Lifestyle strategies for better mental health

Updated: Jul 30, 2021

It is important to remember that prevention has a big role to play to reducing depression and anxiety, and promoting good mental health. Yes, there are some things that are simply unavoidable such as genetics and certain life stressors, such as a death of a loved one or a lay-off from a job. However, if we focus on areas of our lives we can control, then we would have a much easier time coping with events that are out of our control; the “curveballs” of life.


This diagram is a good starting point for focusing on the areas of our life, including our lifestyle choices, that can help us build our resilience and promote better mental health outcomes. As this diagram shows, there is a lot within our control that can help protect our mental health. Let’s take a deep dive into how exactly these areas can have a positive or negative impact on mental health:



  • A study showed that about 60% of people were able to halve their depression score by exercising and more than 40% maintained this for at least three months.

  • Researchers have found that engaging in regular vigorous exercise makes you 25% less likely to develop depression or an anxiety disorder over the next 5 yrs.


  • Research has determined that there is a link between lack of sleep and depression – it can generate feelings of sadness, irritability and anxiety. Experts have found that people who suffer from insomnia are 5 x more likely to develop depression.

  • A good night’s sleep helps foster both mental and emotional resilience. Chronic sleep disruptions set the stage for negative thinking, depression, anxiety and emotional vulnerability.

Communication / connection with friends

  • Scientists have found that staying connected with family and friends helps relieve harmful levels of stress, which can adversely affect coronary arteries, gut function, insulin regulation, and the immune system.

  • Make staying connected a priority. Research has found that lack of strong relationships is as dangerous to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, being obese or physically inactive.

Drink choices

  • Drinking 2 cans of Coke a day may increase your risk of anxiety by 23%. This over-consumption of sugar triggers imbalances in certain brain chemicals, increasing the risk of experiencing depression and anxiety.

  • Research has found that those who drink more plain water experience a lower prevalence of anxiety and depression.


  • Eat fresh! Researchers found people who followed a Mediterranean style menu closest were 50% less likely to develop depression than those who didn’t follow the diet.

  • The Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish may combat depression both on their own and when taken with antidepressant medications.

  • People eating fast food more than 3 times a week = 50% more likely to develop depression than those who eat little to no fast food.

  • Multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function – as well as worsening of symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression.

Alcohol use

  • Drinking alcohol can temporarily boost serotonin levels, therefore making you feel happier, but in the long term, excess alcohol can actually lower serotonin levels, and therefore either causing or exacerbating depression.

  • Research has found that individuals experiencing clinically significant alcohol problems are frequently observed to be experiencing depression and anxiety, and similarly people experiencing clinically significant depression and anxiety are frequently observed to be experiencing alcohol problems.

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