Disclaimer: When it comes to doing things with your body, the saying is that if in doubt ask a doctor. I am not a doctor and I don’t know your health circumstances. In other words you are responsible for yourself and your actions.
I think we can all agree that depression and sadness are not the greatest of emotions to be experiencing. Especially when it is a situation that happens throughout time (chronic depression). Personally, I feel that sometimes the narrative we have inside our heads is enough to throw us into a spin.
The problem with us humans is that we remember. So even when we move ahead in life and we forget about depression, we can at times remember what those feelings are that can bring us back to being depressed.
Depression tends to come in waves as most emotions and thoughts do. The emotion begins to creep up accompanied by some thoughts or the other way around. We vegetate on these thoughts over and over until we achieve our ultimate goal of being depressed. There is a lot of work that goes on into remembering to feel depressed.
I know that each person has a different way of entering into depression and different reasons for feeling depressed. If you are depressed or someone you know is depressed try to become aware of how we become depressed. What steps do we take in order to achieve this great state of depression that we can be so proud about and boast about to those around us.
Despite the jokes, depression should be taken seriously and you only know when you have experienced it. There are people who have depressed times in their lives but that’s it. There are others who constantly battle with depression like an addiction.
In a different article I will talk more about the psychological aspects behind depression and psychological tactics to alleviate it.
Our physical body is susceptible to the thoughts and emotions that we have, but it is not a one way street. For example, we might think of something very scary in our minds and notice our blood pressure rise. We can also see someone we like and get physically aroused. The is the communication that happens from our emotions and thoughts to our body. The other way around, is to affect our emotions and thoughts by using our body.
When we sit for meditation usually the first part is to stop moving. We use our breath to calm down our sympathetic system (fight, flight, freeze) and enter into the parasympathetic system (rest and digest). It is by slowing down our body that we become more capable of controlling our thoughts and emotions.
You are probably thinking… Really? I will go out for a walk and my depression will walk away? You don’t know how I feel and what I have been through. Bear with me on this one…
There are reasons that this actually works, some very good ones backed up by science not just a crazy blogger. At the end of the day I don’t want you just read this article and thinking, oh great I just spent another 10 minutes reading an article. Because I have read 10 articles, my depression will go away. Nope! I want you to apply what you learn by reading this article. Go for a walk for the next few days and see how your emotions change. It is up to you to try things out and what works for you might not work for someone else.
First of all, it helps you get out of the house where you are probably hiding in shame and frustration.
Second, exercise helps to regulate our mood by the production of hormones and chemicals in our brain. Dopamine, endorphins, serotonin and norepinephrine. Say what? Well that’s what they call them, don’t blame me. Serotonin and norepinephrine are the bodies natural anti-depressants. Norepinephrine is a byproduct of dopamine.
Serotonin and dopamine are known to be produces in the brain. They both help improve mood and protect against mental health disorders. Your brain releases chemical that help you enjoy pleasurable sensations.
Exercise help you with moving your attention from what you are feeling to your physical body or to the aim of the activity. What that means is that momentarily you stop feeling all those bad feelings that keep you down. If you shift what you focus on, depression disappears – even if you consider it to be momentary.
Exercise is known to help you increase your energy levels. I know it is counter intuitive and anyone will tell you that you just expended energy so how on earth do you feel more energetic. Ask anyone who exercises, or even better remember of a time you exercised. In some bizarre way energy comes to those who move, and those who sit around stagnate. No more Youtube and Netflix for you!
Lastly, exercise helps with the quality of sleep. According to the Human Givens approach depression stems and gets sustained a lot by the quality of our sleep. When our brain stays in the REM state for two long (meaning we are being highly emotional), our brain goes on overdrive. Instead of our brain benefiting from REM it is actually zapping all our energy away. It burns out the brain and we don’t function or respond appropriately. Instead of waking up refreshed, we are waking up exhausted. Get out of your bed. Exercise, helps to improve the quality of sleep and to regulate our REM cycles.
If you still need more reasons just research how walking helps with mood and depression. If I were you though, I would get off my phone or the computer and just go outside for a walk. When you come back after an hour, you can see how you feel.
The exercise that you do can be a brisk walk, if there are other things you like go for it. Avoid the treadmill and the gym, instead try an outdoor space, close to nature. Find a park of any size and immerse yourself in it. Go notice nature and absorb its healing sounds and energy. Birds singing, water running, the rustling of the leaves, the wind against your face. You can even start getting into forest bathing, who knows?
Towards the end of my army duty back in 2008 I was suffering from depression. My mood would lull and I didn’t know what to do with myself. At some point I got the idea to have a cold shower. What I notice was a drastic change in my emotions.
You might find some conflicting data about cold showers and mood regulations. As with everything goes on the internet, one person says one thing and another goes to say it is wrong. Again I suggest you try it out, just be careful if you have any problems with your heart. (Remember the disclaimer!)
Some of the research suggest that it helps produce dopamine, as I said earlier this helps with your mood.
What I noticed with having cold showers is that you stop feeling emotions. You start to experience your body in a different way. Your body reacts to the cold water and your brain stops focusing on emotions and instead it focused on physical sensations.
You will also get an increase of energy from a cold shower, a feeling of coming back from the dead. It’s simple as that there is no way on earth you can feel depressed while you are having a cold shower. I found cold showers to be life saving and completely changing the way I felt.
Go and find your finest, most colourful clothes. Why? Colour will help uplift your mood. Dark colours have a different affect in our emotions than bright ones.
I constantly use bright colours to keep my mood positive. But where is the science to back this up? Trust me, try it and see how you feel afterwards. What do you got to lose? A load of washing or a trip to the dry cleaners?
By taking the time to get dressed and put fine clothes you are signalling your brain that there is something different going on. You are telling yourself that you matter.
Most of us when we get ready to go to an important occasion, we take more time to get ready. I know women take forever in comparison to a man, but even men will take more time to fine tune how they look when there is an important occasion.
By choosing how we present ourselves to the world, we are also changing the way we feel about ourselves.
- Surround yourself with people, the more we spend time with people and the more we interact the easier it is to shift our perception. As humans we tend to absorb the behaviours of those around us. Spending time with others helps our brain to recalibrate.
- Get off social media and screens of any kind
- The only exception is if you want to look at some comedy that makes you laugh
- Find reasons to laugh, try some laughter yoga
- Begin to notice what is good around you – change the things you focus on
- Look into your diet, there is enough evidence to show that certain depressions are sustained by what we eat
These are my physical hacks on overcoming depression. As you noticed some of the things suggested have to do with your physical body. If in doubt ask a doctor as I am not responsible with what you do with your health.
The main thing to observe about depression is that it comes and it goes. There is a sensation that it lingers all day long and for days on end. The reality is that it isn’t. You have to begin to notice of when it’s not present, just by remembering it will come back. It’s OK, notice the waves as they come, as they rise and as they go away.
You have to remember to forget those feelings that can be responsible of the way you feel. And to swap them in such a way that will remind you of the way that you know now how to feel good.
Always remember that no feeling, emotion or thought is everlasting. Emotions perish because they only get sustained for a limited time that we can have our attention on them. Once our attention goes elsewhere they perish.
If we don’t look at the cause of depression we can turn back to it after a period of time. In the next article I will share with you psychological tactics and ways of overcoming depression. Until then give a chance to the tips above and see how they help you feel better.
Photo by Brunel Johnson