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7 Steps to Help Fight Depression

7 Steps to Help Fight Depression

Depression is a serious condition that affects many people at some point in their lives. You do not have to feel guilty or embarrassed about being depressed. There are many healthy ways to fight depression. These seven easy steps can also be performed as a preventive measure once you have recovered from depression

1. Spend Time With a Friend

You do not need to unload your problems onto your friend like you would with a counselor, but you can seek out the companionship that your friends provide. Even something as simple as meeting a friend for coffee can lift your spirits. A strong social support network is a proven way to help fight depression.

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2. Get Out in Nature

Getting outside, feeling the sunshine on your skin and breathing the fresh air are known to improve the mood. Your body uses sunlight to make vitamin D, which also helps to fight depression. Go for a walk in your neighborhood, go to a local park and swing or just find a bench with a scenic view and take in the scenery.

3. Spend Time With Animals

If you do not have your own pet, consider volunteering at a local shelter. Brushing the cats or taking dogs for a walk can help to lower your stress. Volunteering at a rescue shelter can also help you to feel like you are doing something for the greater good. Blow bubbles and watch the dog try to catch them. You might also consider adopting a companion animal. Caring for a pet will give you something to focus on, and pets provide their owners with unconditional love.

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4. Eating Healthy

Part of fighting depression is nourishing yourself from within. In addition to caring for your mind and spirit, you also need to nourish your body. A lot of people don’t realize that certain things they eat are changing their mood.

Many recent studies point towards gluten causing depression. If you don’t have time to prepare healthy, or particularly gluten-free meal, there are new services like Ion Nutrition that will deliver them straight to your door. Make sure your meals include plenty of vitamins B, C and D. Some  good options include roasted root vegetables with a lean protein and some fresh fruit for dessert. Be sure that you are staying hydrated, focusing on water and avoiding caffeine and alcohol.

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5. Get Active

Regular exercise helps your body to produce endorphins. These neurochemicals are a natural mood lifter. You do not have to become a fitness guru in order to get more physical activity in your life. Choose something that you enjoyed in the past, such as bicycling or doing yoga.

Swimming, adult dance classes and rock climbing are all great year-round activities. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity every day of the week. Getting active can also help you to maintain a healthy body weight and build muscle strength, which may give you a boost in self-confidence.

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6. Engage in Hobbies

Even if you do not feel like working on any of your past hobbies, you may find that those activities that once brought you pleasure can be satisfying to do again. If you used to read novels, consider joining a book club. You will get to read a new book and socialize with others, these bring even more benefits to fighting depression.

If you used to whip up a pair of knit socks every week, visit your local yarn shop, select a beautiful hank of yarn, wind it into a cake and get your needles clicking. The tangible aspects of a hobby and creating a finished product can remind you of the skills and talents that you have.

7. Bring Humor Into Your Life

Watching something silly is another healthy way to fight depression. You may find yourself laughing at one of your favorite comedies or the weekly episode of Saturday Night Live once again.

Laughter is good for your body and your spirit, and you may forget what was on your mind, at least for a little while.

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Last Updated on September 10, 2018

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

We thought that the expression ‘broken heart’ was just a metaphor, but science is telling us that it is not: breakups and rejections do cause physical pain. When a group of psychologists asked research participants to look at images of their ex-partners who broke up with them, researchers found that the same brain areas that are activated by physical pain are also activated by looking at images of ex-partners. Looking at images of our ex is a painful experience, literally.[1].

Given that the effect of rejections and breakups is the same as the effect of physical pain, scientists have speculated on whether the practices that reduce physical pain could be used to reduce the emotional pain that follows from breakups and rejections. In a study on whether painkillers reduce the emotional pain caused by a breakup, researchers found that painkillers did help. Individuals who took painkillers were better able to deal with their breakup. Tamar Cohen wrote that “A simple dose of paracetamol could help ease the pain of a broken heart.”[2]

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Just like painkillers can be used to ease the pain of a broken heart, other practices that ease physical pain can also be used to ease the pain of rejections and breakups. Three of these scientifically validated practices are presented in this article.

Looking at images of loved ones

While images of ex-partners stimulate the pain neuro-circuitry in our brain, images of loved ones activate a different circuitry. Looking at images of people who care about us increases the release of oxytocin in our body. Oxytocin, or the “cuddle hormone,” is the hormone that our body relies on to induce in us a soothing feeling of tranquility, even when we are under high stress and pain.

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In fact, oxytocin was found to have a crucial role as a mother is giving birth to her baby. Despite the extreme pain that a mother has to endure during delivery, the high level of oxytocin secreted by her body transforms pain into pleasure. Mariem Melainine notes that, “Oxytocin levels are usually at their peak during delivery, which promotes a sense of euphoria in the mother and helps her develop a stronger bond with her baby.”[3]

Whenever you feel tempted to look at images of your ex-partner, log into your Facebook page and start browsing images of your loved ones. As Eva Ritvo, M.D. notes, “Facebook fools our brain into believing that loved ones surround us, which historically was essential to our survival. The human brain, because it evolved thousands of years before photography, fails on many levels to recognize the difference between pictures and people”[4]

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Exercise

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that reduce our perception of pain. When our body is high on endorphins, painful sensations are kept outside of conscious awareness. It was found that exercise causes endorphins to be secreted in the brain and as a result produce a feeling of power, as psychologist Alex Korb noted in his book: “Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, neurotransmitters that act on your neurons like opiates (such as morphine or Vicodin) by sending a neural signal to reduce pain and provide anxiety relief.”[5] By inhibiting pain from being transmitted to our brain, exercise acts as a powerful antidote to the pain caused by rejections and breakups.

Meditation

Jon Kabat Zinn, a doctor who pioneered the use of mindfulness meditation therapy for patients with chronic pain, has argued that it is not pain itself that is harmful to our mental health, rather, it is the way we react to pain. When we react to pain with irritation, frustration, and self-pity, more pain is generated, and we enter a never ending spiral of painful thoughts and sensations.

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In order to disrupt the domino effect caused by reacting to pain with pain, Kabat Zinn and other proponents of mindfulness meditation therapy have suggested reacting to pain through nonjudgmental contemplation and acceptance. By practicing meditation on a daily basis and getting used to the habit of paying attention to the sensations generated by our body (including the painful ones and by observing these sensations nonjudgmentally and with compassion) our brain develops the habit of reacting to pain with grace and patience.

When you find yourself thinking about a recent breakup or a recent rejection, close your eyes and pay attention to the sensations produced by your body. Take deep breaths and as you are feeling the sensations produced by your body, distance yourself from them, and observe them without judgment and with compassion. If your brain starts wandering and gets distracted, gently bring back your compassionate nonjudgmental attention to your body. Try to do this exercise for one minute and gradually increase its duration.

With consistent practice, nonjudgmental acceptance will become our default reaction to breakups, rejections, and other disappointments that we experience in life. Every rejection and every breakup teaches us great lessons about relationships and about ourselves.

Featured photo credit: condesign via pixabay.com

Reference

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