Weekly challenge: drink coffee to lift the blues, study suggests, but here are other ways

REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Two years after wondering whether coffee has become the new green tea for all its purported health benefits, I’ve come across new research from the Harvard School of Public Health drawing a connection between drinking caffeinated coffee and a lower risk of committing suicide.

The study released earlier this month linked drinking two to three cups of coffee per day with a 45 percent lower suicide risk. Those who drank four of more cups had a 53 percent lower risk.

So, can coffee actually make you happier? Or do those who gravitate towards Starbucks tend to be busy social people who are less prone to depression?

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The research, which examined the coffee consumption habits of nearly 200,000 nurses and health professionals, couldn’t answer that question. But caffeine is a stimulant that can lift your mood, at least temporarily.

If you already drink coffee, this new finding gives you another reason to feel comfortable continuing the habit. If you don’t, though, the new finding doesn’t provide enough of a reason to start.

Here are some other things you can try instead to help ward off depression. (In fact, try them even if you’re an avid java drinker since they’re all good for your health.)

1. Exercise. Burning off 350 calories through sustained exercise like walking or swimming three times a week can reduce depression about as effectively as antidepressants. (Check out these three other ways exercise acts as well as coffee to boost your mental performance.)

2. Meditate. Practicing mindfulness meditation—where you’re fully engaged and focused on whatever’s happening in the moment—can increase happiness and help alleviate depression. Gaze at those soap suds as you wash dishes or stare at the ants marching onto your picnic food.

3. Sunlight. Getting outdoors in the bright sunlight for 10 to 15 minutes each day has been associated with less depression. Doing so in the morning can also help you sleep better at night, another way to prevent the blues.