Depression and anxiety are an unfortunate part of life for millions of Americans. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) over 40 million Americans suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder, and those are just the cases we know about. The Association cites the risk factors as genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events. While a lot of patients receive treatment such as anti-depressants and therapy, there are natural ways to curb your symptoms. These aren’t magic formulas, but these are five methods that I have found highly effective. Whether you have a diagnosed condition or just want to improve your overall mental health, try the following lifestyle changes and see how much of an impact they have.
- Take care of your body
This is a two-part method and shouldn’t come as a surprise if you’ve read my other articles. The first part is a healthy diet. Your body is a complex machine and needs the right fuel to function properly. Sure, if you’re a teenager or in your early 20’s you can get away with it, but for everyone else it has a huge impact. On days where I eat like shit I can notice the difference. Studies have shown that eating greasy, fattening, salty, and sugary foods can put you in a bad mood and make your body sluggish. Try eating lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and healthy grains such as brown rice. I personally take a multivitamin every morning that has Vitamins A-D, zinc, biotin, DHA, and a couple others.
Part two is, you probably guessed it, exercise! I’ve talked about how vital exercise is for your physical and mental health before, but it should be said again. I have never felt bad after a decent work-out and I doubt you will either. When you get your blood flowing and your brain releases those endorphins it is an amazing feeling. You can check out my article ‘What’s Stopping You From Exercising?’ for more information on this, but combining exercise with an improved diet will make a big difference.
- Choose your inner circle wisely
By choosing your inner circle I mean the people you choose to spend time with and get invested in. You should be around positive, hard working people that have the qualities you want. You want to be around people who build you up and have your back, not people who make excuses and trash your name. Do you want to get in better shape? Befriend someone who spends time in the gym and can give you tips. Want to start your own business? Join a Meet-Up group for entrepreneurs so you can talk strategy. Do you want to be a video game designer? Take a college course and talk about coding with the other students. The examples are endless, but the message is clear: choose wisely. Positive, joy-filled people have a contagious personality that will benefit you greatly.
- Spend time outside
This might be a little biased since I live in Florida, but it’s important to myself and others. There’s something special and calming about walking outside in the sunshine with a nice breeze. Fresh air can do wonders for your health and your body will absorb Vitamin D from the sun. If you live up north like I used to, the cold winter air can be refreshing and help your mind focus. Often my mood will instantly improve as soon as I step outside and take a deep breath. Exercising outside can be extra beneficial, try jogging in the park or going on a hike with some friends. Biking and swimming are two of my personal favorites. Doing work outside can help you keep focused as well, I like to write and come up with business ideas while I hangout by the pool.
- Do things that you enjoy
This one seems obvious, but it’s surprising how many people don’t follow this. Life can get in the way, I get it, but we all have the same 24 hours each day. You need to do things that make you happy and make you feel good about yourself, that’s the reason I started this blog! You only get one life, one shot, one journey, so make it count. Don’t make excuses, if you want something then find out how to get it. If you lose your passions and hobbies, then what do you have left? For example, I love to travel. I’m always trying to go to new places, new cities, and even new countries when I can. Other cultures and people fascinate me, so I put a focus on that. I also like to play video games because they are fun and bring back good memories, so I set aside a few hours each week for that. Maybe you love mountain biking, collecting baseball cards, painting, watching Sci-Fi movies, it doesn’t matter. If it’s important then set aside time for it.
- Set goals and schedule your time
This is arguably the most important one and ties all the others together. I discovered this method about a year ago and the impact on my life has been huge. I used to just do whatever on my days off and as a result I wasted a lot of time. I’d sit on the couch, scrolling through Facebook and texting friends because I was bored. The key here is to make a definitive plan and stick to it. Here is my schedule every Friday: go to the gym, come home and drink a protein shake, go to the pool to swim and read whatever book I’m on, go grocery shopping, eat lunch, do laundry, work on my business ideas, eat dinner, then relax and have fun the rest of the day. It sounds like a lot, but with planning and time management skills it’s easy. My weekend days end up being my most productive, but again you need that mindset. This also ties in with goal setting. There needs to be a carrot at the end of the stick, think about what motivates you. Everyone has a goal: whether you want to lose 50 pounds, learn fluent Spanish, get that Business Intelligence job, or save up for that new car, there is something driving you. You need to periodically schedule time and set small benchmark goals, or micro-steps, so you have a clear and manageable path. A lot of caffeine helps too.
Those are my methods for fighting anxiety and depression, but they are overall lifestyle changes that can benefit everyone and anyone. I don’t guarantee these will get rid of the symptoms completely, but they will certainly help and make a big difference. Implement all five together and watch what happens, you’ll like what you see.