Depression, there's a lot of it about. And the numbers of people being affected are continuing to rise. That's why it's so important to understand what depression really is, why some folk are more prone to developing it and the different ways it can be managed.
The introduction of the SSRI drugs several decades ago, was heralded as a huge advance in the treatment of depression. It was then thought that the condition arose from a deficiency in the amount of the brain chemical serotonin. Which didn't explain why only around 30% of people treated with these drugs responded positively.
With depression and anxiety disorders on the rise, the need for greater preventative measures is needed more than ever.
So what can help?
1. Manage your stress. Easy to say, but effective stress management is paramount and can be readily achieved by putting into practice those techniques that help build resilience to stressful situations, such as acknowledging your stressors and the associated emotions they induce. By simply naming how stress makes you feel, you give your brain a helping hand to keep it in perspective and reduce the negative impact, you might otherwise experience.
2. Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation or poor quality sleep makes it harder to stay positive. How much sleep do you need? Seven to eight hours is the average. If you can wake up in the morning without an alarm clock and feel refreshed, you're getting enough sleep.
3. Do some exercise. This is an absolute must for good brain health. Twenty to thirty minutes of aerobic exercise every day helps to burn off those stress hormones that can lead us down the slippery path to anxiety and depression. If you had the choice of doing regular exercise to stave off symptoms or have to take medication to treat the symptoms, which would you rather have? So find a friend, a buddy or a dog and get that body moving to keep your brain in good shape. Exercise boosts the production of BDNF which is essential to neuronal health and stimulates neurogenesis, the production of new neurons.
4. Practise being mindful. Slowing down and stilling your mind for 10-15 minutes every day is all it takes to enjoy a greater sense of calm, focus and wellbeing. Mindfulness has been shown to influence our telomeres, the shoelace caps on the end of our chromosomes. The longer our telomeres last, the longer we live, plus mindfulness has been shown to influence gene expression determining our physical and mental wellbeing.
5. Have a laugh. Practice seeing the funny and the ridiculous side of things. Watch a comedy, share a joke, allow yourself to be more childlike in your curiosity about things. Humour is a fantastic way to boost your mood and lessen the load of other things that may be happening in your life.
Of course, the most crucial thing is that if you suspect you have depression, or know someone who you think has the condition, get help from a qualified health professional. Because a life without depression is a life that can be enjoyed and lived to the full.