Depression is real. The World Health Organization estimates that about 280 million people struggle with depression globally.
Some people think it’s some kind of born disease. That’s not true. Depression can happen to everyone.
But fortunately we can do certain things to lower the chances of getting depressed.
A recently published study crunched a large set of data to confirm it. Researchers examined data from almost 290,000 people — of whom 13,000 had depression — over a nine-year period.1Source: Science Daily
Their conclusion? There are 7 lifestyle factors linked with a lower risk of depression. All these factors reduced the risk of depression by 22%.
Here are the 7 factors. And what you can do to achieve them.
1. Moderate Alcohol Consumption
We all know drinking too much is bad. And alcohol addiction is something that requires professional intervention.
But if you’re like most people who tend to drink a lot, then there are a few things you can do to manage your alcohol intake. And you don’t have to feel like you’re restricting yourself too much.
I have a very strict rule when it comes to alcohol: The one-drink rule.
No exceptions. Birthday? One drink. Anniversary? One drink. Made a lot of money? One drink.
No alcohol-free beverages that contain empty calories. Just one drink. And then move to sparkling water. That’s how I do it. And it’s working well.
I feel great. And I occasionally enjoy a drink.
2. Healthy Diet
I used to be overweight as a kid. When I was 15, I consulted a dietician to help me create an effective meal plan.
I can’t remember much from the diet itself. I just remember one strategy she taught me: Always leave a little bit of food on your plate. Never eat until you’re full.
To me, that’s the strategy of losing and maintaining weight. Just avoid over-eating. And stick to healthy food.
When you eat a healthy, simple diet, you’re more likely to keep it. Stick to a few combinations of food that are good for you. Mix and match them each day. And that’s it.
Then remove the junk food in your cupboard. You don’t have to abolish junk food forever. But by keeping junk food less accessible, you make it easier for yourself to keep eating healthy.
3. Regular Physical Activity
I love exercising every day. Even just for 15 short minutes. First, everyone can spare 15 minutes to take a brisk walk or body weight exercises if they really want to. So no excuses like, “I don’t have the time.”
Second, exercising every day feels good. There was a time when I stopped exercising consistently because I was too preoccupied with my work. I discovered I had less energy and focus. My body also felt weaker.
So try to exercise every day. Again, consistency is key. Don’t let yourself get out of a session by thinking:
“I can’t work out as much as I should/want to today. What’s the point?”
The point is that you exercised and remained consistent. Your future self will be healthier for it. And your present self would feel great.
4. Healthy Sleep
For some people, they need 8-9 hours of sleep to feel fully rested (me). Others are good with 7. If your magic number is 6, you may be stretching it.
So get some sleep!
I have a fail-proof sleeping technique to fall asleep faster. You can check that out if that’s a concern for you.
But other than that, the other key to getting a restful sleep is to sleep at the same time every day. Like everything, consistency is key.
5. Never Smoking
I never really smoked in my life until I was 26. Before that, I smoked a cigar here and there and tried weed with friends. I was never a fan.
But when I got my corporate job in London, I started smoking because it was cool. Everyone was smoking. I thought, “Why not.”
What a waste. I quit a few years later when I got on this whole self-improvement spree.
I think smoking is for losers. Why spend money on something that destroys your health? It just doesn’t make sense.
If you’re trying to quit, focus on the reasons you want to quit. You must be sick and tired of it. Only then can you stop.
6. Low-to-moderate Sedentary behavior
Most of us work at our desks. That’s just the reality of working in today’s world.
It’s no surprise many adults are not exercising enough.
To prevent yourself from becoming a stiff being, you can set reminders to take short breaks during your workday.
Try doing some stretching or a quick walk around the block. It’s not about gym-level workouts, just getting your body moving.
Be more active. Don’t sit around the office or house all day. Also a reminder to myself. As a writer, I love to be at home. I need to get out more.
7. Frequent Social Connection
It’s easy to get so preoccupied with making our living that we forget to live. Sometimes, when I get into full-writing mode, I can spend hours over hours in front of my desk just writing.
Without me noticing, the stars have begun twinkling outside even though I started before the sun rose.
But an isolated life is an unhappy life. In fact, some research has shown that even people who do social jobs (like call centers, direct sales, customer service, or online retail) can still feel isolated.3Source: CNBC
After all, if the only conversations you have in a day are concerned with upselling someone, or trying to fix another person’s billing problems; then interaction only becomes stressful.
So always make time to reach out to a loved one, friend, or even a co-worker you’re on good terms with. A quick, friendly banter that all parties enjoy on a daily basis can go a long way. You can also join a local community group that shares your interests.
Remember, it’s about quality, not quantity – deep, meaningful connections nourish our mental health.