I have spent over twenty years working as a counselor in Massachusetts with people suffering from mild, moderate to severe depression, and in the process, I have heard from them of various methods that have been recommended to them by their therapists. Many therapists these days are using more unusual treatments than the old mainstream approaches.
If you suffer from depression, you should be taking medication and seeing a therapist, but there are some additional things that you can do to treat your condition. Clinical depression is partially the result of a chemical imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain. In particular, low levels of serotonin contribute this condition, but it can be raised in a number of ways.
One way to raise the levels of serotonin in the brain is to get out into bright sunlight. Many people who suffer from depression feel a compulsion to stay in a dark room, thinking depressed thoughts. It is important to throw open the blinds or curtains, let the sunlight in, and go outside during the day into the light. The brain produces serotonin when the retina of the eye is exposed to high levels of natural light. Serotonin plays a part in appetite, sleep cycles and mood, and all three are disrupted by low levels of serotonin.
Low-impact exercise such as walking , or other similar activities are also contributory to the production of serotonin. With the new technologies, many people spend hours sitting watching a T.V. screen or a computer monitor. This is not conducive to mental wellness. It is important to get out into the fresh air and move around. Walking, jogging, walking on a treadmill, swimming and other activity increases the levels of serotonin in the brain and fights depression. Also, increased levels of serotonin also combat aggressiveness, anxiety and irritability.
Diet can play a part in the production of serotonin, and sometimes people suffering from depression eat a diet that is low in the foods that produce the chemical components called precursors, that the human body changes into serotonin. Some foods to eat to increase the tryptophan which is a precursor to serotonin production are milk, turkey, flaxseed, salmon, bananas, free range eggs, sour cherries and dark chocolate. There is some debate that dietary tryptophan may not increase seratonin in the brain, but it certainly cannot increase without it .On the other hand, high levels of stress deplete the tryptophan that is converted into serotonin. Therefore, stress lowers serotonin levels, and depression may be caused by a long-term stressful events.
After you have made yourself drink some milk, and eat some turkey, then go for a walk in bright sunshine, you might want to focus your attention on setting some attainable goals for the future. Unattainable goals such as winning the lottery will only serve to make you more depressed. Attainable goals might be in furthering your skills, education and trainings. You might ask yourself, “where do I want to be in five years from now? What kind of place do I want to be living in? What kind of people do I want around me?” If you keep your mind focused on attaining incremental goals that take you in the positive direction that you want to go in, it will keep you more mentally stable. This leads to the next practice.
Meditation has been found to be helpful for people suffering from depression. Mindfulness Meditation is a type of meditation that has become very popular in the mental health field. Mindfulness is just bringing your attention to the here and now, and not to the future and worrying about negative things that might happen, and not to the past and remembering negative things that did happen. Mindfulness mediation involves sitting, relaxing, breathing deeply, and trying to keep the mind present and clear of thoughts. As thoughts arise, which they will do, the mediator simply observes them like clouds reflected in a lake.
Another aspect of mindfulness is to acknowledge that the thoughts that arise in your mind are not you, and that you can control them. If a thought arises about yourself, such as for example, “I am too fat” you can ask yourself ,”is this true?” and switch in the opposite thought and see if this also rings true such as, ” I am a healthy weight.” Try thinking the opposite of every negative thought about yourself.
Another technique is to do creative visualization, and find your “safe place.” You can sit straight in a chair, relax, and close your eyes. Play some soothing meditation music, and imagine yourself in a place in nature of your choosing. You might choose a field of flowers, the woods, a meadow by a river, or a tropical beach. try to imagine this place vividly. feel a warm breeze against your skin, and the sun shining brightly and making the air warm, but not uncomfortable. Hear birds singing.
An activity that is growing in popularity is “grounding” yourself in the earth. To do this involves going outside without shoes on, and making contact with the Earth under your feet, or sitting, or lying on it. Direct contact with the surface of the Earth increases the electrons that your body needs to fight inflammation, stress, and free radicals. There are more activities that can make you feel better but this is a good start.
Photo: “Upset Business Man” by nuttakit from freedigitalphotos.net