By Dana Ullman MPH
(Excerpted from The One Minute or So Healer, North Atlantic Books)
This book does not primarily focus on how to use homeopathic medicines but instead provides information on various natural health strategies to treat common ailments.
WARNING: This book is a lighthearted practical health guide. Laughter may be a side effect.
“Depression is melancholy minus its charm.” Susan Sontag
Depression lowers your spirits and drowns your eyes in sorrow, though tears aren’t the only reason why when you’re depressed you sometimes can’t see straight. It also caves in your chest, slumps you shoulders, and inhibits full breathing, usually forcing you to try to catch your breath by frequent sighing. You might say depression cuts you down to sighs. (My apologies)
But depression is certainly more than physical. Its real ravages are psychological. It creates blah-itis, an inflamed state of the blahs. You lose interest in the things you normally love and begin really hating the things you weren’t too sure about in the first place. You tend to doubt yourself and others; in fact, you doubt just about everything–except your own doubts. In more serious cases, you may wonder if life is meaningful or even worthwhile, and in the most extreme cases, you stop reading self-help books that try to make them laugh. Hopefully, you haven’t yet reached this terminal phase.
A major trauma can certainly be the cause that breaks you down, or you may get pushed over the edge by the accumulation of small stresses. You may feel depressed during what are usually thought of as “good times,” such as during the holidays. Some women experience the “baby blues” shortly after giving birth. Every phase of life has its own potential for stress and depression.
But depression can also be precipitated by viral or bacterial infection, organic disease, or hormonal disorders. It can be drug-induced, especially from barbituates, amphetamines, birth control pills, or alcohol. It can stem from exposure to certain environmental poisons. It seems that sometimes depression can even be contagious; one person’s low-life condition can begin to bring you down with him.
With all these possible triggers floating around, it is no wonder that virtually everybody experiences some period of depression at least once in his life. There is no reason to feel guilty about an occasional bout of depression, unless, of course, you’re trying hard to meet your annual guilt quota.
- In every dark period in your life, there is also some light somewhere. Getting in touch with that light is important; in fact, it’s just about the only way out. Of course, it’s not always easy; it seems as though everyone has his own ideas about moving out of the depressed state of mind. Understanding the various theories about depression may be helpful in treating it, but as the psychiatrist Carl Jung once said, “Learn your theories as well as you can, but put them aside when you touch the miracle of a living soul.”
Whether you fully understand the reasons for your depression or not, here are some sensible strategies for reconnecting with and spreading your light.
Strategy #1: Exercise those demons out of you! Exercise is not only helpful for building a fit body, but it also helps to create a sound mind. Getting your body moving seems to help keep your mind out of the depths of depression. Exercise that involve the long muscles, such as jogging, swimming, bicycling, and playing basketball, football, or tennis, are the most beneficial.
Strategy #2: Supplement your mood. A B-complex vitamin and the amino acid tryptophan are a good combination to take; they help increase the brain’s release of serotonin, which is a natural anti-depressant. Foods that are high in typtophan include bananas, soybeans, nuts, turkey, and tuna.
Strategy #3: Don’t overdo protein. Too much protein can inhibit the brain’s intake of tryptophan and increase feelings of depression. Don’t eat more than one protein-rich meal per day.
Strategy #4: Don’t forget to breathe. It is common for you to breathe shallowly when you’re depressed, which tends to create a physical depression. You can help to get yourself out of this depressed state by taking full, deep breaths more often. Alternate nostril breathing creates a rhythmic profusion of air which further enhances oxygenation of the body. To do this type of breathing, sit comfortably with your back straight, exhale fully, close the right nostril with one finger and inhale slowly through your left nostril. After you have inhaled fully through your left nostril, close it and exhale through your right nostril. Keep your left nostril closed and inhale through your right nostril and so on. Repeat this process for a couple of minutes.
Strategy #5: Befriend a friend. When you’re depressed you tend to keep to yourself and wallow in your depression. Don’t suffer alone, extend yourself; talk to someone–go visit a friend.
Strategy #6: Help someone else. Being with, talking to, and helping others less fortunate than you will not only take your mind off your depression, it will help make you feel better about yourself.
Strategy #7: Befriend a pet. Having a pet cat, dog, unicorn or whatever is wonderfully therapeutic. You have someone to talk to, someone who will listen to your every word, someone to provide you with unconditional love…and a pet is cheaper than a therapist.
Strategy #8: Give yourself credit for something, anything. When you’re depressed you tend to blame yourself for everything; you rarely acknowledge anything good about yourself or your life. Don’t. Look for what is going right. Be proud that you’ve acknowledged your depression rather than ignored or denied it. Be pleased that you are trying to do something about it rather than wallow in it. Appreciate your home, family, friends, work, or any simple kindness you did for someone recently. By shining a little light onto the positive side, perhaps you will find that invincible summer in your midst of winter.
Strategy #9: Swear off sin. Alcohol, cigarettes, drugs (recreational and therapeutic), sugar, and junk food can all depress you, physically and psychologically. Perhaps your depression is telling you that what you are doing to your body is bringing you down.
Strategy #10: Join the coffee generation. Coffee, like sugar, can lead to various problems, but small amounts can also be beneficial for some people, especially during depression. Caffeine molecules have been shown to displace certain neurotransmitters and help to keep the “good-mood” chemicals in circulation. Coffee is fast-acting and the effects can last three to six hours. Despite these benefits, though, be aware that coffee is like a drug; it has side effects. Because of this, safer methods should be considered before resorting to this strategy. Don’t drink more than one cup per day during depressed times.
Strategy #11: Let there be light. Light has been found to affect brain chemicals in a way that reduces depressive states. Try lifting the shades in your home, opening windows, turning on brighter lights, and wearing lighter and brighter clothing.
Strategy #12: Get out of here. Consider “travel therapy.” Changing your routine, going on a vacation, and adding a little adventure to your life is often therapeutic.
Strategy #13: Write on! Keeping a journal of your thoughts, feelings, and experiences provides a wonderful catharsis. Writing can also help you come to a better understanding of your depression, which may help lift its veil so that you can better understand and appreciate yourself and your experience.
Strategy #14: Draw it out of you. Draw or paint what you are feeling. Not only will it feel good to do this, you may even get a valuable work of art out of it.
Strategy #15: Let it rain! If the tears are there, cry! Don’t bottle up your feelings. Tears contain chemicals that need to be released.
Strategy #16: Flowers can help. Yes, flowers often make a person feel appreciated, but in addition to giving or getting flowers, flowers can also be used therapeutically. The Bach Flower Remedies are 38 flowers that British physician Edward Bach discovered to be beneficial for various emotional states. Dr. Bach found Sweet Chestnut, Mustard, and Crab Apple to be most useful for treating depression. These flower products are often available at health food stores.
Strategy #17: Pamper yourself. Give yourself time to appreciate yourself and life. Take a hot bath. Relax in a comfortable place. Listen to beautiful music. Get a massage. Take a walk in nature or any place that feels good to you. Read a good, uplifting book. . Re-read this chapter!