We live in an age where getting depression is alarmingly common. People in all stages of their lives can catch it, including the most successful ones like Kate Spade, Robert Williams, and Chester Bennington. In the past, we thought achievements and wealth could make us immune to mental troubles. But evidently, we couldn’t have been more wrong.
It turns out that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, which happens not only because of trauma or grief but also because of certain lifestyle factors. Doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, famous or not; if you live an unhealthy or self-destructive lifestyle, your risk for developing depression or any other mental health problem increases.
Alternatively, making changes to your lifestyle will help decrease that risk, or eliminate it altogether. In some cases, the changes can even heal your existing mental health ailment.
In addition, total recovery is possible with or without medication. Train your awareness about your lifestyle first, so that you can make the necessary changes that’ll contribute to your healing.
Lifestyle Practices That Destroy Mental Health
Your physical health and mental health are tied. Hence, engaging in unhealthy lifestyle practices that destroy your physical health also hurt your mental health. The top negative lifestyle factors that contribute to depression include:
- Drug and/or alcohol abuse
- Poor diet, including excessive consumption of caffeine and sugar
- Lack of exercise
- Poor sleep quality
- Lack of leisure time and recreational activities
Drugs and alcohol may offer short-term emotional high, or a temporary “escape”, but once their effects wear off, you’d experience a crash. Plus, drugs and alcohol affect all areas of your life, especially your finances. You may think your routine weekend drinking is harmless, but they deplete your savings and rob you of what could’ve been a restful night. You also won’t realize if you’re becoming dependent on either or both. If you find yourself unable to function without a drink or a hit, your job, relationships, health, and finances will suffer. Coupled with depression, your drug or alcohol abuse will lead to a “dual diagnosis”.
Overworking is related to alcohol abuse as well. Working for over 40 hours a week increases your likelihood of consuming “risky” amounts of alcohol. As such, you also heighten your risks for other health issues, hurt your productivity, sleep, and moods. Even your heart works overtime, too; work-related stress produces cortisol, a stress hormone that affects your heart health. And most of all, overworking strains your relationships because your priorities aren’t straight.
Poor diet and lack of exercise cause nutritional deficiencies, which can affect your brain’s function. Though little evidence is there about certain diets’ effects on mental health, researchers know so far that excessive sugar intake spikes moods. It makes you energized at first, then crashing later. Skipping exercise, meanwhile, prevents your body from releasing happy hormones and from maintaining a healthy weight.
Sleep plays a more casual role in mental health. But if you lack enough and quality sleep, you can experience changes in your mental health, which can trigger stress and symptoms of depression. It may also aggravate anxiety or bipolar disorder.
Lastly, lack of leisure time and recreational activities can be related to overworking. If you don’t allow yourself to rest and have fun, your brain will always be fatigued, and therefore prone to developing depression.
Lifestyle Changes That’ll Repair Poor Mental Health
If you’d rather skip traditional medication for your mental health, lifestyle changes, coupled with an alternative treatment like naturopathy, may be just as effective. Experienced naturopathic practitioners will draw out your body’s natural healing capabilities as well as your ability to optimize your health. It’s a natural treatment method that addresses your mind, body, and spirit, as opposed to just your symptoms, which traditional medication does.
Naturopathy can inspire you to apply the following healthy changes in your lifestyle:
- Not beating yourself up; if work doesn’t go well, take it in stride and move forward to set things right.
- Celebrate your successes, however small. You don’t have to work overtime to be considered successful. As long as you finish your tasks for the day, you’ve done well.
- Surround yourself with positive people. Not people who lead you to self-destructive behaviors, but people who support your well-being and growth.
- Take what you see on social media with a grain of salt. The posts you see are just moments of a person’s life, not their entire reality. Don’t compare your lives based on a post with many Likes.
- Get more sleep. It will replenish your energy and make you feel refreshed each day.
- Get inspired. Seek people that inspire you in all walks of life.
These lifestyle changes are simple, yet their impacts last a lifetime. The key is to take one step at a time; no one can change their lives overnight. Healing is a long, continuous process that may last a lifetime for some.