Tag Archive: depression


Meditation for Children

In this day and age, with all the research and practical experience, there is no denying the benefit of meditation.  It has been proven to help relieve stress, manage chronic pain, help with depression and anxiety, as well as enhance feelings of compassion, calm, and peacefulness.

Meditation is a practice.  The results get better with time and consistency.  That being the case, it is greatly beneficial to introduce this habit to your children at a young age.  Not only will it help them in their present lives just as it does adults, it will also set them up to reap the benefits of a lifelong practice of meditation.  Many adults who try to adopt a meditation practice encounter some difficulty incorporating it into their daily lives and remaining consistent, especially because at first it is very difficult to settle your mind.  Children who grow up meditating will be at a much better advantage.

Having a regular mindful meditation practice will help your child remain calm and in control of his/her emotions, curb your child’s impulsivity, and help them to be more balanced and compassionate.  In older children, it can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.  Below are some tips for introducing meditation to your child:

  1. Set a Good Example. As with anything you ask your child to do, it’s best if you lead by example.
  2. Help Them to Understand Why. All children want to know why.  Understanding the benefits of meditation will empower them to really try rather than just go through the motions.
  3. Use Guided Meditations. Guided meditation is a great way to start.  It gives your child something to focus on, which is sometimes easier in the beginning than trying to “not think”.
  4. Be Realistic. It’s best to start off slow.  Especially for young children, just 3-5 minutes in the beginning is enough.  If meditation becomes overwhelming, it will cause stress for your child rather than reduce it.
  5. Keep Them Sitting Up. Lying down can be too relaxing and lead to falling asleep.  While naps are great, they do not carry the same benefits as a mindful meditation practice.

For thousands of years, we humans lived active, social lives set primarily in the great outdoors as hunters and gatherers and, later, farmers.  It is only in the past few generations that we have become an industrialized society that lives a much more sedentary, indoor existence; an increasingly less social existence as we continue to rely more and more on avenues like phone, email, texting and social media to communicate and stay connected with each other.   It is the exact opposite of what our lives used to be.  Today, through experience and scientific research, we are learning that this is not at all good for us; that, in fact, much of our mental and physical health issues, such as depression, chronic stress, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and mood disorders is caused by and exacerbated by this new lifestyle we’ve been leading these past few years.

I am not advocating a return to the Stone Age, trust me.  There is a lot that we have gained as a species in our evolution from then until now that I would loathe to give up, no matter what the benefits.  Rather, the challenge is now to find the balance of both worlds; to reincorporate into our new, industrialized way of living some of the old ways that we have lost to our detriment.

Recent scientific research has shown that cavemen (and women) were protected naturally from many of the conditions and issues we face today by three key elements of their way of living:  1.) the time they spent outside in nature 2.) their physical activity (exercise)  3.  an abundance of social, human to human contact.  The next question is how do we incorporate more of these elements into our lives now?  I know that many of you reading this post lead very busy lives.  Most of us are way too busy, myself included.  But this is too important to shrug off with “I’m too busy.”  Getting sick, either physically, mentally, or both, will surely make a bigger dent in your ability to accomplish your tasks than scheduling some time to exercise, spend time outdoors, and socialize.  The good news is that it doesn’t have to be a ton of time.  A few (4-6) hours a week will go a long way.

A great way to incorporate these key elements is to combine them.  For instance, you could go for a bike ride, a walk, or a run with a group of friends outside.  To be clear, it is important to be in as natural a setting as possible.  If you live in a city, find a park and do the exercise / physical activity there.  There is also a wonderful new trend of outdoor fitness classes.  They are usually group classes, which makes them social, and they often take place in parks and other natural settings.  For those of you who are in our area, Evolution Fitness of Cherry Hill, NJ runs a great outdoor class every Wednesday and Saturday.  Below is a short video of one of the classes.

