Can You Get Depressed by Staying Indoors?

Can You Get Depressed by Staying Indoors?

This blog post will answer the question, “Can you get depressed by staying indoors?” We will understand the association between COVID-19, staying indoors, and mental health. Finally, we will outline why you need to step out and how to cope with depression caused by staying indoors.  

Can You Get Depressed by Staying Indoors?

Yes, you can get depressed by staying indoors. Being indoors for too long leads to a lack of vitamin D, leading to depressive moods, frustration, and irritability. Moreover, exposing yourself to nature tends to evoke feelings of calmness and relaxation. 

A lack of exposure to sunlight, and consequently, vitamin D can adversely affect your mental and physical health. Sunlight regulates your circadian rhythm (biological clock) and synthesizes vitamin D, thereby boosting your mood. Let us look at some of the ways your mental health is affected by staying indoors. 

  • Sleep Difficulties and Fatigue;
  • Appetite Changes;
  • Mood Swings;
  • Anxiety;
  • Social Withdrawal

Sleep Difficulties and Fatigue

as mentioned earlier, sunlight exposure keeps our biological clock in check. The sleep-wake cycle is regulated by light and darkness. Exposure to daylight produces bodily signals that keep us alert and aroused throughout the day. Darkness and night-time releases melatonin, the hormone that induces drowsiness and sleep. 

Therefore, staying indoors and preventing sunlight exposure can cause sleep disturbances, such as insomnia or excessive sleeping. 

Moreover, being indoors for prolonged periods can overwhelm you with feelings of hopelessness, lethargy and lead to excessive ruminations or overthinking. These feelings can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle and cause fatigue during the day. You will get stuck in a vicious cycle of mental and physical fatigue.  

Appetite Changes

when your biological clock is dysregulated, your appetite goes haywire. You could either lose your appetite and skip mealtimes or overeat or excessively indulge yourself with unhealthy foods due to staying indoors always. Unsurprisingly, these factors could lead to weight loss or gain. 

Mood Swings

Staying indoors for extended periods and avoiding social activities can negatively affect your mood. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that boosts and regulates your mood. To increase the level of serotonin in your brain, you need sunlight. Low levels of serotonin are commonly implicated in mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder.

Anxiety

Being inside for too long can evoke feelings of anxiety and agitation. These sensations can further lead to irritability and distress over minor inconveniences. When you are indoors for too long, you inevitably get exposed to excessive screen time, which makes you isolate yourself from others even more, potentially leading to social anxiety. 

Such social withdrawal can often lead to a sense of powerlessness or a lack of control over social situations. It could also prevent you from being able to engage in necessary activities. 

Exposure to daylight can help regulate the body’s natural cycles, and exercise releases endorphins, creating a natural dose of happy pill. A green environment such as parks and mountain views also helps fight off symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Social Withdrawal

Staying indoors for too long leads to social withdrawal or isolation, which is a hallmark sign of anxiety and depression. Social withdrawal typically evokes feelings of loneliness, which also can lead to depression. 

On the contrary, having a healthy support system can serve as a protective factor for depression and promote pleasant emotions.  

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COVID-19, Staying Indoors, and Mental Health

Since the beginning of the pandemic of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), governments across the world have implemented lockdown measures and encouraged people to stay indoors and not engage in social gatherings. Although beneficial and required to protect people from being exposed to the virus, there are some drawbacks of always staying indoors. 

There is a significant impact on people’s mental health. The risk of developing or worsening depressive disorders has increased. It is attributable to various reasons, including decreased income, sleep problems, intense fear of the disease, circadian dysregulation, decreased physical activity, and a lack of social support. 

A study was conducted in July 2020 involving a Chinese population with no history of psychological conditions living in the UK and China. The researchers found that around 60% of the participants developed depression. 

More than 75% developed sleep and circadian disorders, and 50% experienced sleep disturbances, while more than 45% were irritable, and almost 50% experienced decreased sex drive.

It could also negatively impact social relationships, including family members, as there has been a report of increased divorce rates in China post lockdown. While lockdown restrictions are necessary, there is a need for provisions that cater to the population’s mental health. 

Why Do You Need to Step Out?

Vitamin D

The reason you face sleep disturbances is due to a lack of natural light exposure. Sunlight is the chief source of improved moods due to exposure to vitamin D. Apart from mental health benefits, it strengthens your immunity and has anti-inflammatory effects.

Hence, it is crucial you get out every day, even if it means for a short span of 20 to 30 minutes. Take a walk on your terrace or just around the block. You will notice positive effects on your mood and physical health. If you cannot get out due to the pandemic, you could consult your physician and take supplements or foods that promote vitamin D.

