Believe it or not, the best antidepressants on Earth don’t come from a pill bottle. From getting more sleep to taking up a hobby, making these simple changes in your life can help boost your mood and prevent depression.
1. Get enough sleep.
There’s nothing like tossing and turning all night to put you in a bad mood, but sleep disturbances may go further than that. According to researchers, disturbances in circadian rhythms have been linked to depression, and resynchronizing circadian rhythms using melatonin supplements or light therapy may actually have antidepressant effects.
Whether you’re dealing with major depression or just looking to boost your mood, improving your sleep hygiene is an important first step. Go to bed at the same time each day, turn off the screens a bit earlier than normal, and look into light therapy if your work schedule means you don’t get much sunlight.
You’ve probably heard this before, but listen up: Exercise is incredibly valuable, not only for general health, but for its mood-boosting effects, too. You don’t need to run a marathon to reap the benefits of exercise. In a recent study, researchers had depressed patients pedal a stationary bike, measuring their subjective symptoms and cortisol (stress hormone) levels before and afterwards. They found that after just 15 minutes of exercise, both the patients’ symptoms of depression and cortisol levels were significantly reduced.
3. Regulate your blood sugar.
Have you ever eaten a sugary snack, only to find yourself starving and miserable an hour later? What goes up must come down, and a blood sugar spike followed by a crash is a one-way ticket to a lousy mood. But according to one study, sugar may have a bigger role to play in depression than originally thought. Researchers analyzed data from six countries and found a highly significant correlation between sugar consumption and depression rates.
Whether you’re battling depression or just trying to avoid the afternoon crash, balancing your blood sugar is key. Make sure to eat regular meals and snacks, including a good source of protein at every one.
4. Eat healthy fats.
Are you getting enough fish in your diet? Researchers have found that eating omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (like those found in salmon, trout and sardines) reduces symptoms of depression. Flaxseeds and walnuts are also great sources of omega-3s.
5. Find passion in life.
Even if you’re eating healthy, getting enough sleep and doing your exercise, nothing will boost your mood like having a sense of purpose. According to Blue Zones, people who have a sense of purpose live up to seven years longer than those who don’t.
In a study of community-dwelling elderly people in Japan, researchers used recall reports to learn about their subjects’ lifestyles. They found that those who didn’t show symptoms of depression had a history of physical exercise, a healthy diet and the presence of hobbies throughout their lives. Finding activities you enjoy that give you a sense of purpose is a surefire way to improve your mood and reduce your risk of depression.