Monday, July 27, 2009
Why are so many people depressed? What are the causes of depression? I have pondered these questions for a number of years because it seems I encounter one person after another who is either currently on anti-depressants or has been in the past. I have also encountered people who aren't on anti-depressants but definitely seem depressed, or at least stricken with a case of the blues.
All too often I think doctors are quick to subscribe anti-depressants to individuals who are down and out. I wonder how many of these individuals truly need medication? In some cases, I realize anti-depressants are absolutely needed, especially if someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts. In many other cases however I think "depressed" individuals can treat their depression in a more holistic way. Depression is quite complex and can often be attributed to other factors rather than just an imbalance of brain chemicals.
If you are feeling blue but would like to avoid taking medication, below are some alternative solutions that may help in treating your depression:
1) Eliminate caffeine - Initially caffeine gives us a burst of energy and we can feel alert and happy. A few hours later however most people crash and feel blue. As someone who recently gave up caffeine, I can vouch for how much more upbeat and alert I feel off caffeine.
*If you consume caffeine, I highly recommend you read Caffeine Blues by Stephen Cherniske. This book provides insight on the correlation between depression and caffeine.
2) Have your thyroid checked - Hypothyroidism can mimic the symptoms of depression because you can feel tired, listless, and just overall “blue” due to an underactive thyroid. If you have hypothyroidism and want to avoid medication, there are alternative treatments. I would recommend seeing an ND for more information on how to treat an underactive thyroid.
3) Have your levels of Vitamin D checked – After learning from an ND that I had low levels of Vitamin D, I decided to read The Vitamin D Cure by Dr. Dowd. For more information on this book, please visit: www.thevitamindcure.com. In this book I learned how low levels of Vitamin D can cause weight gain, fatigue, depression, and a host of other symptoms. Having lived in the Midwest for the majority of my life, I just thought I would have to suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affected Disorder) every winter. Little did I know I could prevent SAD by taking Vitamin D supplements and getting regular doses of sunshine.
4) Eat a pure and clean diet – What you eat or don’t eat can greatly impact your mood. Take an inventory of your diet and eliminate all processed foods and beverages. The best diet for most people is one that consists of plenty of raw and cooked fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains and protein. The body is not meant to be clogged with anything artificial.
5) Get tested for food allergies – You may be surprised to learn you are allergic to a food you regularly consume. I found this out my junior year of high school when I was plagued with extreme fatigue. I ended up missing the entire cross-country season because I thought I had mono. After seeing an ND, I found out I was allergic to yeast and as a result, suffered from candida. Considering I ate large quantities of bread that contained yeast, it was no wonder I was tired all the time. My body was rebeling against something it didn’t want. Once I eliminated yeast from my diet my energy was restored and mood greatly improved. I went on to run cross-country my senior of high school and also in college.
6) Live a passionate life – I read that depression can be a result of drifting away from your passions. Ask yourself if your life is filled with passion? Are you passionate about your job? Is there anything in your life that brings you pure joy? Have you connected with your creative energy lately? Think back on your life and figure out what activities used to make you happy.
All too often we can get caught up in a mundane daily routine and neglect to pursue our passions. When this happens we become apathetic and suffer from the case of the blues. We lose our hunger for our life. Passion equals energy. If you live a passionate life, you will truly feel alive and “high on life.”
If you aren’t passionate about anything, try new activities that spark your interest. At the age of 60 my aunt decided to take up tap dancing. Now tap dancing is something my aunt loves and little did she know, it would be a new passion she ended up discovering later in life.
7) Learn to control your mind – If you pay attention to the stream of thoughts running through your head on a daily basis, you will notice how negative these thoughts can be. When we have a clear mind void of negative thoughts, we feel happy and at peace. Our mind can easily make us depressed if we allow it to; however, we have the power to dictate our thoughts. Instead of waking up thinking, “Great, another day from hell,” change your thoughts to, “Today is going to be a great day filled with amazing people and amazing opportunities.” Instead of thinking, “I am worthless, stupid, and unattractive,” change your thoughts to, “I love myself. I accept myself and I am perfect just the way I am.” There is a saying, “Change your thoughts. Change your life.” I absolutely believe in the power of this statement because it has worked wonders for my clients, friends, as well as myself.
8) Exercise – Do you want to experience a natural daily high? Get moving outside or hit the gym and your endorphins will start kicking in. Do you ever notice how super fit people are always super happy? You may roll your eyes at these people and think, “Why are those annoying high energy runners, cyclists, or yoga enthusiasts so darn happy?” Well, it’s because these people know the secret to a natural high. They have learned how important exercise is in maintaining a positive, stable mood.
9) Try SAM-E or St. John's Wort - These are natural supplements that may help to alleviate mild depression. I recommend consulting with an ND for proper dosage and potential side-effects.
10) Seek out professional help- When painful feelings are buried deeply within and not dealt with, individuals often become depressed. By working with a professional, such as a therapist, psychiatrist or coach, you can learn to deal with painful feelings by acknowledging them and then letting them go. All too often individuals anesthetize feelings such as shame, guilt, and fear with alcohol, drugs, food, and even TV. While this band-aid approach may work temporarily, our painful feelings will return and only intensifyif they continue to fester. If we fail to deal with painful feelings, they will dictate our state of mind and we will never experience a true state of happiness.
11) Connect with others – Depressed individuals often feel isolated and all alone in the world. By reaching out to others, our spirit is revived with energy from others and our depression is lifted. Volunteering can serve as a potential cure for depression because giving of ourselves selflessly means we are no longer trapped in the ego-induced confines of our mind.
Colleen Canney is a Career, Life, and Wellness Coach based in Milwaukee, WI. She coaches clients around the US either via telephone or in person. Colleen offers FREE consultations to new clients. Contact Colleen today to learn more about her coaching services.