Depression not only hurts, it debilitates and kills many people day after day, year after year. Depression is not a myth or something we should tell those suffering with to ‘get over.’ In fact, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH,) major depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States for people between fifteen and forty-four years of age.
This means that 14.8 million Americans over the age of eighteen are suffering with major depression, also according to NIMH. That’s a lot of people stuck in the grips of sadness that they just can’t shake. Some will overcome it, some will live with it indefinitely, and sadly still some will finally decide to take their own lives.
Depression plays fair and doesn’t discriminate on who it hits, although it is found by NIMH that women are more likely to suffer from depression than men. Depression hits the rich, the poor, the in between; no matter your color, your religion or your marital status you can have depression.
In fact, just a few weeks ago internationally acclaimed author of the infamous Harry Potter books, JK Rowling, revealed details of her battle with depression.
JK Rowling Reveals Intimate Details of Her Personal Battle with Depression
While speaking with talk show host Oprah Winfrey on her show which aired October 1, 2010, Rowling revealed to Oprah the deep, dark details of her life of depression. Remember, no one is immune to depression.
In this eye opening candid interview Rowling told Oprah how after the rather quick end to her two year tumultuous marriage she slipped into a deep depression as she struggled to start her life over.
Back in England, alone, with her young daughter, Rowling faced the demons of her mistakes that seemed to haunt her. She had regrets and felt she had made a mess of her life. This devastation along with the death of her beloved mother catapulted Rowling into major depression.
She was so despondent she believed her cherished daughter, Jessica, would be taken from her as well. She explained tearfully to Oprah that she would wake and be surprised to find Jessica still alive and well. Her depression was that bad.
JK Rowling no longer suffers from this debilitating depression, but as she shared with Oprah, she hasn’t forgotten how painful that time in her life was. So what made her find her strength and overcome this problem? She began writing her Harry Potter series in the midst of her battle with depression. Through this process she found hope and strength.
Depressed? You’re not Alone
It seems that in today’s society more and more people are depressed. Not too long ago I read a statistic from a study published in Psychiatric Services (April 2004) entitled Pill-Popping Pre-Schoolers. The study revealed that the use of antidepressants amongst children is growing by ten percent a year.
The article mentioned a study from Harvard that reinforced these findings. The Harvard study found that depression amongst children is increasing by twenty-three percent a year. That’s alarming and very sad.
This same study in Psychiatric Services revealed that the age group with the biggest increase in antidepressants is the group between 0 and 5 years of age. This makes me very concerned for these children. Not only are these kids obviously displaying signs of serious depression, they’re being put on pharmaceuticals with potentially dangerous side effects at a very young age.
According to an article in the Washington Post back in February of 2004, antidepressants are linked to suicides, especially in youth, as well as serious health problems.
With so much of the population suffering from dangerous depression, what’s the solution? More and more evidence reveals that antidepressants are not the ‘miracle pill’ that many hoped they would be. So what’s the answer? How do you stop feeling depressed? How do we help the young people of our society who are battling this serious problem?
Let Thy Food be Thy Medicine….
Depression is a serious problem not to be taken lightly. I’m not going to tell you to just forget about it or let it go. But what I am going to suggest is that you take control of the situation. Get proactive to beat your depression. The first step is to seek the proper professional help. Also seeking the counsel of a trusted mentor or pastor is not a bad idea. Next, follow these steps.
One of the biggest problems when people are depressed is that they lack the motivation to make a change or take a step in the right direction. It’s vital if you’re depressed to try to do these things or ask someone you trust to help you do them. If you know someone who’s depressed then maybe you can help them to get started.
While eating healthy isn’t the cure for depression it could be a big piece of the puzzle. Our bodies are a delicate balance of chemicals; when something is out of whack it can impact our body and mind. This is true with depression.
If you’re eating fake foods, your body and mind are lacking the nutrients needed to function properly. This includes your mind which dictates your mental well being.
Make an effort to eat real, whole foods. This means foods with the least amount of processing as close to the way Mother Nature gave them to us. Apples, bananas, carrots, whole grains, nuts, seeds, greens – all of it. Adding a variety of fresh, real foods to your daily diet can really do wonders for your mental state. If you doubt me give it a try. Make a vow to stay away from the boxed and bagged foods for just two weeks and eat real foods. See if you aren’t feeling just a little better.
