DEPRESSION: LIFESTYLE KEYS FOR BEATING THE BLUES

From Misery to Mastery.

Abraham  was no stranger to depression. His melancholy tendencies combined with  an impoverished childhood, failed businesses, and unfulfilled love  seemed to point only to defeat. At one time he expressed, “I am now the  most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to  the whole human family, there would be not one cheerful face on the  earth.”

Winston  came from a privileged home with every material benefit. However, his  life was riddled with illness, accidents, poor grades, and lack of love.  His indifferent father prophesied that W.C. would ultimately  “degenerate into a shabby, unhappy, and futile existence.” In his own  words, Winston battled the “demon of depression” for many years, and at  times it seemed his father’s dire prediction would prevail.

Happily,  depression does not have to be the end of any life story. Abraham,  whose full name was Abraham Lincoln, overcame his depression and went on  to become one of the most revered presidents in the history of the  United States.

Winston’s  battle with depression could have been the last chapter in one sad,  obscure life. But Winston Churchill rose above circumstances, and as the  prime minister of England during World War II, mastered his own  internal challenges. Against formidable opposition, almost constant  ridicule, and great odds he rallied the British troops to defeat the  encroachments of the Third Reich in Europe. His famous motto became  “Never, never, never, never—in nothing great or small, large or  petty—never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.”[1]

These  noble examples tell us a story—not just about singular people who  overcame great odds, but about the awesome power of the human brain to  retool and reshape itself according to what it learns and how it is  cared for.

The Stats Tell the Story.

If  you suffer from depression, you are not alone. Clinical depression  affects 20 million adults and 3 million teens in the US. Milder forms  are even more widespread, affecting all age groups.[2]

Risk  factors for depression include family history, medical or mental health  conditions, unresolved guilt or anger, lack of purpose, social and  environmental factors, and diet and lifestyle, to name a few.

Neal Nedley, MD, author of Depression: the Way Out states that it is important to find the cause or causes of your  depression. Tackle as many changeable causes as possible by addressing  nutrition, lifestyle, social factors, habits of thinking, and spiritual  need.  The importance of seeking qualified medical care for depression  cannot be overstated. Adjusting and reducing medications must be  supervised by a qualified health professional.

Nutrition and Lifestyle.

John  Ratey, psychiatrist and author who researches lifestyle and mental  health has concluded: “Physical and mental exercise, proper nutrition,  and adequate sleep will help anyone gain cognitive clarity and emotional  stability.[3]  Alcohol, smoking, caffeine, and high fatty and sugary foods increase depression risk and symptoms.

Nutrition  and exercise encourage growth factors that put the brakes on  self-destructive cellular activity, release antioxidants, and provide  protein building blocks for brain cells. Food is medicine—and good  tasting, colorful, and powerful medicine!

Include  healing fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains such as brown  rice and oatmeal. Give nourishment to your body and brain with omega-3  fatty acids that are found in walnuts, chia seeds, and ground flax seed.  Keep your brain hydrated with 8-10 cups of water a day instead of  sugary drinks. Get an adequate intake of vitamins B12 and D.

A  nutritious diet improves brain chemistry, provides energy and  stress-lowering compounds, and provides brain growth factors that  increase brain nerve connections. This means a greater capacity for  learning, meeting challenges, fighting depression, and solving problems.

Rest

Rest restores and helps heal the body and brain. Establish a regular “sleep routine.” A rested brain makes better choices.

Exercise

Exercise  is a major factor in relieving and preventing depression. It causes  structural changes in the brain that improve brain function even in  cases of serious clinical depression. Exercise relieves anxiety,  improves focused attention, creativity, problem-solving, and lowers  stress.  A 10-minute brisk walk can elevate mood for an hour. Daily  exercise has been dubbed the most potent anti-depressant agent known to  man. New evidence has shown that exercise actually stimulates the  production of new nerve cells in the brain.

Social and Environmental

Attitude,  social networks, and a healthy lifestyle weave together for physical  and mental health. Establish relationships that support healthy choices.

Habits of Thinking and Outlook

To  a large extent we have the ability to choose how we will think about a  situation. Focus on gratitude and thankfulness. Check negative thoughts.  Focus on solutions rather than problems. Look at difficulties as  opportunities for gaining strength to meet challenges. Two of the most  important tasks in overcoming depression are focusing on thinking in a  positive way and trusting God and His Word regardless of feelings.

The Living Word

Everyone  faces turmoil, trouble, trials, uncertainty, and sorrow. The stories in  the Bible show us that in the middle of difficult times, God provides  peace, comfort, and direction.

“He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet   upon a rock, making my steps secure.” Psalm 40:2 Healing takes place with time and perseverance. Today’s  choices yield tomorrow’s gifts. Persevere to press in, press on, and  press through your situation. There is power for your journey, and even  joy in the healing process.

“He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.” Psalm 40:3 Choosing God, choosing faith, choosing His plan are all  decisions based on your personal choice, not feelings. You can trust his  promises. Isn’t now the best time to discover in God’s Word the peace, comfort, and plan He has for your life?


[1] Nedley N.  Depression, the Way Out.  Nedley Publications, 2008.

[2] http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/major-depression-among-adults.shtml

[3] Ratey J. User’s Guide to the Brain. P. 356.


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