How To Fight Depression With Healthy Eating and Exercise

Almost everyone feels depressed at some time, but when these feelings begin to negatively impact daily life it is time to address the source of the problem. Diet and exercise play a significant role in both contributing to feelings of depression and also in alleviating the symptoms. When trying to best determine how to fight depression, a healthy diet and regular exercise is a key component to successfully managing a depressive disorder.

What is depression?

Depression is a serious illness affecting both the body and mind. When feelings of sadness and hopelessness turn to overwhelming despair, and extend past the point of being able to engage positively in daily life, depression may be the cause. There are many forms of depressive disorders, including: seasonal affective disorder (SAD), bipolar disorder and dysthymic disorder.

The general symptoms of depression are:

  • Continual feelings of sadness, anxiety or emptiness
  • Negative feelings of hopelessness and pessimism
  • Thoughts of helplessness, worthlessness or guilt
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Inability to concentrate or remember
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Dietary problems
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
  • Aches, pains, headaches, muscle cramps

The underlying causes of depression are a combination of factors that are genetic, environmental and circumstantial, and are influenced by diet, activity level, family history, medical past, social conditions and life events.

The effects of poor nutrition and lack of exercise on depression

Poor diet and lack of physical activity aggravate the symptoms that cause depression. Ingesting high quantities of sugar, gluten, food additives and processed foods hinder the body’s ability to regulate brain chemistry and manage the feelings associated with depression.  Serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter that directs messages within the brain and body, are affected by diet and exercise. As are dopamine and cortisol—the brain chemicals associated with pleasure and reward and stress—thus contributing to feelings of fatigue, decreased energy, mental confusion and sadness.

Making the switch to a regular exercise plan and holistic diet is a significant factor in treating and managing depression.

Proper diet and exercise allow the brain to create and regulate the appropriate amount of serotonin, dopamine and cortisol, which affect nearly every symptom associated with depression. In some instances, a positive change in diet and exercise results in the disappearance of symptoms, suggesting that diet and physical activity can be the most significant factors contributing to depression in some individuals.

Wilderness therapy combines physical activity and holistic nutrition with traditional therapeutic methods, and is an extremely effective way of treating depression.

Fresh air and sunlight, which help to alleviate feelings of depression, are also part of the natural setting of wilderness therapy. In combination with cognitive and behavioral therapies, the diet and exercise plan that comes with wilderness therapy is directed towards empowering participants to carry forward changes made in treatment. Hiking, carrying equipment and the physical challenges that come from living in nature are combined with a diet focused around holistic nutrition. It is not long before participants start to see the dramatic effects that diet and exercise can have on their body and mind, and find continuing these habits in aftercare instrumental in allowing them to self-manage their symptoms.

Rites of Passage can help to teach how to fight depression in a safe and healthy way. Call us at (800)794-0980 to learn more about our programs.