Silhouette of depressive man behind matted glass. In B/W

Anyone that has ever been caught in the throes of depression understands it’s a devastating, and at times debilitating, illness.  It’s like a thief that robs you of your energy, concentration, memory, libido, and enjoyment in things that used to bring you pleasure. In the most severe cases, it can even take away your will to live.

It’s important to keep in mind that depression is a serious medical condition and deserves professional treatment. A doctor or licensed therapist can give you the tools you need to see your way through. Dr. Stephen Ilardi, author of the book, “The Depression Cure,” has pinpointed several factors or habits that can spur or worsen depression.  Here they are:

7 bad habits to avoid.

Bad habit #1: Lack of exercise.  It may sound trite, but exercise is incredibly important for both your physical and mental well-being.  When you’re feeling depressed, the last thing you may want to do is get up and move.  As a matter of fact, it can take a monumental effort to do so.  But staying holed up in bed or planted on the sofa is not a good idea.  You need all the “feel-good” brain chemicals you can get, and exercise, even simply walking for 40 minutes a day, boosts the activity of dopamine and serotonin.

Bad habit #2:  Not getting enough sunlight.
Nature has supplied us with many natural mood boosters and sunlight is one of them.  Sunlight exposure triggers the brain to produce serotonin, which decreases anxiety and increases feelings of well-being.  It also helps keep our body clock in check so that bio-rhythms and sleep are in sync.

Bad habit #3:  Improper diet.  Certain foods are known as “brain food” because they contain omega-3 fats essential for healthy brain tissue.  Since the body can’t manufacture these fats on its own, we have to get them from the foods we eat.  The problem is that most of us don’t eat enough omega-3s, and this deficiency can leave the brain susceptible to the onset of depression.  Coldwater fish, seafood, and wild game are excellent sources but many people find taking a supplement is the most efficient way to get the proper dosage. 1000 mg of EPA, an anti-inflammatory form of omega-3, is a popular supplement form.

Bad habit #4:  Poor sleep habits.
When you deprive yourself of sleep on a consistent basis, you’re setting yourself up for the onset of depression.  In order to get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night, you may have to set up a routine and stick to it.  Don’t watch TV, use your laptop, or read in bed. The bed is for sleep and sex.  You may need to stay away from caffeine so you’re not overstimulated.  And finally, keep your bedroom cool and dark to promote restful sleep.

Bad habit #5:  Isolation.  Avoiding family and friends is one of the worst things you can do when life’s stressors get you down.  Research shows that a strong social network can dramatically slash the risk of developing depression. Being close to the important people in your life actually alters your brain chemistry so that stress can’t get a stronghold on your brain circuits.

Bad habit #6: Ruminating.  When you’re in the grips of depression or anxiety, you have a propensity towards constant negative thinking.  You may tend to dwell for hours and hours on negative thoughts of loss, threat, rejection, or failure.  This kind of rumination is a major trigger for the onset of depression and it’s important to learn how to stop these thoughts dead in their tracks. How?  You can try redirecting your attention towards an absorbing activity or focus on spending quality time with others.  Or you can give your bad thoughts 10 minutes of your time by writing them down, and then throw the paper away as a symbolic gesture of getting rid of the troubling notions.

Bad habit #7:  Avoiding help.  Finally, if you or a loved one is suffering from depression, it’s critical to keep in mind it can be a serious condition.  Depression is more than feeling a little blue; it can be a life-threatening illness.  A trained professional such as a behavior therapist can give you strategies in addition to those mentioned above.

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