The morning can often be the most difficult for people who are experiencing depressive symptoms or overwhelming sadness. You can't get out of bed, you feel exhausted, you don’t know where to start, you have too much to do or you don’t have anything to do or anywhere to go and things just seem insurmountable. Even though they seem that way, they’re not and one small step or goal each day can move you away from seemingly never ending depressive episodes.
If the mornings are the hardest for you, learning how to conquer those dreadful morning hours can be a great start to managing depression. A morning routine specifically tailored to combat depressive symptoms could really make all the difference. It’s important to take notice of patterns of thought and behavior that make up your symptoms and even your day. Knowing what happens and when can allow you stop destructive patterns before they start and inevitably take over. To combat depressive symptoms, try and incorporate at least one of these mood boosters into your morning routine.
Morning Routine to Combat Depression
Meditate for 5 Minutes
Not often enough do we take time to just be. Taking time to notice your breathing, the way your body feels in space, the way the air touches your skin, imagining a calming scene or your breath as a specific color or light and visualize it moving throughout your body and through space. Take 5 minutes to just be in your body without judgment and without thought of all the things that you need to do that day, the things you are worried about, the presentation you have to give mid afternoon, whatever-just appreciate and notice being. If meditation is a struggle for you, try a guided meditation app like Headspace (headspace.com) or Calm (calm.com).
Eat a Mood Boosting Breakfast
Incorporate foods that are packed with nutrients and mood boosting properties into your morning meal. Since unregulated calcium levels can produce anxiety, depression and irritability, you might want to try foods that are full of protein like Greek yogurt. Having foods that are rich in healthy and high-quality carbohydrates like steel cut and rolled oats help boost levels of serotonin in the brain, a chemical in the brain and digestive tract that is responsible for the regulation of mood. Make sure you’re getting your Omega-3 fatty acids by considering foods like lox, flax, eggs and chia seeds. Try a fruit smoothie with berries and raw cacao that are rich in antioxidants, almond milk and banana and spinach for folate. Limit simple carbohydrates, refined sugars, white flour and caffeine since they are responsible for high highs and low lows in terms of energy and mood.
Set the Mood With Essential Oils
Essential oils like lavender and lemon oil are known to boost and regulate mood. Lavender also has a reputation for alleviating stress and insomnia. Light some candles made with pure essential oils or use lavender, rosemary or lemon oil on various pulse points of your body. Take a moment breath in these calming scents.
Do Something Kind for Someone Else
Send a nice text or email, write a card or an email, send candies or flowers. It always feels good to do for others and their gratitude will keep you going all day long.
And Don’t Forget About Yourself
Say something kind to yourself. Compliment yourself. Stand behind yourself. Even if you don’t believe it. At least once a day (preferably in the morning), tell yourself you are beautiful, that you’re smart, that you’re strong, that you’re thoughtful, compassionate, funny, witty-whatever it is, don’t forget to think kindly of yourself. You’re ultimately responsible for the negative thoughts you have about yourself, so change them.
Get Some Fresh Air or Sunlight
Vitamin D3 in sunlight is proven to have a positive affect on mood. Not only does vitamin D help in the absorption of calcium (which results in your body’s ability to release serotonin), it’s deficiency is linked to depression, prolonged recovery from depression and in some studies, has been linked to the development of schizophrenia. So, as often as it is possible, spend some time outside in the sun. Whether you have breakfast on your porch, take a walk, sit by a window at home while reading a book, answering emails or writing a paper or invest in a light box for dark winter months, make sure you are getting some D3 every day.
Move Your Body and Work Up a Sweat
Studies show that working out helps boost levels of dopamine in your system. Dopamine is a hormone that is responsible for making you happy. If going to the gym or a yoga class seems like too big a task or too anxiety provoking, start small. Even a short walk can be effective. Apps like Down Dog (downdogapp.com) can be a great way to get your yoga on in the comfort of your own home. Make sure you do some purposeful stretching afterwards to ease tense muscles that are associated with stress, to improve blood flow, help release endorphins that make you happy.
DO NOT Sleep In.
Hitting that snooze button and delaying the inevitable is not going to make you happier, more relaxed or more rested. It will just be harder and harder to get out of bed as time passes and you’ll be disappointed in yourself for not being productive-beginning that tragic cycle with which you are probably too familiar. Get up and get moving. Even better yet, get out of the house. Chores like laundry and dishes can de taken care of once you’ve gotten a positive start to your day (take care of emails, phone calls, job searches, essays at a local coffee shop, in the park, at the library, on your porch-anywhere as long as it’s not at home).
Or at least fake it. Find and focus on the positive. So it’s a shitty day outside; its dark and dreary, it’s cold and windy, it’s rainy-Instead of pointing out the negative in things, look for something positive. Stop and listen to the rain drops or the sound of the wind blowing, notice the trees moving with the wind, think of the flowers and the trees that need the rain to grow. Find beauty and appreciation in things you wouldn’t normally take the time to see.
Do at Least One Thing That Makes You Feel Good
While this one may see pretty obvious, doing something that makes you feel good in the morning can set the tone for the rest of the day. Whether it’s doing your nails, getting a massage, reading a poem or a passage from a favorite book, listening to music, talking to your mom, writing in your journal, playing with your dog, playing the guitar, getting a latte from your favorite coffee shop-doing something that makes you happy is a great way to start your day.