When depression strikes, it can often feel as though nothing is worthwhile and that there is nothing that can be done to lift our moods. Some of us turn to drugs to combat it (both legal and illegal) and some of us allow it to sit dangerously like a storm that doesn’t pass. Some of us talk, some of us don’t. For some of us, it is crippling, confining people to a prison in their own minds and preventing them from escaping.
Depression is different for everyone, which makes it so difficult to treat. In fact, it is for this reason that some medical treatments are completely ineffective with some people while others they work miraculously. Medically, they aren’t even sure what causes depression.
In a world with very few universal answers, I have compiled a list of 5 things that you can do to lift your mood naturally, and better still, without exercising. The reason I have left exercise off this list (although it can really help with depression) is because for those that know and have experienced depression, exercise is likely to be the last thing you can muster yourself to do.
Normally depression causes us to feel tired and we are inclined to believe that the lethargy and tiredness is a symptom of depression.
But, that is not always the case and depression can be caused by you being over tired. Jim Carrey described his depression as his mind refusing to go on pretending to be something it wasn’t – it was his mind’s way of saying he needed “deep-rest”.
This is something that is in some part likely to be true and depression could at times be caused by your mind needing a break. Sometimes a week of decent night’s sleep (at least 8 hours) can be everything you need to bounce out of a depressive phase.
When you’re rested, your mind is more prepared to overcome and face the challenges you experience in our waking lives. A week of sleeping well could be exactly the medicine you need to bounce out of a depressive phase.
Subscribe for my next blog post about sleeping better for help if you’re experiencing difficulty sleeping.
Many depressive people (including myself at times) have been reluctant to meditate when they feel depressed. I think this is in part because we are scared about being alone with our thoughts.
Meditation though, when used correctly can be a really powerful way of embracing an inner quietness.
I would recommend any guided meditation that takes you on a visual journey as these will be good distractions from your everyday life. Also, although I don’t necessarily subscribe to the Eckhart Tolle philosophy, his mediation practices especially the ones about allowing the mind to rest in the present moment are very effective for lifting depressive moods.
From what I remember, it was actually a deep depression that started him on his spiritual journey. Mumbo-jumbo aside, his mindfulness meditations are very good at clearing the clutter and allowing the mind to reset.
Don’t be scared of meditation, like sleep it is really unlikely to cause anything detrimental and is highly likely to have a positive effect. Throw yourself into meditation, clear your room and a space to meditate and light candles (safely). Enjoy the whole experience of meditating and embrace the calmness it can create.
Make Your Bed Each Morning
This one is a really great thing to do and one that I can in no way take credit for. This was mentioned by someone making a commencement speech (I can’t remember who). I am fairly sure the person had some kind of military background where they would have been expected to make their bed daily.
Either way, the idea is that if you don’t do anything else, make sure you make your bed each day as that small amount of effort will quickly achieve something and could then help you take more little steps to achieve other things. It’s as simple as that, by starting out the day having completed something, you’re more likely to feel more positive about the day’s outlook.
And even if you don’t feel immediately positive, you have a nice made bed to climb into when night comes back around.
Eat Plenty of Vegetables
When we are depressed, our bodies often feel as depressed as our minds do, and can even shut down. Another thing we tend to do is eat more when we are feeling depressed, better known as comfort eating.
Comfort eating is not a good reaction to have when depressed for many reasons, but the main ones are;
- You’re effectively using food as a drug and eating to feel better is perhaps doing that in the short term, but it is also reinforcing to your brain that it should be addicted to food.
- Most comfort food is high calorie and high fat which makes our bodies and minds more sluggish because they need to focus more energy into digestion.
- Eating food in this way can lead to weight gain which can make people feel much worse about themselves. If they then eat to feel better, this becomes a very destructive vicious cycle.
Good Depression Foods to Binge On
Whenever you feel depressed and you’re eating, make sure you’re increasing the amount of vegetables you’re consuming. Vegetables tend to be low fat, lower calorie foods that also have plenty of vitamins and fibre to help promote better digestion.
Don’t avoid other food types altogether, just make sure that if you’re eating anything while depressed, it is balanced with a healthy dose of vegetables. By vegetables I don’t mean packets of crisps…
Good vegetables to consume while in a depressive phase are;
- Broccoli, Peppers and Potatoes (not crisps) as these are a source of vitamin C which helps your immune system. Sometimes depression can lead to illness because our immune systems crash (the common “feeling under the weather”) so promoting a healthy immune system is key when depressed.
- Beans and other pulses are high in fibre and help you clear out your digestive system. Eating baked beans is a great way of getting plenty of fibre as well as satisfying the sugar rush our bodies sometimes crave because most baked beans brands have added sugars.
- Olives are a great source of vitamin E which is an antioxidant. When we are depressed, our body creates harmful “free-radicals” that can damage cells. Antioxidants protect cells and theoretically should help reduce cancer risk as a result. Olives are also naturally fatty foods which will again trigger the same happy response that fatty foods give our brains.
Last but not least, if you want a short term “mood boost” then eating spicy foods and hot peppers are known to give the brain a “rush” that could help lift mood very quickly. It could also cause discomfort if you’re not very tolerant of spice so use this one according to your own tolerances.
Hydrate and Stay Hydrated
Ask yourself, honestly, do you really take on enough fluid during the day? The chances are that you don’t and hydrating is a really easy way to feel a bit better mood wise.
Your body is reliant on hydration, ensuring a regular source of water is easy enough to do and you will feel better after just 24 hours of doing it. The advice is to drink 2 litres of water a day, which is quite a lot. Don’t force yourself to hit that target, just make sure you’re drinking a two or three extra glasses of water than you normally would and you will see the hydration benefit.
If anything, it will make you visit the toilet more often which will get you moving – which ties into the thing I mentioned at the start of the article, exercise is great for alleviating depressive symptoms.