According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in ten Americans suffers from depression. Deep sadness and even hopelessness may overwhelm the body, and lead to many symptoms including exhaustion, insomnia and even physical pain.
The causes of depression are vast. Deficiency of certain neurotransmitters is closely associated with depression. These include serotonin, which regulates moods and sleep; dopamine, which regulates one’s drive to seek rewards; and norepinephrine, which helps manage stressful situations. Other factors, like nutritional deficiency, chronic illness, and stress also play a role. These factors are often inevitable in a busy lifestyle. The key is how we support the body and mind as we move through these challenges.
Antidepressant medications can help and may be necessary in some cases, but they do not help all depression patients and many have serious side-effects. They are not the only option as there are other natural ways for moving through depression.
1. Exercise is extremely important as it increases the production of endorphins, neurotransmitters that produce a sense of happiness and well-being. Exercising outdoors helps even more as being in the sunshine also increases endorphins.
2. Meditation produces deep relaxation and reduces cortisol (a steroidal hormone), which has been correlated with depression. Studies also show that Tai Chi, a form of moving meditation, is effective in the treatment of depression and anxiety.
3. Nutrition plays a vital role with brain chemistry. The precursor to serotonin, L-tryptophan, is found in many foods, such as spirulina, soy, spinach, sesame seeds, turkey, and more. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in flaxseeds, salmon, and walnuts, are important for proper brain function. Other key nutrients include folate, vitamin B6, and magnesium which are found in many leafy greens, such as spinach and collard greens.
4. Acupuncture increases the production of endorphins, leading to deep relaxation and reduction in stress and anxiety. Chinese herbal medicine is also an effective way to treat depression. Each herbal formula is tailored to address the individual’s unique presentation of depression and its accompanying symptoms.
5. All people have the power to transform challenges in their lives. One needs only to be open, to express and explore. Talk therapy and support groups are available. Expression and exploration of feelings in a safe environment can help you move out of stagnancy and towards balance, harmony and wellness.