Another way to incorporate these key elements is to bring them into activities you already do.  For instance, if you are someone who works on the computer a lot, why not bring your laptop to a local park and do your work there?  If you are someone who already exercises a lot, say at a local gym, why not exercise outside on the days you are not strength training?  You could run, walk, bike, or just do a stretch and recover workout.  If you get together with friends and family on a regular basis (which is great), maybe you could try to do more active, outdoorsy things with them like go on a hike and then have a picnic; or just have a picnic and play a game of touch football or volleyball or soccer.

Another great way to help incorporate these key elements is to do them “in bulk” so to speak.  This is geared more towards the being in nature and socializing elements, as it is not good to exercise for too long a period of time, and results will be best with shorter, more regular workouts.  But, say you have a “free” day, on Sunday perhaps, and you could spend 3 or 4 hours outside with friends or family, one hour of which could be doing physical activity.  That would do a lot to carry you through to the next week, leaving you able to spend maybe only 10 – 15 minutes each day outside, which might be more manageable in your schedule.

In conclusion, there are many different ways to incorporate these key three elements of nature time, human to human social time, and physical activity into your everyday life.   It is of the utmost importance to do so.  It will increase your health and happiness ten fold, and we could all use a little more of those things.  It’s all about finding the balance that works for you.

Teen Suicide & Prevention

Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for teens today.  That is a scary statistic.  The National Institute of Health believes that there are as many as 25 teen suicide attempts for each one that is completed.  That makes the first statistic even scarier.  Teen suicide rates have risen 200% since 1960, yet another scary statistic.  Fact of the matter is, teen suicide is a serious issue and a serious problem that needs to be continuously addressed.

Studies show that clear warning signs precede 4 out of 5 teen suicide attempts.  It is important to note here that many teen suicide warning signs are also indications of depression.  To be clear, you may not see all the warning signs display themselves in the teen.  Instead, watch for a combination of two or three signs as an indication of depression and possible suicidal thoughts.  Here are some of the warning signs:

  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Disinterest in favorite activities
  • Withdrawing or isolating oneself
  • Substance abuse, illegal and legal
  • Complains more frequently of boredom
  • Changes in eating/sleeping habits
  • Reckless “death wish” behaviors
  • Self-injury
  • Neglects hygiene and appearance
  • Increase in physical complaints (aches, fatigues, migraines) possibly due to emotional distress
  • Feelings of being trapped, no way out
  • Perceived burdensomeness, others “better off” without them

The following are warning signs/indications of a suicide plan:

  • Verbal cues and hints, such as:
    • “ All of my problems will end soon ”
    • “ No one can do anything to help me now ”
    • “ I wish I were dead ”
    • “ Everyone will be better off without me ”
    • “ Nothing is going to change or get better ”
    • I just want to go to sleep and not wake up ”
  • Teen begins giving away favorite belongings
  • Throw away important possessions
  • Appear extremely cheerful or calm following a period of depression
  • Creates suicide notes

The three most important aspects of teen suicide prevention are:

1.)  Support / Being Involved

2.)  Awareness / Education

3.)  Professional help

These 3 aspects are like three legs of a stool.  Missing one, the stool will fall over.

The first aspect, support / being involved, is imperative because unless you are actively involved in your teenager’s life, you will never be able to catch any warning signs or changes in behavior.  If your teenager does not feel your support, he/she may feel more alone and hopeless and helpless.  The second aspect, education / awareness is imperative because if you don’t know the warning signs, you might miss them no matter how involved or supportive a parent you are.  Finally, the third aspect, professional help, is imperative for if/when you discover your teenager is depressed or suicidal.  Suicide is not something a family or teen can “handle” themselves.  It requires the licensed professional help of counselors, psychologists, and/or psychiatrists.

