It has been said that happiness is not a destination, but rather a means of traveling. It may be wise to view happiness as your guide and compass, rather than some future goal in life, but it can be challenging to get in touch with this most coveted and elusive mind state in the midst of a busy life full of stress and uncertainty.
In fact, happiness seems more difficult to cultivate than ever in this new millennium, and depression is becoming an epidemic. Depression affects nearly all people at some point in their life, and many suffer from chronic depression that never seems to go away.
As a result, prescription antidepressants are being dispensed like candy and can have dire side effects much more troubling than the condition they were prescribed to alleviate. What’s worse is that prescription antidepressants don’t work, and the pharmaceutical industry and FDA have deliberately deceived us into believing that they do.
Unfortunately, drug companies are not forced to publish all the results of the studies they conduct on a new drug they wish to bring to market, and so, they publish only what makes their product look good. A team of researchers that reported their findings in The New England Journal of Medicine took a critical look at all the studies done on antidepressants. They dug up some serious dirt.
After looking at 74 studies involving 12 drugs and over 12,000 people, they discovered that 37 of 38 trials with positive results were published, while only 14 of 36 negative studies were published. Those that showed negative results were, in their words, "published in a way that conveyed a positive outcome."
That means the results were twisted to imply the drugs worked when they didn't.
The problem is much worse than it sounds, because even the positive studies showed little benefit in the first place: 80 percent of people got better with just a placebo.
Obviously, taking antidepressant drugs is not the answer for the epidemic of depression. After all, we are not depressed because we are all suffering from a deficiency of antidepressants! The real cure lies in re-balancing the systems in your body, mind and spirit that are at the root of the problem.
Here are 10 things you can do to prevent or relieve depression:
1. Cool the Inflammation
Food allergies and sensitivities and the resultant inflammation they cause have been connected with depression and other mood disorders. Continually eating foods to which you are allergic or sensitive throws your body into a tailspin of imbalances that can cause anything from mind fog and irritability to compulsive behavior, panic attacks and full-blown hallucinations.
In fact, I personally suffered from unexplainable episodes of depression before I stopped eating gluten and corn.
Even if you have no food allergies or sensitivities, your mood can still be affected by foods that cause inflammation in the body. In a recent study of close to 3,500 people published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, those who reported eating a diet rich in whole foods in the previous year were less likely to report depression than those who ate lots of desserts, fried foods, processed meats, refined grains and high-fat dairy products, all of which cause inflammation in the body. Shift your diet to primarily anti-inflammatory foods, like whole vegetables and fruits, fish and other seafood and filtered water to reduce inflammation and elevate your moods.
2. Check for Hypothyroidism and/or Adrenal Fatigue
These largely unrecognized epidemics are a leading cause of depression. Hypothyroidism can cause lethargy and low mood while adrenal fatigue can cause you to feel “burnt out”, easily overwhelmed by little things and inexplicably fatigued.
A blood and saliva test can tell you if you suffer from either of these conditions, but you can take action to heal yourself with or without getting an official diagnosis. Get more minerals from food-based supplements and whole foods like organic land and sea vegetables to help correct any deficiencies that may be causing poor adrenal/thyroid function. Adequate vitamin C and B vitamins are also vital to adrenal health, energy and healthy moods, so be sure to focus on these nutrients as well. Foods such as dark green leafy vegetables, seafood, citrus fruits, fresh berries and cabbage are great choices.
3. Let in the Light
Deficiency in “vitamin” D (actually a steroid hormone) can lead to serious depression. Additionally, lack of sun or bright light in general can trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, a form of depression that plagues many people during the winter months.
To preserve your 'sunny' disposition, expose a maximum amount of your skin to sunlight for as long as your skin can tolerate without damage. Take care to protect the delicate skin of the face and neck with a hat or natural mineral sunscreen to avoid premature aging of the skin.
If you are not able to sun yourself regularly, supplement with at least 2,000 to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 a day and test your blood levels at least twice a year, as it is easy to overdose on supplemental forms. For best effects, combine your vitamin D3 supplementation with light therapy. Light boxes and red LED light tools work effectively to alleviate symptoms of light deprivation, including depression. They can also work to reverse sun damage and the signs of premature skin aging.
4. Balance Your Omegas
Humans need omega fats to stay healthy and happy. The two most crucial, omega-3 and omega-6, need to be in balance at a 2:1 ratio, or two parts omega-6 to one part omega-3. Sadly, the typical American diet has an omega ratio of about 20:1! The omega-3 fats help increase your serotonin levels, which fights depression and other mental and emotional difficulties, so it is no wonder we are all feeling a little less than joyful.
