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“You should get out more and socialize,” is typical advice offered to people with chronic depression. We should also exercise more, eat better, and do fun things.
Unfortunately, when friends and professionals suggest lifestyle changes it tends to make depressed people feel depression is their fault. It suggests we would be fine if we had different or better habits.
The reality of lifestyle changes is that they are not a cure, but a tool depressed individuals can use to help themselves. Like any health tool, they have the potential to offer relief, and contribute to recovery.
We know that human beings generally thrive when they eat nutritious food, are physically active, have supportive relationships, feel purposeful, and have fun. Adopting lifestyle changes, or maintaining habits we have, is done to create an environment where it is possible to thrive.
When depressed, it may not feel as if walking everyday and eating fresh vegetables is helping us thrive, but we rationally know these habits promote well being. That is why they are important—they make healing likelier.
Depending on the causes underlying a person's depression, healthy habits might also contribute directly to recovery.
For instance, if someone's depressive symptoms are triggered by a lack of B vitamins, protein, and vitamin D then, eating plenty of green veggies, lean protein, and getting a few minutes of sunlight each day may alleviate the symptoms.
If the depression is not triggered by a nutrient deficiency, the sunlight, vegetables and protein still help by supporting good physical health.
It is immensely difficult to continually do things you have no energy or motivation for just because they are “good” for you. The following three tips may help.
Photo credit: Light Painting(@flickr)
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