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People can get depressed even when they are "doing all the right things". There are many events that are outside of our control. People do not get depressed because they are "weak" or lazy. There is no set of behaviors that is guaranteed to prevent depression. On the other hand, some strategies help us be more resilient to depression. These include:

1. Live a Balanced Lifestyle. In particular, regular (but not excessive!) AEROBIC EXERCISE, a BALANCED DIET, and ADEQUATE SLEEP are critical to emotional health.  These factors will do more to help you manage moods than nearly anything else you could do.  For example:

  • Go for a 20-minute brisk walk four times a week.
  • Add one fresh fruit or vegetable to your daily diet.
  • Cut out caffeinated soft drinks.  (They stimulate the body's "alarm response" arousal state, similar to the effect of adding stress to your life.)
  • Go to bed a half hour earlier. 

2. Manage Your Time. Be sure to include time for relaxation and time for pleasure.  Develop your own repertoire of small, medium and large sources of joy.  Identify activities that you enjoy which take little time and money, and do them often!

3. Avoid Social Isolation.  Studies have shown that people with good social support systems are less vulnerable to stress and depression.  When an individual gets depressed it is very tempting to withdraw from others, and this in turn can make the depression worse.  When people are depressed their "body language" often changes and actually discourages others from making contact with them!  To avoid downward spirals, stay connected with healthy people and/or seek new friendships.  This may involve having the courage to make eye contact with and say hello to friends when you meet them in stores or on the street, inviting a neighbor to join you on a walk, or inviting an acquaintance to go to a movie.

4. Sublimate. Find appropriate ways to express intense emotions such as sadness and anger.  For example:

  • Identify persons in your life with whom you can talk about your feelings.  Avoid overburdening any single person by discussing concerns with more than one friend or family member.
  • Learn how to assert yourself appropriately when you are angry.  Assertion skills involve respecting both your rights and the rights of others.  Anger can be a tool to alert you when something is threatening a good relationship, and learning how to be honest without being hostile can enhance a relationship as well as help prevent your depression!
  • Consider writing about your feelings.  Keep a journal.  Write letters to people about whom you feel angry or sad; once you have expressed your feelings you can decide whether or not to send the letters.  Some people prefer the medium of art: draw a picture of your feelings if it is easier than writing with words.

5. Seek professional help. If symptoms of depression become moderate to severe and/or interfere significantly with your ability to function.

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