Rising Up From Depression
Depression typically breeds disordered thinking and behavioral habits that perpetuate more depression, which leads to more hopelessness, breeding more such habits… in a self-perpetuating negative feedback loop. You may have heard the saying “neurons that fire together wires together.” This is relevant to depression in both negative and positive ways. If we are so deeply depressed that we are unable to take the necessary actions to heal, our neural pathways continue to connect as depression and send us down the slippery slope of more entrenched depression. The good news is that we can use the same tendency to create pathways that lead to hope and recovery. We do this by making just one positive choice that seems relevant and as the behavior related to that choice is practiced, results lead to positive cycles that perpetuate wellness; eventually allowing us to feel the hope and confidence to lead lives that are engaged and meaningful.
Antidepressants can have a role in helping depression feel more manageable. They aren’t a magic pill, but they can lift the fog that keeps us from caring about our lives and acting towards our wellbeing.
Here are some choices that can lead to a significant difference.
Diet has a vital role in helping us cope with our emotions. The chemical messengers in our brains, called neurotransmitters, are made from the proteins in our foods. In fact, our gut is often considered to be our “second nervous system” and eating a healthy, balanced diet can go far in terms of improving our mood.
When we are depressed, eating either becomes a chore or an escape. Either way, it can lead us toward poor dietary choices. Fast foods, filled with sugars, grease, and toxic additives can become our go-to. While these comfort foods seem like a good idea at the time, they don’t provide the nutrients necessary for optimal mind/body functioning; and they create inflammation in the body and the brain, causing a wide range of disorders and diseases.
The Mediterranean Diet is getting high marks from Neurologists as very beneficial for the brain. You can find a lot of information online about this diet.
Avoid alcohol and other mind-altering substances
While alcohol may temporarily relieve us, it is a depressant by nature. Chronic use results in more harm than good as it impairs our ability to make decisions and creates even more depression.
While research is still inconclusive about the effects of cannabis on depression, I have found that clients who stepped back or experimented with the scheduling, dosage, and frequency made significant strides in managing their depression.
Exercise is a natural antidepressant! It creates and releases biochemicals that help us to feel better, think more clearly, and have the energy to do things that bring us pleasure
Balance your use of electronic devices
Quality sleep and time in nature lift our moods. Most of us spend way too much time with our eyes and brains glued to our electronic devices. This disrupts our sleep/wake rhythms, throwing our entire system out of balance. Most adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep. Chronic sleep irregularity or deprivation impacts our mental health in significant ways.
Be discerning with Social Media
Facebook and Instagram photos of our friends enjoying jolly moments full of fun can trick us into believing that everyone is happy except us. Use caution about making false comparisons with others and potential self-isolation. A picture may be worth a thousand words …. but all the words may not be accurate!
Connect to the positive and avoid the negative
We are very susceptible to the influences of our environments. Be discerning about who and what you choose to expose yourself to. People, music, and all forms of media can influence us positively or negatively. Notice who brings you down and who feels good to be around. Be careful about your news sources and how much time you spend watching the news. We can stay informed without binging on sensational or overwhelming news coverage. Listen to music that lifts you up and watch shows that make you smile or touch your heart. Stay watchful of negative triggers and avoid them.
Findings in neuroscience research reveal that expressing feelings of gratitude for good things in our lives creates fundamental and positive changes in our brains. Gratitude is an awareness of something or someone that is good in our lives; it is an emotion that feels like a soft, warm sensation in the heart area, and it is also a character trait or attitude. Gratitude is cultivated as it is practiced. As we practice focusing on things we have in our lives, our brain becomes better at discovering similar things, and eventually, it seems as if good things come to find us as we open ourselves to seeing what is good.
Expressing gratitude affects our brain in 3 major ways:
- Releases dopamine, which affects our sense of pleasure, reward, motivation, good feelings, and compassion.
- Boosts serotonin, which is known as the “happiness chemical”. It directly contributes to positive feelings of well-being and stabilizes our mood.
- Creates greater activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, which is the area of the brain linked to learning and making decisions. Studies of brain scans show that there is more benefit to this part of our brain if we actually express our feelings of gratitude out loud vs thinking of them.
Examples of gratitude practice:
1, Start a gratitude journal and list 3 good things at the end of the day that happened. They can be small. Something nice in nature, a gracious gesture from someone, a kindness either received, given, observed, the sun’s warmth, the sweetness of a pet … noticing the small stuff is a huge deal.
2. Tell someone about something good that happened.
3. Thank someone you are appreciative of.
4. Allow yourself to receive someone else’s thanks or appreciation
Keep in mind that verbalizing and writing gratitude has more impact than thinking grateful thoughts.
These choices and behaviors can empower you to create the good feelings and experiences that you want and deserve in your life. While there are many people, resources, and tools available to help you heal, it is deeply affirming to discover the power of your desire and willingness to create and allow goodness in your life.
Help is just a phone call away. Our therapies are available to you at a moment’s notice.