What is Depression?

Sadness, feeling down, and having a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities are familiar feelings for all of us. But if they persist for and affect our lives substantially, the issue may be depression.  

Prevalence of Depression

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression. It’s also the world’s leading cause of disability. 

According to data from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 17.3 million adults in the United States—equaling 7.1% of all adults in the country—have experienced a major depressive episode in the past year.

Around 9% of men in the United States have feelings of depression or anxiety, according to the American Psychological Association. 

Nearly 50% of all people diagnosed with depression are prone to anxiety.

It’s the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34.

These numbers conclude that depression affects people from all walks of life irrespective of their background. It can affect people of all ages as well. Unfortunately, there’s still a stigma around mental health issues. Understanding the statistics can help us reduce the stigma around it and increase awareness around the subject, which will lead to more people seeking treatment. 

Causes of Depression and Treatment

The reason why some people grow depressed is not always known. Research suggests there are many different causes of depression. Several factors are ranging from genetic/biological, psychological and social factors, stress and lifestyle, substance abuse, life events such as loss of a loved one, loss of a job, grief, etc. Note that no matter the cause, there are effective treatments available. 

There are several traditional ways to treat depression, such as medication, therapy, and support groups online. While therapy and medication are proven to heal the person suffering from depression, when it comes to mental health challenges, there has been a revolution in the kind of alternative therapies available that can aid and fasten the process of recovery. 

There are small steps you can take to help you feel more in control and improve your overall sense of well-being. 

Read on to learn how to incorporate these strategies in a way that makes sense for you.

  1. Find ways to create a routine- If depressive symptoms disrupt your schedule, setting a gentle program may help you feel in control. These plans do not have to map out an entire day. Bring in a loose but structured routine that can help you keep the pace going.

 

  1. Listen to Music- Music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears- It is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear. But for many of my neurological patients, music is even more- it can provide access, even when no medication can, to movement, to speech, to life. For them, music is not a luxury, but a necessity- Oliver Sacks

 

  1. Do something you enjoy- Depression can push you to give in to your fatigue. Try to push back and do something you love- something that is relaxing but energizing. It could be spending some time with adult coloring/ Mandala drawing books, watching your favorite/feel-good movie, growing a plant at your home, or only taking a shower and reading a book. 

 

  1. Spend time in Nature- Nature can have a powerful influence on depression. Research suggests people who spend more time in nature have improved mental health. Exposure to sunlight offers the same benefits. Take a walk at lunch among the trees or spend some time at a local park or plan a weekend hike. 

 

  1. Spend time with loved ones- Depression may tempt you to isolate yourself and withdraw from friends and family, but face to face time with loved ones can help you feel better. If you’re unable to spend time together in-person- phone calls or video calls can also be helpful.

 

  1. Try something new entirely- When you do the same thing day after day, you use the equal parts of your brain. You can challenge your neurons and alter your brain chemistry by doing something entirely different. Research also shows doing new things can improve your overall well-being and strengthen your social relationships. To reap these benefits, consider trying a new sport, taking a creative class, or learning a new cooking technique. Try volunteering at a local event. It allows you to interact with people other than your known friends. 

 

  1. Yoga and Meditation- Stress and Anxiety are known to prolong depressive symptoms. Finding relaxation techniques can help you lower your stress levels and invite more joy and balance in your life. Studies have shown that activities like yoga, deep breathing, and even journaling may help improve your overall sense of well-being. 

 

  1. Nutrition and Diet- What you put in your body can have a significant impact on how you feel. Eating a diet rich in nutrients may be a great place to start. Try to limit stimulants like coffee, caffeine, and alcohol.

 

  1. Sleep it out- Sleep disturbance is a common occurrence in depression. You either sleep too much or too less. Aim for a good quality 8-hour sleep and build a regular schedule around it. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time has proven to improve the quality of sleep, which in turn leads to a better mood. 

 

  1. Maintaining a Gratitude Journal- Studies show that spending some reflecting on things that make you happy leads to positive feelings and reduces the effects of moodiness that depression is known for. Start small with jotting down three ideas that made you happy and see this list grow longer as time passes. 

 

  1. Digital well-being- We live in the times of Social Media, and there have been several positive developments in this field that help battle Depression and Social Anxiety. Apps like Calm and Headspace has revolutionized the way digital platforms can help fight Depressive episodes. From breathing techniques, regular check-in on controlling anxiety to several podcasts – one can have easy access to various ways to build a healthy coping mechanism.\