Skip to navigation Skip to content
Collage of graphics and tips relating to self-care

17 October 2023

Nine lifestyle changes can help with depression and your overall mental health

This Mental Health Month, we’re encouraging everyone at Deakin to tune into their wellbeing and challenge the stigma of mental health. So, whether you manage a mental health condition as part of your daily life, or you’re just keen to be the best version of yourself, there’s some practical and positive things you can do.

 Get involved in Mental Health Month this October

Nine lifestyle changes you can make now

An international research taskforce led by Deakin has found that nine lifestyle guidelines can be the foundation for managing clinical depression – in tandem with, or perhaps instead of, other therapies like medication.

Even if you don’t live with a mental health condition, these kinds of healthy habits are an essential part of a balanced lifestyle that will help you succeed at your studies and enjoy uni.

1. Physical activity and exercise, including improving aerobic and resistance training, while reducing sedentary behaviours
DeakinACTIVE has a range of on-campus and online exercise options, while DUSA offers ‘Come and Try’ social sport and various sporting clubs. Make exercise part of your everyday activities and check out headspace for some great tips and real-life stories of people who’ve exercised their way to better mental health.

2. Relaxation techniques, such as guided breathing exercises
Deep breathing is a simple and effective way to help you manage stress and anxiety. To slow down your breathing, inhale to the count of four and exhale to the count of six. When you lengthen your exhalations to be longer than your inhalations, your body begins to switch on your parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn will calm you down. Use apps such as DeakinWELLBEING or Smiling Mind to find strategies to help you relax.

3. Re-engaging people with employment or volunteering
DeakinTALENT can help to kickstart your career with tailored coaching, workshops, resources and events. The Jobs & Internships Board advertises internships, volunteering, pre-graduate roles and graduate opportunities. Faculty Work Integrated Learning (WIL) opportunities combine hands-on workplace experience with your discipline-specific skills – and earn academic credit towards your course.

4. Adequate sleep
Almost 60% of people regularly experience one symptom that affects their sleep, while nearly 15% have symptoms that could result in a diagnosis of insomnia. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try these strategies to improve your slumber – from reducing screen time before bed to limiting your caffeine intake.

5. Mindfulness-based therapies
Mindfulness – being in the present moment through meditation – is a helpful technique to promote mental health. There’s lots of mindfulness apps available – such as DeakinWELLBEING or Smiling Mind. If you’d like some one-on-one guidance on how to get started, chat to a Deakin counsellor.

6. Healthy diet
A well-balanced diet includes a diverse range of grain (cereal) foods, fruits and vegetables, milk and milk-based products and meat and meat alternatives. Check out our online student healthy eating hub Nourished @ Deakin, which is packed with ideas, inspiration and step-by-step meal guides.

7. Quitting smoking
If you smoke or vape, we can help you quit! Your body starts to reverse some of the health damage as soon as you stop, so contact the Deakin Medical Centre for free Quit counselling support. The Quit website also has amazing resources that provide personalised support. And remember: there’s no smoking at Deakin.

8. Addressing feelings of loneliness and improving social connection
We don’t ever want you to feel lonely or isolated. Connect with others by joining our dedicated peer mentoring programs, our Instagram channel or one of DUSA’s club and societies. Attend one of the many on-campus and online activities and events, or chat to our counsellors or multifaith chaplains. International students can sign up to CONNECT – our free wellbeing program that helps you to make friends, settle into Deakin and enjoy your time at uni.

9. Interaction with nature (green and blue spaces)
With warmer weather on the way, now’s the time to get outdoors! ‘Greendesk’ by studying in the backyard or a park and feel the benefits. Stay tuned for info on our T3 Walk’n’Talk sessions, which will give you a physical and mental boost as you meet other students. In Burwood, head to the Deakin Community Garden to sow some friendships and get a dose of fresh air.

These guidelines were developed based on a series of systematic reviews of existing literature and have been published in the World Journal of Biological Psychiatry.

Help is always available

We encourage you to access professional support whenever you need extra help. We offer a range of health and wellbeing services to support you during your time at Deakin.

For urgent support outside of business hours, contact Lifeline (13 11 14) or SuicideLine (1300 651 251) straight away. They’re available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

back to top