There is a non-profit organization right here in New Jersey whose mission it is to educate parents, teachers, and teens about teen suicide.  It was started in 2005 by the parents of Jimmy Ganley, who committed suicide in 2004, and it is called The Ganley Foundation.  Below is a link to their mission page that features a video excerpt from an ESPN special that tells their story.  It is heartbreaking and hard to watch, but it hammers home in a very real way how crucial it is to bring awareness to teen suicide and prevention.

http://ganleyfoundation.org/about-us/our-mission.html

If you, or anyone you know, is contemplating suicide, below are some hotlines you can call for immediate assistance:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

National Suicide Prevention Hotline
1-800-273-TALK (8255)

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/Default.aspx
Veterans, press 1 to be routed to the Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline


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Kristen Brooks Hope Center – National Hopeline Network

1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)

http://www.hopeline.com/


I recently came across an article in Psychology Today[1] that discussed the link between sugar consumption and depression.  According to this article, there are two ways sugar can affect a person’s risk factor for depression.  First, sugar inhibits or hinders the expression of a key growth hormone in the brain called BDNF.  BDNF is largely responsible for neural development.  In other words, BDNF is what maintains the health of your neurons as well as what triggers the growth of new connections between neurons.  Without BDNF, you could not create new memories for instance, or change patterns of behavior.  If a person (or animal) were to suffer chronically from a condition that is characterized by low BDNF (such as chronic depression), they may in turn suffer brain atrophy in key areas like the hippocampus.  In other words, you lack the hormone for growth in the brain, so it shrinks.

The second, equally disturbing, effect of high sugar consumption is that it triggers an onslaught of chemical responses in the body that lead to chronic inflammation.  Chronic inflammation in the body greatly increases your risk for a host of not-so-fun things like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and periodontal disease.  It also greatly increases your risk of depression.  A diet characterized by the excessive consumption of refined sugar will also wreak havoc on your immune system, not to mention lead to some awful mood swings.  Your brain works best on a steady supply of energy, not the frantic highs and debilitating crashes caused by refined sugar.

It is important to note here that refined sugar does not just mean candy and chocolate. Refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, white rice, potato chips, pretzels and the like act the same as sugary snacks do in the body, causing the same inflammation, blood sugar spike, and BDNF inhibiting qualities.

The implications of this are vast and broad considering the obesity rate in this country and the easy access Americans have to these types of refined sugar foods in general.  Factor in the ever-rising childhood obesity rate and there is even more cause for concern.  The growing brains of children need that BDNF hormone desperately, their developing immune systems are more vulnerable than adults and should not be compromised by chronic inflammation, and no child struggling with obesity will be helped by the onset of depression triggered by the very food that caused their weight gain.

While consuming large amounts of refined sugar on a regular basis is indeed a contributing factor to depression, it is by no means the only factor.  That is why if you or a loved one is suffering with depression, the recommendation is to seek the counsel of a licensed therapist.  There are often underlying emotional issues and patterns of thought and behavior that need to be addressed as well.   We recommend seeking a therapist who looks at the person as a whole – their thoughts, emotions, behaviors, diet, lifestyle, physical activity and spiritual life.  All these aspects in a person are deeply connected and cannot be adequately addressed in a separate, compartmentalized fashion.


[1] http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-depression-cure/200907/dietary-sugar-and-mental-illness-surprising-link

Natural Remedies for PMS

OK, so before the men who read this blog completely check out, I’ll ask that you reconsider.  This post may help you to listen and to understand the women in your life a little better.

PMS has been around a lot longer than the name itself – pretty much since the beginning of the human race, and women in particular.  Experts say that the definitive cause of PMS is unknown, but many think it has something to do with the flux in hormones.  First, lets brush up on some of what happens during a typical menstrual cycle. From the onset of menstruation (when you get your period) until ovulation, your body is essentially ripening an egg.  It is the pre-ovulation stage, the first stage of the menstrual cycle.  Estrogen is a hormone made by your body throughout your entire menstrual cycle, but it peaks right around the time of ovulation, the 2nd and 3rd week respectively, and declines before you menstruate.  Once you ovulate, we move into the luteal phase.  During this phase your body also produces the hormone progesterone.  So, basically, PMS is the time when your body is experiencing a decline in estrogen, as well as the effects of progesterone.  Both these hormones affect certain neurotransmitters that influence mood, by the way.

