As the seasons change from the light filled days of summer to the shorter cooler days of fall, many people begin to notice a change in the way that they feel. For some people, they feel invigorated and energized by the cooler weather; however, for others these shorter days lead to feeling less motivated. And still, for others the onset of cooler weather is just the precursor to the “winter blues”, a condition formerly known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Regardless of the timing of depression, it’s an experience that can feel isolating and hopeless. However, there are things that we can do to help alleviate some of the symptoms of depression.
Humans are connected beings, we need connection to survive and we especially need it thrive. Strengthening our connections with those around us can help with the feelings of isolation and being alone. What do we do if we don’t have strong connections in place? Looking for ways to connect that are a little more unconventional than the traditional family, friends, and coworker relationships is one place to start. For example, there are meet up groups for all kinds of different hobbies that are open to people. Faith communities are ways to connect with people that have the same ideological and theological beliefs. Volunteering allows an array of engagement opportunities that also provide a sense of worth and giving back. However, even engaging in an activity that provides peripheral contact can be beneficial; going to the same coffee shop every morning on your way to work and engaging the barista in small talk is a step towards making a connection.
The coffee shop stop leads us to another way to combat depression…getting out. Yep, it might be the last thing that you want to do when you are in the midst of a depressive episode, but it is one that can provide a quick pick me up. Finding options that require us to leave the safety and confines of our couch can be as exciting or as calming as we choose. Going for a quick 10 minute walk around the block, going to the bookstore to pick up the latest novel from your favorite author, or taking that pottery class you’ve always wanted to try…they all require that we step away from our comfort zone.
Exercise is also a great way to combat depression. Exercise gets our blood flowing and heart pumping that leads to a release of those feel good endorphins that help balance our emotions. Want to up the anti depressive effects? Exercise outside in the sunshine, there are currently studies that hypothesize that vitamin D deficiencies are
linked to depression, though that has been proven yet. However, light therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment for SAD.
Lastly, talk therapy with a trained therapist that can help you deal with your individual symptoms is also an effective option when you are having depressive episodes that aren’t being effectively mitigated by diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes. Having a person that will listen and help you develop and implement changes and coping skills into your life can be invaluable as you traverse a trying time but you don’t have to do it alone. Wasatch Family Therapy offers therapists for all ages to meet your individual needs, to make an appointment call 801-944-4555 today.
Most people are aware that eating healthy and exercising will result in a smaller waistline. I am not sure, however, that people understand the impact eating healthy and exercising have on your mental health. Think about it: your brain is a body part, right? If poor eating can make your heart suffer and not function properly, why wouldn’t poor eating make your brain suffer as well?
There is a lot of scientific research supporting the fact that eating a whole foods, plant-based diet can improve mood and decrease the occurrence of mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. In a study published in the 2012 Nutritional Journal, participants who decreased consumption of meat, fish, and poultry improved several mood scores in just a few weeks. In 2009 Arch Intern Med, Dr. Grant Brinkworth and colleagues found that a high carbohydrate, low fat, and low protein diet (plant-based) resulted in significantly lower rates of depression and anxiety. These are just a few of the many studies showing the mental health benefits of eating a plant-based diet.
Part of the benefit of eating plants is that there are thousands and thousands of chemicals and nutrients that our body uses on a cellular level to rebuild and repair itself. Scientists haven’t even identified all the advantages to these chemicals and nutrients there are so many. We need to trust our body to use nature to be in optimal health. The evidence is clear: our brain needs natural plant food to function the most optimally. Sadly, we are often misinformed on nutrition-related topics because there are a lot of people who make a lot of money if you eat poorly (there isn’t necessarily a lot of money for marketers to make off of you if you follow a plant-based diet).
When it comes to exercise, most people think of endorphins and all that jazz. This is all good and well, but I love exercise for my clients more for its ability to increase distress tolerance. Physical exercise is ALWAYS a mental exercise also. If I can push my body to a point of discomfort for my overall benefit, what else can I do that is hard? If you talk to avid exercisers, none of them say, “Yeah, I have been doing this long enough that it doesn’t hurt anymore. I feel only pleasure in mile 13.” Seasoned athletes still experience discomfort and pain (if not more) but have learned to tolerate it.
Your increased distress tolerance works as a shield against debilitating hardship. I have seen so many clients begin to exercise and all of a sudden, they have increased confidence and start to believe they can do hard things! While going to the gym may not seem like a big deal, it is a huge deal for your brain. The important key to implement this is to find an activity YOU love. If it isn’t running on a treadmill, then don’t do that. Walk your dogs or play frisbee or do something else entirely.
Some clients I have are weary of taking mood-altering pharmaceuticals, but are they bothered enough to get really uncomfortable and change their eating and movement patterns? I am not suggesting that research shows these changes to be a direct cure for mental health problems. Research can’t entirely do that. However, I am suggesting that it is certainly worth adding to the tool box and trying in order to have an overall better mood and mental health.
For more tips and support changing your lifestyle to improve your mental health, schedule an appointment today!
In 2007, my sisters and I decided to run a 10k together. It was perfect timing, as I had just moved from Logan (Go Aggies!) and needed a new hobby. I trained hard and finished the 10K in a little under an hour. The morning of the race was an emotional high. All of the runners at the starting line anxiously waiting for the race to begin. The high as you finished the race. The amazing feeling of accomplishing something. I had found my new passion.
Fast forward to 2009 when my husband, sister, and I decided to run the Wasatch Back Relay Race. I had recently gone through a very difficult miscarriage, and, without knowing it, was headed into almost two years of infertility battles. My second leg of the race was at two in the morning. The stars were bright as I ran along the side of the road in the dark with just myself, my music, and my headlamp. At some point, I remember starting to cry and allowing that to happen. The rest of the race, something magical occurred. A lot of my worry, anxiety, sadness, and fear got translated into my running. I allowed all of those feelings to fuel my run, and it felt amazing. That race helped me heal from a lot of sadness. Over the next two years, I ran races and trained to help myself get through a lot of the feelings that came from infertility.
Now, let’s fast forward to 2018. Modern medicine is a wonderful thing, and my husband and I have three wonderful children. They are seven, four, and eighteen months old. Now running takes on a different role in my life. It helps keep me in shape. It is a hobby that gives me some time away from my kids so I can be a better mother. It motivates me to make and accomplish new goals. It makes me a happier, more satisfied person. It helps my patience with my kids and my husband. Running keeps me sane.
When you exercise, your body releases something called endorphins. These chemicals helps reduce your perception of pain and can also trigger a positive feeling. These chemicals will help you fight feelings of depression and anxiety. Exercise is consistently something I encourage my clients to participate in.
What do you like to do to stay active? What kind of exercise keeps you sane? This summer, get outdoors and experience some different activities and find which one you like the best. It will be one of the best things you do for your physical and mental health.
Fighting the battle of depression can be exhausting, overwhelming, and painful. It’s there when you wake up in the morning, and when you go to bed at night. It may seem, at times, like it will never end, and you will never be able to live a happy life. However, there are many things that can be done to ease this burden, and the following 6 steps are a good place to start. Here are just 6 simple tasks that, if you can work towards being able to check off of your list everyday, will help you begin to manage your depression: