Quite recently after we lost our beloved cat, I received a “pass this along” post on my Facebook stream. Typically, I don’t like posts that I have to pass along, as many of them are silly or catch you in some sneaky way for something ridiculous, but this one was different. Here is an abridged version:
Depression is difficult and seems relentless…May I ask my family and friends wherever you might be, to kindly copy and paste this status for one hour to give a moment of support to all those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind and just need to know that someone cares…Do it for all of us, for nobody is immune. I did it for a friend and you can too…
This one hit me in the heart. At the time I read it, I was feeling very down from the loss of our cat. And, it was as if my friend posted it for me, and didn’t even realize it. Although my sadness wasn’t clinical, dangerous or a symptom of serious mental illness, it was very real. Our cat was a family member whom we loved dearly, and the loss was devastating.
My mild “depression” has waned since the post, but during its height, it was all consuming. Most of us experience some form of depression at one time or another. Depression can result from any number of reasons. Sometimes it’s a result of our circumstances, such as a loss of a loved one, a job, or a friend. Sometimes it’s a result of our hormones (E.g., post-partum depression) or stress. Sometimes it’s a result of chemical imbalances. Sometimes it’s even a result of our diet and health.
The fact is, depression doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t see color. It doesn’t see economic status. It doesn’t see gender. It hits all of us. And, whatever the cause, depression – mild or severe is very real, and quite frankly, sucks.
Even when you have people in your life who care, you can feel alone, isolated, and trapped…with no real solution. Sometimes, you don’t even know WHY you feel depressed, but you do. And, you’d do anything to make it different.
Although I was at a loss emotionally, I did find that certain things helped me get out of the funk, so to speak. If you find yourself grappling with depression, or chronic sadness, consider the following:
- Move! Exercise, even if it is the last thing you feel like doing, can provide tremendous benefit to our mental state. It improves mood, reduces anxiety and depression, relieves stress, and even improves memory. If you feel a lack of motivation, start small or do things that don’t feel overwhelming. Go for a walk at lunch, take a yoga class, and build up to something a bit more rigorous.
- Get Fishy: Did you now that your brain is made up of 60 – 70% fat? We have been taught to cut fat out of our diets, but studies continue to show that healthy fat is instrumental to mental well-being and sustaining a healthy mind. Fatty fish (salmon, sardines and herring) are rich in Omega-3s and are especially helpful in lowering risk of depression. Also, shellfish, such as shrimp, crab and lobster are rich in Vitamin B-12, which is also linked to preventing depression. Supplementing with a high-quality fish oil is a great way to ensure you are getting the necessary dose. I personally recommend Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega.
- Get into the Light: On average, Americans spend only 10% of their time outdoors. Yet, exposure to the sun’s light and the resulting Vitamin D it provides, has been proven to elevate mood. Further, the additional fresh oxygen from being outdoors also improves mood. I noticed my mood became even lower when it started raining for a month straight here in Charlotte. Once the sun came out, however, I noticed my mood start to improve as I spent more time outdoors. If you live in a warm, sunny climate, increase your time outdoors. If you don’t, consider light therapy. Light boxes have been used for a long time to treat SAD (seasonal affective disorder), which tends to occur in people in norther climates who experience long winters. You can get them on Amazon or at drugstores. The Sphere Gadget Technologies Lightphoria comes highly recommended and provides the recommended 10,000 lux of light.
- Boost Mindfulness: Yoga, meditation and mindfulness practices are all helpful in fighting off the blues and bad mood. When we practice mindfulness, we are able to clear away clutter and bring focus into our lives. It enables us to gain new and often better perspective on situations. Because it asks us to remain in the present, we can release judgment, past hurts and negative thoughts and experiences, allowing us to gain inner peace and achieve a greater sense of positivity and happiness.
- Seek Professional Help: And of course, if you find that your depression or sadness is severe, and none of your own efforts to improve the situation work, seek out professional help. Especially if you feel overwhelmed and helpless. Counseling, group therapy, or cognitive behavioral therapy are all good options to consider.
Now it’s your turn. Share in the comments below your experiences with depression and what you’ve done to beat it. Have you found yourself to be depressed, even mildly? What did you do to help your situation? Did you try any of the above, and if so, what worked well for you?
Learn more about mental well-being and how to boost happiness, improve memory and increase productivity in my upcoming book 52 Small Changes for the Mind.