Self-Care Routine for Depression

Having a self-care routine for depression allows you to better address this psychological disorder. We'll offer some suggestions.
Self-Care Routine for Depression
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 07 November, 2023

Psychological therapy is the most valid and effective resource to address mood disorders. Complementing it with a self-care routine for depression further enhances the treatment itself. After all, to heal any mental condition, what we most need is to integrate new healthy and enriching approaches into our routine and mind.

On the other hand, if there’s something that is a challenge for people with depression, it’s getting involved in new activities. The mind is trapped in a very rigid and debilitating framework, and the body is like a slab. Everything exhausts, everything tires, and even getting out of bed is a real challenge. Being able to introduce new behaviors is a fundamental axis to overcome this condition.

If you’re going through this process right now, we suggest you discover all the information the following article has to offer.

Believe that they are worth living for even when you don’t believe it. Seek out the memories depression takes away and project them into the future. Be brave; be strong; take your pills. Exercise because it’s good for you even if every step weighs a thousand pounds.”

– Andrew Solomon –

Why are self-care routines useful in depression?

A self-care routine for depression is a complementary strategy to psychological therapy itself. Therefore, if you want the therapeutic process to be more effective, don’t hesitate to get involved in these types of daily tasks. The objective is none other than to favor such a decisive mechanism when it comes to tackling depressive disorders such as behavioral activation.

As a study carried out at the University of York explains, it was the psychologist Frederic Skinner who said that a person with depression stops showing healthy behaviors. Stillness, isolation, and despondency are those black holes that condition them on a daily basis. Behavioral activation aims to change the way the patient interacts with their environment.

Self-care activities are positive reinforcers that connect the depressed person with the world and, in turn, with themselves in a more positive and compassionate way. Below, we’ll take a look at what characteristics define these complementary techniques.

Benefits and characteristics of self-care for people with depression

One of the purposes of self-care routines in depressed people is to promote motivated behavior. Research such as that published in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews indicates that this disorder completely alters cognitive and emotional processes. Making progress on this matter is crucial. Other advantages are the following:

  • It improves self-efficacy.
  • Encourage self-control.
  • Promote physical activity.
  • Activate decision-making.
  • Provides the benefits of social connection.
  • Enhances working memory.
  • Reawaken willpower.
  • Establish self-care routines.
  • Improvements in the regulation of emotions.
  • Structure the days in routines and new habits.
  • Encourage new goals, however small they may be.
  • Taking the mind to another state: From negativity to motivation.
  • Improve self-image by discovering that one is capable of putting changes into motion.
  • Enhance cognitive flexibility. Thanks to a self-care routine for depression, the person will go back to planning, managing time, and prioritizing.

Having a self-care routine for depression promotes new brain changes that revert to the patient’s behavior and motivation.

Self-care routine for depression

Taking care of yourself during a depression is a must. We know that it’s key to lean on others, go to therapy, and commit to change. However, the improvements will come when we’re able to see ourselves as our greatest responsibility and promote progress with which we improve. Let’s see those keys to build our own self-care routine.

1. Each day must involve following the same routine

Our brain works better if each day is organized through habits and routines. You’ll feel more secure, and this will affect your physical and emotional well-being. Take note of some strategies:

  • Eat every day at the same time.
  • Get up and go to bed at the same times every day
  • Introduce moments of relaxation, leisure, and social connection into your schedules.

2. Set small goals and celebrate them

Depression is overcome through small daily steps that must be celebrated. Getting out of bed and taking a shower is a success. Making your breakfast is another great victory. You’ll achieve more things tomorrow, but what has been done today is already fabulous. Write in a journal the goals you want to achieve every day and be proud of each achievement.

3. Regular physical activity

Physical activity can’t be lacking among healthy habits for depression. Moreover, studies such as those carried out at the University of South Australia indicate that this approach is essential in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and psychological distress. Therefore, don’t hesitate to carry out any of the following proposals:

  • Dance
  • Go swimming
  • Ride a bike
  • Visit the beach or the countryside
  • Go for a walk together
  • Start a new sport
  • Walk every day for half an hour

4. “Feed” your senses

When it comes to coping with depression, stimulating your senses will be of great help. This psychological condition numbs us and places us in a dark dimension where nothing reaches us and nothing stimulates us. We must break that isolation mechanism created by this mental condition. In this regard, the following activities are beneficial:

  • Stimulate your sense of hearing with music.
  • Don’t hesitate to stimulate your sense of taste with foods that you like.
  • Stimulate your sense of touch by caressing, hugging, and feeling close to your loved ones.
  • Stimulate your eyes daily with movies, art, or beautiful natural settings.
  • Don’t forget to stimulate your sense of smell with pleasant scents such as lavender, vanilla, etc.

