HOW TO overcome depression
Moving to London from Sydney, 5 years ago was one of the most challenging experiences of my life. It was the middle of winter, I missed my family and struggled to land a job for 3 months. I fell into deep depression and had to fight really hard to find my way out of it.
One of the major reasons I came to explore the practice of mindfulness and meditation was to manage depression and anxiety. I was ready to get off the emotional rollercoaster of feeling frantic and panicked one day then unmotivated and down the next day. I needed to figure out how to manage my mind and retrain my brain to to work for me instead of against me. Through the practice of mindfulness and an ongoing journey of self-awareness, I am now better able to identify and manage the root causes of depression and anxiety rather than the symptoms.
According to the Mental Health Foundation - major depression is thought to be the second leading cause of disability worldwide and a major contributor to rates of suicide in the UK. Depression is an incredibly lonely and debilitating experience that so many of us endure in silence but there are ways to cope and alleviate the suffering.
Here are 5 daily mindful practices that I turn to manage depression.
1. Morning Momentum
There is an old saying - 'If you win the morning, you win the day'. This could not be more true than when it comes to depression. Depression makes you want to give up, to stay in bed and disconnect from life. You wake up and feel like you just want to hide under the covers and go back to sleep. This is the time to resist the inertia of depression and simply ask of yourself to do the smallest step possible to move forward with the day. Take everything one step at a time and don’t think any further ahead. For example - I am going to sit up, I am going to stand up, I am going to shower, I am going to brush my teeth, I am going to get dressed, I am going to make breakfast….The key is to just build the momentum through action the more tiny actions you take, the better you will start to feel.
When you are feeling depressed the thought of doing anything active can seem impossible. Chances are you might not be motivated enough to go to the gym or a fitness class, but just going outside for a walk is enough. The key is the get out of your mind and reconnect to your body in any way. During my saddest times, long walks around London have been my saviour. I would sometimes just keep walking for hours until something shifted in me and I could start to think clearly again. Exercise not only increases blood flow to the brain, it releases endorphins, the body's very own natural antidepressant. It also releases other neurotransmitters, like serotonin, which lift mood.
3. Talk It Out
When we feel sad and depressed, it is a natural tendency to want to isolate ourselves from other people. Isolation actually perpetuates feelings of depression and hopelessness. The cure is to reconnect with people you trust and love. Often just saying our feelings and worries outloud can make them seem less overwhelming. If you don’t know anyone you feel comfortable talking with seek out professional counselling or coaching. Often a mix of support from family and friends as well as professional treatment is the best approach.
4. Eat Happy
A diet lacking in nutrition can greatly influence the way our brain functions and our overall mood. Feeling happy is as much about brain chemistry as it is about our attitude and mindset. This is why eating a healthy nutritious diet is an essential part of alleviating depression. In general, having an upset stomach further perpetuates depression so focus on light and nutritious meals that are full of vegetables and wholefoods. Stay away from sugar and processed foods that spike insulin and blood sugar levels.
5. Feed Your Mind
Depression occurs when we are ruminating on a story or belief that makes us feel hopeless. To disrupt the pattern of negative thoughts, It is important to feed your mind with new thoughts and stories that offer an alternative interpretation of the world you are currently experiencing. Listening to inspiring podcasts and audiobooks is the first thing I do when I start to feel down, it reminds me that life is not just what's going on inside my head. There is a whole world outside of me for me to explore and experience. Remind yourself that there is so much in life to be grateful and excited about.
By Amber Jane McCormick