Feeling down every now and again is normal for everyone, but when these feelings of sadness and lethargy are persistent, it may be a sign of clinical depression. It may manifest itself in various ways, such as a lack of interest in work, socializing and hobbies. Being tired all the time, having no energy, sleeping too much or too little, and overeating or not eating enough are all tell-tale signs.
In any given year, approximately 10 percent of adults suffer from a diagnosable depressive disorder; some surveys indicate it to be higher. Regardless of statistics, depression is one of the most common illnesses in our society today. It can seriously affect our relationships, our work and general quality of life. If you experience serious or extended periods of depression you should seek professional help with the condition. But apart from medication and therapy, what can we do to help alleviate its symptoms?
Share your thoughts with someone about how you feel. Keeping your feelings to yourself will only feed your depression, so tell someone how you are feeling. It will also help you and others get used to your emotions.
Scientific research suggests that physical activity increases feelings of well-being, releases natural endorphins, combats stress, and relaxes muscles: all things that will help fight depression. It need not be strenuous: A 10 minute walk will boost your mood.
A balanced diet of protein, complex carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables will help steady your mood. Eating baked potatoes, whole-wheat pasta, oatmeal, whole grain breads, brown rice and bananas can all boost serotonin levels in the brain. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish such as salmon and mackerel can also help ease depression, as can increasing your intake of B vitamins by eating more leafy greens, beans, chicken, eggs and citrus fruit.
Alcohol is in fact a depressant drug, so limit the amount you consume and try to have it with food. Women are advised to drink no more than one alcoholic drink a day (a 12 oz beer or a 5 oz glass of wine), and men no more than two alcoholic drinks a day. As well as helping to fight depression, you could also save some money!
People are more likely to suffer from depression when they are alone. Although it might be the last thing you want to do, making that extra effort to meet up with a friend or two will concentrate your mind on other matters, as oppose to being solitary and introspective. If you can combine this with an activity that you enjoy, like going to the movies, then even better.
Negative thoughts are really the depression talking, so try to be aware of this and realize that it is these thoughts that subsequently affect your mood. Then you can make the decision to change how you think. For example, instead of thinking, I'm so much older than he is, think, I have so much more life experience than he has. Try to get into the routine of using these negative to positive thought transplants. The best way to change how you feel is to change how you think.
When you don't get enough sleep, depression symptoms can get worse. Try to get into a routine and relax before going to bed. If you can, aim for between seven to nine hours each night.
Learning a new skill, taking up a hobby or finding new interests will help to keep your mind active and build your self-esteem. Study a subject that interests you. Any constructive activities will leave you with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Even tidying a room you keep ignoring will make you feel better.
Physically recording your thoughts onto paper will help depression. If you are worrying about something before you go to bed, write down what you are worried about and how you are feeling. You might want to show loved ones so that they can better understand you. Also, write a list of things that make you happy and have made you happy in the past; it will focus your mind on the things that matter to you and which activities best cater to your general fulfillment. Make a list of all your best qualities and accomplishments and everything you have to be thankful for. A friend can also help you with this. You can add to these lists at any time and re-reading them regularly will focus your mind on the positive rather than the negative.
Just by making small changes, you can make a big difference to your life. Ask others to help you to identify problem areas that you could try to tackle head on. Are there particular situations you could avoid? Or are there certain people that make you feel worse? You can always ask for help, which is not a weakness: it proves that you are human and demonstrates a strength of character.
Many of us have either experienced depression personally or know of someone who has. If you do have feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness and feel empty on a day-to-day basis, it is best to admit it to yourself and to others. Once you realize you have depression, you can do something about it. It doesn't always have to involve drugs or therapy, HOWEVER, if you think yourself or a loved one is suffering, especially from severe depression, it is best to seek professional advice before it gets worse. Always remember that depressive episodes can and will pass in time. You are not and never will be alone.
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