Using Fun Exercises to Keep Depression at Bay

Exercise is one of the most underrated methods of dealing with depression. Instead, people continue to expose themselves to the dangers of prescription drugs. While these pills are crucial in treatment plans, it’s better to try a natural way first.

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Depression affects more than 300 million people worldwide. It can be mild, moderate, recurrent, manic, or severe. It manifests itself in form of overwhelming sadness, negative thoughts, hopelessness, and despair.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) says exercise improves mood and reduces depressive symptoms. It can be a patient’s first option for treating mild depression. Alternatively, it could be part of a treatment plan for major depressive disorder.

Unfortunately, there is a pill-popping culture pervading every city. Even doctors are getting in trouble for overprescribing pills. Could it be time to give exercise a chance?

Keep reading to find out.

Causes and Symptoms of Depression

Many people wonder whether chemical imbalances are responsible for depression. No one knows the exact cause yet. However, women are at risk due to hormonal shifts, such as in pregnancy or menstruation.

Currently, several factors increase the likelihood of depression. They include abuse, medications, genetics, substance abuse, and loss of a loved one.

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Examples of depression-causing drugs include barbiturates, opioids, benzodiazepines, and anti-seizure and anti-smoking drugs.

Once the illness takes root, it can eat away at a person’s state of mind. It is complex and may last several weeks. Other people experience it in form of recurrent episodes.

Some of the symptoms of depression include:

  • Fatigue, lethargy, and weakness
  • Insomnia at night followed by excessive sleeping during the day
  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Deteriorating personal hygiene and cleanliness
  • Isolation and feelings of loneliness
  • Negative thoughts on life
  • Suicidal ideations, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness

As such, doctors use medications and therapies to treat depression. The therapies include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Behavior Therapy, and Psychotherapy. Though these methods are effective, prescription pill use can be dangerous.

Dangers of Prescription Pill Use

Anyone who reads the side effects of medications probably wonders why they take the pills at all. Some of the side effects sound worse than the illness itself.

Common ones are nausea, vomiting, stomachaches, diarrhea, and headaches. There is also drowsiness, insomnia, dry mouth, and allergies. Unfortunately, depression drugs take these side effects to a whole new level.

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Pills for depression include antidepressants, antipsychotics, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), and anxiolytics. Examples of each of these include Zyban, Abilify, Zoloft, and Buspirone respectively. They work by balancing neurotransmitters responsible for regulating emotions and mood.

Short-term and long-term side effects include hallucinations, constipation, blurred vision, and weight gain. Others are tremors, anxiety, violent behavior, and suicidal thoughts and behavior.

Moreover, some medication could cause low blood pressure, seizures, and heart palpitations. These symptoms could lead to a heart attack. Last, it could be toxic to your body if you overdose on some types of antidepressants. This increases the risk of death.

With such inherent dangers, perhaps it would be best to try a natural solution instead. Read on to discover the role of exercise in fighting depression.

How Does Exercise Affect the Body?

Lifestyle changes are an important part of dealing with depression. A very important lifestyle change is taking up exercise.

It is possible to exercise your way out of depression. A past study concluded exercise was as effective as medication in treating major depressive disorder. The only difference was medications had a faster initial therapeutic response.

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So, what happens to your body when you exercise? First, your heart rate rises. You inhale more oxygen into your lungs, which gets to the heart. From there, it goes into your muscles causing them to change.

This change increases slow twitch muscles, which are for endurance. It reduces fast twitch muscles, which are for short, high-intensity activities. The tearing and repairing of muscles as they change is the reason people feel pain later.

Unless it is severe pain, don’t worry about it. There’ll be plenty of benefits awaiting you at the end. Here are some of them:

  1. Getting Better Blood Flow
    Your heart will grow bigger and stronger, while blood vessels become more elastic. This makes the heart pump blood better throughout your body. It leads to a lower resting heart rate and lower blood pressure. Thus, it prevents heart attack and stroke.
  2. Improved Brain Function
    The smooth blood flow will take more oxygenated blood to the brain. Exercise stimulates the release of male sex hormones that boost brain cell growth. It is a process known as neurogenesis.Neurogenesis improves cognitive function. This leads to better memory retention, higher concentration levels, and faster response times.

    The hippocampus handles mood regulation. With the growth of new cells, you’ll notice an improvement in your mood.

    Exercise makes the muscles release a hormone called irisin. In turn, this hormone stimulates the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This enhances the brain’s ability to send signals across nervous tissues.

  3. Burning Calories
    Burning calories helps us reduce weight and avoid the risk of obesity. Research shows obese people have a 20 percent high risk of depression.gym-room-1181814_1280

    Obesity exposes people to ridicule, abuse, social isolation, and self-esteem issues. It also causes sadness, frustration, chronic pain, and serious illnesses such as diabetes. If you recall, these are almost like the symptoms and causes of depression.

  4. Releasing Helpful Hormones
    Have you heard of an “endorphin rush”? What about a “runner’s high”?
    These terms come from the euphoric feeling people get when they exercise.Endorphins are chemicals produced by the pituitary gland and the central nervous system. They are the body’s version of morphine. As such, their role is to inhibit the perception of pain. They also boost our feelings of pleasure. This creates a sense of wellbeing.

