The beauty of life, new hope and the aspiration to see a happy and fulfilled future are some of the factors that motivate people to live life to the fullest. However, there are times when certain situations, problems and physical and mental ailments might act as a roadblock in the path to a happy and blissful life. Depression, for example, is one such obstruction that can make every thought a battle, every moment a woe, every feeling a despair.
Depression is a mental disorder that affects millions of people in the United States and across the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the leading cause of global mental and physical disability affecting around 300 million people worldwide. However, in spite of understanding the problem, not many step forward to seek treatment or medical help. This negligence can lead to other mental illnesses, suicidal thoughts and behavior in the sufferer.
Depression is not mere sadness:
Depression is complex and more severe than what it appears to be. Sadly, the depth and intensity of the condition can only be understood by people who suffer from it. At times, one might confuse the condition with casual sadness. One should be vigilant enough to find out when the condition is beyond mere sadness. He or she should also be strong enough to be able to gather enough courage to undergo a proper diagnosis.
Many ignore their condition, thinking it to be mere sadness that will go away with time, while many others are unaware about the underlying disorder. Unfortunately, there is another set of people who hesitate in seeking recovery treatment due to fear of social stigma. All mental illnesses, including depression, hold a forbidden status in the society. Perceived to be arising due to past sins or devil’s possession or due to lack of self-control or weak moral, there are numerous myths and misconceptions surrounding mental disorders. They further prevent people from seeking treatment as their initiative would dent their social image and reputation.
Holistic treatment and lifestyle changes important to reduce depressive symptoms:
Ideally, a person should seek medical diagnosis for depression if he/she experiences prolonged feelings of sadness, worthless, hopelessness, affinity towards death and despair for more than two weeks. It is important to understand that depression is a serious mental condition that needs immediate treatment as it can increase the risk of developing chronic mental disorders. Treatment of depression ideally includes medication and counseling which work to reduce the symptoms and bring changes in the pattern of thoughts and behavior for a better and healthy living. However, the initial symptoms of depression can be controlled by bringing in some changes in lifestyle. Some of these changes are:
- Eating healthy:
“You are what you eat,” goes the old adage which aptly describes the relationship between food and health. It suggests that eating healthy is vital for good health. However, when suffering from depression, it disrupts the eating pattern of an individual. As a result, the person either overeats to feel better or discards food completely due to lack of will and interest. However, either of the change can aggravate the condition. Instead, eating healthy and nutritious food can help in overcoming symptoms of depression. Many experts believe that food rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon and tuna) and folic acid (such as spinach and avocado) could help ease depression.
- Indulging in exercise
Regular exercise not only ensures a good physical health but also strengthens the mental health. Experts have also identified exercises to be beneficial for improving depressive symptoms and elevating mood by increasing the serotonin level. Regular exercise also helps the brain stay fresh, active and generate positive thoughts and energy. Besides, experts have also identified exercise to have antidepressant effects. “Data regarding the positive mood effects of exercise involvement, independent of fitness gains, suggest that the focus should be on frequency of exercise rather than duration or intensity until the behavior has been well established,” mentioned an old study published in The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
- Sleeping on time
Apart from diet, sleeping pattern is also severely affected by depression. With the potential to form a vicious circle, sleep and depression share a complex relationship. Presence of either of them can lead to the development of the other condition. Hence, insomnia or lack of sleep is common among patients with depression. At the same time, there are also many people who experience excessive sleep during the condition. Therefore, it is important to maintain a balanced sleep. Ideally, a healthy adult should sleep for at least 7-9 hours a day in order to regulate proper functioning of brain and body.
- Increasing social and outdoor activities
Disconnecting from the world and isolating oneself is the first thing that an individual does when hit by depression. Surrounded by negative thoughts, the person not only feels worthless but also lacks the self-confidence to interact with others. As a result, he or she often prefers to stay in solitude. Therefore, if a person is feeling low, instead of isolating, he or she should interact more with others. One should also avoid staying aloof and or in a closed and dark room. This is because an interaction with others can help dismiss depressive thoughts. According to experts, sunshine or light exposure can increase productivity, happiness and health of a person. Besides, sunlight is also identified to increase serotonin level and alleviate depressive symptoms.
- Practicing yoga and meditation
Of late, yoga has been identified as a beneficial practice for more than one health concerns. While yoga not only increases the blood circulation, body flexibility, stamina and strength, it also helps reduce stress and symptoms of depression by increasing the production of serotonin. Both yoga and meditation help in relaxing the mind, feelings and thoughts and also helps in preventing mental and emotional problems. According to a new study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 12-week intervention of yoga coupled with coherent breathing, depressive symptoms can help reduce the depressive symptoms in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD).
Ideal way to recovery:
Depression is not just a state of mind, but a medical condition that needs proper treatment. Occurring due to factors ranging from mental setback, environmental conditions, heart-breaking experience to genetics, depression can affect people of any age, gender and ethnicity. Further, it can force an individual to self-medicate using illicit drugs or alcohol, thereby, fueling addiction. Amidst, the above methods can help in curbing the escalation of the condition. However, for complete cure and recovery, it is important for a person to seek proper treatment.
Proper medical intervention will include diagnosis to ascertain the presence of the mental disorder. Further course of treatment will be decided by the medical practitioner on the basis of the severity and the duration of the disorder revealed by the diagnosis. Proper and timely treatment of the symptoms of depression can play a major role in helping people enjoy the essence of life and keeping the negative aspects at bay.