Overcoming Depression

How To Overcome Depression

Human beings are made to overcome obstacles. We are gifted with an incredible ability to persevere. We endeavor and we achieve. We hurt, but we also heal. Setbacks are an integral part of our life. With the right attitude and a strong will, we can always make strong comebacks. Life always gives chances to those who are patient enough to take them. Nietzsche correctly observed that “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Depression can kill, though!

Overcoming depression can be a long and arduous journey. The first and most important thing to know about depression is that its symptoms cannot be ignored. It can accelerate quickly. Therefore, it must be curbed right from the start. If you experience five or more of the following symptoms regularly, you might be on the verge of experiencing a major depressive episode:

  • Irritable mood
  • Sleep disorder (lack or excess of sleep)
  • Lack of interest and low motivation
  • Feeling of guilt or resentment
  • Lassitude and lack of self-care
  • Lack of concentration (decline in work performance and grades can be an indicator)
  • Eating disorder (Lack of appetite or excessive eating)
  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Behavior leading to self-harm (suicidal thoughts)

Statistics reveal that depression is a fairly modern phenomenon. The younger generations are more susceptible to it because modern technology has changed the societies rather drastically. Most societies are still adjusting to the psychological and social consequences of technological changes. The internet has made our lives generally easier, but it has also made us more lethargic and physically inactive. Several studies reveal that physical inactivity leads to mood changes and may lead to depression. By the same token, physical activity reduces depression and improves physiological wellbeing by reducing stress and anxiety. Physical activity is a human requirement. For the most part of history, human beings were hunters and farmers. Therefore, our bodies require a certain level of activity to stay healthy for evolutionary reasons. One of the greatest challenges of modern life is to find time for physical activities. Most modern jobs require little or no physical exertion. Such a lifestyle can lead to very serious physical and mental health issues. The best part about physical activity is that it is generally safe and a low cost way of depression management. A physically active lifestyle normally also leads to other benefits such as avoidance of drugs and smoking, healthy diet, and intellectual stimulation. Routine physical activity can also help to prevent the relapse of depression. Among older people, generally exercise works better than anti-depressants and limited research suggests that physical exercise can reduce postnatal depression. Regular physical activities help our brains release dopamine and serotonin, that help us feel good. Most anti-depressant target these enzymes.

‘Getting started’ with a new habit is always a difficult issue. Physically inactive people should start with smaller achievable goals and review their task completion, regularly.  The duration and exertion level should increase gradually. Walking, swimming, weight training, and bicycling can all be great exercises. Activities such as Yoga, Tai Cai, and dancing can also be immensely beneficial. 30 minutes of moderate to intense physical exercise can help people to maintain a very healthy lifestyle. We all need to understand that an inactive life style is a catalyst to anxiety and depression and regular exercise relives mental and muscular tension. Achieving the daily task will also improve self-image and looks. It is always great to plan out physical activities with other people to maintain motivation. At first, these activities may not seem very enjoyable but once they become a part of the routine, it becomes difficult to deny their benefits and also become more interesting. Participating in spots can also trigger greater interest in regular physical activities.

However, it must be noted that physical activity should not replace standard treatment, especially in cases with severe depression.

Another important life-style adjustment to make is the regular intake of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in certain marine algae and fish. According to statistics, depression appears less frequently in countries where people eat large amount of fish. Many scientists believe that fish oil can prevent and treat depression and mood swings.

The Omega-3s interact with mood-related molecules inside the brain. They are anti-inflammatory in nature and help relieve depression. Omega-3 has been used as an add-on therapy for people taking antidepressants with limited or no benefits. Meta-analyses generally indicate that omega-3s are effective. Omega-3s have also been studied in mood disorders such as postpartum depression. The results have been promising. Similarly, Omega-3s are known to be beneficial in the depressed phase of bipolar disorder. A dose of 1 g/day to 10g/day are usually recommended by the doctors, depending on the severely of depression.  More research will reveal the nature and work of Omega-3s and after substantial testing it will become a conclusive recommendation for people suffering from mental health conditions.

One of the most overlooked sources of overcoming depression is absolutely free. It is no wonder that people generally feel depressed in seasons with little sun exposure. The availability of sunlight impacts mood greater than rainfall, temperature, or any other environmental factor.

Sunlight is responsible for improving bone health, immune system, and muscle health. It is a great source of Vitamin D.  It ensured reduced inflammation and controls cell growth. According to some statistics almost 40% of people have a Vitamin D deficiency. That’s probably because most of us spend a great part of time indoors. Sunlight is way stronger than indoor light and it is required to set our internal clock –which regulates hormones. If we spend too much time indoors, the clock will stop malfunctioning leaving the hormones unregulated. A 5-15 minutes of sunlight is very beneficial for overall health. It can be very beneficial for mental health patients, especially when used in combination with other treatments. When exposed to sunlight, our bodies release serotonin that not only boasts our mood, but helps us sleep better. Serotonin and melatonin work together to help us sleep well.

Sleeping well keeps us physically and mentally healthy. People who wake up at different times and more prone to depression. An average 7-8 hours of sleep is required by human bodies to function properly.

Getting sound sleep is becoming an ever-growing issue. That can be achieved by ensuring that you don’t use your computer or cell-phone at least an hour before going to sleep. Doing so might prevent the production of melatonin, which lulls us down to sound sleep. A good deal of physical activity also ensures a timely sleep.

Lastly, one must try to find distractions in life. Dwelling too much in the past or future is a sure way of remaining depressed. If you are a ruminator, you must look to change your lifestyle and learn to live at the moment. The demand of work and life occupies a lot of our thoughts and we live in times in which killing mosquitoes is easier than killing thoughts. We are generally spending too much time, alone. The more time we spend alone, the more we will ruminate. Mindfulness helps us live in the moment. It can be learned. However, it is more about ‘unlearning’ rather than ‘learning’. One can also curb rumination by spending time leaning on new arts and crafts or engaging in social activities. Human beings are spending an unprecedented amount of time, alone. Half of the American report having no close friends. It is a dangerous situation. Our forefather were hunter-gatherers and farmers. Their survival relied on social connections and teamwork. Modern times do not require that level of social connectivity. We mostly rely on screens for most of our communication. Some of us eschew face-to-face interactions. Face-to-face interactions produce different levels of hormones compared to online interactions. Consequently, people are more vulnerable to loneliness and depression.

Depression, like any other hurdle in life, can be overcome with patience, discipline, humor, and meaningful changes in our lifestyles. We can’t live forever; however, we can improve the quality of our lives by being more knowledgeable and sensitive to mental health issues.