Home > Blog

Simple Habits to Incorporate to Reduce Your Risk of Depression

By Skye Sherman  •   February 13, 2024
•    Medically Reviewed By Dr. Christine Bishara - May 16, 2024

Photo Credit: by Daniel Reche, Pexels.com
Photo Credit: by Daniel Reche, Pexels.com

Depression is a frustrating illness, and one of the problems with fighting it is that it zaps your energy to do so. Feeling down, tired, listless, and unmotivated sure makes it hard to work up the energy to do anything about it.

So instead of some new major life change, routine, or multi-step program, sometimes the best thing to do is incorporate simple, easy habits that are easy to add or shift into your everyday.

Read on to learn about habits that can cut your risk of depression, boost your mental health, and improve your overall well being.

Daily walks

Being sedentary may feel more natural when you’re down, but this actually prolongs the vicious cycle. When you’re less active, you feel worse.

Your daily activity doesn’t necessarily need to be strenuous exercise, but it’s essential to get the body moving. Pick a regular time every day and make it a habit. You can even listen to music, a meditation, or an encouraging podcast while you do this, or just enjoy the sounds of nature.

According to MSN, “It is important for walks and sports to become a routine. An inactive lifestyle negatively affects your mood and health. Minor physical exercises every day will improve your condition. Outdoor walks should also become a daily ritual: don’t count your steps, just enjoy the landscapes around you.”

Another report from NPR confirms the same: “There’s a solid body of evidence linking physical activity to improved moods. … people who exercise regularly report fewer days of bad mental health. And a recent meta-analysis found that physical activity was more effective than medications in reducing symptoms of depression. Antidepressant medicines tend to be faster in treating an episode of depression … but physical exercise has more durable effects than an antidepressant does.”

And, on your next walk, try walking backwards for a short stretch. The BBC states, “Walking backwards has been found to burn more calories than going forwards, while also strengthening the muscles in your back. It is particularly recommended for people with knee problems as it reduces the strain on the knee joint while increasing the flexibility of the hamstrings. It can also give your brain a boost too.”

It might earn you some funny looks, but a little extra laughter never hurt anybody! Never thought getting active could be such a powerful antidote to depression, did you?

Even if you don’t have a nice park near your neighborhood to stroll every morning or afternoon, you can incorporate more walking by parking at the farthest point of a parking lot or getting off one stop early if you are commuting in a city.

Try the MIND Diet

NPR reports, “People who maintained a healthy pattern of eating were less likely to have an episode of depression.”

You may have heard of the Mediterranean diet but have you ever tried the MIND Diet? This takes a plant-forward approach with a diet emphasizing greens, vegetables, berries, whole grains, lean proteins including beans, and healthy fats including nuts. All of these not only promote a healthy lifestyle but also reduce the risk of disease across the board.

According to NPR, “The MIND diet is a mashup of a Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, which has been shown to reduce hypertension, diabetes, heart attack and stroke. … eating a salad each day is tied to sharper memory and slower cognitive decline among healthy seniors.”

Eat a diet rich in certain fruits and vegetables that can help you make more serotonin and avoid the distress. Foods such as bananas, eggs, pineapples, walnuts, soy and soybeans. These foods are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that helps to make serotonin.

On the flip side, eating lots of refined carbohydrates, ultra processed foods, and sugary snacks and drinks is linked to much higher levels of depression. Also check out Can Eating Too Much Sugar Cause Depression?

So can you eat your way to happiness? It’s worth a try.

Sleep 9 hours during winter and 7 during summer

You probably know how helpful sleep is to overall well being, but did you know that you usually need less in the summer than you do in the winter?

BBC reports, “Research shows humans experience seasonal sleep, meaning they need more rest during the dark winter than they do during the summer. … To improve your sleep in the winter, go to bed earlier and avoid bright lights in the two hours before bedtime and looking at your phone just before going to sleep. Recent research also found that having a consistent bedtime may help us to maintain a healthy gut.”

Bored before the sweet release of slumber arrives? You could even try lucid dreaming, because according to the BBC, “While you’re spending more time in bed, you might also want to try lucid dreaming, a state of conscious awareness of dreaming while still asleep. Many people use lucid dreaming to help manage nightmares, solve problems, and explore creative ideas.”

It’s also a good idea to go to bed early. Did you know there’s an association between earlier sleep timing patterns and lower risk of major depressive disorder? According to JAMA Psychiatry, “Genetically proxied earlier diurnal preference was associated with a 23% lower risk of depression.”

In other words, sleep timing patterns could be a risk factor for major depressive disorder. Perhaps it’s time to make improvements and adjustments to your bedtime schedule? If sleeping and waking earlier could reduce your risk of depression, it may be worth incorporating a more healthy sleep schedule.

Do a digital detox

If you’re feeling down in the dumps, try dumping your phone for a while. It is proven that mindless scrolling and social media overload makes us miserable. So why do we do it?

Apps like Instagram are designed to deliver addicting dopamine hits to keep our thumbs scrolling and our thoughts busy. While it can be entertaining and sometimes enriching and informative, it can also distract us from the real valuable ways to spend our time.

Take a digital detox and cut your use of social media if you want to feel a bit better throughout your days. In fact, according to CNet, “Research links digital detoxes to the improvement of depression symptoms, among other mental health benefits.”

Avoiding screen time throughout the day can also contribute to improved happiness levels, but it’s especially important during the hours leading up to bedtime, because the blue light can disrupt your circadian rhythms.

More on circadian rhythms below…

Talk To A Friend and Increase Your Social Connections

Studies show that talking to a friend for just 8 minutes can help you feel better and reduce depression. Strong social connections have also been shown to help with depression. Join a prayer group or a social club where you can meet new people. It makes a profound difference.

Look to the light

Need help getting to sleep better? Look at the light in the mornings. Getting morning sunshine into your eyes can help wake up your body at the proper time, helping you feel more perky and lively at the proper time of day.

On the flip side, you should also feel more sleepy once bedtime hits, thereby improving your overall sleep quality and sleep health. Setting proper circadian rhythms can be a big boost to your health!

According to Early Bird, “Bright morning light has a profound impact on our circadian rhythms, influencing hormone production and sleep cycles. Exposure to sunlight in the morning helps reset the biological clock, ensuring synchronization with the natural day-night cycle. This synchronization supports improved sleep patterns and mood enhancement.”

Of course, you shouldn’t gaze directly into the bright sun’s rays, as this can damage your eyes. But getting some vitamin D on your skin and exposing yourself to sunlight as you wake can help your biological clock get ticking to the right rhythms.

You already need to eat, sleep, and walk. Try making these subtle changes to your daily necessities and see how much happier it makes you feel. If you continue to struggle, talk with your doctor about whether a prescription for antidepressants may be appropriate for you.



The purpose of the above content is to raise awareness only and does not advocate treatment or diagnosis. This information should not be substituted for your physician's consultation and it should not indicate that use of the drug is safe and suitable for you or your (pet). Seek professional medical advice and treatment if you have any questions or concerns.