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    The next hormone is cortisol, which comes from the adrenal glands. It helps with regulating blood sugar, controlling blood pressure, and reducing inflammation.

    Last, we have adrenaline. It also comes from the adrenal glands as well. It increases blood circulation and reduces feelings of pain.

  5. Producing Dopamine, Serotonin, and Galanin
    Exercise stimulates the production of dopamine, serotonin, and galanin in the brain. These neurotransmitters play a big role in fighting depression.Dopamine deals with processing pleasure and pain. It causes reward-motivated behavior. Pleasurable activities lead to an increase of dopamine in the brain. This makes you want to do more of the activity. It also affects your mood and improves your memory, focus, and cognition.

    Serotonin plays a role in transmitting brain impulses and balancing mood. Several theories suggest there is a link between serotonin and depression. The theories suggest impaired serotonin causes depression. Others say depressed individuals show reduced levels of serotonin in their bodies.

    As for galanin, this neurotransmitter regulates norepinephrine in the brain. It leads to a reduction of the body’s stress response. Low stress is good for our immune systems and our hearts. It lowers the risk of depression and increases our life expectancy.

  6. Enhanced Strength, Bone Mass, and Energy
    Working out improves our strength and maintains our bone mass. As your muscles continue growing, you will have more power and stamina. Your body will be more efficient in breaking down fats to provide enough energy.
  7. Making You Sleep Better
    It is VERY frustrating when you can’t sleep well. It’s late, you are tired, but the magic of sleep isn’t there. You are probably also dredging up old unwanted memories.good-night-1505195_1280

    Unsurprisingly, there is a link between sleep and depression. Insomnia is a symptom of depression, but it can also lead to depression. Research shows those who can’t sleep are three times more likely to develop depression.

    Going for an exercise session helps you sleep well. It does this by reducing your stress and tiring you out. It changes the sleep-wake cycle through body temperature fluctuations. It also affects your circadian rhythms. These regulate the time you feel like sleeping or waking.

  8. Helping with Social and Self-Development
    Looking and feeling good boosts your self-esteem and confidence. Having a positive self-image is important for your mental health. It means you won’t have the stresses and anxieties that come from doubting your worth.Another great thing about exercise is the social component. Exercise can put you in many social and fun settings.

    Depressed people don’t interact as much with others. They also don’t have fun anymore. Exercise changes this. It creates opportunities to spend time with loved ones and meet new acquaintances.

    Some physical activities happen outdoors. This is good news because being out in nature lowers the risk of depression.

Now, let’s look at fun exercises you can do to keep depression at bay.

Fun Exercises to Help You Fight Depression

People make many excuses for not meeting their fitness goals. Even when they manage to start working out, they find a reason to quit later. Excuses range from gym costs, overcrowding, and bad weather, to feeling tired.

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It’s okay if you want to admit it. Going to the gym doesn’t sound fun…at all!

The good news is we can fix this. The gym is not the only place to get and stay fit. There are other fun alternatives to fitness:

Do the SWABIJO Combination

Starting us off is this made up word. It represents Swimming, Walking, Biking, and Jogging. Come up with a better acronym if you can 🙂 .

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These exercises get you outdoors working out many parts of your body. You can do them with friends, which boosts your social life.

Go for Bowling or Golfing

Bowling and golfing are about as niche as an activity can get. Yet, they are popular for a reason. Both give you a good, fun, and relaxing workout.

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With bowling, you will spend the evening bending to pick up the heavy ball. You’ll need to walk around and swing the ball into the alley. Learning the proper technique is good for your brain’s development.

Golfing is a tough sport, even if it doesn’t look like it on TV. It will work your arms, shoulders, spine, and legs. Decide to walk instead of using the golf cart. This will give you an extra workout.

Rediscover Your Inner Child

Kids can play with just about anything in sight. They’ll run around, dig up mud, jump into puddles, and hang from playground monkey bars. You should do this too.

Such games may seem beyond your years at first. With time, you’ll find yourself feeling happy and engaged. Include your dog in the games if you have one. Fly a kite with your children or play a ball game. Or get yourself a trampoline. The possibilities are endless.

At the end of the day, you’ll realize you were working out your whole body. Try doing a handstand for old times’ sake. It’s not as easy as you remember.

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Consider playing active video games. Modern consoles offer an Exergaming experience.
This experience gets you physically involved in the game through movement-tracking technology. As such, you get video games such as Just Dance, Zumba Fitness World Party, Xbox Fitness, and EA Sports Active 2.

Try Fun Martial Arts

Martial arts training doesn’t have to be the boring regimented style you’ve seen on TV. You can try fun martial arts styles such as Capoeira. This Brazilian martial art uses fighting techniques mixed with dancing and acrobatics.

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Capoeira is a fun way to learn how to dance and protect yourself at the same time. You’ll become more flexible, and have more strength and balance.

Play Racquet Sports

Racquet games are great fun for both kids and adults. You’ll get a considerable workout while competing with your friends and family. The common racquet games are table tennis, tennis, and badminton.

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If you want something more intense, try squash. You’ll be sweating and panting in a short time. Visit a baseball practice ground and try the pitching machine. It will give you a nice workout as well.

Laser Tag and Paintball Games

Recreational sports don’t come better than laser tag and paintball shooting games. You can play elimination matches or Capture-the-Flag battles.

