Sometimes it can feel hard to get away from your depression. As with any illness, sometimes you just want to leave your treatment in the doctor’s (or therapist’s) office and keep it separate from your life. But, like many illnesses, managing depression can be a full-time job. Medication and therapy are very helpful, but the way you live your everyday life can count just as much.
Diana Rodriguez at EverydayHealth has some tips for how to live well every day with depression. These tips may be difficult at first, but it’s not about torturing yourself–it’s about little ways to make your life easier without sacrificing the things that are important to you.
1. Make friends with the mirror. You may have heard “fake it ’til you make it” as a strategy for depression, and this applies even at the most basic level. Practicing smiling in front of the mirror can lift your mood and help you find some things to smile about in real life. And “power posing“–standing before the mirror in a confident pose, such as the “Wonder Woman pose,” with your hands on your hips–is has shown to boost confidence on a neurological level. Try it out! It might seem silly, but even a minute a day of these types of behaviors might be a huge help.
2. Set goals you can achieve. Much has been made of “gamification” as a way of increasing learning and productivity. Games are all about finding an optimal groove of challenge and reward, and this applies to life as well. At the most basic level, all you need to do is break your day down into simple, important, and daily tasks, and rewarding yourself by “checking them off” over the course of the day. There are many smartphone apps that let you manage productivity in this way; I and many people I know use a Bullet Journal for task management.
3. Create a routine. While you’re organizing your task management, you can also take the time to set up a calendar, agenda, or reminder app (Bullet Journals can serve this purpose as well). Daily routines are helpful; it’s much easier to keep yourself from spending all day on the couch when you have some level of structure to adhere to. You don’t need to micromanage every aspect of your day, but when you’re suffering from depression, it’s easy to let time get away from you; get time working for you again.
4. Take care of your body. Your mental health can’t be separated out from what your body’s up to. Diet and exercise are great ways to alleviate your depression, but don’t forget about personal hygiene as well. You don’t need to look a certain way to feel good about yourself, but basic routines such as showering, brushing and flossing, and grooming habits might do more for your self-esteem than you think. And even if you can’t exercise, make sure not to spend too much time sitting down. Smartwatches and other fitness aids sometimes include “stand goals,” reminding you to get on your feet for a few minutes every hour. This is a simple goal that can do a surprising amount for your health.
5. Practice kindness. Just as the body is tied to the brain, your feelings about yourself are connected to the way you treat others. Sometimes depression makes it hard to be nice, and sometimes it makes it easier to be nice to others than to yourself. Allow yourself to just give and receive kindness; if your every day life doesn’t give you many opportunities to be helpful, consider volunteering or donating to a cause that you care about.
Do you or a loved one suffer from depression? See if you qualify for Lincoln’s clinical research study on depression today!