At some point in our lives we have all felt sad or depressed. This may be in response to normal life stressors such as loss of a loved one, divorce, or financial difficulties. For many, the feeling of sadness is proportionate to the event and dissipates without disruption of normal daily living. Others however, experience depressed mood and depressive symptoms, lasting many days to weeks, which cause significant impairment in their daily functioning. This is likely more than sadness and could be clinical depression. In the U.S., about 14.8 million adults suffer from major depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
There are many symptoms of depression and people with depressive disorders do not all experience the same symptoms, severity, frequency, and duration of symptoms. There are common symptoms of depression however. Here are common symptoms people with depression experience:
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Insomnia (an inability to sleep) or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping)
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Loss of pleasure in life
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
Whether experiencing sadness or depression, there are three ways to decrease a depressed mood. These three tips are free, easily accessible, and can be done most places.
1. Exercise. In addition to physical health benefits, exercise has many psychological benefits. Exercise releases feel-good brain chemicals that may ease depression and make you feel positive feelings. Exercise can also increase your confidence as meeting exercise goals and challenges can increase your self-confidence and getting in shape can make you feel more confident about your appearance. Exercise can take your mind off of worries and be used as a positive coping skill. Exercise also provides the opportunity for social interaction. A friendly exchange with others can lift your mood.
2. Vitamin D. Our bodies naturally produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. You can also get vitamin D through certain foods such as salmon, egg yolk, shrimp, fortified milk and cereal, fortified orange juice, and supplements. There is a connection between vitamin D and mood suggesting individuals with lower levels of vitamin D are more likely to be depressed than individuals with a healthy vitamin D blood level. Exposing your skin to the sun to get vitamin D enhances your mood and energy. Generally, a little bit of sun exposure is linked to a better mood.
3. Volunteer. Volunteering can give what some call a “helpers high”, as helping others releases the same feel-good chemical in the brain as exercise. Volunteering also increases social interaction with individuals who share a common interest. By being in service to others, you can experience a sense of meaning, purpose, fulfilment, and appreciation which can be calming and increase self-confidence.
When feeling sad or depressed, try these three things to lift your mood and experience a noticeable difference. While these three tips can lift a depressed mood, they should not be used in lieu of psychotherapy and medication if prescribed. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of depression, seek help from a mental health professional.
The content on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat, it is for informational purposes only. Please call our office at 404-618-1040 for an appointment or contact a mental health professional in your local area if you are seeking treatment.