Healthy body, healthy mind
Feeling good is about looking after our minds and our bodies. With depression we can feel overwhelmed by our emotions and struggle to get motivated, and our physical health can suffer as a result. The worthlessness and exhaustion that comes with depression often makes it harder for us to take good care of our bodies, and over time this can do even more damage to our confidence and self-esteem. There is growing evidence linking poor physical health and poor mental health, and recent studies suggest that if you have a long term condition such as heart disease or diabetes you’re twice as likely to become depressed.
An emotional relationship with food can make it hard to eat as healthily as we’d like. It’s common to use food to soothe and comfort ourselves, so try keeping a mood and food diary. This can help you to recognise triggers for emotional eating and to understand how certain foods affect the way you feel. You might notice that small changes to your diet can make a big difference to your energy levels. Eating five portions of fruit or vegetables a day is a simple way to start, and fresh vegetable soups and stir fry’s can help us to get a number of portions in one go. Some studies suggest that people with depression may be low in certain essential fatty acids (Omega 3) found in fish oils, so keeping a stack of tinned mackerel or sardines in the cupboard is a cheap and easy way to top up.
Exercise boosts the feel-good hormones in our brains, helping to lift our mood. A refreshing walk in the park or 10 minutes of gardening can add a purpose to our day, and you might find the extra activity helps you sleep better. Keeping active also reduces stress, and we often gain a sense of achievement by meeting goals we’ve set for ourselves. Ask your GP if an Exercise on Prescription scheme is available in your area, and try linking up with others to keep things fun and sociable. Studies show that exercising outdoors is especially good for boosting mood, so Green gyms, Walking for health and Fitness meet ups are great ways to get outside and meet new people.
- Take small steps. A short, daily walk is a huge achievement if you’re unwell with depression.
- Depression often comes with low self-esteem and poor body image, but focusing on nutrition rather than losing/gaining weight can help to keep things more positive.
- Avoid putting pressure on yourself. Depression can make even simple activities feel overwhelming, so know your limits and rest when you need to.
- Treat yourself occasionally. Depression can make us feel guilty and undeserving of even small pleasures.
- Drink plenty of water and try keeping alcohol and caffeine in moderation.