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The only guarantee is you’ll be running, ducking, rolling, sweating, and crouching. These games get your heart pumping and build your stamina.

It’s possible you’ll make new friends at these types of sports. Get involved and have fun.

SealFit Training

Since ‘fun’ can be subjective, let’s add SealFit Training to the list. This fitness and training program works out your mind and body. It teaches people they are stronger than they ever thought they were or could be. It trains them how to overcome the physical and mental demands of life.

Moreover, it shows people how to become better team members. You learn to rely on others. This gives you a support system when you are feeling overwhelmed. The training also empowers you to push your limits every day.

Start Hiking

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Hiking takes you out into nature where you get to enjoy great views and breathe fresh air. As mentioned earlier, nature is a good remedy for depression. Hiking will work out your legs and hands as you make your way through the trails.

Dance…A Lot

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If you want a fun way to get fit, you can’t go wrong with dancing. It works every inch of your body. Go for Zumba, Tango, Samba, Cha Cha, and Mambo. If you don’t want professional dance, let the rhythm guide how you move. Enjoy yourself.

Take Up Instrument Playing

Still on music, did you know playing an instrument burns calories? Thus, pick up your favorite instrument and start playing. It can also serve as one of the mental exercises for depression.

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It boosts your brain function, enhances hand-eye coordination, and provides music therapy. This means playing an instrument can help ease stress and improve your mood.

Parkour and Rock Climbing

For risk takers, parkour and rock climbing offer fun fitness opportunities. Parkour is about negotiating obstacles very quickly. People jump or climb over objects as they head to a destination.

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On the other hand, rock climbing is about going up or down artificial or natural rock formations. Both of these activities work your arms and legs. They give you strength, endurance, and the ability to plan your next moves.

Exercise Your Way Out of Depression

As you can see, exercise is a viable treatment for depression.

Depressed people don’t feel like doing anything. They also lose the desire to engage with other people. This deprives them of the connection all humans crave. It also leaves them without any social support. Exercising can re-energize them and put them in places where they can meet people. It gives people a sense of purpose.

Overcoming depression is not easy. It takes time to heal your mind and rediscover your value. Never forget, you are important and the world needs you.

Remember, don’t overdo any exercises. It could lead to pain, injuries, reduced immunity, and heart damage. The wear and tear on your body is not good either. Give your body time to heal.

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Doing excess exercises due to perceived flaws can be a sign of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). It occurs alongside other anxiety disorders such as depression. Tell your doctor about it.

So, how much exercise do you need? The U.S Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recommends 60 minutes a day for kids. Adults should do 150 to 300 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. If it is a vigorous workout, cut the time in half.

For long, we have sought medicine to cure all our ailments. Though they work well, they also expose us to new health problems and weaken our body’s immune system. Perhaps, it’s time to give our bodies the chance to do what it is programmed to do.

Consult your doctor on the treatment plan. Then, take up a fitness regimen and exercise your way out of depression.

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Start Living Your Bucket List Today!

Bucket lists – somewhat sad depending on how you look at them.

You see, in our culture right now, many people only begin to work their lists when it’s too late. A doctor announces that you have a few months to live and, all of a sudden, things that were at the back of your mind suddenly become important.

Frankly, that’s the sad part.

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Most people are not living. They are deferring their lives to some future unknown date when they expect to be miraculously free to live…finally! Apparently, they will be free from work, free from their responsibilities to their spouses, free from their responsibilities to their children, and free from everything that has been (allegedly) standing in their way all this time.

“I want to travel the world.”

“I want to learn how to play a musical instrument.”

“I want to spend more time with my kids.”

“I want to start my side business.”

“I want to go sailing.”

“I want to see the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.”

Oh, the lists are endless…

Most people will never get even half of them done.

British Playwright James M. Barrie once said, “The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.”

Just look at the yearly resolutions. Many people end the year with the same list they had at the beginning. Things will never change unless you make that decision.

A New Approach to Living

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When YOLO (You Only Live Once) started trending, it carried a negative connotation of people who don’t realise the extent of responsibility in life. Was it just something young people say? For example, can the head of an organisation with employees who depend on him/her go out to live his/her life or do they have to conform to a scripted life so that everybody under their leadership gets something for their families to eat?

Perhaps, there is another way to look at this. A better way. Why can’t the boss live and still create a great business that meets the needs of employees and customers? Why does it have to be an either-or proposition?

The above predicament is why there have been numerous discussions about life-work balance in the last few years. People know they are missing many things because they have to work to get the pay cheque. For example, some parents barely see their kids. They either leave for work early or get home late when the kids are already asleep. Their children’s entire childhood is passing right before their eyes and they can do nothing about it.

Our cultures create the expectation that you have to work very hard and save up some money so that you can do everything you ever wanted once you retire from your job. That’s sad.

There is a lot of living that people are missing. The time to live is NOW. The time to hold your loved ones is NOW. The time to be quit that dead-end job is NOW. The time to start doing something you’ve always wanted to do is NOW. The time to take risks is NOW. Do everything NOW. You don’t know what awaits you tomorrow.

