A surprising number of American adults will experience a mental health issue at some point during their lifetimes. Some studies put this number as high as 25%, which is one in every four adults. The most common mental illness is depression, a condition which can be debilitating for some people given the many modern stresses of modern life, as well as the potential for sudden and unexpected upheavals in our day to day lives.
The good news is that there are a number of really simple things that any of us can do which will significantly improve our overall mood and help to keep the symptoms of depression at bay.
Exercise is one of the most effective ways of treating depression. Increasingly doctors are advising patients to take up exercise either as an adjunct to cognitive therapies, or in place of antidepressant drugs. There are now a number of studies which suggest that, for many people, a new exercise routine could be just as effective as antidepressant medications.
When we exercise we get ourselves outside and so get exposure to sunlight, an essential source of vitamin K. Whether we get some relatively light exercise such as taking a long walk, or some higher intensity exercise such as jogging, running, or a gym workout, exercise triggers the release of dopamine in our brains.
Dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for mediating our sense of reward and pleasure. Increasing levels of it in the brain by exercising is believed to be responsible for the mood boosting properties of exercise. To find out more about dopamine, check out this guide from examinedexistence.com.
A Balanced Diet
In addition to dopamine, our brains also make use of other neurotransmitters in order to regulate mood, chief amongst these are serotonin and noradrenaline. In order to synthesize these chemicals in our brains, we require access to the chemical precursors, these are called ‘amino acids’.
Some of these amino acids can be synthesized in our bodies, but others, known as essential amino acids, can only be obtained from the food that we eat. If we don’t have a well-balanced diet that provides us with access to these amino acids, then our brains will be unable to produce them, and our moods will suffer accordingly.
Develop a Sleep Schedule
One of the most prominent effects of sleep deprivation is a reduction in our overall mood and level or reported happiness. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is essential for general healthy functioning, and in particular for keeping depression away.
Developing a sleep schedule is easy and makes getting to sleep and staying asleep much easier. The simplest way of formulating a schedule, and making it stick, is to set yourself the goal of going to bed at the same time every day. As long as you choose a time that you can realistically meet everyday, then you will find it much easier to maintain the schedule long enough for your body to adjust to it.
Making even a few minor changes to your life can have a big impact on your general mood and happiness and keep you from developing depressive symptoms.