Some of the common symptoms of PMS include breast swelling and tenderness, headache, cramps, nausea, abdominal bloating, depressed mood, irritability, fatigue, trouble sleeping, food cravings, swelling of the hands, ankles, and face, anger, increased emotional sensitivity, and anxiety, to name a few.  If you have these symptoms and they are severe or debilitating, you might be suffering from PMDD and should seek medical treatment from your gynecologist.  Interestingly, PMS symptoms are often most pronounced for women in their 30s and 40s, so unfortunately if you are PMS-free now, you may not always be.  Also, if you are in your 20s and you do have PMS, it may worsen as you get older.  All the more reason to do what you can now to lessen the symptoms.

There are some key dietary changes you can make that will help control your symptoms of PMS.  Calcium has been shown to reduce the severity of symptoms.  Supplementing with Vitamin E has also shown some effectiveness.  There is some evidence, although less, that supplementation of magnesium and Vitamin B6 can also alleviate symptoms.  (Both magnesium and B6 can have side effects if you consume too much, and magnesium should not be supplemented if you have heart or kidney disease without consulting your doctor first.)

On a whole, it is important to eat well.  Specifically it is helpful to reduce salt and sugar intake, as well as decrease the fat in your diet.  Reduction or elimination of caffeine is also helpful as it can aggravate anxiety, depression, and breast tenderness.  Keep your blood sugar level stable by choosing sturdy, whole grain, complex carbohydrates and by eating small, healthy meals throughout the day.  Keep your fiber intake up.  Adding flaxseed can be helpful for this as it contains both insoluble and soluble fiber.  It also contains plant estrogen, which may help when your body experiences that decline in estrogen.  Eat lots of vegetables and fruits, as well as omega-3 rich foods, as they will help with mood levels.

Exercise has also been shown to reduce PMS symptoms.  Exercise is a great stress reliever and mood-improver.  Stress is a big culprit for aggravating PMS symptoms, so it is advisable to adopt regular stress-relieving practices like meditation and yoga.  Some deep breathing at various times throughout the day can also help regulate stress.

As for herbal remedies, women have used evening primrose oil for quite some time to relieve PMS symptoms.  It is generally considered safe, but it is still recommended to check with your doctor before taking it regularly.  Another common herbal remedy is chaste berry, often brewed into teas.

As someone who experiences PMS every month, I can say that in my personal experience I have noticed that as my lifestyle got healthier over these past few years, my PMS symptoms have lessened.  I, myself, plan to try some of the other remedies I found in my research to see if they, too, can help me decrease my symptoms.  Having said that, there is something to be said for the natural cycles and rhythms of our bodies.  I think some of the stress caused by PMS, which then worsens PMS, is because we fight it.  We fight the days when we feel a little more down than usual, a little more sensitive, a little more tired.  If, after incorporating all or most of these remedies, you still find yourself experiencing some mild symptoms of PMS, then I would advise you to surrender to them.  If you fight them, it will just cause extra stress, which will then in turn make your PMS symptoms that much worse.  The menstrual cycle has its natural phases, just as the moon does.  It’s part of who we are as women.  (But, let me reiterate the importance of doing all you can to lessen the symptoms first, especially if you find that your PMS is disruptive in any way to your life or relationships.)

In conclusion, I will leave you with some food for thought.  When I came across this in my research, it sure opened my mind up to a new possibility.  The following is a quote from an article by Dr. Christiane Northrup, noted author and gynecologist.   “The luteal phase, from ovulation until the onset of menstruation, is when women are most in tune with their inner knowing and with what isn’t working in their lives…. In fact, it has been shown experimentally that the right hemisphere of the brain—the part associated with intuitive knowing—becomes more active premenstrually, while the left hemisphere becomes less active. Interestingly enough, communication between the two hemispheres may be increased as well.”[1] Now, doesn’t that put a whole new (and positive) spin on PMS?   Maybe if we stop thinking of PMS as the time of the month when we go a little crazy and instead start regarding it as a time where we may gain insight into our lives, it might then alter our experience of it?  Wouldn’t that be nice?

