My list of Basic Strategies is a starting point for therapy. How does this list compare to your own life?
1. Sleeping. Please try to consistently get 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night. If you are not getting enough sleep, then your mind is not really getting the rest it needs. If you are still mentally exhausted, little progress can be made. But don’t sleep more than 8 hours very often. Staying in bed is ok now and then for a lazy relaxing day. But if you do it a lot, it can actually lead to more depression. (The classic view of a depressed person is someone who doesn’t want to get out of bed, so he stays in bed all day.)
2. Eating health food, not overly-sugary foods (mainly Americans have this problem). Sugary snacks tend to end up in a sugar crash, which can make depression worse.
3. Get physical exercise within your limits. Studies have shown that physical activity improves mood. (The technical term for his is “Behavioral Activation.”) This doesn’t mean you need to run a marathon or lift weights. It just means you should get at least 30 minutes of walking (or some activity similar) throughout the week, if your health or physical condition will allow it.
4. Get a variety of mental activities. Too much of any activity can doesn’t give the mind the variation or exercise it needs. For example, a little TV watching is ok, but watching all day can make a “zombie” out of you. You need to do a variety of things like reading, watch a movie, learn something new, practice a hobby, etc. Anything that diverts the mind for a period of time, then switch to do something else. But also, it’s ok to do NOTHING to let your mind relax. But too much of that can be a bad thing too. So mix it up.
5. Sunshine helps the body produce vitamin D, and psychologically makes you more awake and aware. If you can’t get out in the Sun, then increase the lights around you at home.
6. Socialize with others. Talking to others, about anything, is helpful to you mood. Sitting home alone with your thoughts worsens your mood.
7. Avoid alcohol and drugs.