'Tis the season to be jolly! We find ourselves right smack dab in the middle of the holidays this week, a time of year known for family gatherings, service to our fellow human beings, and... depression? Many people report an increase in stress and depression during the holidays, despite the fact that as a society, we see the holidays as a time of joy.
The constitution of the World Health Organization states that “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity". Here at Vickie Sorensen's NATURE WORKS, we believe that mental health is an important and often overlooked part of a well-rounded health regimen. Numerous studies have shown that a positive mood is an important predictor of health and longevity.
How do you know if you have depression?
The following symptoms are generally associated with depression:
- feelings of hopelessness and pessimism
- feelings of worthlessness, guilt and helplessness
- frequent changes in mood
- difficulty making decisions
- irregular sleep
- decreased energy
- thoughts of death or suicide
- loss of appetite and/or weight
- persistent sad, anxious or empty mood
Of course, if you are struggling with thoughts of self-harm, death or suicide, PLEASE do not wait another moment.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255
If you are experiencing other symptoms, but do not want to start a prescription medication for your depression, we have compiled a list of non-pharmaceutical ways to boost your mood.
Set a regular bedtime for yourself and stick to it. If you're having a hard time falling asleep, try limiting screen time in the hour before you go to sleep, and opt for reading a book instead!
Get your body moving! When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Studies have also shown that those who exercise tend to sleep better- so sleep and exercise walk hand-in-hand when it comes to fighting depression.
Up to 73% of the human brain is water, so if you're chronically dehydrated your brain may not be able to function as well as it could be. Water is important for your body to be able to transport nutrients to the brain, as well as essential for healthy neuron signal transfer.
You can increase your brain's serotonin levels by eating foods that boost your serotonin levels naturally, including foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, healthy fats like coconut oil and healthy proteins that stabilize blood sugar.
Many people reach for caffeine when they're tired or depressed, but some studies show that caffeine actually decreases serotonin production in the brain, so stick to a cup of herbal tea or a b vitamin for that needed energy boost! Also, remember that alcohol is a depressant, so imbibing frequently can alter hormone production in the brain, causing an increase in depressive moods.
A minimum of 30 minutes of sunlight per day is almost essential for happiness! Studies done on bright light therapy for depression have shown remarkable improvements in mood if subjects got exposed to bright light. Plus, sunshine promotes Vitamin D production in your body, a necessary vitamin that boosts immunity and mood. take off a few layers and sit in the sunshine coming in through your window, go for a nice long walk each day during lunch, or if you simply can't make time during the short winter days for sunshine, try a few minutes in a tanning bed!
Studies show that those who have a regular practice of prayer or meditation suffer from depression much less often than those who do not. In fact, regular 30-minute meditation practices has been used by doctors as a tool to help clients as they come off of anti-depressants prevent relapse into depression. Journaling is also proven to decrease depressive symptoms.
Often, those who experience a significant trauma find themselves unable to cope as well as they used to with life's ups and downs. Finding a support group or having someone you can call when you need to cry can make a world of difference in your ability to move out of your negative feelings and back into a positive mood. Counseling is a powerful tool for depression. Those with significant trauma or PTSD may benefit greatly from counseling sessions in which the counselor practices EMDR- a type of rapid eye therapy.
If you've tried all of the above tools and still find yourself needing additional support for depression, check out our next blog post on supplements that we have found to be effective at combating depression symptoms without the negative side effects associated with prescription anti-depressants.