Feeling Depressed? 5 Tips for Lifestyle Changes
Jarlath McCreanor drives a bright yellow car with the word “Aware” painted boldly across it.
McCreanor is a support group facilitator with AWARE, a charity in Northern Ireland that offers support and assistance to those impacted by depression by sponsoring community events, well-being programs, and support groups.
He had the idea of placing AWARE branding on a car to promote the charity and their services, while providing a unique space for his group members’ to talk about depression.
In an interview aired earlier this year, McCreanor told the BBC, “To me, it’s getting into people’s faces. And I would park it in the most conspicuous place…people will talk about the car when it drives past.”
As he picks up passengers and drives them to various places, he encourages them to share their stories about their depression and finds the car is a safe space for them to talk about what is on their minds, without fear of judgment. After 30 years of having depression himself, McCreanor uses the eye-catching car and the companionship of its passengers to help alleviate his own symptoms, and to initiate a community conversation about how to help with depression.
McCreanor admitted that he almost didn’t go through with his BBC interview because he felt depressed when he woke up that day. However, knowing he was helping others by being open about his own struggles gave him courage to talk about his lifestyle changes for depression. He said: “If [it] reaches out to someone out there that’s in the same position as I was this morning, it’s worth it.”
McCreanor’s feeling that he should reach out and open up to people is a good idea, according to Dr. Allison Ross, an adjunct associate professor at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. In an U.S. News and World Report article, Dr. Ross said: “Being around people rather than isolating yourself can be helpful in warding off depression if you choose to be around people who will lift your spirits and ease your pain; that is, people who are positive thinkers, who are caring, kind and supportive of you, are fun and/or easy to be around.”
Positive Lifestyle Changes for Depression
For others, just being around positive people may not be enough to keep depressive symptoms at bay. According to Dr. Ross, other lifestyle changes for depression include:
- Tracking sleep: Sleep plays a role in our mood, memory, metabolism, and other vital functions. Therefore, a lack of sleep can negatively affect mental health. Using an app on your smart phone or watch to track your sleep can help hold you more accountable for getting the recommended eight hours.
- Exercising: According to Mayo Clinic, exercising helps release endorphins (positive brain chemicals) that enhance your sense of well-being. It does not need to be strenuous; activities such as taking a walk around the block or watering the plants can help improve your mental health.
- Creating happy physical spaces: Having a safe place at home surrounded by some things that bring you joy can offer an escape from negative thoughts. Dr. Ross suggests: “Hang photos of yourself with family and friends or posters and artwork you like on the walls. Invest in at least one piece of furniture that’s the most comfortable, cozy or cool thing you own.”
- Enhancing your diet: Eating a balanced diet of vitamins, carbohydrates and proteins can help prevent cell damage, boost alertness and lead to an over all healthy lifestyle. Particularly, foods that are rich in vitamin B12, such as shellfish, have been linked to easing depression.
- Pursuing a hobby: As McCreanor demonstrates, doing something you enjoy can be mood lifting and give you a sense of fulfillment. Everything from driving, taking care of a pet, knitting, playing an instrument, to building puzzles can be used as a way to cope, create emotional experiences, and in some cases, lead to social opportunities.
Find What Works for You
Remember the same approaches may not necessarily work for everyone. While some people may find relief in taking up a hobby, others may find that a balance of diet and exercise provides more relief when tackling depression symptoms. When it comes to lifestyle changes, the key is to find what works for YOU.
If you think that something isn’t working for you, talk to a healthcare provider to get more information on ways to treat depression.
Like Jarlath McCreanor and his yellow car, lifestyle changes for depression could lead to new and positive life experiences you never thought possible.
Interested in learning more about alternative ways to battle depression? Read more here: https://genesight.com/blog/healthcare-provider/understanding-the-geriatric-depression-scale-for-seniors/ or https://genesight.com/blog/patient/5-alternative-depression-treatments/
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