Take care of yourself
Sometimes the small things add up – skip exercise, eat poorly, stay up late, and suddenly you’re feeling lousy. These things alone may not necessarily lead to a diagnosis of depression, but they may keep you from feeling your best. If you’re already at risk for this energy-sapping, mind-numbing disorder, you’re better off avoiding habits that can wreck your mood.
Eating processed foods
A quick burger or bag of chips may be a tasty snack every once in a while, but too many highly processed foods might leave you feeling blue. And 2013 analysis of research on diet and depression published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the healthier their diet, the lower their risk of depression. Earlier research suggests that people who eat the most processed foods have a higher risk of depression. Keep in mind that these types of studies just show an association between a poor diet and lower mood, they can’t prove that one actually causes the other. However, eating a healthy diet – which was defined in the first study as a high intake of fruit, vegetables, fish, and whole grains – isn’t a bad idea for many reasons. It can be difficult to avoid all processed foods, especially in a time pinch, but these simple tricks can help train your brain to stop relying on sugar.
Spending too much time alone
Spending some quality time alone every now and then can be hugely beneficial to your mental health, says Dr Susan Heitler, a clinical psychologist and author of Prescriptions Without Pills. However, warns Heitler, spending too much time in solitude can reverse these effects and actually increase your risk for depression. To protect yourself against this, she emphasises the importance of creating strong friendships and relationships with others, one of the best strategies for overcoming depression. “We can give or receive smiles and laughter,” she says. “Any time we connect with someone else, it’s an opportunity for positive emotional exchange.” Research suggests that friends are ridiculously healthy for us.