16 'Small,' but Significant, Lifestyle Changes That Help People With Depression
If you live with depression, you’ve probably had more than one run-in with unprompted (and unwanted) advice from folks who swear they know how to cure depression — because they too were “really sad” one time.
And while it’s more than just annoying when people swear they have the “miracle cure” to mental health struggles, the reality is, there are day-to-day changes you can make that might help you manage your depression.
The following suggestions are not “miracle cures” that will automatically vanish any trace of depression from your life — they are real recommendations from real people in our mental health community. We asked them what “small” lifestyle changes they made in their lives that made a significant difference in their struggle with depression. Is this there something on this list you’d try? Tell us in the comments below.
Here’s what our community shared with us:
1. Letting Sunlight In
“Making sure I open the blinds in my living room to let sunshine in even though my depression is telling me to keep them closed. Letting the sunshine in helps me not feel quite so caged in, even on days when I do not actually leave my apartment. I spend the bulk of my day in my living room, so having that sunlight come in is a huge help.” — Barbra D.
“I force myself to get out of bed and open all my curtains to let the light in. It helps me be more positive and keeps me from shutting the world out.” — Tiffany S.
2. Making Your Bed in the Morning
“Making the bed in the morning. When I’m depressed, I sometimes feel like I can’t do anything at all. Something simple like making the bed in the morning can help to start your day with a sense of accomplishment. Even if you do nothing else all day, starting the day with a tiny win can help it seem less hopeless.” — Amanda C.
“Making my bed every morning. It’s tiny, but I feel accomplished right away and I feel like I just may be able to do other projects.” — Katie S.
3. Keeping Track of Positive Things That Happen
“Each day I write one positive thing that happened that day. It can be something big like getting concert tickets or something small like I had a great lunch. I write it on a small piece of paper and put it in a big jar I have. Seeing it gradually get fuller each day is such a good reminder that the little things really do add up. It’s a visual representation of my happiness.” — Sky J.
“On days I feel like total crap, I write two good things that happened that day on a Post-It and put it on my mirror. Towards the end of the week, I read them to remind myself there is always something good in it all.” — Phoenix G.
4. Congratulating Yourself for “Little” Accomplishments
“I started congratulating myself for the little things I did through the day. Things such as: taking a shower, making breakfast, going to therapy, waking up. I just started to congratulate myself for being alive.” — Vianney A.
5. Sticking to a Consistent Sleep Schedule
“Sticking to a sleep schedule. Waking up and going to bed around the same time every day — even on the weekends. Depression makes we want to stay in bed all day long when I don’t have to work, but staying in bed makes me more more depressed. I found getting on an established sleep schedule helps break the feedback loop.” — Clara B.
6. Removing “Should Have” Statements From Your Vocabulary
“Getting rid of ‘should have’ statements. I used to spend [a] day dwelling on things I ‘should’ have said or done. It took me a long time to understand that what has been done or said cannot be undone, but it can always be used to try and do better in the future.” — Katheryn W.
7. Aiming to Accomplish One Thing
“Try to achieve one thing a day.” — Craig A.
“Thinking, ‘if I can do one thing today, I’ve accomplished something.’ One load of laundry, a shower, getting dressed, going outside and getting the mail. No matter how small, it is one thing. Sometimes it leads to more than one.” — Tamii M.
“I get out of bed and get one thing accomplished. If it’s if putting away laundry, or vacuuming — just getting one thing accomplished can sometimes inspire me to stay out of bed. But if it’s a bad day, and I go back to bed, one thing was accomplished. I did something.” — Jennifer B.
8. Meal Prepping
“On OK days, I prep lunches for the week and make a meal I can freeze in Ziploc bags so I can still eat on bad days. It’s great to be able to grab a bag and just put it into the microwave for a few minutes or have a salad I can munch on.” — Freya T.
“Volunteering. My mom always taught me when I’m down on myself and about life, go out and make someone else smile. I started volunteering my time at the local humane society and it’s changed my mood drastically. I get to put a ton of my focus that would normally be negative, and turn it into something positive! I love helping change dogs’ lives and it’s changed my life for the better.” — Kara S.
10. Expressing Your “Inner Angst” Creatively
“Write, draw, cry and let it out. By expressing your inner angst, one is able to acknowledge the hard feelings, yet turn them into something beautiful. Processing emotions is just that — a process.” — Deborah F.
11. Removing Toxic People From Your Life
“I no longer waste an ounce of my newfound positivity on toxic people… I just simply don’t allow it! Oh and a nice new bedsheets seem to make me happy!” — Leanne M.
“Removing and not responding to toxic people in my life.” — Allison M.
12. Laying Out Clothes the Night Before
“This seems silly to a lot of people but if I need to get ready the next day, I lay everything I’ll need to get ready with out the for the morning. I’ll lay out my outfit, makeup, stuff to do my hair — you name it. I find when it’s all laid out, I actually use it then. I found most mornings I was too tired or lazy to get ready. But having everything laid out made it easy to just go through the motions.” — Kacey K.
“I get everything ready the night before. Lunches, clothes, things I’ll need, etc. In case I can’t get out of bed on time or as soon as I should. It helps me so I don’t get too far behind.” — Brittni R.
13. Changing Your Socks
“Doing something as simple as changing my socks helps a lot. If I put on new socks, I might as well change my outfit. By the time I am done getting dressed, I can usually do a lot more than what I originally thought I could before I changed my socks.” — Brittany B.
14. Repeating a Mantra
“I use my mantra: ‘Feelings are not fact, final or fatal.’ I repeat that to myself over and over during the hard moments. It doesn’t take the pain away, but it helps me be strong enough to fight it.” — Samantha J.
“I stand in front of the mirror and say out loud to myself, ‘You are worth it.’ If I start crying, I won’t stop saying it until I feel better, no matter how long it takes.” — Sandra L.
15. Making a Gratitude Log
“I wrote a gratitude log in my journal. I couldn’t find ‘big happiness’ nor enjoyment, so [I thought], maybe starting small could help. Every day when I found something that could make me happy, no matter how small or simple or insignificant, I wrote it in my gratitude log. I had to find at least five things to write in it. I also wrote any achievement I managed to do, no matter how small it was.” — Nuke H.
16. “Unplugging” From Your Phone and Computer
“Allowing myself to actually rest. No phone, no emails for few hours and lay down, take long hot shower, listen to music.” — Holly A.
Getty Images photo via Grandfailure