For the past 6 months I have monitored my mood daily. There is a bit of fluctuation from day to day but essentially my depressive symptoms have not bothered me much, if at all.
During this six month period I stopped taking antidepressants (fluoxetine), and eating sugar, but my keep-well strategy has been fairly consistent apart from that. The things I try to do that help me are:
- getting up early
- 8h good quality sleep
- playing my trombone
- strenuous exercise
- omega 3 supplements
- social contact
- exposure to sunshine
- absorbing activity
- eating regularly throughout the day
- eating no refined sugar and more wholegrain cereals, pulses, fruit and vegetables
- eating protein at each meal
- eating a wide variety of foods
- eating oily fish (omega 3 fatty acids)
- adequate fluid intake
- no alcohol
- helping others
My top 5 things that help beat depression
Some things on the list are easier to do than others. Eating oily fish, for example, happens only once a week or so. Abstaining from alcohol is something I am now committed to, come what may.
I am still learning mindfulness; it may well make it into my top 5 in another three months. But if I had to pick five favourites now from the list above, these would be my choices:
- strenuous exercise – a morning run of 2+ miles works best for me (knees permitting). Steve Ilardi of Six Steps to Beat Depression says a brisk walk for 30 minutes, three times a week will do the trick.
- getting up early – my day just doesn’t seem to go right if I get up after 7am. Why this should be, I don’t know.
- 8 hours good quality sleep – this is hard to achieve consistently as it requires going to bed relatively early, but it’s worth it. There is lots of evidence that good sleep is important for beating depression.
- exposure to sunshine – being outdoors (preferably in a green space) in the sunshine and fresh air makes me feel better, even for a few minutes. I use a SAD lamp everyday too, from getting-up time till dawn.
- social contact – this last one is a surprise to me, since I am something of a hermit, but there’s no doubt that a day without speaking to anybody – even if only on the phone – leaves me feeling flat. Emails, texts and messaging on Facebook don’t count! There’s some research on social support and depression here.