5 habits making your depression worse

Maybe you’ve been there. No matter how hard you try, all you want to do is pull the covers over your head and stay in bed hoping to escape the pain. You don’t want to go anywhere. You don’t want to see anyone. You just want to be left alone.

While this sounds great, these behaviors can increase depression. Here are 5 things you may be doing in response to your depression that may be making it worse.

1. Isolation
I don’t know about you, but when I feel bad, I want to be left alone. This is appropriate for short periods but becomes dangerous when it becomes our new normal. We were created for relationships and are not made to live in isolation. Our brains are hardwired with mirror neurons that help us to regulate our emotions just by being around others. When we spend too much time by ourselves, we become lonely. Loneliness has been found to raise levels of stress and hinder impede sleep causing negatively impacting both our mental and physical health. Isolation also hurts our executive function meaning we make poor choices and are less rational. Isolation feeds our negative self-talk adding to our depressed mood.

2. Staying in bed
While getting adequate sleep is crucial for people who are depressed, so is getting up and moving. Lying down for too long increases your risk of chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Oversleeping causes us to miss out on life, and then we feel guilty about all that we “should” have done. Our self-worth plummets and depression worsens.

3. Inactivity
Exercise has been proven as effective (some say even more effective) at treating depression as antidepressants. Failure to move restricts the release of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain (the pleasurable brain chemicals) and so you have a hard time feeling happy. This is why things that used to bring joy no longer do so. Exercise naturally produces an influx of these chemicals and helps to counter depression.

4. Blackout curtains
If sunlight helps us to have a more positive mood, prolonged periods of darkness have an adverse effect. We need a regular sleep schedule where we go to bed in the dark and rise when the sun is out. Blackout curtains cause our circadian rhythm to get off-kilter and this too can lead to a more depressed mood.

5. Junk food
We’ve all heard it since we were kids. “You are what you eat.” When it comes to depression, this is true. Too much junk food causes us to feel sluggish. Researchers followed almost 9,000 people over six years and found a 48% higher risk of depression in those who ate more highly processed foods (https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/29/health/fast-food-teen-depression-wellness/index.html).

Depression zaps us of energy and motivation. If we want to change this we have to get out of bed, open the curtains and let the sunshine in, eat a healthy breakfast, spend time with others and get moving. Instead of meeting a friend for coffee, go for a walk together outside. Doing so will help you to counter these 5 hindrances to recovery.

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