Some people are more prone to depression than others and despite your best intentions of doing everything right to avoid that sinking feeling, it may just come back to bite you, which is just what happened to me this past winter.
In theory, I have a lot to be grateful for. I have a great career, I come from a loving family whom I am very close with, and I meditate, look after my health. And to top it off, I was lucky enough to inherit just enough money to buy a teeny tiny house last year which I just moved into.
But it was just after Christmas that I began to sink into a very low time. This is not uncommon for me but I like to think that if I take every precaution necessary, such as eating a low sugar healthy diet, meditating, exercising, and taking lots of vitamin D that I would be less prone to spiraling downwards.
But just as February came and went, I could feel that I just wasn't myself. I was just going through the motions of showing up for work, I had no energy to cook healthy meals, and couldn't get up early to exercise. I knew I needed to pull myself out of the dark hole I was in. For me and like so many North Americans, battling depression is a component of their lives that they have learned to deal with. With the help of my doctor, I had made a personal and conscious decision not to go on anti-depressants. But as March approached, I was tired of living on my couch every day after work only to look out the window at the world going on all around without me. I decided to take steps to get my life back on track. To get happy again. I knew I needed to gradually start making small steps to get back into ‘the land of the living' and start gaining momentum in re-setting the biological chemistry in the brain to give a feel good response – Serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a huge role in mood, appetite control and sleep.
So on Black Friday when I was feeling like it couldn't get any blacker, I decided to go online and order a fitness tracker. I was really pleased with myself for taking that first step. I set my first goal of only 5000 steps. My work day would already use up half of that and then I was responsible for the rest once I got home. I have to say my tracker really helped me. For the first time in weeks, I became motivated to get outside and exercise. I enjoyed seeing how many steps I had taken that day and then once home bundling up even more to brave the cold to get those steps done. Slowly things began to change for me. I found joy in walking to the grocery store and looking at all the colorful vegetables that I would make for dinner. I slowly walked my way out of the way I felt.
In Mid-March, I noticed a friend of mine at work also had a fitness tracker. I asked him how many steps he did and he said he used to do 5000 but then he switched it to 10 000. This again motivated me to do the same. Well it's April now…and I have to say things are much better for me. The renovation is almost complete. The cold weather is dissipating and sunny warmer days help lift spirits. There are always times when you feel really low and isolated. During those times, it's hard to remember that these feelings are only temporary and life really is worth living, you just need to take steps back to health.
This past weekend, I attended a group meditation which we call Kirtan—the singing/chanting of the names of God, along with dancing too. This practice of Kirtan is the heart and soul of yoga. This This timeless science of yoga should be taken very seriously. This will help to lead a complete lifestyle and further lead to find our true purpose of life and find actual happiness. The young man leading the Kirtan had just welcomed their fifth child in to the world and he was explaining his family would move out of the city to buy a less expensive larger house and a larger car. He said that he is house poor, car poor, but family and faith rich! He then led a rip roaring Kirtan that was so soul purifying, one couldn't help, especially me, but to feel happy. While everyone can feel down in the dumps at times, it is important to take steps to help and heal yourself.
Here a few easy things you can do to help fight the blues.
Buy a fitness tracker.
As previously mentioned, exercise pumps out our happy hormones, making it highly encouraging for people who experience bouts of depression or suffer from anxiety. A fitness tracker can help by tracking your steps, heart rate, physical activities and vitality levels.
The Mayo Clinic suggests that people exercise 30 minutes a day, three to five times a week. But even just 10 to 15 minutes of exercise at a time can make a positive impact by encouraging the release of neurotransmitters and endorphins. Turning exercise into a regular habit also helps people gain confidence as they meet daily goals and keep their mind away from negative thought patterns.
Furthermore, a follow-up to a 1999 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that exercise’s positive effects lasted longer than antidepressants.
Research also shows that regular exercise can be an effective tool to fight against depression and anxiety. However, if you are in the midst of an episode, it can be very hard to muster the motivation, and that is why fitness devices can be a valuable motivational tool.
Buy a plant.
Winter means tightly closed windows and stuffy quarters. Plants clean the air by producing oxygen. But also, according to research done by NASA back in the late 1980s, certain plants will even filter harmful pollutants such as formaldehyde, benzene, and ammonia from the air. Some of these harmful toxins cause chronic health problems such as headaches, asthma, and allergies which can lead to depression and anxiety.
To combat the toxins in your home and relieve reoccurring health symptoms, try filling up your indoor space with some of these plants like Rhodiola, Lavender and Boston Fern.
Take Your Vitamins
Regular supplementation of B-complex vitamins each day is especially helpful during times of stress. Studies show that vitamins B6 and B12 are associated with a lower risk of depressive symptoms in older adults, according to the results of a study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vitamin B6 in particular supports the production of serotonin in the brain.
St. John’s Wort
This herb has been proven effective for easing mild to moderate depression. It appears to work as a natural SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) by preventing the breakdown of serotonin in the brain.
20 percent of Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) each winter, likely caused or worsened by vitamin D insufficiency. Vitamin D boosting strategies to combat winter blues include getting outdoors as much as possible when the sun is out, and taking a Vitamin D3 supplement.