Do you constantly feel so exhausted that you can’t even muster enough energy to take out the trash? Do negative thoughts torment you to the point where you can’t even get one hour of decent sleep? Has your appetite dropped significantly over the last several weeks? Do you feel like a burden to those around you?
If the answer is yes, then chances are you might be dealing with depression.
This relatively common mental disorder represents a severe threat, not only to our personal and professional growth but our overall physical health as well.
Fortunately, researchers and mental health professionals have studied this phenomenon extensively and come up with a wide array of science-backed techniques to manage depression and prevent it from ruining your life.
In this article, we’re going to explore three alternative techniques that can help you keep depression in check. But first, let’s take the time to understand what depression is and how it works.
What is Depression?
Depression is a serious mental disorder that can negatively impact our mood, thinking, and behaviour. This condition can manifest through various symptoms, the most common ones being a deep feeling of sadness and a profound loss of interest in any kind of activities.
According to a recent report released by the World Health Organisation, nearly 322 million people from all over the world are living with depression. That’s roughly 4.5% of the global population.
Source: The Global Health Estimates released by the World Health Organisation
Depression is not the same as a passing state of sadness. It is neither a sign of weakness or a condition that will disappear simply by your own will or desire. Without proper treatment for depression, the profound sadness and overall sense of worthlessness can go on for weeks, months, even years.
Taking the necessary steps towards healing is crucial because depression affects not only your personal life but your social and professional life as well.
But where exactly does depression come from? Why are we so prone to developing such a debilitating and emotionally painful condition?
The Evolutionary Roots of Depression
Whether we like it or not, depression is deeply embedded in our genes. Under certain circumstances, each of us can fall victim to this condition.
And the reason why we’re prone to depression is that at some point, this mechanism served an evolutionary purpose.
Tens of thousands of years ago, when humans weren’t the dominant species, our ancestors could often fall victim to all sorts of unexpected dangers. With predators lurking in every bush or tree and the ever-present chance of being assaulted by other tribe members, the danger was part of everyday life.
During those tough times, when getting injured could have easily resulted in death, depression was the mechanism that prompted them to retreat to safety and ‘lick their wounds.’
And it’s the same story today. The only difference is that instead of physical wounds, depression ‘steps in’ when we’re dealing with emotional wounds such as breakups, abandonment, and other types of traumatic events. But severe emotional wounds rarely heal with time.
Overcoming emotional trauma and getting a handle on depression takes active effort on your part.
Here are three science-backed techniques to overcome depression as smoothly and easily as possible:
#1 Mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness meditation cultivates a state of mind that lets you experience each emotion fully and accept it, treating your body and mind as a refuge for feelings, living and learning to enjoy every experience that you go through.
It is a form of self-consciousness training that cultivates present-moment awareness and helps you accept life exactly as it is – without any judgments or labels.
According to a 2014 study, the minds of people who suffer from depression tend to wander a lot. That’s when ruminative thoughts specific to this condition begin to take root, generating negativity and pessimism.
With mindfulness meditation, you learn to practice awareness and give shape to your thoughts, thus preventing your mind from drifting towards darker places.
A meta-analysis on the efficacy of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy revealed this practice proves to be “efficacious as a treatment for relapse prevention for those with recurrent depression, particularly those with more pronounced residual symptoms.”
If you’re thinking about adding mindfulness meditation to your daily routine, check out Headspace or Calm.
#2 Physical Activity
Physical activity is generally perceived as an effective strategy for people suffering from mood disorders. Many specialists strongly support physical activity and its benefits in treating depression, even though some claim that exercising only has a placebo effect and does not really improve the overall mood of depression sufferers.
To clear away any shred of doubt, let’s look at what science has to say.
In a recent meta-analysis, researchers concluded that “exercise has a large and significant antidepressant effect in people with depression.”
But how exactly does exercising impact depression?
After about half an hour of low-to-medium physical activity, the brain releases endorphins which generate a state of wakefulness and well-being. Since emotional support is vital in the process of healing, perhaps you should consider getting involved in team sports.
So, get off the couch and sweat your depression away!
#3 Healthy Eating Habits
Depression and nutrition influence each other. As one article clearly states, “the diet-depression relationship is very complex and even maybe of bidirectional nature.”
In fact, the same article highlights that “growing evidence suggests a potential role of nutrition in the development, course, and treatment of depression, whereas present depressive symptoms may also predict the development of an unhealthy lifestyle including poor diet quality.”
Loss of appetite is one of the primary symptoms of depression. When you don’t eat enough, your body is deprived of crucial nutrients that give you the energy and ‘push’ to maintain an active lifestyle. As a result, you spend all day in bed, doing nothing and feeling sorry for yourself.
To keep yourself healthy (physically and mentally), try to eat three meals a day and diversify your diet. Stay away from junk food and eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible.
Keep depression in check by meditating, getting physically active and eating healthy!
If you need further help regarding any mental health issues, contact us today to arrange your appointment.