Depression can make just getting out of bed feel impossible some days. But having a daily routine can help.

Sometimes, symptoms of depression can make you feel like you’re sinking into a void. And the deeper you sink, the harder it can feel to get out.

This is especially true because depression lies — it may tell you that you’re alone and unloved, or that you’ll never escape the feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness you’re experiencing.

But here’s the truth: You’re not alone.

According to the CDC, nearly 5% of all adults over the age of 18 years experience regular feelings of depression.

And though it can be a challenging condition, it is highly treatable, most commonly through a combination of talk therapy and medication. What’s more, there are things you can do in addition to treatment to help keep depression symptoms at bay.

For example, evidence suggests that creating — and sticking to — some reliable daily routines may help improve mental health.

After all, if you’re committed to doing certain practices every day, you have something that will get you out of bed and moving. And if some of those practices have been proven to help reduce symptoms of depression? Even better!

Here are some things you can try.

It’s common knowledge that sleep deprivation is linked to an increase in depression and other mental health conditions. But a 2021 study found that having an irregular sleep pattern can also increase a person’s risk of depression — to the same extent as not getting enough sleep.

When our sleep patterns fluctuate, so does the quality of sleep we achieve. And regular, quality sleep is a key piece of maintaining mental health.

For these reasons, it’s a good idea to make waking up and going to bed at the same time a part of your daily depression routine — even on weekends, when you may not have a pressing need to get your day started. It may help to set alarms (for both day and night) and commit to a pattern your body and mind can best rely on.

Several studies suggest a link between diet and mental health. Not only is there a strong association between obesity and depression, but research has also shown that heavy consumption of fast and processed foods may increase your risk of depression.

Everything is fine in moderation. But if you make eating whole, fresh foods part of your daily routine, you may feel better in the long run — both mentally and physically.

You may want to start by adding some fresh fruit to your breakfast as part of your morning routine for depression, some lean protein to your lunch, and some fresh vegetables to your dinner.

Evidence also indicates that people with depression sometimes have low blood levels of vitamin D, as well as zinc, copper, and manganese. So eating foods rich in these nutrients or taking a supplement may help ease depression symptoms. Magnesium has also been shown to be beneficial for people with mild to moderate depression.

If you’re interested in trying certain supplements for your depression, it’s best to speak with a healthcare professional first to discuss the ideal dosage and potential risks. Some supplements can be harmful if you take too much, or they may interact with medications you may be taking. Your doctor may also wish to run a blood test to see if you have a nutrient deficiency before suggesting a supplement.

When you’re in the midst of a depressive episode, it can be very hard to convince yourself to get up and get moving. But that’s exactly why it’s a good idea to make exercise part of your daily routine to help depression.

Research shows that exercise and yoga may help reduce symptoms of depression. And some studies have even identified brain mechanisms that may explain this response.

You also don’t have to spend hours at the gym or train for a marathon to experience the benefits of daily exercise.

Evidence suggests that 15 minutes per day of higher-intensity exercise like running or 1 hour per day of low- or moderate-intensity exercise like walking or even doing easy chores may be beneficial. And it doesn’t have to be an hour in one go. You can break up exercise sessions into shorter time chunks if that works better for you.

A brisk walk with a friend or even engaging in a favorite activity like gardening or playing outside with your kids can do the trick — you just want to do your best to move your body and get your heart rate up every day.

Perhaps one of the simplest things you can do to maintain your mental health is to drink enough water throughout the day. That’s right — research has found that staying hydrated reduces your risk of depression.

You can set yourself up for success by carrying a reusable water bottle with you everywhere you go. Or try setting alarms on your phone to remind you to take drinks throughout the day if that’s something you typically find difficult.

We all need an outlet for our big feelings, and journaling can be exactly that. Though not all studies agree, some research has found that expressive writing (just putting your thoughts and feelings on paper) can help those diagnosed with major depressive disorder.

This is one daily activity you can do entirely on your own terms — when you want, where you want, how you want. There is no right or wrong way to write in your journal. Just try to make it a daily practice of writing about whatever you want for at least a few minutes each day.

And if you find it difficult to get started, try a specific writing prompt to get your writing juices flowing, such as:

  • What are three things you’d like to tell a friend, family member, or partner?
  • What difficult thoughts or emotions do you experience most frequently?
  • What three ordinary things bring you the most joy?

