My posts may contain affiliate links, meaning if you buy something through one of these links, I'll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions are my own.
I’ve suffered from depression for most of my life, and I know I’m not alone: according to the World Health Organisation, over 264 million people are affected worldwide. A few years ago I pulled myself out of a very dark place and these are the 5 steps I’ve taken every day since to live a happier life. This isn’t a guide to cure depression, and the first point of contact for someone suffering from depression should of course be their doctor or therapist. This is instead a guide to prevent it, and live the happiest life you can.
To me, journaling provides two very important purposes. Firstly, it gives you a safe and healthy outlet to express your emotions. Emotions are a fundamental part of being human, but keeping them bottled up can quickly become a cause of stress.
Secondly, journaling allows you to keep track of your emotions and spot patterns in your thinking. For example, you may be able to identify things in your life that cause you to experience increased anxiety. Only once you’ve identified the causes can you take steps to reduce this anxiety.
Contrary to what some media sources say, you don’t have to journal every day to experience its benefits. In fact I would suggest against it – instead just pick up a pen whenever you feel the need to let emotions out. This may or may not be every day, but in order to avoid burnout I wouldn’t recommend journaling just for the sake of journaling. For more about journaling, read my post on How to Start a Journal.
The link between diet and mental health is often overlooked, but eating well is key when it comes to living a healthy and happy life. Often, deficiencies in vitamins or minerals such as vitamin D or iron are a cause of low energy or even depression itself, so it’s important that you feed your body everything it needs.
Try to cut down on ready meals and takeaways, and instead try and cook all your meals from scratch. Of course sometimes life gets in the way this isn’t always possible, but adopting a mostly healthy lifestyle should be enough to see the benefits.
You probably already know that there is compelling evidence of the strong links between exercise and our mental and physical health. As humans we evolved with exercise as a massive part of our lives, since we survived by hunting, scavenging and travelling. However, due to modern life, many adults now live sedentary lives – according to the WHO, 31% of adults worldwide were insufficiently active in 2008.
Spending too much time indoors can lead to anxiety, restlessness and insomnia. Exercise doesn’t have to be something you dread, and even if you’re someone who hates working out, try and make time for yourself to go for at least one short walk outside every day. If for some reason this isn’t possible, dancing to music around your room for half an hour never hurt anyone.
Connect with Others
Most of our ancestors lived in small tribes of a couple hundred members, and being without a tribe was unsafe and could lead to death. So from an evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense that a lack of social connection can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety in humans.
Strong social relationships are important to living a happy life, yet around a fifth of UK and American adults admit to feeling often or always lonely. Connect with others by checking in with your existing relationships often, and make sure you get out and meet new people whenever you have the chance.
Live with Purpose
The key to living a life you feel is worth living is to live life with purpose. Take some time at the beginning of each day to set yourself some goals. They can be as big or as small as you want them to be, as long as they’re achievable. Being able to end every day having accomplished something you set out to will make your life feel more productive, and help you to feel happier within yourself.
Bonus points if you can find a job or a hobby that you’re passionate about, since this will give you even more motivation to get up each day and live the best life you can. For example, I’ve recently gotten into writing, and being able to go to sleep every night knowing that I’ve written at least something has provided me with more motivation than anything else in my life right now.
I would love to know how everyone is working on staying happy, especially in such uncertain times. Let me know in the comments if there’s anything you think I should add to this list!