Sources:

Wikipedia.org

Ehow.com :  How To Use Flaxseed Oil to Treat PMS

Medicinenet.com : PMS-Free Diet? What You Eat May Effect PMS

Livestrong.com : Natural Ways to Help with PMS

About.com : Natural Remedies for PMS

Drnorthrup.com : Premenstrual Syndrome


[1] Wisdom of the Menstrual Cycle by Dr. Christiane Northrup, drnorthrup.com

Giving Thanks

I mentioned to a colleague the other day that Thanksgiving was one of my favorite holidays.  (Thanksgiving and July 4th actually.)  She wisely noted that Thanksgiving is one of the only holidays where there is no expectation, other than good food.  There are no presents, baskets of chocolate, or major decorations to contend with.  In fact, the craze for Christmas usually starts the day after Thanksgiving, so even its build up is much more calm and un-frenzied.  Thanksgiving is simply about getting together with people you care about and giving thanks.  (And eating, of course J)

There is a relatively new branch of psychology known as positive psychology.  Positive psychology is founded on “the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.  Positive Psychology has three central concerns: positive emotions, positive individual traits, and positive institutions.”[1] It is a branch of psychology that is placing the emphasis on “making normal life more fulfilling”[2] thus expanding the role of psychology outside of its traditional purpose:  the study of, the understanding of, and the treatment of mental illness.

Robert Emmons, a leading practitioner in positive psychology, as well as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology and author of the book, Thanks! How Practicing the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier has conducted multiple studies on the effects of gratitude along with his partner Professor Michael McCullough.  In some of the studies, the participants kept daily or weekly gratitude journals in which they wrote at least one thing for which they were grateful.  (The control group would simply journal about neutral, daily life.)  Emmons and McCullough found, among other things, that those who kept the gratitude journals “performed more regular fitness training, reported fewer symptoms of physical pain, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week(s).  Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals.  [And] Self-guided gratitude intervention resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness, energy and improved sleep.”[3] Overall, Emmons has found in his ten years of research on gratitude that it can increase happiness by 25%.  Since this is the case, boy am I glad America has a holiday dedicated to giving thanks.

So, this Thanksgiving, let’s all be extra conscious of being grateful and thankful for all our blessings and for all the wonderful people we are lucky enough to have in our lives.  Not only will it serve to make for a happier, more peaceful, more meaningful holiday, but it will increase our own happiness by 25% (at the very least!) and will most likely increase the happiness of those we love as well.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving and giving thanks, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our readers.  I truly enjoy writing this blog and I am grateful that there are many out there who read it and benefit from it.  Happy Thanksgiving all!


[1] Positive Psychology Center, positivepsychology.org

[2] Wikipedia.org/positive_psychology

[3] www.palmbeachpost.com : “This Thanksgiving, give a healthy thank you for gratitude”

Music: A Healing Art

If I had to guess, I would say that 99.999999999% of the people who live on this Earth listen to some sort of music.  The type of music, I’m sure, varies as widely as the people that listen to it, but music is a cross-cultural, cross-generational phenomenon.  Archeological evidence suggests that music came before any language.  If you are human, chances are music is a part of your life.

I think we all understand the power that music has on us, especially when it comes to mood.   Most of us have experienced it first-hand.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who has found her bad mood lifted by an upbeat song she loves.  (Glory Days by Bruce Springsteen does it every time.)  Or alternately, her joyous mood dampened by a piece that evokes sad or angry emotions.  (Prime example:  Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings.  It, too, gets me every time but it is an exquisite piece of music that I love listening to.)

If you exercise, I’m sure you understand the power music has on the quality of your workout.  Music can motivate you to push through that last set or rep, or to sprint that last mile when every muscle and fiber in your being is begging you to quit.  It is also pretty well known, although sadly ignored, that music positively effects learning.  Children who play a musical instrument often perform better in math and language skills.  In musicians, the corpus callosum (the part of the brain that connects the two hemispheres) is more highly developed.

