Modern society seems to be affected by depression at epidemic proportions. Depression is one of the most common types of mental disorders, affecting about 340 million people worldwide.
Depression goes beyond the seasonal sad feeling that accompanies loss, weather, or sad memories of major events in life- known as situational depression. Clinical (also called endogenous) depression, is triggered from within and is not related to external situations.
Depression can happen at any age - even young children, adolescents and college-going adults get diagnosed with clinical depression; it prevails in all social classes and cultures. However, gender plays an important role in putting you at risk for developing depression - affecting 25 percent of women versus about 10 percent of men.
Depression is the most treatable mental problem. However, approximately 50 percent of patients stop their conventional therapy because of unpleasant side effects or other concerns such as fear of addiction to their drug therapy.
Some lifestyle changes and natural remedies can help treat depression as good as traditional antidepressant therapies. They are:
A study published in 2005 in the "Archives of Internal Medicine" reported that brisk walking 35 minutes a day, five times a week (or 60 minutes a day, three times a week) leads to significant reduction of mild to moderate depression symptoms.
Researchers believe that 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise can lift mood, reduce stress and boost self-esteem. However, the link between exercise and alleviated symptoms of depression isn’t clear.
Exercise helps us by raising our body temperature, which calms us. When we exercise, our body releases chemicals- endorphins and norepinephrine, which make us feel good. Endorphins boost our immune system and reduce our perception of pain. Norepinephrine is a chemical that our brain makes, it helps to improve our mood.
Redirecting your energy into positive channels increases your serotonin levels. Low serotonin receptor function is associated with poor mood, and high serotonin levels are associated with better mood. Scientists have discovered that the way you think can alter neurotransmitter levels.
Mark Sisson has written some excellent articles on the importance of sunshine and light exposure. In those articles, he has mentioned how working outside can increase your happiness and health. Although working out in the open may not be possible for everyone, one can prioritise their time to spend at least 30 minutes a day outdoors.
Chop wood, mess around in the garden, walk the dog, take a hike, ride a bike, go canoeing, go skiing-do whatever you enjoy. Researchers show that exposure to bright light helps in increasing serotonin levels and hence alleviate depression symptoms.
Take Herbal Supplements
There are various herbs that contain medicinal powers to cure a variety of ailments. St. John’s wort has been used for centuries by people all over the world and is one of the most promising herbs for treating depression. Other beneficial herbs include passionflower, lavender, lemon balm, Valerian, oat leafy tops, and nettles. But, you must seek advice from a certified herbalist or health care provider before seeking resort in these supplements.
A study at the George Eby Research Institute found that when 125 to 300 milligrams of magnesium was given to patients with major depression at mealtime and bedtime, patients began to recover from their symptoms in less than one week.
So, consume foods rich in magnesium, such as- seeds and nuts (pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds are good choices, as well as almonds and cashews), beans and legumes (black beans, navy beans, soybeans), dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, Swiss chard, and collard greens) and whole grains.
Caution- Take any of the mentioned supplements after consulting your doctor.
Follow a Routine
A routine which makes your one day melt into another is what you need when depressed. Set a gentle daily schedule and stick by it. It can help you get on track. Depression can make you want to pull back from life. Don’t give up your responsibilities at home and work.
Depression can naturally be treated by staying involved and having daily responsibilities. Fulfilling these duties evoke a sense of accomplishment in depressed people and helps in realising that they are not good-for-nothing.
Revoke Negative Thoughts
The fight against depression is mostly mental. To win it, you must change the way you think. Depression makes your mind to think of worst possible conclusions. The best way to retort it is logic. It will take practice to believe in yourself. Beat back those negative thoughts when you feel you are the most worthless person on this planet; beat them before they get out of control.
Although, it is difficult to sleep while you are depressed but not taking enough sleep makes the condition worse. Try making some changes to your lifestyle- go to bed and get up at a fixed time daily. Remove computer or TV from your bedroom- these are mere distractions.
Come Out of the Rut
Push yourself to do something new- volunteer at an animal rescue NGO, learn a new language, take bakery classes. When we do something new, the levels of dopamine which is associated with pleasure, enjoyment, and learning, alter our mind.
If nothing seems fun anymore, keep trying to have fun anyways. Using a combination of high doses of fun, bright lights or nature exposure, the right kind of exercise, and diet, you can help fight mild depression and optimize your mental performance.
Read more articles on Understanding Depression.
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