external and internal factors, but there are a variety of habits we can practice everyday that can help fight off depression naturally. Whether your antidepressants aren't working for you, you're looking for a quick pick-me-up, or you just want to supplement your treatment with some good ole natural remedies, you can try altering your daily schedule to fit in some happiness-promoting activities that can help improve your overall wellbeing.
These habits can be done throughout the day, but it's always a good idea to start healthy habits as soon as you wake up. "How you start your morning sets the tone for the day," says psychologist Nicole Martinez, Psy.D., LCPC to me over email. "So, small morning habits, whether it is a mantra, meditation, yoga, or listening to your favorite podcast is what you should do. These will work quickly and effectively to turn your mood around. These will calm, relax, and distract you."
Everyone has different hobbies, and your individual passions can help fight off negative moods. While they're not guaranteed to cure your depression, the below seven daily habits have been scientifically-proven to help boost your mood.
Studies from University of Exeter have found that meditation is more effective than drugs or counseling in combatting depression. "You can download an app such as 'Headspace' and listen to a 10-minute guided imagery, and this will help to relax and calm your mood," says Martinez.
2. Practice Yoga
According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have found that yoga can help tame the body's stress response as well as improve overall mood and wellbeing. Yoga provides similar mental health benefits to exercise, and the use of controlled breathing is also effective in diminishing symptoms of depression. "Yoga helps to stretch and relax you, as well as center you for the day or for sleep," says Martinez.
3. Wake Up Early
"Wake up 30 minutes early to allow yourself to ease into your day and do something that is calming and relaxing to you," says Martinez. "This sets the tone of the day for you." In fact, studies from University of Toronto have found that early morning wake-up times is associated with greater feelings of overall happiness.
4. Write In A Journal
Writing is not only a healthy and constructive way to release any negative emotions, but it can also help you take control of your own personal narrative, which can help change your perception of yourself as well as help you overcome any obstacles. Studies in the journal Behavioral Therapy show that expressive writing can help get rid of depressive symptoms and improve mood.
5. Eat Some Fish
Observational studies show that people who eat a lot of fish are at a 17 percent lower risk of depression than those who don't eat much at all, according to the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. They attribute this effect to the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, which can help fight inflammation in the body and potentially affect dopamine and serotonin levels as well.
6. Get Some Sleep
Nothing is worse for your body than sleep deprivation, and the same holds true for your mind too. Too little sleep has been linked to mood disorders, and according to the American Psychological Association, an extra 60 to 90 minutes of sleep per night can help improve your mood. This should be tacked on throughout the night, however, as naps don't do much to repair a negative mood that comes as a result from sleep deprivation, according to research from University of Pennsylvania.
Although it can be hard to muster up the desire to be around people when you're feeling down, socializing can help improve mood and fight depression, and even reduce your risk of physical ailments, according to the journal Mind, Mood & Memory. One study from Flinders University showed that people who have a large network of friends outlived those with fewest friends by 22 percent, likely because having many companions can help provide support, boost self-esteem, and ward off depression.
Everyone's brain works differently, so there's no one habit that works for everyone, but participating in healthful activities can help keep your mind and body strong and work to maintain a positive mood overall.
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