Although there's little evidence to support a link between a sedentary lifestyle and the development of clinical depression, there is ample evidence that a regular exercise program can be a great addition to a depression treatment plan. And for those with risk factors who hope to prevent depression, working out certainly can't hurt. If you're already depressed, talk to your doctor about using exercise as part of your treatment regimen; studies have shown better treatment outcomes in depressed and/or anxious patients who exercise regularly.
Consider Changing Medications
Certain prescription drugs, including some birth control pills and beta blockers, have known side effects that mirror depression symptoms. For example, if a medication makes you feel listless, unusually tired or wipes out your energy levels, it may appear that you've become depressed when, in fact, your medication is causing these symptoms.
Ask your physician if depression is a possible side effect when she's prescribing new medications for you, especially if you've dealt with depression in the past or have a family history. Switching or choosing an alternative medication could still give you the treatment you need for other conditions—but help you feel a lot better.
Note: Talk to your doctor before stopping any medications you are currently taking. In some cases, depression as a side effect can't be avoided, but your doctor can help you find other ways of dealing with your depressive symptoms while still maintaining your necessary medication routine.
For some people, alcohol is a way to escape from depressive symptoms or challenging life circumstances, but it's well understood that those effects are fleeting and that drinking can actually lead to more problems than it temporarily seems to solve.
This is how it happens: Drinking alcohol or using other addictive substances, increases levels of the "feel-good" neurotransmitter dopamine. The more dopamine we have, the more we move toward the substance that makes our brains release it. Over time, it takes more and more to achieve the same dopamine release.
But what does that have to do with depression? Low levels of dopamine mimic the symptoms of depression. By indulging in alcohol or other substances regularly, you're setting yourself up for a dopamine crash—and depression symptoms—when it's no longer in your system.
As researchers sift through current evidence surrounding alcohol's role in depression in humans, consider limiting your intake of alcohol and refrain from using illicit drugs, which can cause dependence and other physical and mental problems. If you're feeling down, take a break from the bar, or order a virgin cocktail. Your brain may thank you.