Being depressed can leave you feeling low in energy, which might put you off from being more active.
However, a review of studies stretching back to 1981 concluded that regular exercise can improve mood in people with mild to moderate depression. It may also play a supporting role in treating severe depression. Exercise enhances the action of endorphins, chemicals that circulate throughout the body in response to physical activity. Endorphins may improve natural immunity and reduce the perception of pain. The endorphins bind to the same nerve receptors, as some pain medicines. However, unlike morphine, the activation of these receptors by the body’s endorphins does not lead to addiction or dependence.
Strong social support is important because, for those with depression, joining a group exercise class may be beneficial. You can also exercise with a close friend or your partner. In doing so, you will benefit from the physical activity and emotional comfort, knowing that others are supportive of you. To stay healthy, adults should do 150 minutes of moderately-intense activity, every week.
Regular exercise has been proven to:
- Reduce stress
- Ward off anxiety and feelings of depression
- Boost self-esteem
- Improve sleep
Stressful events cause our cortisol levels to rise. Cortisol can cause food cravings, and in women those cravings tend to be strongest for carbs, especially sweet foods, according to researchers at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center. The increase in stress cause accumulation of fat in the abdominal region, causing obesity in the long term. Research has found that belly fat cells, which have been linked to a greater risk for heart disease and diabetes, have four times as many cortisol receptors as regular fat cells.
Therapy and medication can help fight the complex symptoms of depression. One important factor that is probably overlooked is nutrition — you are what you eat, and you need to eat food that will help you be happy. While certain diets or foods may not ease depression (or put you instantly in a better mood), a healthy diet may help as part of an overall treatment for depression. Here are some dietary tips that’ll help you fight depression:
- Cut back on sugar-containing foods
- Cut back on caffeine from coffee, tea, chocolate, cocoa, colas, and medications
- Increase dietary intake of vitamin B6(chicken, legumes, fish, bananas, avocados, and dark green leafy vegetables)
- Include at least two folic acid-rich foods in the diet, such as spinach, broccoli, orange juice, or chard
- Take a moderate-dose multiple vitamin and mineral supplement to fill in any nutritional gaps