Someone who postponed going jogging every day is now in a wheelchair. Someone who always wanted to sing has been diagnosed with throat cancer. The person who never took the time to enjoy their surroundings is now blind. Several people in different parts of the world have just suffered a stroke and their lives are changed forever. How long do you plan to wait before you start living?

Effects of Living

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This is what living will do for you:

  1. Make you Happy

You will be smiling from ear to ear and you will have a great positive energy about you. You will create great memories with your friends and family. You will be healthier than many other people in the world will. For years, researchers have shown there is a link between negative emotions and poor health. Having a positive outlook on life (e.g. being happy, optimistic, enthusiastic etc) makes a great difference to your health.

According to a Harvard Magazine article written by Sara Rimer in 2011, Associate Professor Laura Kubzansky from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) said, “It looks like there is a benefit of positive mental health that goes beyond the fact that you’re not depressed.” She also added, “Everyone needs to find a way to be in the moment to find a restorative state that allows them to put down their burdens.”

  1. Help you Grow

The more you do, the more you learn. The more you learn, the more you grow. The more you grow, the better you will be at making decisions that will affect your life. Some people are stuck in jobs they don’t like but a trip away from the office gives them a new perspective of what they would want to do in their lives.

  1. Give you Perspective

When you are not living, you tend to have a narrow view of the world. When you push your boundaries, your skills, or your experiences, you get a sense of what’s important to you and how you should react to things that are out of your control.

There is an African saying that says, “If you think you have problems, go visit a hospital and you’ll see people with bigger problems.” (Paraphrase). The idea behind this saying is to give you a perspective of what you are going through.

  1. It will Inspire you

Living is inspiring. You find yourself wanting to do more things; trying new things. Every day you wake up energised because you look forward to what the day might bring. That’s usually not the case with depressed people. They can barely get out of bed. They have nothing to look forward to. They don’t have hope for the future. They are so miserable that they push everyone they love away.

You will find that when you are inspired to live your life to the fullest, other people gravitate toward you. Many opportunities will also start presenting themselves in your life. You might even end up changing careers if that’s something you were thinking about.

  1. Fill you with Love

The most important thing in life is love. When you start living fully, you will draw love into your life and spread love to others. It will be a perfect cycle. Many people in the world are desperate for love, but you will be overflowing with it. That’s what you get when you start living.

So what are you waiting for? Make your bucket list today. Do not wait until you are about to die before doing something about it. Start living your bucket list TODAY.

 

Have Faith in People

In January 2016, someone shared their problems with me and while it was not clear to them at first, this process of openness and self-reflection helped them realise that life was worth living. The more we spoke, the more he realised that we should never allow failure to push us around; to make us give up.

Life was never meant to be easy. It was also never meant to be lived alone.

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Sometimes we keep our problems from people because we don’t believe they care enough about us. We lose the opportunity to create a much deeper relationship with those who might know or understand what we are going through.

Herman Melville once said, “We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results.”

Yet in our culture now, there is a lot more social isolationism than was the case in the past. While new technologies have helped us connect with people in distant lands, it seems that people are lonelier than ever before.

There are those who do not have faith in people because getting to know someone involves an element of risk.

What if they reject you?

What if they hurt you?

What if they betray you?

As such, some people are choosing to believe – either consciously or subconsciously – that forming a connection with someone and sharing their life story with them is not worth the risk.

Danger of Loneliness and Social Isolationism

The Oxford online dictionary defines a companion as “A person who shares the experiences of another, especially when these are unpleasant or unwelcome.”

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According to the American Psychological Association, Social Psychologist Shelly Turkle, PhD., says in her book ‘Alone Together’ that social media relationships “…can provide the ILLUSION of companionship without the demands of friendship, without the demands of intimacy.”

In the end, everybody ultimately needs someone. There has to be a real connection, though, not just a number of social media followers. A captain needs a co-captain. A president needs a vice president. Spouses need each other. This is why many people are falling into the trap of loneliness. They find themselves feeling all alone, like no one in the world cares about them. As such, they retreat deeper and deeper into the depths of loneliness and depression.

Perhaps we are so bogged down in our own lives that we fail to look up and see what others are going through. Perhaps, at other times, we fail to see that the conversation we are postponing at a particular moment could be pivotal to another’s life. It happens ALL THE TIME.

You see it whenever someone commits suicide, the family and friends are always left asking the same questions:

“Is there something I could have done to prevent this?”

“Maybe I could have spent a little more time with them.”

“Perhaps I should have listened more instead of talking all the time.”

“How did I miss the signs?”

“Why didn’t they come to me for help?”

Great friends make a great support system. Notice, for example, how many celebrities fail in their careers or turn to drug and alcohol abuse because no one helps them cope with their fame.

Without taking a leap of faith, you never know whether a person has your best interests at heart. There are very amazing people out there. Watching the news, you might feel like everyone only cares about themselves. Stories about jealousy, murder, theft, and violence are pervasive in our news media. Yet, if you look beyond this, the beauty of the human race continues to shine through.

One crazy example I noticed was that despite robbers pretending there has been a road accident so you can pull over to help and get carjacked, people continue falling for it because we all desire to help others.

Are You Someone People Can Have Faith In?

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The people in your support system should have the following characteristics:

  • They are great listeners.
  • They care about you.
  • They try to see things through your perspective.
  • They are there when you call.
  • They are eager to see you prevail over any problems.
  • They are people you can trust to keep your secrets.

