You’ve probably heard the debate over nature versus nurture. Your nature is everything you inherit through your genes from your parents. So in the case of depression, do you get it from your family? The nurture side of the debate is all about how your experiences influence you and bring on certain positive or negative traits. Do you have depression as a result of your experiences?
As it turns out, nearly everything isn’t that simple, including depression. Yes, depression has a hereditary component, meaning you inherit the predisposition from your biological parents. You are more likely to experience depression, or another mood disorder, if you have a family history of them. However, an inherited trait doesn’t guarantee you will become depressed. Nurture or your life experiences, your ability to cope with stress, and many other factors influence whether or not the depression trait will manifest in your life. Here are seven steps to lower your risk:
1. Manage Your Stress Levels
Too much stress in your daily life is one of the biggest contributors to depression. Stressing about things you cannot change or about inconsequential decisions can lead to ruminating thoughts or mental fatigue. Your brain will become clouded, and you will struggle to make decisions when it counts.
Break the cycle and clear your mind by eliminating unnecessary decisions and stress from your life. Simplify your routine and eliminate the frantic prep to get out the door by laying out your clothes the night before, meal prepping your lunches for the week, or setting your alarm to get up 10 minutes earlier.
If you dwell on past mistakes and failures, it could harm your mood or increase your overall stress. Check out these tips to help deal with this harmful thinking pattern. Exercise is another good stress release.
2. Get Moving, Preferably Outdoors
Exercise releases endorphins which are our bodies natural antidepressants. Moderate exercise a few times a week can have a mood-boosting effect.
To double down on this effect, exercise outdoors. Most of us spend our days inside, which can hurt mental wellness. Go for a run, take an outdoor yoga class, or go for a walk through a local park. You don’t have to do much to reap the benefits.
If you really want to go for the trifecta, try out new hobbies that get you moving, meet new people, and learn new skills. You can’t do much more for natural mood-boosting than spending time in the sunshine, socializing, and challenging yourself.
3. Catch Enough Zs
Poor sleep is another significant cause of depression. Practice healthy sleep habits to reduce your risk. The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep per night. You will also get the most restorative sleep before midnight. Sunlight and blue light from electronics will also hinder your sleep quality; try to use blackout curtains, reduce glowing electronics in your bedroom, and avoid electronic usage right before bed.
We are creatures of habit as well. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day will train your brain to prepare your body for sleep more easily and to start getting ready for the start of your day. You will find you don’t need that second cup of coffee to feel awake or that melatonin gummy to wind down for the night if you practice some of these tips.
4. Eat The Rainbow
Research supports that eating a balanced diet can improve mood and combat depression. A balanced diet involves eating a rainbow of fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and lean meats. You should focus on incorporating brain foods like avocados, olive oil, and fish in the health fats category. Remember to look for seafood low in mercury.
Limit your consumption of fatty meats, prepackaged meals, and processed or sugary foods. While at it, ensure you’re hydrating with plenty of water.
5. Avoid or Eliminate Substance Use
Alcohol and other substances act as depressants, can increase your feelings of social anxiety and depressive thoughts. Caffeine can also increase cortisol, your body’s stress hormone, so your stress and anxiety levels rise simultaneously. If you have a family history of mood disorders or substance use disorders, it’s best to steer clear of anything that can trigger an event for you.
6. Build A Social Support Network
Don’t underestimate the power of love in the form of family and friends. Maintaining healthy and positive relationships is a huge protective factor against many physical and mental ailments. Feeling lonely and isolating yourself can trigger depression, so attend family gatherings, join community groups, or go out with friends.
Just ensure you’re setting and maintaining healthy boundaries in your relationships. It’s okay to take a break, stay in, and give yourself time to reset. Check in with yourself and do things that energize and fill you with joy.
7. Practice Gratitude
Speaking of joy, practice gratitude. Think of it as an exercise for your brain. By reflecting on your day and acknowledging three things you’re thankful for, you are training your brain to notice and appreciate the positives instead of focusing on the negatives. This will increase your satisfaction, happiness, and overall well-being, reducing your risk of anxiety and depression.
Practice these tips to avoid depression. But if you still struggle with your mood, consult your healthcare team. Let them know that depression runs in your family. They can recommend therapy and clinical depression treatment options such as medications or transcranial magnetic stimulation.
Even if you don’t have symptoms of depression, it is helpful to talk with them about the stress or anxiety you are experiencing. Unfortunately, we cannot change our family or our inherited genetic traits, but we can take steps to mitigate their risks. Take care of yourself for the sake of your physical and mental well-being.