Depression is often thought of as incurable, and the data show that most people who have had a bout of depression will most likely encounter another bout (or bouts) in the future.
Maybe this is true, but does it have to be?
Do we have to resign to the thought that if you've been depressed before you'll be depressed again?
I'm not so convinced.
And, even if that is the case, it certainly does not mean there's nothing you can do about it and no way to decrease the likelihood of it happening again.
The fact is, there are so many avenues to treating depression (including but not limited to anti-depressants) that it almost seems impossible to think that you are helpless against depression.
For a long time, it was believed that depression was severe sadness, a mental disorder that could be fixed by a reconfiguring of brain chemistry.
Now, although the chemistry is partly true, we know a lot more about how depression works, and what works against it.
Today we're going to look at what is currently known about depression and what options you have in front of you to reduce depression in the short-term, and long term, and look at preventative measures to decrease the likelihood of depression coming back.
The underlying cause of depression has been hypothesized and theorized for thousands of years.
Ancient religious texts blame the wrath of gods, poor luck, or just rewards.
The scientific revolution localized depression to a mental state of being but little could explain why.
Philosophers and existentialists identified suffering, anxiety, confusion, and sadness as inherent parts of being alive and their prescribed method of treatment was to find meaning despite these aspects of life.
Modern neuroscience has demonstrated that whatever the cause for depression, the effects (and treatment) all point to inflammation.
More specifically inflammatory cytokines disrupt the normal balance and production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, epinephrine, and serotonin.
These neurotransmitters are responsible for every single symptom of depression: irregular sleep, feelings of sadness and hopelessness, fatigue, loss of interest, inability to feel positive emotions, difficulty concentrating, etc.
So, what does this mean?
It means that depression can be treated by directly addressing inflammation.
Some anti-depressant medication does this to some degree or works on certain neurotransmitters directly, but the reason they work for some and not others is a mystery because the actual effect they have on the brain is also a mystery.
The truth is, the brain is infinitely complex and a quick fix through medication can work, but often doesn't.
However, if you treat inflammation through a variety of approaches the chances that you'll be able to reduce depression increase exponentially.
How can you reduce depression?
How can you reduce inflammation; diet, exercise, meditation.
For many people, any one of these approaches can be effective enough in itself to reduce depression.
But by combining all three to have an integrative and holistic lifestyle is several magnitudes better.
Let's start with diet.
There are a lot of diet fads and anti-inflammatory articles out there, so how do you weed through what's useless?
Consult an expert; make an appointment with a registered dietician as soon as you can.
They'll be able to help you craft the right diet plan for you to reduce inflammation and address any food and allergy-related questions you have.
Having said that, the standard American diet is very inflammatory.
Foods high in fats, seed oils, sugars, and carbohydrates, are the worst foods you can eat (despite how addictively good they taste).
This means pizza, hamburgers, french fries, chips, crackers, dips, and a lot more of your favorite foods are major contributors to your depression.
If you want to reduce depression you have to change your diet.
Here are some great supplements to get you started: 1000mg of EPAs from fish oil, Magnesium, Complete B Vitamin, Vitamin D3+K2, and a good probiotic.
These supplements have been proven to reduce depression and get your body back on track.
The next lifestyle change that is proven to reduce depression is regular exercise.
Depression makes you feel fatigued, tired, and unmotivated.
As it turns out, to turn that around you need to get moving.
Something as simple as a 10-minute walk every day has been proven to decrease depressive symptoms.
Walking with the addition of bursts of explosive exercise (HIIT) has been shown to do the same and reduce anxiety as well.
Regular exercise is one of the best ways to reduce overall inflammation in the body.
Not to mention it improves heart health, helps you lose weight, increases confidence and self-esteem, and boosts energy levels.
Remember, "a body at rest tends to stay at rest; a body in motion tends to stay in motion."
This is as true of depression as it is of physics.
Part of why depression makes you feel tired is because you stop doing things when you're depressed.
To get that inflammation down in your body and keep your energy high, and reduce depression you need to keep moving.
Again, start small by taking 10-minute walks every day, then gradually build up.
Within a couple of weeks, you'll start to notice a difference and within 6 weeks you'll feel better than you'd think.
This brings us to the third pillar to reduce depression: meditation.
Meditation has been known to reduce inflammation, decreasing depression and anxiety, and stress for decades in the scientific community.
It's been known to do all of that and more for several thousand years by Hindus and Buddhists.
As it turns out, a practice of daily, 5-minute focus meditation reduces inflammation, increases positive mood, increases attention span, and decreases fear, depression, and anxiety.
In fact, there is almost nothing that meditation doesn't improve.
Yet, most people still don't meditate because they become frustrated with how difficult it is (even just for 5 minutes).
Additionally, there isn't any immediate gratification.
The changes brought o by regular mediation are gradual and take several weeks before the improvements are noticed on a conscious level.
Regardless of whether you notice it or not, meditation is one of the greatest tools on the planet to reduce depression, so here's how:
That's it, 5 simple steps to reduce depression through meditation.
Mental health, in most cases, is very simple.
Take care of your body with how you eat and how you move.
Take care of your mind through meditation.
This will take care of the majority of your depression, anxiety, stress, blood pressure, and on and on.
We cannot divide our existence in body and mind, they are too interwoven to do that.
Yet, we continually treat them as if they were separate things.
This integrative approach will help you master depression.
But it takes diligent practice and daily effort.
Eating well, exercising and meditation are every single day kinds of things.
It's not going to reduce depression if you're only doing them once or twice a week.
Unfortunately, there's no magical solution to depression.
It comes down to how you construct your day, how you construct your thoughts, and how you construct your body.
As always, if you are having suicidal thoughts call 9-8-8 or 9-1-1 in an emergency.
And reach out to a mental health professional to get the support you need to make the changes that will change your life forever.
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