10 Activities for Depression in London
One of the benefits to living or working in London, is the amount of activities available to help you boost your mood, and guard against depression. I’ve lived in London all my life, and I’ve compiled a list of activities which you can incorporate into your self care routine:
1. Visit a green space
Get out and explore some of London’s amazing parks and forests. There’s a staggering 3,000 green spaces in London, covering nearly one fifth of the city. While there’s likely to be a park within walking distance of where you live, the real gems are the sprawling royal parks, commons and heaths.
My favourites for wild nature spots in London are Hampstead Heath and Epping Forest, but there’s also Richmond Park if you’re near the South West. Visiting parks will instantly reduce your stress levels, and help regulate your mood.
See if you can schedule in regular 20 minute walks through a park as part of your self care routine.
2. Visit a free art gallery
London is home to some of the most interesting art galleries in the world. There’s nothing like a dose of modern art to get a fresh perspective on life, and reignite your creativity.
My favourite free art gallery is the Tate Modern, housed in the former Bankside Power Station. The turbine hall is awe inspiring, and it’s often turned into a huge immersive art piece. I got to record the legendary hum of the turbine hall a while back, to use it as the basis of a film soundtrack.
If you’re near the East End, the Whitechapel Gallery has premiered works by some of the best artists around, including the two local artists, Gilbert and George. It’s a nice small gallery, which you can combine with a trip to Brick Lane around the corner.
3. Take a part time class
Have a look at the websites of some of the colleges and universities in London to see if there’s any short courses you’d like to take.
City Lit in Holborn has a great ranges of subjects, including some mental health and self development topics. And most of the London art colleges also have short courses, but they’re often overpriced for what they offer. I’ve taken a few creative courses at City Uni, most of which have been high quality.
Taking a short course is a great opportunity to follow your interests, or try out something completely new to see if you like it.
Choose something more sociable like acting or film making if you’d like the opportunity to connect with other people. Or woodwork, drawing, pottery or painting to explore your creative talents.
4. Learn a musical instrument
London is full of music teachers, many who have graduated from the music conservatoires, such as Trinity Laban and the Guildhall School of Music. Nothing beats the experience of face to face music lessons, where your teacher can hear you properly, and you can be inspired by their playing.
Is there an instrument you really like? Or a style of music you’re attracted to? You’ll find teachers and classes for folk music, classical music, or something from a far away culture.
If you’re nervous, don’t worry. I used to teach piano in Islington, and can assure you that beginners are always welcome.
Playing an instrument is good for your brain too, and opens up opportunities to form groups with other musicians.
5. Take an exercise class
Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do to combat depression. It’s one of the activities you should try to make a daily habit as part of your self care routine. Perhaps alternate exercises days with walks or runs in the park.
There’s a variety of exercise classes available to suit your energy levels and fitness goals. Most gyms offer a selection of classes, from various yoga styles to boxing and dance classes.
Some of the pay as you go gyms have quieter times in their off peak hours, where there’s enough space to use the weights and stretch out. Or if budget allows, the Third Space gyms offer everything you could need, from swimming pools to climbing walls.
Volunteering is a great activity for connecting with other people, while giving back to your community. There’s a range of volunteering opportunities in London. Take a look at the Volunteermatch website, to see if there’s anything you’d like to do.
Before I was a psychotherapist, I used to volunteer at mental health charities. They’re friendly places with strong communities, and you can learn a lot about depression and mental health just by helping out.
7. Connect with others
Living in London can be a lonely experience, despite the amount of people living in close proximity. There’s several ways you can meet up with people to hang out with, depending on the sort of contact you’re looking for.
Have a look at the Meetup website to find organised groups based on interests and hobbies. You can also create your own group if you don’t find any that appeal to you. For a longer term solution, see if you can get to know your neighbours, and suggest trying out a local cafe, park or event.
If you’re prone to depression, it can be easy to neglect the friends you already have, so make the effort of scheduling in meetings in advance, even if it’s just a coffee or walk in the park.
8. Visit a free museum
If you need a shot of inspiration, or an opportunity to expand your mind, take a visit to one of London’s museums.
One of my favourites is the Wellcome Collection in Euston. It has a slightly macabre vibe, combining art with human biology, and their permanent exhibition is fascinating. Downstairs there’s a big relaxed cafe with a book shop and anatomically inspired gifts.
The Natural History Museum is also inspiring with its collection of dinosaur skeletons and the gigantic whale skeleton in the Hintze Hall. There’s masses to explore, from how we evolved as humans, to the gems and minerals collection. It can get very busy, so try and get there in the morning, so you can leave before midday.
9. See something live
Seeing a live concert or performance can really raise your spirits, help you connect to your emotions, and stimulate your creativity.. There’s live events on every day around London, from local community halls to international artists at the Southbank Centre.
I used to enjoy going to the Wigmore Hall for intimate classical music concerts as a local music student. These days I prefer the small experimental venues like Cafe Oto in Dalston, when you can see everything from traditional folk to Yoko Ono.
10. Practice mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness is one of the best ways to guard against depression, and develop a calm state of mind. It’s about noticing what’s going on in your mind, so you can begin to witness your thoughts and emotions as they come and go.
There’s a few places around London where you can take an 8 week MBCT course, which is a great introduction. You’ll be in a small group, and your teacher will lead you through a series of simple exercises.
There’s also the option of mindfulness meditation classes at one of the London Buddhist centres, which you can combine with ‘loving kindness’ meditations, which help you develop compassion for yourself and others.
You don’t have to do all of the above to guard against depression – do what appeals to you or what you need. If I had to choose the most effective of all of these for me, it would probably be mindfulness, exercise and staying connected with others. Make a schedule which works for you – it may be enough to keep depression at bay.
How IN Therapy London can help
Sometimes no amount of self care will work for depression – that’s when it might be time to see a therapist. Feel free to reach out if you’d like to start therapy for depression.