Resulting from a complex interaction of several factors, classic depression essentially interferes with an individual’s ability in his/her daily life and can prevent him/her from functioning at work or school. This can generate powerful stress aggravating the well-being and mental health of the affected person and those around him. Yes, depression is awful. But, contrary to what one often imagines, one can overcome depression and anxiety. Today we go over how to overcome depression through 5 lifestyle changes.
Depression can lead to a variety of consequences. Suicide is unfortunately a possible consequence of depression. In fact, 45% to 70% of suicide attempts are associated with a depressive state! Looking at stats similar to the one I mentioned above, people often think, “Will depression ever go away?” If you are someone thinking. “Can you actually overcome depression?”, I have good news for you, there is light at the end of the tunnel! Stick with me to the end of the article and I promise you will feel much better about yourself. We’ll discuss how to make lifestyle changes and their impact on overcoming depression.
WHAT IS DEPRESSION?
Depression (or depressive disorder) is a common psychological illness that, through its mood disorders, severely disrupts daily life. To date, literature has explained depression as the result of the interaction of a set of biological factors, psychological, and social factors. Depression is often characterized by mood disturbances.
Nearly one in five people have suffered or will suffer from depression in their lifetime. Although antidepressants are sometimes essential, they have limitations. Lifestyle changes can be as effective as medication or counseling to overcome depression and anxiety, according to a study published in the American Psychologist, the flagship journal of the American Psychological Association (APA). Roger Walsh of the University of California has spoken about such changes labeling them “therapeutic lifestyle changes.”
“Lifestyle changes can bring significant therapeutic benefits, but are not sufficiently appreciated, taught and used,” he mentions. “In the 21st century, therapeutic lifestyles could become central to mental health, medicine and public health,” he says.
Why Does Depression Occur? The Downward Spiral
When a person is depressed, there is usually no motivation to do anything. We avoid going out, meeting friends, or playing sports. When we are sad or depressed, we tend to avoid company or any sort of movement. If this condition persists for longer periods of time, depression may be behind it. Depression is the result of several mechanisms that are still poorly known. Several factors promote its occurrence. Life-related situations and events, sometimes dating back to childhood, can contribute to depression:
- Disrupted relationships with parents, difficult experiences, etc.
- Death of a close person: The state of mourning is a psychological reaction to the loss of a loved one. A real depressive episode could complicate this painful but “normal” reaction.
- Losing your job
- Family or professional conflict…
Overcome Depression: The Upward Spiral
If you look at the downward spiral, you might ask yourself: How can you overcome depression when the spiral of a depressed mood pulls you further and further down? The good thing is that the spiral also works in the opposite direction. The “downward spiral” can thus become an “upward spiral”. But how exactly is this supposed to work?
While we cannot directly change our feelings, we influence how we behave. The first step on the way to the upward spiral is therefore to pursue activities. This requires a lot of effort from the individual who is trying to overcome depression. At first, it can feel like you’re swimming against the current. But don’t worry, it’s worth it.
What Are Lifestyle Changes You Can Make?
1. Start Exercising
Exercising at home or going to the gym can relax your mind and distract you from your negative thoughts and worries. Try to move around every day, for example, take a walk, or take the stairs more often instead of taking the elevator. Keep it simple and enjoyable.
Exercise helps to feel better by reducing anxiety and depression. Similarly, it also improves cognitive performance in adults and reduces age-related memory loss in the elderly. Likewise, it also increases the formation of new neurons (nerve cells) in the brain.
Once you’ve started exercising regularly, just make it a routine to keep the depression at bay. Michael Sachs of Temple University in Philadelphia said in an interview: “The scientific literature makes it clear that a depressive state and physical inactivity go hand in hand.” If you start to lead an active life, exercise regularly, you will be less likely to experience depression!
Study Proving Exercise Helps Overcome Depression
A clinical study showed that physical exercises worked as effectively as depression medications.
The 10-month study at the University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, followed 156 adults with major depressive disorder (CTD). Randomly selected individuals received antidepressant medication while others exercised aerobics. An evaluation took place at the beginning of the study, then 4 months later, and finally 6 months after the end of the study. The researchers found that not only was exercise as effective as the drug but people who exercised were statistically less likely to relapse from depression than those who took the drug.
These results are consistent with other earlier studies. According to Dr. Jack Raglin of Indiana University, who is an authority on exercise and depression:
“When you compare physical activity with other widely accepted forms of treatment, such as antidepressants, individualized counseling or psychotherapy, you find that physical activity is just as effective.”
2. Reading Books To Overcome Depression
Books are medicine. They can be. They are patient, quiet, and do not complain. This is something that books can do better than humans. Of course, they can also do a lot more: entertain, disturb, delight, or anything else that is common to all things that distract people.
But that is not what this is about. It’s about books that can be a bit of a healing ointment for fallen hearts and minds. In this case: for those who have lost their footing on the slippery ground of depression and seek some solace between two book covers in which they disappear for a moment.
