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There are many signs of depression: loss of energy and interest in the things that we normally enjoy, inability to concentrate, feeling blue all or most of the day, excessive sleep or insomnia, and loss of appetite are some. The tricky part is most of us experience these symptoms from time to time. However, it is the inability to function daily as we normally do, and feeling that way for an extended period of time, that should make us pay more attention.
Causes of depression range from life stressors, insufficient blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain, an altered blood glucose level, hormonal imbalance, food sensitivity or heavy metal toxicity. The first line of defense should be a visit to your doctor to rule out an underlying health problem.
Regardless of the cause, we know that medication and therapy are the most common approaches to dealing with depression. Yet, an increased interest in a more holistic approach to managing depression has emerged over the last several years. Lifestyle modifications have been shown to not only treat depression, but also help prevent or lessen the severity of episodes for those who are prone to it, and, in some cases, allow for a decrease in the dosage of medications.
The following ideas are a sampling of complimentary treatments being explored. Nonetheless, true depression is a medical condition, and it requires medical attention and professional help. Discuss these ideas with your healthcare provider, experiment with what seems appealing to you and see if it helps. But they are not meant to persuade you against seeing a licensed health professional. Working with someone you trust is imperative.
Exercise and Movement
Exercise has been shown to boost the feel-good brain chemicals endorphins and serotonin. This increase in brain chemicals is similar to those produced by medicine. Elevated levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) are seen in individuals who are depressed, perhaps due to stress and anxiety, which often go hand in hand with depression. Exercise helps reduce cortisol levels, which, when chronically elevated, can cause other health issues.
The good news is that it does not require a visit to the gym or a return to your regular routine, which often can feel overwhelming when struggling with depression. Any continuous movement will increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain and can be beneficial. A walk outside, mowing the lawn, gardening or dancing to music can leave you feeling better, calmer and more relaxed.