In today’s busy world, it can be hard to slow down and focus on the present moment. But research suggests doing just that can help reduce the impacts of depression. It may even be beneficial for people with treatment-resistant depression.

Meditation and mindfulness can look a little different for everyone, but the main goal is to find a quiet place where you can shut out all the outside noise for at least a few minutes each day and just… breathe.

To make meditation part of your daily routine, start by deciding what time of day you might be most able to slow your mind and breathe in silence. For some people, this might be in the morning before the rest of the house wakes up. For others, it could be just prior to bedtime.

Whatever time works for you, try finding a quiet space during that time, closing your eyes, and focusing on the deep breaths you take.

If you feel like you might benefit from some additional guidance, you can look into online meditation options and apps.

It can be so easy to fall into a habit of focusing on the negatives: the things you hate about your job, your life, or your partner. We all do this from time to time, but it’s those thought cycles that can also sometimes lead to feelings of depression.

Some research suggests that practicing gratitude and writing down what you’re grateful for may reduce symptoms of depression and improve happiness and life satisfaction.

So as part of your daily routine, try acknowledging the things you’re grateful for as well. These don’t have to be big things. It could be as simple as a barista who was kind to you, or a butterfly that made you smile on the way to work.

Just as we all have things to be frustrated about, we also have things to be grateful for. We may just need to take time to remind ourselves of that.

Many of us have a habit of focusing on our own wants and needs, but research has found that shifting our focus toward helping others can actually improve symptoms of depression. Perhaps this is because doing so reminds us we aren’t alone and gives us a sense of purpose we might not otherwise have when simply focusing on ourselves.

Either way, it’s never a bad thing to try to make someone else’s day brighter. Acts of compassion and kindness don’t have to be expensive or time-consuming, either. It could be as simple as holding the door for someone who seems like they’re carrying a lot or bringing a cup of coffee to a friend who might need it.

While you’re at it, practicing a little self-care is important too. Many health organizations emphasize the importance of self-care, and some research suggests that self-care strategies like relaxation or meditation show promise in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.

And even if research on other practices like aromatherapy, music, or massage is lacking, there’s no harm in trying them to see if they help you relax and feel better.

Self-care doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. You could try:

  • allowing yourself 15 minutes to read a chapter of a book you’re enjoying in silence
  • taking a warm bath or a hot shower at the end of a hard day
  • treating yourself to a face mask
  • running around the yard or your neighborhood with your dog

There are no rules here. Simply try choosing at least one activity each day that you know will help you relax or will put a smile on your face.

As we’ve already seen, the quality of your sleep plays a big role in your mental health, so taking care of yours by working on your sleep hygiene is always a good idea.

Try establishing a bedtime routine that you begin at least 30 minutes before bed each night.

You may want to start by turning off your screens, dimming the lights, and winding down before that regular bedtime you’ve hopefully already established.

By making this part of your routine, you’ll better guarantee your ability to fall asleep — and stay asleep — when that time comes.

It doesn’t always matter how hard you try or how much energy you put into self-care and routines — depression can sometimes creep up on you anyway.

Try to remind yourself that depression is a mental health condition. Just like all other forms of illness, we don’t always have control over how it manifests.

If your symptoms of depression are making it feel impossible to follow your daily routine, or if you’re having trouble concentrating or finding joy in things you otherwise would, it may be time to talk with a healthcare professional or therapist who can help you get to the bottom of what’s going on.

Support and help are always available.

Are you in a crisis or considering suicide?

If you’re having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, you can access free support right away with these resources:

  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call the Lifeline at 800-273-8255, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • The Crisis Text Line. Text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
  • The Trevor Project. LGBTQIA+ and under 25 years old? Call 866-488-7386, text START to 678678, or chat online 24-7.
  • Veterans Crisis Line. Call 800-273-8255, text 838255, or chat online 24-7.
  • Befrienders Worldwide. This international crisis helpline network can help you find a local helpline.
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One of the difficulties facing people living with depression is that of becoming easily overwhelmed. Depression lies, after all, and it often tells us we aren’t capable of doing the things we need or want to do.

Try not to let that voice convince you that creating a new routine is impossible. Instead, aim for starting small by choosing one or two things you know you can commit to doing on a daily basis.

That way you can prove to yourself that you’re capable of doing so. Once you feel comfortable with those things being part of your daily routine, you can try adding one or two more.

The real goal is to simply create a routine your mind and body can come to rely on — something you can stick to, even on days when you’re not feeling entirely like yourself. The rest you can build from there.