One of music’s first important social roles was as a means of healing. Today, music therapy is being employed in many different settings to promote both physical and mental healing.  For example, it is used today to help people suffering with depression.  While the research about its effectiveness is limited, it does indicate that music therapy does well to ease depressive symptoms, often being used when more conventional therapies are not as likely to be successful on their own.   It can help to tap into a patient’s emotions and memories that are otherwise repressed.  Music has been shown to also physically affect the body in a therapeutic manner.  It has been proven to help slow down heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress, encourage better breathing, and help patients rest and recover.

Bottom line, music is powerful.  It has an influence over us that is, in many aspects, unparalleled.  Used wisely, it can be a great tool to help us all navigate daily living.  For the days where you find yourself feeling blue, have a play list or CD ready that you know will put you in a better mood.  Have one ready for those days when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed and nothing seems to be going right. Have one ready for when you are feeling angry or agitated or anxious that will help you feel calm and serene and peaceful.  Have one ready for when you are feeling down on yourself, when you doubt whether you can achieve or accomplish your goals.  (I would suggest the Rocky theme music for this one :) )

I will conclude with some great quotes about music:

“My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary.” Martin Luther King

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and cannot remain silent.” Victor Hugo

“Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul.” Plato

“Music is love in search of a word.” Sidonie Gabrielle

“When the music changes, so does the dance.” African Proverb

Depression & Relationships

Depression can wreak havoc on a relationship.  A depressed person can seem a mere shadow of their former self, often displaying traits that are foreign to who they used to be.  A depressed person may withdraw, lose interest in life in general, lose interest in sex, lack joy, feel overwhelmed by the smallest of tasks, feel tired all the time, tend to focus on the negative and be very pessimistic, and struggle with feelings of worthlessness and despair.  This is not an easy person to live with.  It can be extremely frustrating and emotionally draining to live with a depressed person.  It can be hurtful and confusing when they isolate themselves, pull away, and reject your efforts to help.

The most important step a couple in this situation can take is to seek treatment.  It’s not the depression itself that leads to divorce or break-ups, but rather the consequence of not addressing the depression.  Couples therapy is a wonderful option for those who deal with this issue in their relationship.  The therapist may also want to compliment the couples therapy with some individual sessions for both the depressed and non-depressed partner in order to address their particular issues more in depth, but the couples therapy sessions will help to greatly reduce relationship stress, as well as lead to greater understanding between partners and, ultimately, a strengthening of their bond as they face and work through the illness together.

If your loved one is depressed, here are some tips on how best to cope with the situation:

1. SEEK TREATMENT.

2. Educate yourself about the illness.

This will help you to better understand your partner and what he/she is going through.

3. Offer support and encouragement – Be there for them.

4. Remember:  Depression is an illness.  It’s not something one can just “snap out of”.

5. Don’t attempt to rescue them.

While you may find yourself picking up the slack in certain areas like house cleaning from time to time, it’s too much to ask of yourself to do that in all areas of your depressed partner’s life and may lead to feelings of resentment and anger.  Again, this is why seeking treatment early is so important.

6. Don’t take things personally.

Depression is not rational.  While it is painful to be rejected, scorned, or ignored, it is important to remember it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the illness.

7. Communicate.

It is important that a couple dealing with depression communicates with each other in an honest and respectful way.  A couple’s therapist will help facilitate this process and teach the couple healthy communication skills.  The unspoken is ten times worse than the spoken, especially to a depressed person who will likely assume the worst.

8. Take time for yourself.

Living with a depressed person is very trying and can wear the non-depressed person down.  It is important to take time and re-charge your battery so you can be the positive force your partner needs.

9. Offer hope.

A depressed person may see the world in a very negative light.  Offer hope in whatever form they can accept it in the moment – the love for their children, their faith in a higher power, the beauty of nature – anything positive they can focus their mind on.  It is important to foster that seed.

