Article by Jennifer Maez
Depression is a form of mental illness that has many causes. It is a chemical imbalance of the brain, in which the body does not produce enough endorphins and serotonin to properly manage the emotions which arise from negative thinking. This chemical imbalance may be caused by faulty processing centers of the brain, stressful events, genetic vulnerability, or many other factors (health.harvard.edu) Depression manifests itself as a general feeling of melancholy, sadness, helplessness, fatigue, irritability, loss of sex drive, and lack of enthusiasm for any aspect of life. It can affect our daily functioning, our relationships, and our outlook on the world. It can make us feel like we just don’t want to get out of bed. It can even lead to suicidal thoughts, and in the worst case scenario, suicidal actions.
Depression can be combined with many other forms of mental illness, or it can present itself alone. Feeling depressed often leads to attempting to get rid of the negative feelings through overuse of substances such as alcohol, smoking, and drugs. Often these attempts at changing the way one feels through drinking, etc. simply make the problem worse. Alcohol is a depressant, and when consumed, tends to reinforce the negative feelings and create a negative feedback loop, in which the person is consumed with thoughts that helped create the Depression in the first place (i.e.: no one loves me, I am worthless, I can’t do anything right, etc.).
Fortunately, there is a way to break the cycle. Although many of the actions required to help break it are very difficult to do when in a depressed state, they have profound effects. Exercise is one of the best ways to help beat the cycle of depression, and you don’t have to be a bodybuilder to feel them. Walking has been shown to have meditative effects, since it is easier to quiet the mind when walking. It also has the effect of releasing endorphins, which are the body’s “feel-good” hormones. More vigorous exercise has these same effects, and also has the added benefit of increasing circulation and improving cardiovascular health.
When it is difficult to get out of bed, or look in the mirror, it is very difficult to perform proper personal hygiene; but taking the time to take care of yourself has mental benefits. Putting on makeup and brushing your hair sends a signal to the subconscious that you love yourself enough to take care of yourself. When you feel more attractive, you have better self-esteem and a more positive outlook.
Eating healthy will also have a good effect. Cutting out sugar can help with reducing the “sugar crash” that many people feel shortly after consuming refined sugars, including many refined carbohydrates. Replacing sugar with protein and fiber can help provide sustained energy, reducing the feelings of fatigue and mental fog commonly associated with eating refined carbs.
A couple of herbal/natural remedies that have shown promise in reducing the mental and physical feelings of depression are St. John’s Wort and SAMe. St. John’s Wort is an herb that’s been used for thousands of years to treat depression. It has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat depression in the United States, but it’s a common depression treatment in Europe. It may be helpful if you have mild or moderate depression. St. John’s Wort may interfere with other medications, including antidepressants and chemotherapy drugs. It is important to speak with your doctor about using St. John’s Wort if you are on any other medications (mayoclinic.org).
SAM-e (S-adenosylmethionine) is a compound that your body normally produces. It is involved with the production of neurotransmitters in the body, among other things. The line between “natural” and “non-natural” gets crossed here, in that there is no naturally-derived source of this supplement available on the market today. It also has not been approved by the FDA. It must be produced synthetically. But since it is normally produced in the body, and has been shown to have a strong effect on the treatment of depression in Europe, and since it works to help the body produce its own neurotransmitters instead of affecting them chemically, I have included it in this article. It is also being used as a treatment for osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia, and has shown positive effects in joint health. (healthcentral.com)
These suggestions are a good place to start in your treatment of Depression. If the feelings persist, be sure to speak with your doctor, as depression is a serious illness that should not be ignored. But many people find that small steps, with a little help, are all that is needed to get back “above the happy line”.
Jennifer Maez is a freelance writer who, after living in 12 different states, currently resides in Colorado. She has a B.A. in Psychology. Jennifer enjoys hiking, plant identification, and meditation, and is a self-taught student of natural and holistic medicine. She enjoys cooking paleo dishes for her family, and is currently working on a paleo sauces cookbook.