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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 June 6, 2019

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

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     A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

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    The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

    “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

    In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

    The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

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      A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

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      Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

      “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

      When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

      The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

      As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

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      “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

      Silence relieves stress and tension.

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        It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

        A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

        “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

        Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

        Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

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          The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

          Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

          But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

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          Summation

          Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

          Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

          Reference

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