Types Of Books You Should Read
Instead of going through all of those depression-related books that offer less information and more anxiety, I’ve found that there are 3 types of books you should read specifically while dealing with depression. The first type is those that offer understanding and knowledge about your problem. They explain the latest research and give you better know-how of this situation. The second type is books that inspire hope. Authors that write these books have typically gone through this phase themselves. Their main purpose is to instill in you the fact that if the author can get out of this situation so can you! The third type is books that consist of exercises(usually recommended
by an experienced therapist/psychiatrist). By implementing such practices one can get good results from these books.
Book I Would Recommend
The Noonday Demon is Andrew Solomon’s National Book Award-winning, bestselling, and a transformative masterpiece on depression. It covers the first two types exquisitely and will help you a lot. This book changed my assumptions about depression and shares the experience Solomon had himself while dealing with depression.
Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns is a good replacement for a therapist. This book comes under the third type. Whenever someone has asked me regarding a therapist for depression, I always recommend them this book
3. Eating Healthy To Overcome Depression
It has been proved on several occasions that our mental health and nutrition go hand in hand. Adopting a Mediterranean-style diet reduces the risk of depression by 33%. This diet is rich in mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids. The essential ones are omega-3s which help in the proper functioning of the nervous system.
Recent work goes even further, highlighting the value of omega-3 supplementation to treat depression. “It has been shown that taking such dietary supplements alone improves depression in women”, notes Psychiatrist Dr. Guillaume Fond, who routinely prescribes such supplementation to his patients with anxiety or depressive disorders. He usually prescribes at least 1 g of EPA and 400 mg of DHA per day, and to which he willingly adds vitamin D.
A person’s appetite changes during the depression. Some suffer from weight loss and deficiency of nutrients while others experience cravings. Both extremes harm our bodies severely. For our mind to heal, our body needs balance. It is important to regain this balance by eating a good and healthy diet. Proper nutrition does not have to be time-consuming or unusual.
You Are What You Eat
The right diet is one of the most effective ways to overcome depression. Depression can be exhausting. The constant concern with one’s own feelings can be really tough. Affected people should take care of their bodies properly. Depressed people have been proven to be restored by a balanced and healthy diet. The motto is:
Our body is a temple in which the soul dwells. We should maintain this temple so that the soul feels comfortable in it.
4. Daily Light Therapy
Light therapy has similar efficacy to antidepressants in the management of a moderate to severe depressive episode. The mechanisms are now better understood, as Explained by Dr. Pierre A. Geoffroy, senior lecturer at the University of Paris: “Beyond the effects on the biological clock that we have known and studied for more than forty years, we have been able to identify direct pathways between the retina and centers for regulating emotion in the brain. We have found effects on the serotonin system in certain areas of the brain that are known to be involved in depression.”
Light controls the formation of melatonin and serotonin. Sunlight raises the level of serotonin, which among other things has a positive effect on our mood. Melatonin formation decreases due to the brightness. That is why light therapy can brighten the mood in a person.
Recommended Light Exposure
For maximum efficiency, daily light exposure of up to 10,000 lux is recommended(artificial light). Ideally one should expose themselves for half an hour each morning until remission. A lamp with a CE-marked medical device should be chosen and placed less than a meter from the face. Experts say the portion of artificial light in the morning hours is particularly effective.
Over the past twenty years, numerous forms of therapy have been developed to counter depression and anxiety. People use meditation to overcome depression in many ways today. Scientific studies show that regular meditation strengthens the ability to control worries and fears. The regular relaxation reaction forms a counterweight to stress and gets your body out of the permanent alert.
Meditation makes a person psychologically flexible. It trains your mind to react better to situations that cause stress. Similarly, it also helps to become aware of one’s emotions more quickly. Being able to accept one’s emotions is essential as it prevents them from having power over us.
Meditating has also proven its worth in those who have suffered from burnout or depression. They were able to prevent relapse and lead a normal life again. Meditation is a complementary help that can get your own emotional world back under control.
A Simple Activity You Can Do
Take a sheet of paper and write down everything you do from sunrise to bedtime, throughout a typical day. Write an “R” in front of the activities that rejuvenate you and an “E” in front of those that exhaust you. Think about it: How do you reduce “E’s” and increase “R’s”? You can’t do anything about certain aspects of your life, accept it. But choose to minimize what pulls you down.
Conclusion: A Study To Prove What I Have Stated Above
Scientists from Amsterdam in the Netherlands wanted to use their analysis to find out how a change in lifestyle in obese women of reproductive age affects their mental health. Scientists searched medical-scientific databases to find studies of this kind. The studies found were then selected for analysis when they measured whether changes in one or more lifestyle components could improve depression and anxiety.
After the scientists had searched the databases extensively, 5 studies with 571 women were available. The analysis showed that lifestyle intervention was beneficial for both depression and anxiety – both of which could be reduced. The researchers concluded that participation in certain activities is effective in reducing depression thus proving their hypothesis.
I promised you at the beginning of the article that by the time you reach here you will have hope, courage, and the motivation to get yourself out of this mental illness. Thus I’ll end this article with one of my favorite quotes:
“Don’t let life discourage you; everyone who got where he is had to begin where he was.” —Richard L. Evans