10 Scientifically Proven Ways to Help Prevent Depression

We all go through phases of feeling sad or upset about something, and these feelings usually go away in time. The only people who really understand depression are those who suffer from it. When you suffer from a depressive disorder, any sadness, frustration, or anger makes these negative feelings stronger, digging you deeper into the depression and making it harder to pull yourself out.

1. Eat well to help prevent depression

In general, people tend to eat high-calorie junk foods when they’re already feeling sad or depressed.

Avoiding junk foods is important to help prevent depression as consuming foods high in sugars, fats, and calories can increase depression risk by 51%.1✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
DOI: 10.1017/S1368980011001856

What to do: Try foods that are rich in B vitamins, like sunflower seeds, green pepper, brown rice, spinach, etc., and Omega 3, like nuts and salmon seem to help improve mood. Foods with eggs or lactose, nuts, vegetables, fruits, and cereals that are rich in tryptophan help avoid depression.2✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016268

Foods To Improve Your Mood

2. Engage in activities that you enjoy to help prevent depression

What are your favorite activities? How long has it been since you’ve spent time doing something you really enjoy? Planning time for yourself to enjoy the things you like is one of the most well-known cognitive therapies to help prevent and treat depression. Increasing how many good experiences you enjoy, the happier you will feel.

What to do: Everyone is unique and likes different activities. Try to spend some time outside, maybe running or walking your pet, or start up some activities that you can do in a group. Getting outside and socializing with other people will help prevent depression.3✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2014.02.019

3. Stay socially connected to help prevent depression

It might be hard to make a phone call and you might not feel like getting in touch with friends or family, but you would be more inclined to do it if you knew the benefits that it had.

Staying connected with people you love can make a big difference.

What to do: In this case, it’s more important to have quality relationships than a lot of so-so friendships.4✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062396
Dedicate time to the relationships you’ve had for a while and spend less time trying to work on a friendship that isn’t going anywhere.

4. Stop the negative thoughts to help prevent depression

Negative thoughts can get “stuck” in our working memory and we become more likely to dwell on our problems.5✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
DOI: 10.1177/0956797611415539
This can have a big influence on our mood and mental well-being.

It’s important to differentiate between reality and what you think is going on in your head.

What to do: When a negative thought comes to your mind, do your best to block it out. You can also try other kinds of therapy, like yoga and Mindfulness meditation. You’ll learn to become more aware of your body and your thoughts, which can be a big help.

5. Choose intrinsic over extrinsic goals to help prevent depression

Having goals is good, and you should make goals that do require some effort to reach. Research has however shown that when we are more focused on meeting intrinsic goals we are more likely to have experiences that support our happiness and well-being.6✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
DOI: 10.1186/s12888-016-0842-5
Intrinsic goals are those that satisfy our own basic psychological needs rather than rely on the judgment or approval of others.

Examples of intrinsic goals are self-acceptance and physical fitness. Extrinsic goals are focused on external reward and praise from others. Examples of extrinsic goals are fame and financial wealth.

What to do: When you plan your goals, ask yourself why you want to achieve them and identify them to see if they are intrinsic or extrinsic.

6. Try to be more realistic to help prevent depression

Our perception of what happens in our lives can influence our moods. We all have optimistic or pessimistic friends, but where are the realists? Being realistic means looking at a situation from an outside perspective and assessing it as if you were a third-party.

You might find that you think you’re being realistic, but in reality, you’re being negative.7✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
DOI: 10.1037/0096-3445.134.1.10

What to do: When you feel yourself getting upset about an event or idea, think about it realistically. You’ll probably see that things aren’t as bad as you think.

7. Exercise more to help prevent depression

You usually feel better after exercising, right? That’s because being active helps the brain’s neurotransmitter systems. Exercise can help prevent problems that come from stress, like anxiety and depression.8✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2013.08.001

Exercising also helps us relax and sleep better at night, which can help you avoid insomnia, a depression risk factor.9✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
DOI: 10.1016/s0165-0327(02)00072-1

What to do: Start out by doing any kind of physical exercise for just 30 minutes. It will help prevent the symptoms of depression and release endorphins, which help us feel happy. You don’t have to start by training for a marathon. Try walking around your neighborhood for 30 minutes to start out. Not sure how to start working out? The first step is getting out there!

8. Relax to help prevent depression

Many people know that staying relaxed is a good way to avoid anxiety, and the same goes for depression.

Being relaxed can help you focus and sort out your thoughts, which can be a problem for people suffering from anxiety and/or depression.10✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007142.pub2

What to do: There many ways to relax, and it may be different for everyone. If you like hiking, take yourself on a long hike. If you like the beach, spend the day at the beach. You can also try things like meditation and yoga, which can help you feel centered and help you relax over time.

9. Sleep well to help prevent depression

We all feel better after a good night’s sleep. As we sleep, our brain is able to repair itself and prepare for the next day. Sleeping well is an essential part of learning, and can help improve our mood.11✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
DOI: 10.31887/DCNS.2008.10.4/plfranzen

Researchers have also discovered that it takes more effort for a brain area known as the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex to modify emotional responses which are negative in individuals with depression who have poor sleep patterns.12✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
DOI: 10.1002/da.22622

What to do: Create schedules and try to stick to them. Humans need an estimated 6-8 hours of sleep a night, so plan to get to bed early if you need to wake up early the next day. If you have trouble waking up, maybe you need to learn how to become a morning person.

10. Take care of others to help prevent depression

Until now, we’ve talked about how to take care of yourself, but focusing your time on others and helping those around you has been shown to help reduce the risk of depression.

People who participate in activities that aim to help others have a smaller chance of developing depression.13✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-13-773

What to do: Volunteering with people or animals can be a great way to try this out. Sometimes you don’t need to make a huge gesture or commitment. If you can go a few times, you’ll have a better chance at preventing depression.