Proven advice for dealing with depression

October 9, 2015

Depression is linked with a higher risk of many health issues, from diabetes to heart disease, and is a major cause of physical disability. The best way to beat depression is to prevent it or to avert a recurrence.

Proven advice for dealing with depression

6 Suggestions for managing depression

Up to 60% of people who have had one major depressive episode go on to have another. Researchers have discovered some techniques that are helpful for dealing with depression.

  1. Learn to solve problems. Often, depression starts when faced with a challenge in your life that you just don't know how to cope with. Finding ways to manage the issues you're facing now can help you avoid depression down the line. Think of it as preventive maintenance for your mind. Learning to solve problems can be as simple as sitting down with paper and pen, listing the issues that are making you unhappy and identifying three concrete steps you can take to make things better. Other options include brainstorming solutions with friends or family or scheduling a few sessions with a therapist trained in cognitive behavioural therapy.
  2. Look on the bright side. Numerous studies find that optimistic people are less likely to develop depression than pessimistic people. While not everyone is a born optimist, anyone can work on adopting a more positive attitude. Being an optimist begins with the belief that bad events are temporary and changeable. For instance, rather than complaining about a bad boss and assuming nothing will change, an optimist would identify opportunities for growth elsewhere in the company, update their resumé and apply for a new, and possibly better, job.
  3. Stay connected. Join a bowling league, a sewing club or a committee at your child's school or your church, anything to bring you into regular contact with others and enhance your social network. Such connections, researchers find, do a great job of inoculating you against depression.
  4. Get regular exercise. Countless studies underscore the emotional boost that exercise provides and its ability to help relieve symptoms of depression. Research also suggests that people who get regular exercise are less likely to become depressed in the first place. Furthermore, more intense exercise (think running or playing soccer or basketball) is believed to be most effective, compared to slow walking or weightlifting. In a study of older adults with arthritis, taking aerobics classes led to fewer depression symptoms.
  5. Eat fish and whole grains. It's possible that twice-weekly meals of salmon, mackerel or tuna can help keep depression at bay. Fatty fish like these are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Studies show that women who dine on "fin food" often have half the risk of developing depression than those who don't eat fish regularly. If you don't eat fish, ask your doctor about taking a daily fish-oil supplement containing at least two grams of omega-3 fatty acids. Whole grains are another component of a healthy diet. Just three-quarters of a cup of whole-grain cereal contains about 800 micrograms of folate, a B vitamin in which many people who are depressed are deficient. Studies find that men who get 234 micrograms of folate for every 1,000 calories they eat are half as likely to become depressed as men who get 119 micrograms. Other great sources of folate include lentils, chickpeas and spinach.
  6. Get a good night's sleep. Researchers used to think that insomnia was a symptom of depression. Now they're finding that it typically precedes depression. Of course, insomnia may be a sign of an underlying problem in your life that may lead to depression, but good evidence shows that poor sleep itself can lead to symptoms of depression.

Depression is a serious illness. The suggestions in this article are for helping to manage the illness but do not exclude the need for consulting a doctor.

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