Having such a committed group of people in your corner will help you overcome whatever circumstances life throws at you. Nevertheless, you can’t focus on only what you get from the relationship. This is why networking doesn’t work for some business professionals. They care so much about what they are going to get from a partnership that they forget about what they are bringing to the table. You want to have someone you can lean on. However, are you the type of person that other people can lean on?

The R U OK? Movement says that in order to become someone that other people can turn to when they have problems, you have to go beyond the answer, “I am fine.” Once you start taking this approach, you start becoming a source of support. You also get to grow because you start developing a perspective of what is important in your own life. The next time you have a problem, guess who will be eager to help you get through it?

With all this in mind, it is time to start seeing the world through the prism that people are inherently good and they are ready to help you, especially if you ask for it. Being alone is a choice. Have faith in people and reach out. They will respond positively to you. Though some people might reject you or dismiss your problems, you will eventually find someone who sticks closer than a brother does. They will do their best to help you get to the end of your journey.

As an old Tibetan proverb says, “As I helped him up the hill, lo, I found myself at the top.”

 

 

7 Easy Steps for Better Sleep and a Healthier Mind

O sleep! O gentle sleep! Nature’s soft nurse, how have I frighted thee, That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down, And steep my senses in forgetfulness? – William Shakespeare

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In case you are not active on social media (or at least paying attention to the calendar), you might have missed the fact that Monday, March 13, was the National Napping Day. If you are like me and tend to notice strange things happening, you probably asked yourself, “Who comes up with these ‘Days’?”

According to the National Day Calendar website, the date marks the return of daylight saving time, which means you get the extra hour of sleep lost when the time was moved forward. The website goes on to add that Boston University Professor William Anthony, and his wife, Camille Anthony, created this Napping Day to highlight the health benefits of sleep.

Finally, something we can agree on!

A key part of having a healthy mind and warding off problems like depression is through giving your body the amount of sleep time it needs.

There have been numerous studies on sleep and its role in the human experience. You have heard from various sources that you need to get 6-8 hours of sleep in order to be fully rested and be able to function optimally during the day.

Some leaders have been rumoured to sleep for less than the recommended hours. For instance, in a BBC article, former U.K Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s press secretary, Sir Bernard Ingham, said she only “slept four hours a night on weekdays”. In the U.S., it has been said that President Donald Trump doesn’t sleep much either, with that reputation coming about because he was tweeting at 3 O’clock in the morning during the 2016 presidential campaign.

But why is sleep so important for mental health?

The Science of Sleep

Circadian Neuroscientist Russell Foster gave a speech at a TED Global Conference in 2013, citing three scientific reasons for why we sleep. In a transcript of his speech on the TED website, he noted that sleep is used for body restoration, energy conservation, and brain processing and memory consolidation.

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Professor Foster also linked a lack of sufficient sleep with poor mental health. He said, “We’ve known for 130 years that in severe mental illness, there is always, always sleep disruption, but it’s been largely ignored. He added, “…mental illness and sleep are not simply associated, but they are physically linked within the brain. The neural networks that predispose you to normal sleep, give you normal sleep, and those that give you normal mental health, are overlapping.”

In 2009, Harvard University released a newsletter on Sleep and Mental Health, which showed that a 1989 study had found that those who had sleeping problems were more likely to develop major depression a few years later. Other studies also showed that those who were depressed were less likely to respond to treatment. If you can’t treat the problem, then how are you supposed to get better? It’s no wonder then, that the depressed patients with sleeping problems started contemplating suicide.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) highlights the negative effects that depression can have on one’s life. They include insomnia, drastic weight changes, hopelessness, low self-esteem, lack of energy or interest, and physical aches.

With such life-changing effects, there is a great need for everyone to start getting quality sleep.

How to Sleep Better

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According to the American Psychological Association, leading sleep researchers came up with several techniques to help you get some sleep:

  • Have a sleep schedule – You have to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. This will condition your body to know when to shut down for sleep and when to wake up.
  • Avoid caffeine a few hours to sleep time – Caffeine is a stimulant that will keep your body active when you are supposed to be sleeping.
  • Exercise regularly – Working out every day will make your body tired and thus you will crave sleep at night.
  • Minimise sleep distracters – Excessive noise, temperature, and light can affect your ability to sleep. You need to find a quiet, dark room with a comfortable sleeping surface in order to sleep well.
  • Try to wake up without an alarm clock – This might be difficult for some, but doing this will let your body decide when you have had enough sleep. With this method, you no longer have to worry about sleep debt caused by cutting your sleep short using an alarm clock.
  • Avoid taking alcohol or smoking – These substances contain chemicals or effects that can affect your ability to sleep.
  • Go to bed earlier than usual – Sleeping early will ensure that you are getting sufficient sleep.

I would also add that since some people have medical conditions that might affect their ability to sleep, it would be a great idea to talk to a doctor, who will decide whether you need medication or sleeping aids to help you sleep.

As you can see, sleep is an important component of our lives. Not only does it affect our productivity, but also our mental and physical health. When depression arises from sleep deprivation, it can lead to other health complications and, eventually, to suicide. So take your sleep seriously, it could save your life.

Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together. – Thomas Dekker

Take Stock of your Life In order to Move Forward and Succeed

All successful men and women are big dreamers. They imagine what their future could be, ideal in every respect, and then they work every day toward their distant vision, that goal or purpose. – Brian Tracy

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On January 1, 2017, I made the resolution that I would read two books every month. March is already with us now and I’ve only read a book and a quarter out of four. While it’s good I’ve at least done something, I know I could have done better than that. Unsurprisingly, this ‘resolution thing’ is a problem that a many people are experiencing.

How many resolutions have you accomplished so far? Are you even on the path toward achieving the goals you set for this year?

According to a survey carried out by the Statistic Brain Research Institute on new year’s day this year, only 9.2% of 1,562 respondents reported feeling successful in achieving their resolutions. Forty-eight point four percent reported having infrequent success, while 42.4% said they failed each year in accomplishing their goals.

Feeling Stuck in Life

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Sometimes you can start feeling stuck and it seems unlikely that you will accomplish your goals. Everybody goes through this at times. However, successful people experience this feeling very rarely due to one reason: Purpose.

Thousands of books have been dedicated to this word yet many fail to find this key part of their lives. People with a purpose have a vision and a plan for their future that is so motivating that you can just see them walking with a spring in their step. It’s (supposed to be) that simple.

Unfortunately, many people live uninspired lives full of either failure or moderate success.

Failing to succeed affects people mentally. It breeds insecurities and fear of taking action in other areas of life. It creates a great sense of shame, which can rob an individual of their self-esteem and confidence. Once an individual begins retreating into the recesses of their mind, they discover where a broken mind resides, pulling in its victim further into pain, regret, shame, and depression.

The social structure of society pushes individuals to try to be better than others; either to show the outcomes of self-actualization or to create the perception that their lives are better than others are. Case in point, when people are on social media, all the pictures point to an amazing life the individual is experiencing that is supposed to be better than of their followers.

If a person feels that they are a failure and begin to drown themselves in their sorrows, it is only a matter of time before depression takes root. The classic early signs of depression according to the NHS Choices UK are:

  • Feeling hopeless and helpless
  • Lacking motivation and interest
  • Continuous moodiness and sadness

Others can be:

  • Avoiding public interaction because of the belief they are looking down on you
  • Failing to apply personal hygiene because you no longer see the point
  • Living in a space that is untidy and unclean
  • Having suicidal thoughts because you think the world will be better off without you or that no one will miss you when you are gone.

Without a support system, it is easy to spiral into a life of drug and substance abuse because it has become too painful to face the reality of your life. Some people label themselves as being “depressed” thereby getting access to anti-depressant drugs, which can have a negative effect on their mental health if misdiagnosed.

How to Move Forward in Life

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  1. Spot the problem

Whether it is in your job, exercising, eating healthy, or being more kind, whatever it is that you are frustrated about not accomplishing requires that you first spot the problem. The solution you come up with will take you to the next level of growth and accomplishment. It will also prevent you from feeling sorry for yourself.

  1. Find your purpose or vision

Recently I was reading about a successful musician and discovered that he dropped out of school in order to sing full-time. While it’s not advisable to copy him, his actions let us know the criteria for our purpose or vision.

Here are the criteria: If you have something you love doing, you are good at doing it, would give everything up to do it and it provides a solution to a problem the public has (and it is not illegal/immoral/unethical) then that can become your purpose in life.

You then need to have a vision of how you want to be in the future. In the case of the musician, his vision could be to become a legend in the music industry with multiple classic songs. With that in mind, he can then work toward achieving that goal, which brings us to the next point.

  1. Chart a new course for your life

The only thing one can do is look at the mistakes and achievements of the past, and chart a new course in order to achieve their overall vision. This sense of purpose will have a positive effect on mental health because every day you wake up inspired to reach a goal you have envisioned for yourself.

  1. Don’t wallow in self-pity for too long

Sometimes life pushes us too hard and we want to curl up in the corner listening to depressing music that matches our mood. However, as Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “To live is to suffer; to survive, is to find some form of meaning in the suffering.”

It’s okay to allow yourself to feel all the range of emotions, both negative and positive. Nevertheless, you should not dwell in this doom and gloom mentality. Inspire positive moods through action and seek out that which makes you happy. You don’t live forever so you have to try at least to be happy while you are here.

  1. Forgive Yourself

I’ve often heard this statement made and it never seems to register because I don’t think people (including myself) truly realise that they have been judging themselves harshly for past mistakes. Realise that life has no script; therefore, it is inevitable that you will make the wrong decision. Sometimes that decision can be very costly as well.

As you will eventually come to realise, holding on to these mistakes, failures, and the guilt that comes with it, is of no use to you. You have to move on. The only way to do that is to acknowledge it, learn from it, and let it go. Once you forgive yourself, you will be able to move forward, make new mistakes, and grow.

Doing all these things will help you get in the right mindset to achieve your goals and to change your present life for the better. Understand why your resolutions are important to you and plan out exactly how you can accomplish every one of them. As for me, I’m heading off to read my first book for the new month. I’m confident I will also read the second book because I know why I’m reading and I have a plan of how to go about it.

What about you?

