I recently gave a talk on how to lead a happier more fulfilling life to a gathering of over a 100 people and one of the questions that came about was about depression.
Q. Does one need to seek medical help if one is suffering from depression?
A. Of course by all means one should seek help if one feels that he or she is suffering from depression. Often we don’t know whether the cause of depression is clinical or environmental. If the cause is clinical, medical intervention is necessary.
In some cases an external factor, such as a loss of relationship, child, job, health may lead to extreme sadness which if not checked in time will lead to depression. It is therefore imperative that we try and pull the person who is going through extreme pain/sadness out of his or her misery.
Living with a person who is going through depression can be very distressing and often as a means of self preservation we tend to repudiate their feelings by trying to tell them to snap out of it. For those of us who are not experiencing the same emotion it is unfathomable how a person can be so low and not have jest for life. When such a situation occurs we need to adopt a caring attitude instead of becoming judgmental.
People often end up in depression because they blame themselves for a particular outcome. They feel if they had done things differently the particular outcome could have been avoided. Anger and guilt towards the self is what leads to depression. For this situation to be avoided it is important that we as well wishers support the aggrieved person in any way we can.
A listening ear and a supportive attitude do wonders.
Try and gently insist on some kind of physical exercise. It helps if you can accompany them on the exercise regime. Long walks in nature do wonders for both the body and the spirit. Walk with awareness and appreciation. Try and get out of the mind and bring a child like wonder into the walk. Look out for butterflies and notice the smell in the air. Take long and deep breaths and thank your body for being alive. Regular exercise is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to improve mood. Exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, releases mood-elevating chemicals in the brain and can decrease stress hormones. Even though one of the best options to bust the blues is taking a brisk walk outside each morning for at least 30 minutes five days a week, what's important is that they choose something they enjoy and will stick with, whether it's going to the gym, signing up for dance classes, playing tennis, or gardening.
The added advantage of morning walks is getting enough sunlight which has been shown to be effective for seasonal mood changes that happen in the darker winter months. Exposure to light in the morning helps the body's sleep/wake cycle work properly. Production of serotonin, a brain chemical that is key in influencing our mood, is turned on in the morning upon exposure to light.
Involve them in various activities; take them out for light movies/comedies/concerts.
Add omega 3 fatty acids and St. Johns wort in their dietary supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of good fat needed for normal brain function. Our bodies can't make omega-3s on their own, so we must obtain them through our diet. Studies have linked depression with low dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
The herb St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) has long been used in folk medicine for sadness, worry, nervousness, and poor sleep. Today, the results of over 20 clinical trials suggest that St. John's wort works better than a placebo and is as effective as antidepressants for mild to moderate depression, with fewer side effects. Studies suggest that St. John's wort is not effective for major depression. It's available at health food stores, drug stores, and online in the form of capsules, tablets, liquid extracts, or tea.
St. John's wort may take 4 to 6 weeks to notice the full effects. Side effects may include dizziness, dry mouth, indigestion, and fatigue. St. John's wort increases photosensitivity, so extra caution should be taken to protect skin and eyes from sunlight. Although St. John's wort appears to be reasonably safe when taken alone, it can interfere with the effectiveness of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, such as antidepressants, drugs to treat HIV infections and AIDs, drugs to prevent organ rejection for transplant patients, and oral contraceptives.
St. John's wort is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women, children, or people with bipolar disorder, liver or kidney disease.
Magnesium and vitamin B6 are also natural mood lifters.
Create an atmosphere of joy and happiness, but I understand that in some cases of extreme loss, this may not be possible. What I recommend is to have soft music and some sort of aroma (lavender, jasmine, rose and clary sage have been found to be beneficial) in their place of abode. Certain musical frequencies, especially mantras have a very uplifting effect.
Always remember that if a person is really depressed, he or she will need to see a qualified person. The above are just a few things that we can do to help our loved ones come out of extreme sadness or pain caused by an external factor.
Shveitta Sethi Sharma