In this article by Carey Rossi, we discuss the bad habits that are getting you down without you even realising it. Depression is usually brought on by factors beyond our control—the death of a loved one, a job loss, or financial troubles. But the small choices you make every day may also affect your mood more than you may realize.
You slouch when you walk
How we feel can affect the way we walk, but the inverse is also true, finds a study published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. Researchers found that when subjects were asked to walk with shoulders slouched, hunched over, and with minimum arm movements, they experienced worse moods than those who had more pep in their steps. What's more, participants who walked in the slouchy style remembered more negative things rather than positive things. Talk about depressing.
Get happy now: Lift your chin up and roll your shoulders back to keep your outlook on the positive side.
You don't exercise
Consider this: If you become more active three times a week, your risk of being depressed decreases 19%, according to a new study in JAMA Psychiatry. After following more than 11,000 people born in 1958 up until the age of 50, and recording depressive symptoms and levels of physical activity at regular intervals, University College London researchers found a correlation between physical activity and depression. People who were depressed were less likely to be active, while those who were active were less likely to be depressed. In fact, for every time they were active, depression risk decreased 6%.
Get happy now: Just get out and move. It doesn't need to be for long—walking to errands if possible, taking the stairs—but any activity will help keep your mind moving.
You take life too seriously
You trip on a crack in the sidewalk, and instead of shrugging it off, you cower with embarrassment. If that sounds like you, it's time to find some ways to laugh more. "There are many studies showing the benefits of laughter on our health and this includes mental health," Leonard says. "Laughter is the fast medicine for anxiety and depression."
Get happy now: Seek out humor every day. Watch a funny TV show, listen to the Laugh USA channel on SiriusXM Radio, or spend time with friends who make you smile. You could even try volunteering with kids—they really do say the darndest things.
You don't sleep
"Sleep affects everything," says Diedra L. Clay, PsyD, chair and associate professor of the counseling and health psychology department at Bastyr University, "emotional and mental capabilities, as well as our bodies' functioning. Sleep is our bodies way of regenerating and without it the system malfunctions."
Sleep is so important in our ability to function optimally every day.
Get happy now: Try to figure out why you aren't sleeping and then take the steps to create a restful environment.
You don't actually talk to anyone
If you primarily use texting, Facebook, and other social media to stay in touch with friends, you're not having meaningful contact—and chatting up the Starbucks barista every morning doesn't count. "Facebook pages are entertainment," Clay says. "These are not true conversations that allow us to understand people. Instead, it lessens our experiences and feelings." Michael Mantell, PhD, a behavioral sciences coach based in San Diego, Calif., agrees. "Personal electronics (like smartphones) have also impacted attention, demands for immediate gratification, and expectations that the press of a button can lead to instantaneous connection," Mantell says. "We have also learned to not have face-to-face connections, only virtual. This impacts our ability and interest in sitting in the same room with someone, and actually talk with people face-to-face."
Get happy now: "At the end of or lives, the number of followers we have doesn't matter," Clay says. "But friends do." Make sure to schedule a date with a friend, family member, or partner at least once week.
You can't live without your mobile phone
When was the last time that you were completely electronic-device free? Can't remember? Not a good sign. "With all the devices we have, it tends to overstimulate us," Clay says. "And if we are always on, then we never truly rest and regenerate our bodies and our minds." Eventually, this can manifest itself as depression or anxiety.
Get happy now: Create an electronic Sabbath, where you abstain from all devices once a week, even if just for half a day.
We're all guilty of multitasking: we take lunch at our desks, scroll through Facebook while watching TV, and text pretty much constantly. Research shows that although many people believe they're being more productive by multitasking, that's not actually the case—it just leaves us stressed out, oblivious to our surroundings, and unable to communicate effectively.
Get happy now: It's simple, really: put down the phone, turn off the television, and pay attention to what you are doing and what is going on around you. Allowing your brain to process everything that is happening to you in real time (and not broadcasting it to your social media followers) may be the best thing you can do for your mental health.