5. Find a new hobby

Among the self-care routines for depression, it’s essential that you look for new daily motivators. Open up to different hobbies, learn new skills, and immerse yourself in art in any of its forms. Sometimes, the smallest changes bring wonderful revolutions for your mental health.

  • Write in a diary, draw, paint, compose music, get started in sculpture, etc.
  • Sign up for a face-to-face course in a subject that’s of interest to you. It’ll connect you with new people and you’ll leave home.

6. Find the relaxation techniques that best suit you

Coping with depression isn’t easy, but along with psychological therapy, relaxation techniques also help. In this regard, each person must find the technique that best suits their characteristics. Not everyone finds benefits in the same resources and, therefore, it’s always good to try different proposals. Here are some suggestions:

7. Mindfulness

Cognitive-behavioral therapy already includes mindfulness in its model as a resource to treat depression and avoid relapses. Don’t hesitate, therefore, to give this ancestral technique a chance. Studies such as those published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology highlight that it’s very useful for reducing worry and rumination associated with clinical depression.

Full attention allows us to focus on the present moment, generate a change in the brain, and have greater control over thoughts.

8. Say yes to social connection

Good company can’t be lacking among healthy habits for depression. Dedicate an hour, at least, to talking to a friend who knows how to listen to you or with that friend who makes everything easy and takes away your burdens and worries.

It’s good to lean on your environment and know that you’re loved. There’s nothing like sharing simple moments to remember the value of life.

What if a self-care routine for depression doesn’t work for me?

Coping with depression isn’t a straight line; there are always setbacks and relapses. The objective of a self-care routine is to promote changes, increase motivation, and integrate healthier habits. If this doesn’t take place, it doesn’t mean that you’ve failed. It means that you need more time to move forward.

The most decisive thing is to continue in psychological therapy and not abandon these healthy habits for dealing with depression. There’ll be days when you don’t feel like carrying them out, and that’s normal; you can start fresh tomorrow. Overcoming any mood disorder requires a strong commitment to yourself and, at the same time, being compassionate toward yourself.

Remember, you’re not a superhero. You’re a person in the process of healing and recovery, something that requires at least several months. Be patient with yourself.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Cooney, G. M., Dwan, K., Greig, C. A., Lawlor, D. A., Rimer, J., Waugh, F. R., McMurdo, M., & Mead, G. E. (2013). Exercise for depression. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews2013(9), CD004366.
  • Grahek, I., Shenhav, A., Musslick, S., Krebs, R. M., & Koster, E. H. W. (2019). Motivation and cognitive control in depression. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews102, 371–381.
  • Parmentier, F. B. R., García-Toro, M., García-Campayo, J., Yañez, A. M., Andrés, P., & Gili, M. (2019). Mindfulness and symptoms of depression and anxiety in the general population: The mediating roles of worry, rumination, reappraisal and suppression. Frontiers in Psychology10, 506.
  • Pilkington, K., & Wieland, L. S. (2020). Self-care for anxiety and depression: a comparison of evidence from Cochrane reviews and practice to inform decision-making and priority-setting. BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies20(1), 247.
  • Singh, B., Olds, T., Curtis, R., Dumuid, D., Virgara, R., Watson, A., Szeto, K., O’Connor, E., Ferguson, T., Eglitis, E., Miatke, A., Simpson, C. E., & Maher, C. (2023). Effectiveness of physical activity interventions for improving depression, anxiety and distress: an overview of systematic reviews. British Journal of Sports Medicine.
  • Uphoff, E., Ekers, D., Dawson, S., Richards, D., & Churchill, R. (2019). Behavioural activation therapies for depression in adults. The Cochrane Library2019(4).

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.