Real Causes of Depression
Depression. The word gets thrown around so much that it is easy to forget that it is a serious mental illness. People often don’t realize when they or someone close to them is depressed. It may be put down to feeling the occasional blues. We have all been through times when we felt stressed out, sad, anxious, helpless, restless and hopeless. This is part and parcel of every human life. But time heals such feelings and we again face life with courage and hope. Depression does not allow this recovery, and such feelings persist until they remain the only thing we feel. It affects every aspect of a person’s life. There is a higher chance of depression being misdiagnosed as well. Fortunately, depression can be treated with both medication and lifestyle changes.
First, why does anyone become depressed?
Clinical depression can happen to anyone. It also doesn’t cure itself. If you have a family history of depression, you might be genetically predisposed to get depressed yourself. Societal factors such as conflicts with friends and family, specific personal events like job loss or death of someone close can also trigger depression. In addition, certain drugs like those for high blood pressure may have depression as a side effect. Sometimes though, depression can occur for absolutely no concrete reason. So, it is important to know what to look for if you want to know if someone is depressed.
How to spot depression?
- A persistent low, irritable or stressed out mood for more than two weeks.
- Withdrawing from social activities – spending time with family, and going out with friends
- Not being able to enjoy activities that were previously fulfilling such as hobbies and even sex.
- Loss of productivity – the inability to get things done, forgetfulness, indecisiveness, fatigue, and loss of concentration.
- Substance abuse – over-reliance on smoking, alcohol, drugs, prescription medication to get you through the day. Also, changes in appetite, over or under eating.
- Erratic sleep patterns and insomnia
- Negative feelings and thoughts – reduced confidence, frustration, guilt, unhappiness, pessimism, worthlessness, and emptiness.
The surprising link between depression and lifestyle
Previously, it was assumed that depression drives a person to neglect their physical well being and so resort to an unhealthy lifestyle. However, recent research has found a strong correlation between poor lifestyle habits and mental health. Such people are more likely to develop mental illnesses and have a harder time overcoming them too. An unhealthy lifestyle also slows down any measures taken to combat depression, from medication to mood-lifting activities.
In this fast-paced world, more and more people who live and work in urban areas in particular report some form of mental illness. After all, physical health is the rock-solid foundation on which mental health depends. Dietary and lifestyle changes have impaired the quality of our lives. Our bodies and minds simply cannot cope with it and we feel the burnout in unpleasant ways. Environmental factors too contribute to the chances of developing depression. Our food is mostly packaged and full of synthetic chemicals, preservatives, hormones, pesticide residue. Pollution of the air, water, soil, noise pollution and overcrowding in cities are also to blame. Much of these are not within our control. However, there are still steps we can take to reduce our chances of developing depression.
How to combat depression with lifestyle changes?
- Healthy, nutritious food – If you eat a poor diet with an excess of packaged foods, high in sugars and fat you are more likely to develop depression. Cut down on the fried food, refined oils, high-fat dairy products, desserts, and processed meat. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, salads and dark chocolate. Include more fish. Seafood contains Omega-3 fatty acids which are proven to lift moods.
- Physical activity – A regular exercise regimen can lift your spirits far more than antidepressants. Mix things up and keep them interesting. Include dance, long walks, marathons and playing with your dog and kids in your daily routine.
- Relationships – Appreciate the friends and family who love you and be grateful to have them. Spend more leisure time with them. Become a meaningful listener. Involve them in new and exciting adventures. Interact with people face to face rather than through social media. Pay attention to other people’s thoughts and feelings. Participate more in community activities and volunteer to help others.
- Remove unhealthy habits – Smoking, alcohol, caffeine, and drug abuse often become a support system to get through the day. But these are only holding you back and pushing you down. Develop self-reliance and confidence and let go of these monsters.
- Sleep – A good night’s sleep really does make everything look better. It promotes problem-solving skills and a positive outlook. Deep sleep also helps out bodies heal and our brain cells regenerate. Sleep improves mental health and keeps you alert and active throughout the day. A healthy adult needs seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every night.
- Meditation – Simple breathing deeply for thirty minutes every day goes a long way in making you more mindful and uplifted. As the old Zen proverb goes: “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour”.
- Love yourself – Constant positive self-affirmation is a must. Know that you are worth it, that you can do it, and that you are here for a reason. Never underestimate or degrade yourself. Smile at yourself in the mirror, and laugh as much as possible.
These lifestyle changes will slowly but surely help you come out of that depressed state. Life is short and there is not a moment to be lost. So take back control of your life and get to it. Consult with Delhi’s best dietitians to understand your customized diet plan and weight loss ways as per your choice of cultural background.
Good luck and happy, healthy living to you!