Burst the Blues Away
Another piece of the puzzle is exercise. Taking part in some form of exercise at least four to five days a week is key to maintaining a good state of mental health no matter what comes your way.
Whether it’s speed walking, biking or going to the gym, it’s vital to take part in some regular type of physical activity to maintain a healthy body and mind. I recommend a combination of weight training and burst training. Don’t make excuses; find a way to make it happen.
Pay it Forward
One of the best, yet often most overlooked, ways to beat the blues is to do some form of community service. Whether it’s volunteering to visit or read with the elderly at nursing homes, helping out at a no kill animal rescue, or getting involved with children in need, the benefits of serving others is huge.
If you’ve ever volunteered before then you know what I mean. If you’ve never done so I urge you to give it a try. The community both locally and nationally is in dire need of volunteers in many areas. Think about what you feel driven to do (animals, children, elderly, nature, etc.) and find a group that can use your help. This can mean the difference between feeling sorry for yourself and falling into a deeper depression, or learning that when you give to others freely the rewards are really your own.
Now remember there’s no one way to beat the blues. You need to try a variety of approaches and to incorporate some lifestyle changes. And I want to say again – it’s vital (especially if you’re having suicidal thoughts) to seek treatment from the proper mental health professionals for your depression.
There are a number of alternative options for treating depression. What works for another may or may not work for you. We all have different body chemistries so different medications, foods, and herbs have different results in our bodies.
Here are 5 of the most widely used natural therapies for depression:
St. John’s Wart
St. John’s Wart is not approved in the United States by the FDA for treatment of depression but is commonly used in Europe to treat mild or moderate depression.
This is a synthetic version of S-adenosylmethionine that is produced naturally in the body. This option is also not approved by the FDA but used as a prescription treatment for depression in Europe.
Studies have shown that an increase in Omega 3 intake has been helpful in fighting mild depression.
Dr. Joseph Hibbeln of the National Institutes of Health has done extensive research in the area of fish intake and depression (Certain fish are a rich source of Omega 3). According to his research the countries with the highest rates of fish consumption also have the lowest rates of depression. Countries with typical Western diets which are low in essential Omega 3’s have increasingly higher rates of depression.
Increasing your intake of Omega 3’s won’t just help fight depression, it will do your body a world of good. Good sources of this essential fatty acid include, cold water fishes like sardines, salmon, mackerel, as well as flax seed, walnuts, and hemp. Many people also benefit from supplementing with an Omega-3 supplement. I recommend varieties that include antioxidants as well, like Garden of Life’s Oceans 3 Beyond Omega-3.
There’s that amazing Vitamin D again. Studies show that there are vitamin D receptors in the brain as well as the rest of the body. According to Dr. Holick, acclaimed author of The Vitamin D Solution, the active form of Vitamin D stimulates the production of serotonin. Serotonin is known as the mood boosting hormone. The best source of vitamin D is safe sun exposure. You can also supplement with a raw vitamin D3.
According to recent studies, this B complex vitamin, B3, along with the other B vitamins are essential for good mental health. Niacin has been found to be particularly effective with anxiety and depression.
There are a number of other alternative treatments to dealing with depression. The first step is to seek professional care and then begin exploring your options. With depression on the rise in our society it’s wise to protect yourself against it now.
Keeping a strong spiritual connection with Our Maker is key to finding meaning, purpose, and hope in an often turbulent world. Don’t overlook this essential key in finding happiness that lasts in life.
We are all different, and as JK Rowling revealed, writing her now infamous Harry Potter series was what finally took her out of her own devastating depression. Follow her lead and find your way out of depression – who knows what’s waiting for you!
Dr. Axe's Action Steps
- Stay away from fake foods and start eating real foods.
- Spend at least 15 minutes in the sun each day.
- Consider supplementing with a high quality Omega-3 oil and Vitamin D.
- Start a weight training and burst training routine at least 3 times a week.
- Find ways to serve other people.