From clothes to coffee - the everyday things that can affect your mental health - Part 1

Latest research reveals a list of everyday activities or situations that can affect mental health.

Depression affects around 10% of the population at any given time, according to the Office for National Statistics, and is now second only to high blood pressure among the most common conditions recorded by GPs.

But while bereavement, unemployment and illness are common triggers for low mood, experts say everyday activities – from what we eat and drink to spending too much time online – could also contribute to leaving you feeling down.

So what are the causes? And what can you do about them? 

Taking antibiotics

Certain groups of antibiotics, including quinolones and penicillin, are linked to ­depression, say scientists.

A large Tel Aviv University study of British patients found that taking just one course of antibiotics can raise the risk of depression and anxiety by around a quarter.

And taking between two and five courses raises the risk by nearly half, they reported in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

It’s thought that disrupting the balance of bacteria in the gut can harm the way in which the brain cells communicate.

Boost your mood:  A major proportion of your immune system actually lies in your gut in the form of friendly bacteria, and antibiotics can wipe these out – automatically weakening your immune system. 

Restore the balance by promoting the production of good bacteria when taking antibiotics by eating live yogurt (containing lactobacillus, for example), but also fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kefir and miso. 

Your online activity
Addicted to your smartphone? Always online?

Swedish researchers found that women who spend long hours in front of a computer screen or on their phones (up to 150 hours a week) reported more depression, possibly due to sleep deprivation and lack of face-to-face communication.

And a separate study by University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross found a direct correlation between time spent on social media and feelings of dissatisfaction, loneliness and isolation.

Boost your mood: Don’t visit a social network when feeling sad or dissatisfied with your present situation as, chances are, it will only make you feel more sorry for yourself and more depressed. 

Consider deactivating your account temporarily or unfollowing those who make you feel worse.

And pick up a bestseller instead. Those who read books regularly are, on average, happier and more satisfied with life, according to a study by reading charity BookTrust.

Night lights
Whether it’s from the streetlights outside or the dim glow of your TV, being exposed to light while trying to sleep can have a negative effect on the brain.

This is because lights can interfere with secretion of the hormone ­melatonin, which helps let the body know it is nighttime and time to sleep, an Ohio State University study found.

Invest in blackout blinds if you have a street lamp outside your bedroom window.

Switch off all electrical appliances and either turn your electrical alarm clock away from you at night if it has a light-up display, or change to an old-fashioned one with no lights.

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