zen habits : breathe

6 Practical and Powerful Ways to Overcome Depression

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from John Van Sickel.

One of the byproducts of our sedentary & isolated contemporary life is the growing epidemic of depression.

Over 120 million people worldwide are affected by the black dog of depression, as Sir Winston Churchill described it. Depression is one of the leading causes of disability, missed work, broken relationships and more.

Chances are you or someone you know will suffer from it in your lifetime.

It is truly one of the most devastating of dis-eases (not at ease!) in that it robs you of the ability to simply enjoy life. Activities that you used to enjoy leave you feeling empty. Interacting with friends, family and coworkers can be overwhelming.

It’s hard to imagine GTD, when just GOB (getting out of bed) seems like a chore.

So what can we do? Traditional routes of therapy and even medication are effective and should definitely be considered if depression is disrupting your life.

However there are other, natural steps to take that can, over time, be very effective. In fact, some studies have shown these to be as effective (or more so) than traditional therapies.

As an added bonus these are good lifestyle changes that will enhance anyone’s life, depressed or not, and most don’t cost a thing!

Studies have shown that primitive people get much more exposure to an active & healthy lifestyle than we do and hence they have no, or very little, depression. Attempts to study depression in primitive tribes found nothing to study. The same attempts to study depression in the Amish found very little. Changing your lifestyle to be more like those of our primal ancestors can work wonders in battling the blues.

Pick one of these and do it for a week. Add a new one each following week until you’re doing all of them. Keep doing them. They compliment one another. Doing one will help you do another which will help you feel better.

Turn them in to a routine like brushing your teeth, so that they become a part of your daily life. You don’t think about them, you just do them!

Here are the very practical caveman therapies for modern men and women.

1. Get outside. Our caveman friends saw lots of daylight; getting up at sunrise and going to sleep at sunset. Exposure to bright sunlight for 30 minutes a day either through sunlight or a light made for this, helps keep your internal clock set. This circadian rhythm helps to regulate our sleep/wake cycle and insures a good night’s sleep which in turn, helps our physical and mental health. Don’t wear sunglasses though; the exposure must come through your eyes!

2. Aerobic Exercise. Primitive folks had to forage or work in the fields for their food. 30 minutes at least 3 times a week means those ‘runner’s high’ endorphins get released regularly. It’s also a good way to work through and release stress. You don’t have to run a marathon, just get your heart rate up to your target range – around 120 to 160 beats per minute depending on your age and condition. Walking works wonders. Get your doctor’s approval first!

3. Omega-3 fatty acids. 1,000 mg daily. Omega-3’s aid in the brain’s neuron connectivity. Enteric coated capsules help prevent burping the fishy tasting oil but you can also freeze them. Throw in a good multi-vitamin and avoid overly processed foods in favor of complex carbohydrates (whole grains), fish, free range meats, & vegetables and you’re good to go.

4. Sleep. Change your sleep routine so that it’s more conducive to a good night’s rest. Turn your lights down and go to bed at the same time everynight. Turn the t.v. off. Engage in calming, quiet activities like reading, taking a warm bath, etc. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Don’t work late or do other stressful activities that cause your mind to race. Remember a tired body and quiet mind are the requirements for quality sleep.

5. Socialize. Remember the Amish farmer has his family and community to fall back on for support. There’s no reason you can’t too. Involve yourself with close friends and family. You don’t have to engage in heavy conversations about your plight, just have fun. Keep it simple and go to a movie, visit an art gallery or museum, go to a ball game, grab a cup of coffee or have a meal together. Just be with other people and your feelings of isolation will fade. Do this face to face (not online!) and do it regularly.

6. Watch your thinking! Anti-rumination strategy is vital to breaking out of depression and other emotional ruts. Become aware of those times you dwell on the negatives in your life – both real or imagined – and stop them. It takes work and persistence but if you constantly tell yourself to ‘stop it’ when you start to go over and over the negatives, then you are building a positive habit that will change your life for the better. Whether it’s the jerk who cut you off in traffic or something a little closer to home, don’t give yourself the luxury of a negative thought.



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