In a world that sometimes feels like a whirlwind, it’s easy to find ourselves caught in the clutches of depression. Depression is a condition where someone feels sad, down, or empty for a long time. It can make it hard to enjoy things they used to like and can even affect their sleep and energy.
Depression affects 1 in 7 people in Australia. It’s a serious condition that affects your physical and mental health.
But fear not, for there’s hope and healing within our reach. In this article, we’re diving deep into the powerful impact of lifestyle factors, from diet and exercise to meditation, and exploring the potential of plant-based remedies.
“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional” — Haruki Murakami
Embracing a Lifestyle of NourishmentImagine your plate as a vibrant canvas, with each bite painting a masterpiece of nourishment for your very soul. Research reminds us that what we eat isn’t just about taste; it’s a direct brushstroke on our mood’s canvas. Studies have shown that what you eat can have a direct impact on your mood So, let’s infuse that canvas with a burst of joy through mood-boosting foods like Omega-3 fatty acids from fish, whole grains, grounded flax seeds sprinkled on your morning cereal, leafy greens, and the vibrant hues of antioxidant-rich fruits like berries. These choices have the power to transform not just our taste buds but our mental outlook.
Moreover, the nutrients we choose — or miss out on — can influence our mental landscape. Deficiencies in vital nutrients like folate, vitamin B12, calcium, iron, zinc, selenium, and omega-3 have been linked to a higher likelihood of depression among individuals. Studies highlight the striking contrast between diets rich in trans fats, which elevate the risk of depression, and those abundant in mono or polyunsaturated fats, known to reduce depressive tendencies. And let’s not forget about the fast-food frenzy — adults who frequently indulge in fast food face a 40% higher risk of depression compared to those who steer clear of it. As we explore these insights it becomes evident that our dietary selections can either enhance or dampen our mental harmony.
Movement as Medicine
Exercise isn’t just about getting those endorphins pumping; it’s a powerful tool to combat depression. Engaging in regular physical activity has been linked to reduced symptoms of depression. In fact, the impact of exercise on depression goes beyond the surface. Research reveals that exercise has the power to both prevent and treat depression, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with cognitive-behavioural therapy in terms of effectiveness. This astounding evidence underscores the transformative potential of exercise as a natural antidepressant, granting us a proactive tool to fortify our mental well-being.
It doesn’t have to be a marathon — a walk, a yoga session, or even a dance-off in your living room can do the trick. So, put on those sneakers or roll out your mat; your body and mind will thank you for the joy-infused movement.
The Zen Zone: Meditation’s Secret to Inner Peace
In the hustle and bustle of life, finding moments of stillness can be a game-changer. Meditation has been proven to alleviate depressive symptoms by promoting relaxation and reducing stress levels. Here’s a cool fact about our brain: adult humans grow 700 new neurons a day and the brain learns, adapts and restructures itself based on thought, attitude and emotional experience.
Now, let’s talk about how meditation fits in. After just two months of practicing mindfulness, a special part of your brain called the “left prefrontal cortex” becomes more active. This part helps with making you happy and planning things. But wait, there’s more! Meditation also makes changes in other parts of your brain — the “hippocampus” and “amygdala.” These changes are like turning down the volume on stress and turning up the dial on being aware of yourself, being kind, and understanding your feelings. So, when you take time to meditate, you’re not just relaxing your mind, you’re building a stronger, happier you.
The Magic of Purpose and Connection
Here’s a delightful truth: joy and purpose are soulful twins, ready to dance their way into your life. When we connect with others by spending time, talking, being with family and friends, having fun we’re able to cognitively restructure life events. This allows us to consider “is there another way to look at the situation?”. This shift helps us focus on accomplishments from our past and helps us to overcome our current challenges.
Positive emotions increase resiliency. The ideal ratio of positive and negative is 3:1 as negative emotions are more potent than the positive ones. This ratio is a measure of how resilient we are. When we choose emotions like joy, interest, contentment, pride, and love, these emotions acts as protective emotions which reduce the risk of distressing thoughts of suicide with people with depression. So, the next time you’re laughing with friends, savouring the sweetness of life, remember that you’re not just having fun — you’re building a shield of positivity that makes you stronger than you know.
Exploring Plant-Based Remedies
Ah, Mother Nature — the ultimate healer. The world of plant-based medicine opens its arms, offering herbs and botanicals that have stood the test of time in supporting mental health. From calming chamomile to the invigorating embrace of ginseng, these natural wonders can stand alongside your journey to well-being.
The Power of Adaptogens
Let’s talk adaptogens, the unsung heroes of the herbal kingdom. Imagine herbs like ashwagandha and holy basil as your wingmen in the fight against stress and anxiety. These botanical champions adapt to your body’s needs, helping you find equilibrium in the chaos. Incorporating adaptogens into your routine could be a gentle yet impactful step towards finding equilibrium.
Lifestyle medicine strategies show that we can prevent and alleviate depressive symptoms, exercise, nutrition, mindfulness, bibliotherapy, sleep management, positive relationships, psychological treatment like CBT, psychotherapy and further going into pharmacotherapy with medications from your GP or exploring alternative complementary options with plant-based medicines.
Meet Our Contributor — Dr. Amy Carmichael
Dr. Amy Carmichael is a dedicated Lifestyle and Functional Medical doctor with over 18 years of experience, adopts a holistic approach to healthcare, treating patients individually and addressing underlying causes. As an Authorised Plant-Medicine Prescriber, her expertise goes beyond traditional medicine, encompassing Nutrition, Exercise, Language, and Environmental Health. Dr. Carmichael strives to make Lifestyle Medicine accessible while providing personalized, compassionate care that sees patients as unique individuals rather than mere numbers. Learn more about her work here.