10. Love them unconditionally.

Someone who is depressed may struggle with feelings of worthlessness.  They may not like who they’ve become and they often feel helpless to change.  They may feel unworthy of love. Mistakenly, they perceive the symptoms of their disease (the lack of energy, the seeming laziness, the lack of joy and enthusiasm, the helplessness) as deep character flaws.  One of the best things you can do for your depressed partner is to see them for who they really are, the person you fell in love with, the person behind the illness.  If you can give them that gift – if you can see that person even in the moments where their real self is most hidden by the depression – you will truly help them get back to their non-depressed selves in a way that only you can. As you see your partner’s true self you offer him/her a reflection, a mirror, in which they too can begin to see themselves as they truly are.  That is a wonderful gift only love can give.

I recently read an article in Swimmer magazine by Jim Thornton called “Staying Happy?”.  In it, he describes the benefits of swimming for those who suffer from depression and anxiety.  Research has shown that vigorous, aerobic exercise of any kind will significantly decrease anxiety and depression.  It releases endorphins, the human’s natural high, thus changing your brain chemistry in a positive manner.  Regular aerobic exercise also increases a person’s overall feeling of wellness, which is a contributing factor to how a person feels about their days and their life. Finally, it gives a sense of accomplishment and increases self-esteem.  It takes your mind off your worries, promotes social interaction, and is a healthy coping mechanism to develop.

Swimming, in particular, helps decrease anxiety and depression because of some of its unique properties.  Due to the motion of swimming, the alternating stretch and relaxation of your muscles, as well as the regular, rhythmic deep breathing that goes along with it, swimming is also a relaxing, meditative type of exercise.  So, not only are you getting the benefits from the aerobic aspect of it, but you are also getting the type of meditating, relaxing and stretching you might get from practicing yoga, for instance.  It’s sort of like a 2-for-1.  For those of us stretched for time, it’s a great way to get exercise and relaxation/meditation all rolled into one.

If swimming is not your thing, yoga can also be a kind of 2-for-1.  Some yoga classes are geared more towards the relaxation side, so be sure to find one that challenges you physically as well.  Also, for your cardiovascular health, it is important that you incorporate some aerobic exercise into your weekly routine, whether it’s running or biking or stair climbing.

Talk Therapy For Depression

An estimated 17.5 million Americans suffer from depression every year. This is no small number.  Depression is a serious disease.  It severely lessens the quality of one’s life – it takes the joy out of otherwise pleasurable activities, it lowers one’s energy, it lowers one’s immune system, making one prone to illness, and it can profoundly inhibit one’s ability to function in daily life.  Sometimes, depression can lead to suicide.  If you, or a loved one, are depressed, it is important that you seek help.

Talk therapy (AKA psychotherapy) is a key component in treating depression.  Many studies have shown that talk therapy can be as effective as medicine in treating moderate to severe depression.  While not all depressive cases can be treated effectively with psychotherapy alone (some may require the use of medication), it is important to seek talk therapy along with medication. After all, your medication won’t be able to help you develop good coping strategies for daily life, nor will it help  you discover the root of your depression.  Sometimes, a depressive case that requires medication at the onset of treatment may be able to cease the medication after time because of the effects of the talk therapy.

There are many different approaches to therapy.  There are therapy approaches that focus on your thoughts and your behavior such as cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy.  These tend to be short-term practical approaches.  Another practical approach is interpersonal therapy, the focus being on your relationships with other people, how they affect your depression and how you can change those relationships in a positive way.  There is also the more traditional psychodynamic therapy, based on psychoanalysis (think Freud) with additional social and interpersonal focus.  One might also opt for group therapy, which should not be confused with a support group. Group therapy will be led by a professional.

No matter what type of therapy approach used, the most important element in therapy is to find a qualified therapist you trust.  Most therapists will more than likely use a combination of approaches.  A qualified therapist will be a licensed professional: a psychologist, a master’s level social worker, a professional counselor, or a psychiatrist.  As to whether it is someone you trust, that can only be determined by meeting them.  Of course, it is helpful  to seek recommendations from your friends and family, from your physician, or from a trusted source such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).  Ultimately, however, the deciding factor will be how you feel about the therapist after your initial consult.

Untreated depression can be life threatening.  At the very least, it greatly handicaps your ability to experience happiness.  If you suffer from depression, please seek help.

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