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There are some key steps you can take to lift your mood and help your recovery from depression.

Diet and exercise

Exercise and a healthy diet can make a big difference to how soon you recover from depression. Both will improve your general health as well.

A healthy diet can help lift your mood. Eating healthy is as important for mental health as it is for physical health.

Being active can:

  • lift your mood
  • reduce stress and anxiety
  • encourage the release of endorphins - your body's feel-good chemicals
  • improve self-esteem

Exercising can also be a good distraction from negative thoughts.


It can be easy to rush through life without stopping to notice much. Mindfulness helps you pay more attention to the present moment. You learn to focus on your thoughts and feelings and to the world around you. It can improve your mental wellbeing. Some people call this awareness 'mindfulness', and you can take steps to develop it in your own life.

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Talking about it

Sharing a problem with someone, or with a group, can give you support and an insight into your own depression.

You may not feel comfortable about discussing your mental health with others. If you don't, writing about how you feel or expressing your emotions through poetry or art might help.

Take your medication

If you are taking them, it's important to take your antidepressants as prescribed, even if you start to feel better. If you stop taking them too soon, your depression could return.

Talk to your GP or pharmacist if you have any questions or concerns about your medication. Read the leaflet that came with your medication. It will have information about possible interactions with other medicines or supplements.

Check with your doctor first if you plan to take any over-the-counter remedies. For example, painkillers, or any nutritional supplements. These can sometimes interfere with antidepressants.

Smoking, drugs and alcohol

If you have depression it may be tempting to smoke or drink to make you feel better. Cigarettes and alcohol may seem to help at first, but they make things worse in the long run.

Be extra cautious with cannabis. You might think it's harmless, but there is a link between cannabis use and mental illness, including depression.

If you smoke cannabis you:

  • make your depression symptoms worse
  • feel more tired and uninterested in things
  • are more likely to have depression that relapses earlier and more frequently
  • won't have as good a response to antidepressant medicines
  • are more likely to stop using antidepressant medicines
  • are less likely to fully recover

Your GP can give you advice and support if you drink or smoke too much or use drugs.

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Alcohol and depression

Work and finances

Working too much can cause depression. It may also be affecting your ability to do your job. If so, you may need time off to recover.

Taking prolonged time off work can also make depression worse. There's also quite a bit of evidence to support that going back to work can help you recover from depression.

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Mental health and work

It's important to avoid too much stress, and this includes work-related stress. If you're employed, you may be able to work shorter hours. You may also be able to work in a more flexible way, particularly if job pressures seem to trigger your symptoms.

If you're unable to work as a result of your depression, you may be eligible for some benefits.

Contact citizens information for more information about benefits.

Coping with bereavement

Losing someone close to you can be a trigger for depression. But to feel sad, tired and irritable after a bereavement is a normal reaction. It can be one of the factors that can lead to depression - If it lasts a long time and impacts on your day-to-day life.

When someone you love dies, the sense of loss can be so powerful that you feel it's impossible to recover. With time and the right help and support, it's possible to start living your life again.

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Bereavement and loss

Depression and suicide

There is no single reason why someone will attempt suicide. But certain factors can increase this risk. You are more likely to attempt suicide if you have a mental health disorder. Depression is the greatest risk factor.

Signs that someone may be considering suicide include making final arrangements, such as:

  • giving away possessions
  • saying goodbye to friends

Talking about death or suicide may also be a sign. This may be a direct statement, such as "I wish I was dead." But often depressed people will talk about the subject indirectly, saying something like "I feel like I'm such a burden to everyone."

Self-harm, such as cutting arms or legs or burning with cigarettes, are also a concern. The aim of self-harm is rarely to die but repeated self-harm is a risk factor for suicide.

A sudden lifting of mood may also be a sign. This could mean that a person has decided to attempt suicide. They may feel better because of this decision.

Contact your GP as soon as possible if you're feeling suicidal or are in the crisis of depression. They'll be able to help you.

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Helping someone who is going through tough time

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE.

page last reviewed: 23/09/2018
next review due: 23/09/2021

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