Achievement of your happiness is the only moral purpose of your life, and that happiness, not pain or mindless self-indulgence, is the proof of your moral integrity since it is the proof and the result of your loyalty to the achievement of your values. – Ayn Rand

New Study Shows Link between Hormonal Contraceptives and Depression

According to a Danish study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Psychiatry, there is a link between depression and the use of hormonal contraceptives.

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Even though a lot of research has been done on the use of contraceptives, the study authors highlighted that there was insufficient data on the connection between contraceptives and depression.

Details of the Study

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen studied over a million women in Denmark between the ages of 15 and 34. The study took place over a period of 13 years using data from the National Prescription Register and the Psychiatric Central Research Register in Denmark.

According to an abstract from the JAMA Psychiatry, the women were selected according to the following criteria:

  • If they had no prior depression diagnosis,
  • Having not redeemed prescription for antidepressants,
  • Not having any other major psychiatric diagnosis,
  • Not using cancer, venous thrombosis, or infertility treatment

The researchers tested for depression by checking either for a depression diagnosis at a psychiatric hospital or the use of antidepressants.

Results

NPR reports that only 2 percent of the women in the study group received a depression diagnosis, whereas 13 percent filled prescriptions for antidepressants.

The contraceptive pills that had both estrogen and progestin made the women who used them 23 percent more likely to turn to antidepressants. Those who took pills with only progestin were 34 percent more likely to get antidepressants.

For teen girls taking pills with estrogen and progestin, there was an 80 percent relative risk of depression. The risk went up to 120 percent for progestin-only pills.

In a press release, the researchers said, “Millions of women worldwide use hormonal contraception. Despite the clinical evidence of an influence of hormonal contraception on some women’s mood, associations between the use of hormonal contraception and mood disturbances remain inadequately addressed.”

When it came to other forms of hormonal birth control such as Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) and vaginal rings, prescriptions for antidepressants went up by 40 percent for the former and 60 percent for the latter. For those using hormonal patches, the rate of antidepressant prescriptions went up by up to 100 percent.

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With so many prevailing risks of depression, it is important to ensure that steps are taken to protect the society. Since teenage girls are most vulnerable to this threat, women should take a proactive role in educating not only themselves, but also pay special attention to the women of the future.

Studies such as this one from the Danish researchers help to shed a light on subject matter that is rarely discussed. While their conclusions might be up for debate from some of their peers, this study still presents data that will inform women and help them to protect themselves.

Is it Laziness or Depression?

Last week, an IMGUR user – a media sharing website – triggered an online debate after posting a ‘before and after’ picture of a room that was previously littered with bottles and trash, but was now completely clean. The user, who identified as a depressed person, wanted to show that people suffering from depression could try to make a difference in their lives.

However, as is common with the online community nowadays, this post started a debate asking: Is this really a depressed person or someone who is too lazy to clean their room?

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source: BBC-IMGUR

 

It is not clear whether the perception created by the movie industry that many people grow up as slobs and have to be forced by their parents to clean their rooms is indicative of what truly happens in most homes. What’s intriguing, though, is that this question of “laziness or depression” is one that is debated constantly among those who are depressed.

Some say your laziness causes the depression, while others say that laziness is as a result of depression. It is like the ‘chicken or egg’ question in another format. In other cases, it’s not about one or the other. There is an unstated consensus that some people lack the discipline, motivation and commitment to do things that will improve their lives and their environment.

But what is really going on?

The Real Problem

Even though we expect life to be this beautiful experience full of happiness and love, we find that there are times when we will go through pain. You have to learn to be disciplined, to be proactive, to be purposeful in your actions, to be giving (in terms of charity and service), to be clean and to do everything required to achieve your goals.

Some people by default hate cleaning in any form. They are just unmotivated to get to it. Others are indeed lazy. They have to be prodded by some authority figure to clean up after themselves. In your lifetime, perhaps you’ve had a room or gone into a room and thought to yourself, “No one should live in such a dump.”

However, the problem arises when people automatically assume that someone who does not clean their room is simply lazy. You might even be one of those who have been called lazy.

 

A perceived failure in life is also put into the category of laziness. You might feel like a failure because you are unable to get a job while your peers are out there accomplishing great feats and receiving praise and accolades. This perceived failure has led many to question their purpose in life and the reason why they should continue living. It cuts to the core of our self-worth.

The expectations placed by society to become successful can be overwhelming. The society’s definition of success is to have a great job, money, family, and to achieve great feats. Unfortunately, not many people live up to these expectations. The negative impact of that failure can thus be detrimental to someone’s mental state.

Unexpectedly, you sat down one day and asked yourself whether there is something more happening inside your head other than these thoughts of failure and lack of motivation. Why do you have trash littered all over your room; with discarded food lying around? What is making you lack the desire to clean up or to get anything done? Perhaps, at this point, you considered that you could be depressed. Well, if that’s the case, then it is possible you are on the right track.

It sometimes takes a while before people can be diagnosed or self-diagnose depression.

People don’t understand what depression is. Many believe it is being really sad. For those who go through depression, it is a mix of a lot of experiences.

