Depression is no fun.  It can sap your energy and drive, distort your view of the world, cut your productivity, and isolate you from family and friends.  Even worse, being depressed makes it more difficult to take action and make changes to make yourself feel better.

While depression can be difficult to battle, it's not impossible to adopt a few simple changes in your lifestyle to loosen depression's grip on your psyche.  Here are a few suggestions to help put you on the path to pushing depression away, and recovering your old energetic self.

Be gentle with yourself.  One of the falsehoods of depression can be the idea that making any changes are nearly impossible.  Start by making slow, gradual changes on a daily basis.  Even one small change a day, like picking up clutter around the house, or taking a short walk can be helpful.  Rome wasn't built in a day, and recovery from depression won't happen instantly.  However, it is possible with time and effort.

Make yourself accountable.  Find a friend or family member you can confide in and check in with on a daily basis.  Having someone to report in to about your emotional state, or what you're doing to change it will keep you responsible, and help you set up a meter for your progress.  Also, having someone you can ask for helpful suggestions can be useful.

Practice moderate exercise.  The health benefits of regular exercise have been well documented, but exercise also has a surprising effect on depression.  While the exact mechanism hasn't been identified, the best evidence suggests that regular exercise causes positive changes in brain chemistry that can combat depression.  While studies suggest that exercising for 30 minutes three to four times weekly is the best option, even small changes can be helpful. Taking a walk around the block, taking the stairs instead of an elevator, or taking the dog for a walk can be useful.  As with accountability, having a partner to exercise with can be beneficial, and help you to stick to your goals.    

Eat sensibly.  While this may be the last thing in mind when feeling depressed, good nutrition and eating habits can be a powerful tool in fighting depression.  Many depressed individuals feel drawn to "comfort foods" high in fat, sugars and refined carbohydrates.   A meal with sensible portions of lean protein, fruit or vegetables, and complex carbohydrates such as whole wheat pasta or brown rice can be helpful in stabilizing brain chemistry.  Additionally, some experts credit vitamin supplements, including B-complex vitamins and Omega-3 fatty acid supplements (fish oil) as mood boosters, and an aid in fighting depression.

Get enough sleep.  Two of the biggest problems associated with depression are insomnia, or hypersomnia: being unable to get adequate sleep, or getting too much sleep. Work towards establishing a healthy sleep schedule, by going to bed at the same time every night, waking at the same time, and avoiding oversleeping on the weekends can help stabilize your sleep pattern.  Deep breathing and relaxation exercises before bed can also be useful in detaching from troubling thoughts.  Additionally, exposing yourself to sunlight after waking, for 10-15 minutes can help stabilize your circadian rhythm, and set your internal clock to help you wake up, and fall asleep at the same time each day. 

Seek professional help.  This can be a touchy topic for some individuals.  Most people want to be self-reliant, even when dealing with depression.  But when you've made other changes to improve your mood, and your condition hasn't changed, seeking professional help can be a good option.  A variety of options are available, including talk therapy, group therapy and medication.  While treating depression with medication is also controversial, it can be beneficial when combined with talk therapy.  Find a qualified professional that you feel comfortable with, and discuss all of the options for treatment.

While depression can be a difficult illness to deal with, it is treatable.  The first step is making the decision to do something about it.  Making the choice can be a big step towards putting yourself on the road to recovery, and putting your depression behind you.