Clinical Depression is diagnosed when an individual meets 5 or more of these 9 criteria:
- Depressed mood or irritable most of the day, nearly every day
- Decreased interest or pleasure in most activities
- Significant change in appetite
- Change in sleep: Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Psychomotor agitation
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness or excessive guilt
- Diminished ability to think, concentrate, or increased indecisiveness
- Suicidal thoughts
Depression can impair a person’s ability to function in social, occupational and educational settings. If you think you may be suffering from depression or are interested in depression prevention, read on to learn a few strategies that you can start using today.
Thoughts, emotions and behavior all influence one another. We may be used to thinking about how our feelings are affecting the way we interact with the world, but our behavior also affects the way we feel and think. We have a lot more control over our behavior than we do our feelings, and those of us who struggle with depression can use that to our advantage.
How does exercise help mood?
- Releases endorphins and raises levels of norepinephrine and dopamine, “feel good” chemicals in our brains that can trigger feelings of euphoria and improve concentration
- Improves overall health and immune system function which improves quality of life
- Raises core body temperature which can reduce tension and have a calming effect
- Provides a ‘time out’ to take a break and do something good for yourself
- Increases energy level
- Improves self-esteem due to feelings of accomplishment and use of will power
The challenge is that when people feel depressed, they often feel less motivated. That’s why it is best to have a go-to plan of action for when your mood drops before it does. Exercise is a relatively easy go-to plan because it does not have to require a lot of thought. You just have to get up and move! What can you do today to get your heart rate up? Take your body there, and your mood will follow.
2.) Take nutritional supplements
If you suffer from depressive episodes, talk with your doctor about scheduling an appointment for a physical and any lab work that can identify medical issues or deficiencies that may be contributing to your depressed mood. For a recommendation of what tests to ask for, click here. Physical health problems such as Hyperthyroidism, low testosterone, Diabetes and vitamin deficiencies can affect mood, so it is smart to be proactive in understanding your body.
Aim for eating whole foods in their natural state, and avoid heavily processed foods as often as possible. Vitamins B6, B12, D, Magnesium and Omega 3 EPA and DHA are the most common deficiencies recorded in depressed people. Evidence is growing that, in many cases, nutrition and dietary supplementation may be just as effective as psychiatric drugs for treating mild to moderate Depression. Some supplements (B-12, Omega 3’s) can boost the effectiveness of antidepressants if they are necessary. Many supplements, such as Omega 3 EPA and DHA, have little to no negative side effects, are easy to obtain and are relatively inexpensive. Check out Dr. Andrew Weil’s Vitamin Advisor to get expert recommendations on the supplements that may be most helpful for you.
3.) Shift your attention
Just like behavior, the way we think can become habit. If your default mode of thinking is not empowering you to be your best self, commit to purposefully changing your thinking for a few minutes each morning. Even if you don’t feel like it, understand that it is possible to retrain your brain to have automatic thoughts that contribute to your wellbeing rather than deplete it, and choose to take this step toward feeling better.
Start your day with thinking of 3 things for which you are grateful. They don’t have to be profound things. They can be related to your health, home, relationships…or anything else that you appreciate. You can write these things down, or simply think about them for a few seconds.
Then take a minute to visualize the way you’d like the day to go. I don’t mean winning the lottery or anything else that is dependent on something outside of your control. I mean something that YOU can control. Do you want to be productive at work? Make time to exercise? Change your tone of voice in conversations with your spouse? Whatever it is that would help make the day better…set yourself up for success by visualizing what that would look like and set an intention to pursue that vision for today.
If your inner voice speaks negatively about your potential for today (and it likely will…), imagine watching that thought drift by like a sailboat on water. Don’t judge the thought, just let it pass. Then refocus on your morning vision. With practice, you can teach your inner voice to become something that lifts you up and encourages you instead of tearing you down.
4.) Talk about it
It isn’t fair. Everyone gets down sometimes, but difficult circumstances aren’t always doled out equally. Some people have to work a lot harder to maintain mood stability because of genetics or environmental factors that they didn’t ask for. Sometimes the weight of sadness feels so heavy that it can become isolating and impair other aspects of our lives. It may feel like there is no one else who can understand where you’re coming from or what it is like to carry your pain. Maybe you are worried you will be a burden or that people may think of you differently if you share how you’re really feeling. If you don’t feel comfortable talking with emotionally intelligent friends or family members about how you’re feeling, try finding a support group or a trained counselor that you can connect with in a judgement free, filter free zone. The process of releasing your feelings out loud can create moments of insight that will help you move past barriers and into the kind of life you most want and deserve.
The process of overcoming something that hurts the way depression does can give your life a kind of depth and richness that you may never have had without that experience. It can help you empathize on a deeper level with others, live more consciously and be more fully present in day to day life. Give yourself a chance to achieve emotional resilience by using some of these strategies for overcoming depression today. For more in depth help with treating depression naturally, please call me, or another qualified mental health professional for assistance.