Depression is a serious condition that affects 1 in 10 people in the United States. Women are 70% more likely than men to experience depression during their lifetime, and the average age of onset is 32 years old. 80% of people are not being treated for depression. These are scary statistics for one of the most common and debilitating illnesses of our time.
Research shows that the most effective treatments for Major Depression are medication and therapy. Medication helps to bring the brain chemistry back into balance, and therapy helps to learn more effective ways to cope with a stressful and unfulfilling life. If you are a person that has been diagnosed and treated for depression, whether or not you are taking antidepressants to manage those symptoms, there are things you can do to diminish the impact depression has on your life.
The brain functions better when there is some degree of routine in all areas of life. It doesn’t need to be rigid and unyielding, but rather a guideline to build stability into one’s life. Eating a nutritious and balanced meal at regular intervals is one of the most important things in managing depression. When depressed, the tendency is to overeat or not eat at all. Because the body needs the energy that food produces, planning for 4 – 6 small meals that are rich in Omega-3 and B12 can be effective in creating an environment for the body to fight off depression. In addition, some supplements have been shown to boost the mood, but always check with your doctor first.
Not only does exercise produce endorphins that allow a sense of well-being, it creates a space to quiet thoughts and focus on the activity. Doing some kind of activity (walking, dancing, basketball) that increases the heart rate for only 20 minutes a day will have a long term benefit on both mind and body. If you can’t do 20 minutes, start with 5 minutes.
America is one of the most sleep deprived nations in the world. No surprise given the fact that most people are stretched to their limits in terms of time. The recommended amount of sleep for the average person is 7 to 9 hours nightly. One of the impacts with lack of sleep is stress and/or depression. Everyone is slightly different and must find the amount that allows for energy and focus. ‘Sleep hygiene’ is an important element in setting the stage for improved sleep. This includes when, where, and how we prepare for sleep.
Our brain needs an adequate amount of sun to ‘reset’ itself. When this is not possible, brain chemistry – and mood – can be affected. In addition, sunlight can be a powerful tool for improving sleep.
Mindfulness is the ‘buzz word’ in recent days, but the fact is that learning to be in the moment prevents the focus from ruminating about the past or worrying about the future, both common elements in those experiencing depression. Try this for a moment – sit back, take a deep breath, and describe what you see in front of you. This is a mindful moment. Keep it up!
Statistics show that people who help others by volunteering are less focused on what ails them. If you think about a time when you were doing something for someone else, you may remember a feeling of fulfillment, or at least notice that your focus was external as opposed to internal. This is one goal and benefit of helping someone else, thus helping yourself.
I’d love to talk to you about how therapy can help you manage depression. Another source, which gives more information and detail about managing depression, is the The Depression Cure by Stephen Ilardi.