Down in a Hole

For many people, the fall and winter season is a time for gathering together and celebrating holiday cheer, but for some folks it can be a time of deep sadness and depression. Statistically, more people become depressed during the winter months but it can certainly happen at any time of the year.

Recent studies show that antidepressants such as Prozac, Paxil and Lexapro are now the third most widely prescribed group of drugs in the United States. [1]

By the year 2030, The World Health Organization, expects that Depression will be the biggest health issue in the world.

What the heck is going on here?

According to the dictionary, the definition of depression is a sunken place, a reduction in activity, vitality and functionality.

Depression can literally make us feel like we are down in a hole. Understanding this condition is one of the best ways to start digging yourself out.

Emotional and physical trauma can lead to depression. But, depression can also be caused by[3]:

  • Stress and tension
  • Adrenal Fatigue
  • Nutritional deficiencies (deficiency of any single nutrient can alter brain function leading to depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders)
  • Food allergies
  • Lack of exercise
  • Prescription medications
  • Lack of sunlight

According to the BBC News, eating a diet high in processed food and less whole foods increased the risk of depression by a whopping 58 percent![4] Processed sugars and refined carbohydrates promote a rapid rise in insulin, creating mood swings and contributing to nutritional deficiencies.

It’s imperative during times of depression to get the heck off the sugar, soda, white bread, cookies, cakes, Hostess Ho Ho’s, and other highly refined carbohydrates. On the other hand, whole grain carbohydrates (brown rice, whole grain breads, quinoa, buckwheat, starchy vegetables) give a slower release of glucose and contain a wide range of nutrients that can support health and well-being.

In addition, scientific studies indicate low cholesterol levels linked with higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide.[5][6] Low cholesterol levels lead to decreased serotonin levels.[7]  Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that eases tension, promotes self confidence and motivation.

This doesn’t mean we should run out to the nearest fast food joint and scarf down a double-cheeseburger, large fries and a milkshake to cure our woes.  There are many more scrumptious ways to get the necessary fat and cholesterol that supports the nervous system, like this Creamy Turkey Chowder.

Beyond food we need to exercise, exercise, exercise!  Moving our beautiful body releases endorphins that lift the spirits. A simple daily walk outside in the sunshine and fresh air (30-35 minutes) can be more beneficial than taking prescription medications like Zoloft.

It’s time to ditch the meds, put on the hightop Keds, and start walking to help weather our emotional storms.

One thing that irks me is that it is widely accepted for us to medicate, get high or drunk, overeat, space out on sugar, excessive television watching, and/or engage in other mind-numbing activities that STOP us from feeling our sad feelings. I believe if we don’t allow ourselves to fully feel our emotions, we run the risk of staying stuck and depressed for long periods of time. If we are numb to an experience we may wind up repeating the same behaviors or patterns over and over again.

It takes courage to feel our “crap” and then make the necessary diet and lifestyle improvements to help us gain the strength needed to get beyond the dark times in our life. Depression can become manageable if we allow our full range of emotions to move through us and not become us. Many of my clients eventually ditch their meds when they begin eating better, exercising, feeling their emotions, and staying present to what is happening in their life.

To help shed some light, it’s important to find things to be grateful for right now in this present moment. For example:  Right now I am alive. Holy Brussels Sprouts, Batman!  I am alive!  That, in itself, is amazing!  My lungs expand and contract with the air I breathe (even if it’s polluted). My eyes, may not have 20/20 vision but I can still view the vibrant colors of food; rich green kale, bright orange squashes and carrots, shiny white onions, and deep purple cabbages. My taste buds can savor the salty, sweet, bitter, sour and pungent flavors of many foods. My flat Fred Flintstone feet walk me anywhere I want to go. My little fingers are functioning and able to type this information.

Get the picture?

Get present. If we focus on what we had in the past, or what we coulda’ shoulda’, woulda’ done, that can makes us feel depressed. If we focus on what may happen the future that hasn’t actually happened yet, that can give us anxiety. It’s only in the “present” that we can receive life’s precious gifts.

There are many ways to get into the present. I highly recommend books or tapes on meditation by Tich Nhat Hahn (Peace is Every Step), Pema Chodran (When Things Fall Apart), or Jack Kornfield (A Path With Heart).

Have faith in your body and mind. And, if you’re feeling down and in need a quick pick me up, here’s an inspirational video about gratitude that’s sure to lift your spirits and make you smile.


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