Lifestyle Changes & Modifications for Depression

Lifestyle Changes & Modifications for Depression

Treatment Options - Lifestyle Changes

When it comes to treating depression and other mental illnesses, self-care through lifestyle changes and modifications can also help improve your physical, emotional, and mental health. 

For some patients with severe depression, making these changes significantly improves their depression so that treatment with medication is no longer needed. 

Lifestyle changes and modifications can help you cope with your depression and can help improve your chances of feeling better.  Below are a few top lifestyle modifications that your Options MD team may include in your treatment plan. 

Physical Activity and Exercise

Engaging in any form of physical activity is one of the most effective and affordable ways to improve your well-being. Being physically active is a great way to improve your mood, increase your energy levels, and improve your sleep. 

For mild to moderate cases of depression, exercise alone may be just as effective as antidepressant medications. In these cases, exercise alone may be enough to resolve your depressive symptoms.  

For severe or treatment-resistant depression, exercise alone may not cure your depression, but exercise can still play a significant role in improving your overall mood and response to medication. 

Engaging in regular exercise a few days a week can help improve the efficacy of other, more traditional depression treatment options, including antidepressants and therapy. You may begin to feel the benefits of exercise on your mood within just a few weeks of starting an exercise plan. 

However, the most significant and long-lasting benefits of exercise appear in the long run. After you have made regular exercise a part of your weekly routine, your mental and physical health on many levels is also likely to improve. 

A 2020 study in BMC Medicine found that people with low muscular and aerobic fitness levels are nearly twice as likely to experience depression. Researchers believe fitness could be a modifiable risk factor for mental health disorders like depression.

According to the CDC, adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and two days of muscle-strengthening activities. 150 minutes of physical activity breaks down to just 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. 

Physical activity can improve your psychological well-being in many different ways:

  • Promotes social interaction: Joining a group exercise class, or playing recreational sports with others, provides you with a chance for exercise and social interactions, which can reduce feelings of isolation. 
  • Helps you focus on the present moment: Engaging in regular exercise can also quiet your mind as you focus on what your body is doing, helping to interrupt negative thought cycles, worries, and depressive thoughts. 
  • Releases feel-good chemicals: When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, all neurotransmitters that give your mood a natural boost. 
  • Healthy coping mechanism: Exercise can be a healthy way of dealing with both emotional pain and depressive symptoms. 
  • Improves your health: Engaging in regular exercise can improve your physical health, lower your risk of developing many different diseases, and can improve disease management as well. 
  • Increased confidence: Being able to successfully engage in physical activities can also improve your confidence. 

There are many different ways to engage in physical activity and exercise, all of which can help improve your physical and mental health.

Eat Healthy

What you eat can have a significant influence on both your mental and physical health. Whether the food you eat has a positive or negative impact on your physical or mental health is up to you. 

For example, consuming high amounts of sugar has been linked to higher rates of depression and can worsen other mental health symptoms. Additionally, sugar can have addictive qualities and result in rapid weight gain and an increased risk of diabetes.

The key to dietary modifications is to ensure that you eat a balanced diet daily. Here are a few dietary modifications you may want to try: 

  • Increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Eat whole foods instead of processed foods whenever possible
  • Limit caffeine and sugar intake, which can lead to mood and energy crashes
  • Eat lean meats and proteins
  • Try to eat meals regularly throughout the day

When considering dietary modifications, you need to take your whole health into consideration. That is why you will want to work with your primary care physician and your Options MD team before making drastic changes to your diet to ensure your physical and mental health is protected.


Getting a good night’s sleep is important for your physical and mental health. 

Many people who experience depression also experience sleeping problems, experiencing trouble falling asleep, and staying asleep at night. Some individuals experience excessive daytime sleepiness. Sleep problems are often one of the first signs of depression. 

Sleep problems can also exacerbate depression, leading to a negative cycle between sleep and depression. Poor sleep could even lead to depression in some individuals. 

A good night’s sleep can be important in managing your depression. Being well-rested makes it easier to think clearly and manage your feelings. It allows you to learn and remember things more easily. Getting enough sleep also helps keep your body healthy. 

There are many recommendations and strategies you can try to get a good night’s sleep. The key is to find what works for you. 

  • Stick to a schedule that allows you to go to sleep and wake up around the same time each day. 
  • Use a sleep diary to track when you sleep, so you can learn how to adjust your sleep habits.
  • Allow 30 minutes before bedtime to unwind and relax. 
  • Keep your room quiet, cool, dark, and dedicated to sleeping. 
  • Avoid screen time, like using your phone, T.V., or computer for at least several hours before bedtime. 

