Depression affects over 6% of the US population in any given year and will affect at least 20% of the population at some point in their lives. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there are currently 300 million people worldwide who suffer from depression. Furthermore, they state:
“Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.”
Depression is much different than just “having the blues” or being sad. It is a medical illness that is usually classified as being mild, moderate or severe and can include other symptoms of distorted thinking such as feeling helpless, hopeless and worthless. It also causes changes in appetite and sleep patterns. It’s cause is usually complex and can be caused by a number of social, psychological and biological factors. Some people are more prone to depression simply based on genetics. Others who have experienced trauma or extreme adversity may be more susceptible to a depressive episode. Certain medical conditions, such as cardiovascular problems, can cause depression as well. When depression is long lasting, intense or severe, it can become a serious health condition.
Below are five ways of either preventing a mild episode of depression from becoming worse or to help keep you from becoming depressed at all.
1. Stay on a regular sleep schedule. It’s well-known that getting adequate sleep helps a number of health problems. When the body goes into deep—or REM—sleep, it produces more serotonin, the “feel good” chemical in your brain that helps to stabilize your mood. Staying on a regular sleep schedule helps to balance your body and emotions, and helps to keep your mood elevated.
2. Exercise regularly. Getting adequate exercise helps your body produce endorphins, another feel-good chemical in the brain. You don’t need to run an entire 5k to get benefits. Simply walking briskly 4-5 days a week can make a big difference in keeping your mood even.
3. Eat healthy. Although there is no particular diet or eating regimen proven to fix depression, eating healthful foods and avoiding unhealthy ones can have great benefit. Depression can cause people to eat for “comfort’ so eating less in general as well as healthful foods like fruits and vegetables can help. And since depression can affect sleep patterns, it’s wise to avoid caffeine and even alcohol—which is a depressant drug.
4. Get quiet. Relaxation exercises such as progressive muscle relaxation(PMR), autonomic training, self-hypnosis and meditation have been shown to improve mood. There are dozens of different meditation techniques that are beneficial and mindfulness meditation may even rival medication as an effective treatment
5. Stay connected. It’s easy to isolate when you’re in a depressed mood. Getting around other people can do wonders for staying positive and keeping your mind off yourself. Staying engaged with people on a regular basis by joining a club, helping a charity or other activity is a great way to keep depression at bay.
Most of us either know someone—or have been affected directly by— depression. It’s a very treatable illness and there are ways to both cope with, as well as lessen, the severity of it. The five tips above will, hopefully, be a starting point for those that want to feel better but don’t feel that they have gotten to the point where they need medication. If the depression doesn’t subside within two weeks, however, it’s best to be evaluated by your doctor or mental health professional.
As a licensed mental health therapist, Lee Miller has treated dozens of individuals who suffer from depression. Lee's motto is, "No one should live in pain." and she can help you get to the root of what's causing your depression so that you can feel better again. Call Lee's office now at (310) 879-5630 to set up a consultation.