For one, you lack motivation to doing anything important. You just want to sit mindlessly watching TV or doing some other time-wasting activity. It acts as an escape from the painful reality of your present life. Secondly, you become isolated and unwilling to interact with peers, friends, and family. You isolate yourself because you don’t want to be a burden to anyone. It’s as if you are now hiding yourself from the world. Yet, deep inside, you desire to connect with someone. Thirdly, you go through a painful process of introspection whereby you critique yourself and everything that is wrong with your life as you perceive it. You die inside slowly every single day till the point you believe your life no longer has meaning and you choose to die.

Once depression has taken root in your life, you might even find that you are battling thoughts of both loving and hating your family and friends. It is strange. You wish them well but their success makes you envy them. You wish it were you. Then you feel guilty for thinking like that and hate yourself even more. You feel so much pain inside and want to let it all out. At times, you think about crying but there are no tears. There is no escape for you and no release. You’ve bottled it up inside for so long and you wonder: “Who will listen to me? Who will hear my silent cry for help?”

Depression can blind your ability to analyze your life objectively in order to improve yourself. You blame yourself harshly for everything bad that has happened in your life. You feel guilty because the person you see in the mirror is not the person you expected to become. You believe that working hard would have brought you the success you craved.

But it is not that simple.

The reality is that depression is not a choice, but a disease.

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What you can do now?

Once you come to terms with the truth that you have a mental illness, you can begin the process of healing. Depression is a potent disease that when given time to thrive can end up killing you or cause you to end your life.

Here are some few thoughts for you to consider:

  1. Get help IMMEDIATELY

Some people let pride tell them that they can’t go to a counselor because they don’t need to see a ‘head doctor’. The stigma surrounding mental health treatment has left so many people suffering in silence. Don’t be that person. Seek out a counseling centre to visit or maybe you can find one willing to talk to you over the phone or on the internet. Just get help.

A doctor might even diagnose you with other problems affecting you such as anxiety, sleep disorders, and attention deficit disorders. These might cause issues such as fatigue, sleepiness, and depression.

The key is to figure out what is going on in your mind so that a better treatment method can be found. Often times, a depressed person only needs someone to talk to them, connect with them and show them that they are important and that people love them. That is enough sometimes to get an individual on the path to treatment.

In other situations, however, the use of medication is necessary.

  1. Be kind to yourself

The world expects a lot from each and every one of us. Sometimes this pressure to fulfill what the society’s expectations can make us feel inadequate and unworthy to continue living. This pressure from life can weigh you down. Many smart people with university degrees haven’t achieved what was expected of them. Others have had their potential talked up but are yet (or are seemingly unlikely) to ever fulfill it. Some have experienced an illness or disability that has affected their pathway to success.

No matter what it is, remember that life is like that. Everyone has ups and downs. We do not have control over some things. But as Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “…we can find some form of meaning in the suffering.”

Learn to avoid comparing yourself with other people and their life circumstances. This is about you. So don’t discredit your feelings.

Find ways to improve yourself but don’t be too hard on yourself. The world is harsh enough already. So be kind to yourself. You are all you’ve got. And you are everything to someone else.

  1. Understand your potential

One of the reasons why you feel so down is because you believe you have talents that you have not utilized to the best of your ability. This frustrates you. Nevertheless, the introspection, the guilt from your failures and constantly judging yourself strips you of your self-esteem. When you have a low opinion of yourself, you are not being true to the potential that is within you.

You have to overcome the battle with your mind first before you can get back on your journey to fulfill your life’s purpose. Finding your purpose is key because it will inspire you to pursue your highest ideals. However, you have to solve the depression issue first. You have to see a therapist so they can treat you or give you medication to alleviate the dark cloud you feel hanging over your head. The more your outer world is out of balance (no work, no money, no friends etc) the more your internal state will suffer. You have to treat the depression, otherwise, it will trickle into every facet of your life. Work will become a chore, your relationships will suffer, and you might even think about giving up.

Once you get into treatment and find a community that has experienced what you are going through, you will be able to start working through any problem and perceived lack of motivation. People talk about pushing through your struggles or working hard to improve your life, but these statements fail to see that depression is a mental health problem. So deal with it first.

  1. Avoid taking substances that make you ‘high’

Trying to escape the reality of life through substances like drugs and alcohol will only fuel the feeling of fatigue and disinterest in pursuing your purpose. These substances are all about ‘chilling’ and relaxing and not about relentlessly pursuing a certain goal.

In addition, if you’ve been prescribed medication for your depression, it is always advised that you should not mix prescription medication with alcohol or any other drug that your doctor has not recommended. The interaction of the chemicals in the medication and the other substances can be life threatening.

  1. You are not Alone

Remember that you are not alone. Even when you are hiding yourself in your room or a corner somewhere, someone is going through something almost similar. Such people gather in community programs or in online forums and it can be helpful for you to join such groups. Others have gone through what you are experiencing and there is hope that you will get better just as they did.

Also, the people in your life care deeply about your well-being. Perhaps they have not shown it yet but at least give them an opportunity to be with you and to show you that they love you. Believe you will one day feel better than you do now. The season of suffering won’t last forever.

All in all, remember that your brain is key to your life.

People never think about that until mental health issues take over and overwhelm them. So nurture your mind, feed your mind, and seek help when your mind is ill. When you feel better, find a better meaning for your life and you will be able to brush aside any thoughts that you are lazy or that you are a failure. Instead, you will be able to pursue your life’s goals and achieve your own definition of success.