Exposure to Nature

Exposing yourself to nature can improve mood, decrease depressive symptoms, and boost your overall energy levels and wellness. One study reported that people who carry out their fitness regimes outside instead of the gym are less likely to develop a mental health condition. 4 

Ecotherapy

Ecotherapy is the act of connecting with nature, which has various physical and mental benefits. Although a single day of being indoors will not negatively impact your health, staying indoors for long periods can be detrimental. It is indeed challenging to step out during the pandemic but do the bare minimum to expose yourself to nature whenever possible. 

Ways to Cope

To overcome these feelings of depression, what you need to do is value yourself. When you do that, you take the required efforts to engage in self-care. 

Get into a routine

Establishing a routine allows you to cater to your physical and emotional well-being. Include household chores and other minor duties that enable you to get out. Ensure that your routine entails some amount of stepping out. 

Engage in self-care

Engage in self-care by eating well and exercising regularly, even while at home, could help. Additionally, ensure you pursue your interests and hobbies. 

Ensure you eat nutritious foods as they decrease fatigue and make you feel energized. Drink lots of water and make sure you snack on whole fruits and veggies. 

Further, your exercises need not involve intense regimes; simply stretching once in a while during the day can help. It can also prevent you from overeating as you feel less hungry.

To ensure adequate sleep at night, open the windows, regularly expose yourself to fresh air, or take a quick stroll in the morning.

Set achievable goals

Setting realistic and achievable goals can establish a sense of accomplishment and purpose. It also provides a chance of anticipating and working toward something.

Maintain social contact

Even if you cannot step out and meet people during the pandemic, you can try to stay in touch through social media and other online platforms. It helps you stay engaged, ward off boredom, and decrease any sense of withdrawal or isolation. 

Moreover, it is highly probable that others are going through something similar. Talking to them will help establish a feeling of unity and show you that you are not alone.

Value yourself

Ensure that you make efforts to make yourself better. It often entails stepping out of your comfort zone and pursuing things. It involves being productive, learning new things, and overall just living your life. 

People with high self-esteem tend to go out of their comfort bubbles regularly. Therefore, to build self-esteem and self-worth, you need to put in that extra effort. 

When you perform an activity that indicates deeming yourself worthy and valued, you allow yourself to believe this action. It reinforces thoughts that empower you and build your sense of self-worth. You slowly start feeling that you are valuable. 

Activities that make you feel accomplished include simple things like eating healthy meals on time, exercising, and learning something new. As you start building yourself up, you start feeling less insecure and more confident in social surroundings. Such feelings can further motivate you to be around people and not stay indoors always. 

When you establish congruence between your thoughts and actions (in this case, “I am worthy and valuable”), you start feeling good about yourself, which improves your self-esteem and decreases your depressive feelings. 

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Conclusion

In this blog post, we answered the question, “Can you get depressed by staying indoors?” We understood how COVID-19, staying indoors, and mental health are related. Finally, we found out why you need to step out and how to cope with depression caused by staying indoors.   

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Can You Get Depressed by Staying Indoors?

What can happen if you stay inside always?

You are bound to develop anxiety, depression, insomnia, and other mental health issues if you stay inside always. Sunlight exposure is crucial for overall physical and emotional wellbeing. 

Can you become sick by being indoors for long?

Yes, you can become sick by being indoors for long as it can stop the supply of healthy bacteria in your stomach, which can lead to various issues.  

Can indoor air cause shortness of breath?

Yes, indoor air can cause shortness of breath. There is more pollution indoors than outdoors. Indoor air pollutants like carbon monoxide, radon, and nitrogen dioxide can cause shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, and throat irritation. 

What happens to your mental health if you do not step out for a week?

Not stepping out for a week can lead to depressive symptoms owing to a lack of exposure to sunlight and vitamin D. You might have not gotten much physical activity either, which could worsen such symptoms.

What happens when you do not get fresh air?

Without fresh air, any of the following can happen:

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Drowsiness 
  • Dullness 

What happens to your body when you do not go outside?

When you do not go outside, there is no sunlight and vitamin D exposure. Vitamin D is required for the regulation of calcium and phosphate, and these are essential for your body. They play an integral role in skeletal and muscular health.  

How long do you have to expose yourself to fresh air every day?

You need to expose yourself to fresh air for a minimum of 20 minutes every day. Along with fresh air, exercise and sunlight could help reduce your stress and improve your mood. 

References

https://www.mydomaine.com/benefits-of-nature

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7385223/

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Ananya Ramesh is a mental health professional with a master's degree in clinical psychology. She has unconditional passion and sincerity toward working with psychologically distressed populations, specifically young adults and middle-aged people. Apart from this, she takes an abundant interest in producing and refining content related to mental health, psychology, and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). Outside of work, she enjoys reading and sketches portraits.