Stimulating Your Senses Can Help With Depression Symptoms

Attention: open in a new window. PDFPrintE-mail

yogaEveryone has “bad days”—days when it’s hard to get out of bed, when we feel gloomy and miserable, when we don’t want to do anything but hide under the covers. But for people with depression, a “bad day” can mean physical and emotional exhaustion, negative thoughts, and feelings of absolute depletion. On bad depression days, doing anything at all might seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, according to an article on Psych Central, there are some small ways to immediately improve depression symptoms.

Dr. Deborah Serani, a clinical psychologist and the author of Living With Depression, has seen first-hand just how hard it is to deal with the symptoms of depression. But, she says, research has shown that “awakening our senses” can have an immediate, positive effect on depression symptoms, and provided some helpful tips. 

Seeing. “When even a single photon of light enters the eye, it lights up the entire brain,” Serani said. That’s why she suggests opening the shades or curtains and allowing natural light to let the light in, and, if possible, heading outside to get some direct sunlight is even better. Exposing ourselves to light activates the hypothalamus, the area in the brain that regulates mood, sleep, and appetite. “Not getting enough sunlight causes a disruption in all three,” Serani said, so it’s crucial to let the sunshine in.

Smelling. Ever found yourself smiling at the scent of freshly baked cookies, warm summer rain, or a favorite perfume? “When we smell something, its scent takes a direct route to the limbic brain, awakening memories and positive emotions,” Serani said. On a bad day, she recommends breathing in fresh air, lighting a scented candle, and smelling the aromas of your favorite foods.

Hearing. “Listening to music, sounds and a human voice activates the brain’s reward system that releases the feel-good neurochemical dopamine,” Serani said. She suggests listening to upbeat music, soothing sounds, or an audio book.

Touching. Romantic comedies have been telling us for years that a hot bubble bath or a long shower can do wonders for just about any physical or emotional trouble—and there might be some science to that. A nice shower, according to Serani, is like a “medicinal tonic, with its warm water and soapy textures.” If you’re up for some movement, Serani suggested going for a walk, stretching, or playing with your kids. This can trigger all sorts of good things for the brain and body: “When we move our bodies and when we touch, muscles tense and relax, releasing toxins and feel-good hormones and endorphins,” Serani explained.

Tasting. Remember those yummy smells we talked about? According to Serani, tasting food is just as helpful as smelling it. She suggests savoring your meals and eating slowly, and having a diet rich in complex carbohydrates, protein, nuts, and leafy greens (for other dietary tips, check out our blog post about healthy eating and depression symptoms). Avoid starchy carbs like pasta, as those can increase fatigue.

A bad day of depression symptoms can be physically and emotionally taxing. Hopefully, these tips can help make a bad day a little brighter. Do you have any tried-and-true tips that have helped you get through a rough day? Tell us about it on Facebook or Twitter.

Family Profiles