I have the blues. I feel sad, unloved, and unworthy. I look in the mirror and I don’t like what I see. I look tired, overweight, and frumpy. Maybe I just need a new hairdo, or a new outfit. But I know that won’t change the way I feel about myself. I give myself a peptalk. “What have you got to feel sad about?” I ask myself. “You are a highly educated woman. You have a nice home, a family that loves you, and plenty to eat. Why isn’t that enough?” I have no answer.
I know I’m not alone. Right now, about 20 million Americans are in the midst of an episode of depression. Some have it much worse than I do. They may have the incapacitating symptoms of what doctors call “major depression.” These symptoms usually require professional attention because they are very severe and demoralizing. But that knowledge doesn’t stop me from feeling lousy about myself and my life at this moment. I just want to sit on my “pity pot” and feel sorry for myself, but I know that will only make me feel worse. So what to do?
The research indicates that there are several steps I can take to prevent and overcome minor depression.
1. Put some spring in your step.
Regular exercise may be the most powerful natural antidepressant available. It is advisable that you take a brisk walk. Exercise helps generate the release of brain chemicals called endorphins. When endorphin levels are low, depression can seep in. Exercise also oxygenates the brain, keeping it healthy.
How much should you exercise? Thirty minutes, five days a week, at moderate intensity, is a nice level to aim for to help prevent the brain imbalances that can make you vulnerable to depression.
2. Nourish your brain.
Virtually any nutrient deficiency can result in impaired mental function, including depression. To help prevent depression, health experts recommend that people should take high-potency multivitamins or mineral supplements. This will supply the brain with enough nutrients in order to keep it properly functioning and, thus, avoid some mental disorders such as depression.
3. Get enough sleep.
Getting less than eight hours of sleep, night after night, may lower levels of the brain chemical known as “serotonin,” which can make you more prone to depression. To sleep well, health practitioners recommend going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, including weekends.
Relax before bedtime, perhaps with a hot bath. And for the soundest sleep, keep your bedroom quiet and dark.
4. Consider some alternate explanations.
Your emotions, positive or negative, are created not by situations themselves, but by the way you interpret those situations. A very common situation can turn into a reason for hand wringing unless you take mental steps to prevent it.
All good suggestions, but none of them will work without some serious efforts on my part. Indeed, depression can be very destructive if neglected. Time to get off my “pity pot” and take the first step toward feeling better. After all, I am responsible for my own happiness in life. It’s the one responsibility that I cannot assign to others.