If you deal with depression, sporadically or regularly, please read.
I’ve dealt with depression in varying degrees for decades. It’s not pleasant but a reality for many of us.
Recently I’ve been learning new things about the connection between one’s physiology and the thoughts in the mind. When you experience depression, so much of it manifesting in an array of unpleasant thoughts (“you’re a failure” “things can’t get better” “life sucks” etc.) and brooding dismal feelings, it’s very difficult to make the connection to your body. Your physiology—the way your body functions—has a lot to do with your encounter with depression. More than you know.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor so this is not to be taken as professional advice from one trained in medicine. If you suffer from more than mild depression, please seek help from someone trained in medicine and psychotherapy and psychopharmacology.
I’ve learned a few things that help. Here they are and the cost is zero or minimal:
- Get into the sunlight. Exposure to sunlight, without sunglasses, is helpful for increasing your levels of serotonin, which is indispensable for dealing with depression. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that gives you the feeling of well-being. You’ll need to do this for more than a few minutes. I know two people, one of whom is a child of mine, who moved from the cold, wintry region of northern New York (with very long, cold and dark winters) to Southern California. When they either returned to northern New York or reflected on their lives there, they remarked at how little sun there is and how a lot of sun affected their sense of happiness and joie de vivre. No surprise that in areas where there is a lot of precipitation and darkness, the rates of alcohol consumption and other addictions go up. They’ve even taken steps—via sun lamps—in Scandinavian countries to counteract this. SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a very real phenomenon
- Exercise regularly. Do cardio—whether gym, walking, or workouts in your own home. I love weight lifting. Exercise boosts helpful endorphins. We were made to move, not sit. The reality of sedentary occupations and lifestyles in our time means we have to be intentional about this.
- Listen to jazz or rock and roll in the dark and cold months. I learned this on my own. For example, I love film scores. But during the dark and cool months, it’s best for me to listen to music that lifts me, energizes me and gives a sense of play and rowdiness. Heavily emotive music is best for those months with lots of sunshine. So the score to Schindler’s List is better at other times, as much as I love it.
- Get with people, especially those who love you. There’s nothing like good friends and family to quash monsters of the mind. Isolation only makes things bleaker.
We’ll explore this more in future posts. This is something many of us endure and deal with. So any helps here will improve our quality of life.
Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy (David D. Burns)
The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time (Alex Korb & Daniel J. Siegel)