Clinical depression can be a very serious condition that has been around for ages and that can impact many areas of life, including work, family, relationships, and health. According to DSM-5, a depressive disorder is defined by the presence of sad, empty, or irritable mood, accompanied by somatic or cognitive changes that significantly affect the individual’s capacity to function. A vast body of research shows that depression is often caused by toxic or seriously nutritionally deficient that causes brain inflammation and disrupts normal neurological processing (Wachs, 2009; Bouchard, Bellinger, Weuve, Matthews-Bellinger, Gilman, Wright, Schwartz, & Weisskopf, 2009).
But there is a good news. Research studies also show that human beings have power to overcome and defeat depression and learn to be in a positive emotional state. The following are simple, yet evidence-based strategies that can be applied immediately to shift the mindset and start combating depression:
1. Watch what you eat. According to research, very few people realize that nutrition can play a key role in the onset as well as severity and duration of depression. Many of the easily noticeable food patterns that precede depression are the same as those that occur during depression. These may include poor appetite, skipping meals, and a dominant desire for sweet foods. Nutritional neuroscience is an emerging discipline shedding light on the fact that nutritional factors are intertwined with human cognition, behavior, and emotions. (3) I suggest following an anti-inflammatory or super-charged energy diet such as this one nutrition plan.
2. Get a good night sleep. You must focus on getting good sleep on a regular basis. Getting enough quality sleep at the right time can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant or it can harm you over time. Ongoing sleep deficiency affects how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others. Studies show that a good night’s sleep improves learning and problem-solving skills. Sleep also helps you pay attention, make decisions, and be creative. If you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, focusing, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency has been linked to attention disorder, depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior. (4)
3. Maintain Positive Relationships and Resolve Conflicts Quickly. When you feel discouraged, it is crucial to surround yourself with positive people that have a brighter outlook on life. You should seek opportunities to be with other people and listen to their stories rather than complaining about how you feel. You should also attempt to resolve your conflicts quickly before they become major issues for you to deal with.
4. Exercise. Exercise can significantly improve your ability to shift your mindset and move your focus from your negative thoughts to your body and the way it feels and thus, ultimately “release” your nervous system. Exercise that engages your whole body, such as walking/jogging, swimming, or dancing works the best. Clinical research shows that exercise was effective in treating depression among those suffering from minor or major depression as well as in reducing depressive symptoms among those with a high amount of depressive symptoms at a baseline. (5)
5. Stimulate Your Mind. You can start with learning a new language or instrument. Pick up a challenging book nad make yourself read it and draw wisdom from it. At times, it may feel very tedious and boring, but persevere. You will most likely have to push yourself to start and keep going, but this will become easier as you get into the habit. You will soon feel a sense of accomplishment which will ultimately elevate your mood.
6. Get some fresh air and sunshine. Go outside everyday to take a long walk and do lots of deep breathing. You may be surprised to see significant improvements not just in your mood but in your focus, concentration, and learning. Boost your vitamin D3 levels by getting more whole body sun exposure. Recently, vitamin D has been reported in the scientific and lay press as an important factor that may have significant health benefits in the prevention and the treatment of many chronic illnesses. Most individuals in this country have insufficient levels of vitamin D. This is also true for persons with depression as well as other mental disorders. (6)
7. Stimulate your brain with simple neurobic exercises: According to recent research in neuroscience, durin dpression, our brain is undergoing extreme damage from inflammation. (7) In order to grow stronger and healthier neuronal cells the neurons secrete a compound called Brain derived neurotrophic growth factor (BDNF). BDNF encourages the growth and differentiation of new neurons and synapses. In the brain, it is most active in the hippocampus and cortex and is vital to learning, memory and higher thinking. It also play an important role in mood and happiness. Neurobic exercises that simulate BDNF are different from activities that you normally do and involve all of your five senses. (8) Some simple examples are:
- Writing or using a utensil with your non-dominant hand
- One leg balancing exercises
- Spend time outside smelling all the plants and flowers
- Eat foods with lots of colors to stimulate your visual senses
- Feel the texture of different objects like rocks, shells, etc.
- Walk barefoot
- Sit outside and journal
- Listen to classical music
- Travel some place new
8. Determine your priorities. Engaging in passionate and meaningful pursuits must make your priority list. The more time you spend engaging in activities that make your heart happy, the less time you will spend absorbed in negative self-talk and depressive thoughts and feelings. Write down a list of easy, quick activities to be able to choose from when you are feeling down and need a quick escape. These can be very simple, such as playing with a pet, listening to a favorite song and singing along, or taking a relaxing bath with some essential oils.
There are many cognitive, emotive, and behavioral strategies and ways to overcome depression that are used in therapy and counseling. I recommend that if you or your child suffer from a true clinical depression, such as Major Depressive Disorder, that you seek a professional help. Depression kills dreams….. don’t stay there.
Resources for this article include:
- Wachs TD. Models linking nutritional deficiencies to maternal and child mental health. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Mar;89(3):935S-939S. PMID: 19176736
- Bouchard MF, Bellinger DC, Weuve J, Matthews-Bellinger J, Gilman SE, Wright RO, Schwartz J, Weisskopf MG. Blood lead levels and major depressive disorder, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder in US young adults. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009 Dec;66(12):1313-9. PMID: 19996036
- T. S. Sathyanarayana Rao, M. R. Asha, B. N. Ramesh, and K. S. Jagannatha Rao. Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses. Indian J Psychiatry. 2008 Apr-Jun; 50(2): 77–82. PMCID: PMC2738337
- Sjösten , Kivelä SL. The effects of physical exercise on depressive symptoms among the aged: a systematic review.Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2006 May;21(5):410-8. PMID:16676285
- Penckofer S, Kouba J, Byrn M, Estwing Ferrans C. Vitamin D and depression: where is all the sunshine? Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2010 Jun;31(6):385-93. PMID:20450340
- Maes M, Kubera M, Obuchowiczwa E, Goehler L, Brzeszcz J.Depression‘s multiple comorbidities explained by (neuro)inflammatory and oxidative & nitrosative stress pathways.Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2011;32(1):7-24 PMID:21407167