Approximately 9% of people in the U.S. experience a depressive episode, with 3% experiencing major depression. Women are 70% more likely to be affected than men, and depression costs an estimated $34 billion annually. Depression is a major complication in chronic illness such as chronic pain, diabetes, and heart disease, and depressed people have a higher rate of early mortality than non-depressed people. Depression is more than just feeling blue or being a little sad. Depression is a serious illness that requires attention, compassion, and proper treatment. Here are 10 ways to manage depression.
1. Go for a walk
You may hear this so often that you are tired of hearing it, but research continues to prove that one of the best ways to manage depression is through exercise. A study at the University of Bern has found that the neurophysical changes that occur as the result of exercise are the same changes that antidepressants cause. This means that for those who would like to manage depression without prescription drugs, exercise may be the answer. Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden even found that exercise gets rid of a chemical in the blood that accumulates when life is stressful, further protecting the brain from stress-induced depression.
In his book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, Dr. John Ratey recommends exercising six days a week for 45 minutes each time for maximum effect. The timing of exercise and the workouts themselves should be tailored to the condition being treated (e.g., focusing workouts in the morning for those with ADHD, long walks in the afternoons for depression).
2. Change your diet
While sugar can be particularly hard on the system when it comes to mood regulation, there are positive changes you can make for better managing depression. A balanced diet with plenty of vitamins and minerals is best for overall health, and eating for a stable mood is no different.
Including antioxidant-rich foods like berries and vibrant red and orange vegetables helps eliminate free radicals from the blood, damaging molecules that intensify aging and dysfunction in the body. Cravings for sugar and carbs may be linked to the production of serotonin in the brain, so choose whole-grain carbohydrates to avoid the crash of empty carbs with sugar and white flour.
In 2014 researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine analyzed previous studies on meditation as a treatment for depression and found that just 30 minutes of daily meditation can reduce symptoms of both depression and anxiety. The type of meditation that proved most effective is called mindfulness meditation. This involves focusing non-judgmental attention on whatever is happening at the moment, slowing down the breath, and letting the moment go. Mindfulness meditation also showed promise as a treatment for chronic pain. One of the stand-out features of this practice is that trying it can’t hurt. There are literally zero side effects.
Madav Goyla, M.D., M.P.H. had this to say abou