You can discuss your specific sleep struggles with your Options MD team in order to determine what sleep recommendations are best for you. 

Relaxation and Mindfulness-Based Meditation Techniques

Stress can both be a symptom and a cause of mental illness, which is why it is so important to know how to utilize relaxation and mindfulness-based meditation techniques to reduce your stress.

Stopping the cycle of stress can help ease your depression symptoms and is important to your overall health and well-being. 

One strong method for reducing stress is mindfulness-based meditation. Mindfulness is a mental training practice that teaches you how to slow down your racing thoughts, calm your body and mind, and release negativity. It combines the practice of meditation with mindfulness. Mindfulness is about being focused on the now. 

During mindfulness-based meditation, you want to:

  • Focus on breathing
  • Notice your thoughts
  • Observe where your mind goes

It is okay if your mind wanders; try to be aware of where your mind wanders and to return without judgment to focus on your breathing. 

There are lots of strategies you can utilize to reduce stress in your life, including

  • Keeping a journal to understand what causes you to feel stress and how you respond to it. 
  • Create a list of things that allow you to recharge and unwind, and be sure to engage in one such activity daily. 
  • Getting rid of unnecessary commitments and finding a healthy work-life balance. 


When you are struggling with depression, one of the symptoms is social withdrawal. However, social interaction is extremely important for one’s mental health. Isolation, loneliness, and a lack of social support can deepen depression and make it harder to heal. 

From deep connections with friends and family to smaller social interactions like talking to the cashier when you purchase groceries, all those social interactions matter. 

Numerous studies over the years have shown that socialization and social connections help reduce depression symptoms and can play an important role in helping to prevent the recurrence of depression as well. 

There are numerous ways to nurture social connections. Some reach out to family and friends and schedule in-person meetings. Others talk to their colleagues and get to know them. You may also try engaging with the people you encounter as you go about your daily life, from the cashier at the bookstore to the people you might pass every day on your morning walk. 

Don’t have the social support you need? It is possible to build new relationships by engaging in group activities and joining clubs and organizations where you can form new social connections. 

If you struggle with socialization, there are numerous types of therapy for depression options you can explore with your Options MD psychiatrist.

Reduction of Recreational Substances

Recreational substances, such as alcohol, cannabis, amphetamine and methamphetamine, benzodiazepines, cocaine, heroin, LSD, and other similar types of substances, impact how your brain functions and have been linked to occurrences of mental health issues, including depression. 

Using recreational drugs can lead to mental health issues and can invoke similar feelings to depression symptoms. 

Cutting back your usage of recreational drugs, or abstaining from them altogether, can help improve your depression symptoms and overall health. 

Stopping the use of recreational drugs can be extremely challenging, and it usually requires a comprehensive support system and plan. If you use recreational drugs, be sure to let your Options MD team know so that we can create a customized treatment plan that helps you access the support you need to change your relationship with recreational drugs.

Light Therapy

Exposure to sunlight isn’t just enjoyable; it can have a direct impact on your mental health. Sunlight regulates your sleep cycle and helps balance your serotonin levels.

Less sunlight can lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is a type of depression. A lack of sunlight can also contribute to other types of depression. 

Light therapy, also referred to as phototherapy or bright light therapy, uses exposure to a specific type of light to help compensate for the lack of exposure to natural light, especially throughout the late fall through winter. 

With light therapy, you sit or work near a light therapy box for at least thirty minutes a day. A light therapy box is designed to produce between 2,500 and 10,000 lux, which is a way to measure brightness. 

Here’s the best way to use a lightbox: 

  • Set a timer for 30 minutes
  • Use it as early in the day as possible
  • Don’t look directly at the light; use it as a source of passive light

Light therapy isn’t the best option for people with vision-related conditions, people who are sensitive to light, individuals taking anti-inflammatory or antibiotic medication and individuals with bipolar disorder. 

At Options MD, our team will work with you to develop personal recommendations that are individualized and tailored to your needs.

Lifestyle Changes and Modifications for Depression

Finding the proper treatment when you have treatment-resistant depression can be challenging. Making lifestyle changes and modifications is an important part of any treatment plan. 

At Options MD, lifestyle changes and modifications is one of the 200 treatment options our expert team will consider when putting together a custom plan for your treatment-resistant depression. All recommended lifestyle changes and modifications will be custom tailored to fit your specific personal needs and situation. 

Do you have questions?

Options MD is here to help. Text us to start treatment now. Join our Facebook community to connect with other individuals with treatment-resistant depression.

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