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To truly help heal depression, your whole lifestyle needs to get in on the act. You may’ve been prescribed medication – SSRIs are the most common – but it’s worth acknowledging that while this can significantly improve your mood, it doesn’t automatically cause you to adjust your own habits.
And if you seek lasting freedom from depression, anxiety, or the wrong sort of stress, you will need to examine your habits – honestly & without judgement – & perhaps make some changes.
From unhelpful thought patterns to burning yourself out at the gym, there are dozens of things you can tweak & adjust in order to create a lifestyle that supports your recovery. Here, we will focus on food.
Don’t worry – I’m not about to suggest a sudden, drastic change of diet. This can be so daunting that it doesn’t work at all. Instead, simply commit to making small, permanent changes over the next few months. Keep practising each one until it becomes a habit. It may seem insignificant at the time, but – when you look back in a year – you’ll recognise what substantial progress you’ve made.
Some unambiguously good foods
Researching healthy food can leave you in a headspin – there’s so much conflicting advice. But some foods are definitely better to eat than avoid:
Oily fish. Scientific studies agree that communities whose diet includes lots of oily fish (herring, mackerel, pilchards, salmon, sardines, trout, fresh tuna) tend to experience less depression. As far as we know, this is because these fish contain Omega 3, which is a natural anti-depressant.
Vitamin B foods (meat, turkey, tuna, brewer’s yeast, bananas, whole grains, lentils, tempeh, beans). Tests show a significant reduction in depressive symptoms when patients eat the vitamin B complex, which includes several different B vitamins that often work together.
Treat yourself, nicely
You may not even notice it, but if you regularly mistreat yourself, you may often be angry at yourself – at least on a sub-conscious level – for doing so. If you have internet access, or even just a TV, it’s pretty hard not to notice that sugar doesn’t help people.
Consumed regularly, it causes diabetes, painful teeth & gums, wrecked complexions, obesity, & sends your emotions spiking from high to low, as your body constantly scrabbles to balance your blood sugar level. As a method of subduing psychological pain, sugar does a very short-term patch-up job, & does nothing to permanently improve your life.
Getting “off” sugar is surprisingly easy. As soon as you start eating lots of protein & vegetables, the sugar cravings dwindle away. You’ll feel happier about eating proper meals because your body won’t be saying “enough calories already!”.
It’s also helpful to replace sugar with something helpful. By helpful, I mean that you can afford it, it’s not going to damage you in the long run, & it gives you a genuine sense that you’re treating yourself with respect. These days, I buy myself flowers instead of the 500g of milk chocolate that used to be my habit. The gratitude I feel towards myself each time is twofold: I get some nice flowers; I didn’t hurt myself.
It might seem small & maybe even silly to you now, but it really does feel different.
Suzie Saw* has experienced episodes of depression since her early teens, & now manages it using a carefully honed blend of cognitive behavioural therapy, meditation, excellent friends, plants & flowers, lots of vegetables, & Star Trek.
* A writer, not a psychiatric professional. Please seek medical advice if you suspect you or a loved one is suffering from depression.