It’s common knowledge that sleep deprivation is linked to an increase in depression and other mental health conditions. But a 2021 studyTrusted Source found that having an irregular sleep pattern can also increase a person’s risk of depression — to the same extent as not getting enough sleep.
When our sleep patterns fluctuate, so does the quality of sleep we achieve. And regular, quality sleep is a key piece of maintaining mental health.
Several studies suggest a link between diet and mental health. Not only is there a strong associationTrusted Source between obesity and depression, but research has also shownTrusted Source that heavy consumption of fast and processed foods may increase your risk of depression.
Everything is fine in moderation. But if you make eating whole, fresh foods part of your daily routine, you may feel better in the long run — both mentally and physically.
You may want to start by adding some fresh fruit to your breakfast as part of your morning routine for depression, some lean protein to your lunch, and some fresh vegetables to your dinner.
When you’re in the midst of a depressive episode, it can be very hard to convince yourself to get up and get moving. But that’s exactly why it’s a good idea to make exercise part of your daily routine to help depression.
We all need an outlet for our big feelings, and journaling can be exactly that. Though not all studies agreeTrusted Source, some research has foundTrusted Source that expressive writing (just putting your thoughts and feelings on paper) can help those diagnosed with major depressive disorder.
This is one daily activity you can do entirely on your own terms — when you want, where you want, how you want. There is no right or wrong way to write in your journal. Just try to make it a daily practice of writing about whatever you want for at least a few minutes each day.
And if you find it difficult to get started, try a specific writing prompt to get your writing juices flowing, such as:
- What are three things you’d like to tell a friend, family member, or partner?
- What difficult thoughts or emotions do you experience most frequently?
- What three ordinary things bring you the most joy?
In today’s busy world, it can be hard to slow down and focus on the present moment. But research suggestsTrusted Source doing just that can help reduce the impacts of depression. It may even be beneficialTrusted Source for people with treatment-resistant depression.
Meditation and mindfulness can look a little different for everyone, but the main goal is to find a quiet place where you can shut out all the outside noise for at least a few minutes each day and just… breathe.
To make meditation part of your daily routine, start by deciding what time of day you might be most able to slow your mind and breathe in silence. For some people, this might be in the morning before the rest of the house wakes up. For others, it could be just prior to bedtime.
Whatever time works for you, try finding a quiet space during that time, closing your eyes, and focusing on the deep breaths you take.
While you’re at it, practicing a little self-care is important too. Many health organizations emphasize the importance of self-care, and some research suggestsTrusted Source that self-care strategies like relaxation or meditation show promise in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
And even if research on other practices like aromatherapy, music, or massage is lacking, there’s no harm in trying them to see if they help you relax and feel better.
Self-care doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. You could try:
- allowing yourself 15 minutes to read a chapter of a book you’re enjoying in silence
- taking a warm bath or a hot shower at the end of a hard day
- treating yourself to a face mask
- running around the yard or your neighborhood with your dog
There are no rules here. Simply try choosing at least one activity each day that you know will help you relax or will put a smile on your face.