Living with anxiety is difficult. Sometimes the best you can hope for is to make it through the day. Many with anxiety also struggle with depression. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about one-half of people with depression also have an anxiety disorder. Depression, like anxiety, is a treatable illness. If you suffer with anxiety, depression or both, you should talk with your doctor and follow your treatment plan.
While not a substitute for treatment, there are simple ways you can lift your mood:
Stand or sit up straight. Your parents probably told you many times to sit up straight. It turns out that holding your head up doesn’t just improve your posture, it improves your outlook and your opinion of yourself. A study completed the Ohio State University found that an upright posture gave students more confidence in their thoughts. Another study showed participants 16 positive words and then 16 negative words and then were asked to recall the words. The participants who slouched recalled more of the negative words and those who sat upright had a more balanced recall. Another study found that students who slouched reported a decrease in energy. If you are feeling down or negative, sit up straight, hold your head up and focus on positive thoughts.
Take time to connect with others. With today’s focus on electronic communication - email, texting, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, personal conversations can occur less often. But we need personal connection to help us feel a part of the world and see our value as a person. Spend time each day reaching out to others - in person. Instead of emailing, call a friend or meet a friend for coffee. The personal connection can lift your mood and make your whole day brighter.
Take stock of your relationships. Are the people in your life lifting you up and supporting you? Or do they bring you down, point out your flaws or criticize you? If the people you spend time with aren’t supportive, it might be time to move on. Surround yourself with upbeat people who are willing to accept you exactly as you are. Spend time with people who enjoy being with you. Spend time with people who are supportive and encouraging.
Take a walk. There have been many studies completed on the correlation between exercise and depression or anxiety. And study after study shows that regular exercise helps decrease depression and anxiety levels. According to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, becoming active three times a week decreases your risk of being depressed by almost 20 percent. While an exercise program is great, simply being more active can help. Instead of taking an elevator, take the steps. Park your car on the far end of the parking lot and make your walk to the store a little longer. Take a walk around the block. Find ways throughout your day to be more active.
Laugh. Laughter is good for you. It increases your oxygen intake. It lowers your stress response. It stimulates circulation and muscle relaxation. Laughing relaxes you and makes you feel good. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter also offers long term health benefits, such as improving your immune system, relieving pain and increasing personal satisfaction and mood. Watch your favorite comedy, enjoy the company of someone who makes you laugh, find humor in your surroundings. Laugh often.
Taking care of yourself is a major part of treating your depression and anxiety. Eating right and getting enough sleep is important. Following through with your treatment is also important. But taking care of yourself doesn’t stop there. Use the previous suggestions to start adding joy into your life and making each day a little better. Lifting your mood can help decrease feelings of anxiety and depression.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.