Sunday, February 17, 2013

February is notorious for depression. The dark days, post-holiday let down and lack of social interaction due to bad weather all contribute to the blues, yet depression is  one illness that often goes untreated. Sometimes, people are afraid to say anything for fear of being labeled "crazy". What they don't realize is that depression is actually a PHYSICAL illness, like a broken leg or a virus, that can have many different causes and can be treated very successfully once the cause is figured out. The good news is that you don't necessarily have to take medication. There are some ways to fight it naturally. Here are a few tips:

1. Get some sun! The number one cause of depression is lack of sunlight! The body uses natural sunlight to stimulate certain parts of the brain responsible for producing hormones, Melatonin and Endorphins, which help regulate sleep and mood. When you are indoors for extended periods of time, those hormone levels drop off and you end up feeling blue and may even experience difficulty sleeping. 30-60 minutes of continuous sunlight per day will help dramatically. The good news is you don't necessarily have to be outdoors to get that light. Placing your desk in front of a sunny window or using a "sun lamp" are two really good options.

2. Keep a journal. Writing your feelings down is a good way to vent and help you sort through the negative ones.

3. Get some exercise. Studies have shown that people who get regular exercise are less likely to be depressed. Exercise boosts endorphin levels which improve mood.

4. Make a collage. When you're depressed, you may lose interest in things you normally enjoy. Take a few minutes and clip pictures of things that normally interest you, either from old magazines or from on-line sites like Google images or Pinterest. Paste them onto a poster board of piece of paper (if you're using the on-line version, copy and paste them into a document, then print it) and post it somewhere visible, like on a bathroom mirror or refrigerator. The pictures will stimulate the brain and trick it into feeling good.

5. Talk it out. Many times, when we're depressed, we tend to isolate ourselves. The isolation then leads to feelings of loneliness, which makes the depression worse. Force yourself to pick up the phone or better yet, get out and talk to someone. You'd be amazed at how much it helps!

Normal depression can last from a few days to a few months. If you find that your depression is not going away, despite your best efforts, or if you start having thoughts of hurting yourself or others, please call your doctor right away. Remember, depression is a physical illness just like a virus that can have many different causes. A doctor can figure out what is causing it and get you back on track to feeling good.

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