Continuing the discussion on senior depression from the last two weeks, we will continue with self-help tips. Last week the tip was to stay engaged in life. This week, we will talk about adopting healthy habits.

When you’re depressed, it can be hard to find the motivation to do anything — let alone look after your health. But your health habits have an impact on depression symptoms. The better care you take of your body, the better you’ll feel.

 

Move your body

Exercise is a powerful depression treatment. In fact, research suggests it can be just as effective as antidepressants. And you don’t have to suffer through a rigorous workout to reap the benefits. Take a short walk now and see how much better you feel. Anything that gets you up and moving helps. Look for small ways to add more movement to your day: park farther from the store, take the stairs, do light housework or enjoy a short walk. It all adds up.

Even if you’re ill, frail or disabled, there are many safe exercises you can do to build your strength and boost your mood — even from a chair or wheelchair. Just listen to your body and back off if you’re in pain.

 

Eat to support your mood

Your dietary habits make a difference with depression.

Start by minimizing sugar and refined carbs. Sugary and starchy comfort foods can give you a quick boost, but you pay for it later when your blood sugar crashes.

Instead, focus on quality protein, complex carbs and healthy fats, which will leave you satisfied and emotionally balanced.

Going too long without eating can also worsen your mood, making you tired and irritable, so do your best to eat something at least every three to four hours.

 

Support quality sleep

Many older adults struggle with sleep problems, particularly insomnia. But lack of sleep makes depression worse. Aim for somewhere between seven to nine hours of sleep each night. You can help yourself get better quality sleep by avoiding alcohol and caffeine, keeping a regular sleep-wake schedule, and making sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and cool.

 

Spend time in sunlight

Sunlight can help boost serotonin levels, improve your mood and cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Whenever possible, get outside during daylight hours and expose yourself to the sun for at least 15 minutes a day.

Have your coffee outside or by a window, enjoy an al fresco meal or spend time gardening.

Exercise outside by hiking, walking in a local park or playing golf with a friend.

If you live somewhere with little winter sunshine, try using a light therapy box.

 

Rhonda Everett is the bookkeeper for the Senior Center of Finney County.