In order to balance yourself and feel happier, you must cut back your consumption of omega-6 laden foods, (corn, soy, canola, fried foods and most processed foods) while increasing your intake of omega-3 with mercury-free fatty fish (like wild Alaskan salmon or barramundi), chia seeds or Neptune krill oil supplements. Simply popping an omega-3 pill after eating cornflakes with soy milk for breakfast, salad loaded with canola oil-based dressing for lunch and french fries at dinner will do little good.
Additionally, note that free-range and pasture-raised meats are higher in omega-3 fats than conventionally raised meats. Also, animal source omega-3 is much easier for the human body to process and absorb than omega-3 from plant sources. If you are vegan, be very careful about how much omega-6 you eat, as you will not likely be able to absorb enough omega-3 from plant foods to compensate.
If balancing your omegas seems like a confusing hassle, try the free computer program KIM-2 (Keep it Managed version 2) which gives the omega ratios of thousands of food types. Plug in what you typically eat and see where you are and what needs to change.
5. Focus on the B Complex
It is vital to get the whole range of B vitamins for overall health, but be sure to get adequate B12 (1,000 mcg a day), B6 (25 mg) and folic acid (800 mcg) if you are experiencing depression. These vitamins are critical for metabolizing homocysteine, which can play a factor in depression, and folate also affects neurotransmitters that impact your moods.
To keep the good mood foods at hand, stock up on dark leafy greens, eggs, fish, beans, lentils and chicken.
6. Get Checked for Metal
Heavy metal toxicity has been correlated with depression and other mood and neurological problems. It is not uncommon to see toxic levels of lead, mercury, aluminum and copper on lab test results of people suffering from mood and behavioral disorders. Most heavy metals are free radicals (substances that cause oxidative stress) that have an affinity for the brain, damaging brain tissue structure and metabolism.
Reduce your exposure to heavy metals by using all natural body, lawn and home care products, safely removing metal tooth fillings and consuming whole, organic foods and low-mercury seafood. Be sure to have your blood tested for heavy metals if you suspect this form of toxicity is sabotaging your health.
7. Move It
A sedentary lifestyle can lead to more than just weight gain, it can trigger depression as well. Exercising vigorously five times a week for 30 minutes increases levels of BDNF, a natural antidepressant in your brain. If you aren't able to keep that schedule, know that even gentle exercise can lift the spirits, get your blood and chi flowing and make you feel more alive.
Meditation helps balance the body and mind in many ways, and can relieve depression, anxiety and stress related issues. Practicing meditation trains your mind-body to have a healthier response to stress, allowing you to handle life with a cool head and clear mind. It also soothes frayed nerves and helps bring feelings of calm in hectic times.
Try using mediation soundtracks that include binaural beats technology, such as the Ultra Meditation series. These special soundtracks help you automatically drop into a meditative state without years of practice and quickly begin to reap the benefits of this ancient practice.
9. Try Reiki
Reiki is a powerful yet gentle form of energy work that helps speed healing of your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects. Reiki can help lift depression by aiding emotional healing and release, relieving the heaviness of grief or helping you find your passion and purpose in life by getting more in tune with your heart's desire. What could bring more happiness than following your heart? Reiki is also wonderful for stress relief, bringing a calm, centered feeling to a stormy mind full of stress and worries.
10. Be Grateful
An attitude of gratitude is perhaps the most powerful weapon we have against depression. Placing your focus on that which you are grateful for, rather than what's seemingly missing from or “wrong” in your life shifts your mind to a more positive vibration. Consciously shifting into gratitude helps us to attract more positive feelings and things in our lives rather than attracting what we do not want. What you focus on grows, so focus accordingly. Your mind is more powerful than you know!
With these ten ways to beat depression, you are now empowered to discover the happiness that is available to you, right now, no matter what else is going on in your life. You deserve to lead a joyful life, so get busy cultivating those good feelings; you will always reap what you sow.
Carisa Holmes is a holistic health advocate, Reiki practitioner and author based in Columbus, Ohio. Carisa has worked in the holistic health and natural beauty fields for nearly 10 years.
Through overcoming a plethora of personal health issues and working with clients, Carisa has developed a clear understanding of the functions of the physical body as well as the more subtle layers of the human energy field.
In her practice, Carisa helps empower people to move toward higher levels of wellness. Using tools such as whole food, natural skin care and powerful yet gentle Reiki, Carisa helps clients lose weight without starving themselves, heal sickness and injury, increase energy levels and feel more calm, happy and alive.
Carisa is very grateful for the many things she has learned and is eager to share them with others.