I still remember that day when my grandma brought her cousin home from her village. We lived in Mumbai at the time and it took us all to adjust to this new person in our family, since she was from a village in Tamil Nadu. Having lost her husband, she was struggling with depression and my grandma did her best to help her back to the normalcy. From involving her in household tasks and decisions, to taking her out for shopping and the movies, we worked hard to bring her out of her depression.
This year’s theme for World Health Day which is on 7 April brought my memories about this aunt flooding back.
Yes, this year’s World Health Day theme is Depression: Let’s talk!
Isn’t it disheartening to know that over five crore Indians suffer from depression in India?
Ironically, this ailment makes no discrimination between the rich and the poor. And, even successful and rich people complain of depression symptoms.
Mainly, it is a state of mind which can strike even when everything is going great in your life. Why, Deepika Padukone, the Bollywood star, succumbed to depression when she was at the top of her career!
For anyone fighting with depression, it is important to remember that it is a common problem today and treatable. Also, depression doesn’t mean that you are mentally disabled. It is like any other ailment, such as ‘flu, cold, fever, and the thing to do is to take steps to destroy the parasites killing your mental peace.
Here are some simple healthy lifestyle tips to put you on the path to conquering depression:
Get into a routine:
Depression can strip away the peace from your life. Setting a routine can help you get back on a track. It need not be same routine you were used to before the onset of depression. Just set a convenient routine that suits your lifestyle.
Depression makes us believe that we can’t achieve anything in our life. It can suck away our self-confidence and self-esteem. This makes you feel worse about yourself. To push yourself, it is imperative to set some goals, and not necessarily big ones. Make it easy, adding simple tasks you can accomplish, such as watering plants, doing the dishes every other day, and so on. Achieving these small goals will build your confidence, motivating you to add more challenging goals to your life.
Exercise, besides its many benefits, helps in boosting that feel-good chemical called endorphins, which have a long-term positive impact on people with depression. By exercising daily, your brain receives that important boost to rejuvenate itself in a positive manner. So how much exercise do you need? No need to run marathons. Starting off even with a walk is enough to have a positive impact on your mind.
There is no magic diet that can fix your depression, but it’s a good idea to watch your eating habits. If depression tends to make you overeat, a diet loaded with fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, and olive oil, and low with processed meat could help you control it and keep depression away.
Get enough sleep but don’t overdo it:
Depression can make it daunting to shut eyes even for a while, and too little sleep can make you restless. However, in some cases, people with depression, sleep too much. Too much, as well as too little sleep can be dangerous. So, make some lifestyle changes and set a sleeping timetable for yourself. Try and go to bed and rise at the same time every day. Avoid napping during the day. Get rid of distractions in the bedroom. That means no laptop, no tv.
Take on new responsibilities:
When you’re depressed, you tend to disconnect from the world and slack off on responsibilities at home and work. However, doing the opposite can elevate your mood. Involve yourself at work and take up new responsibilities. When you successfully complete your work, it will give you a sense of accomplishment. Another way to feel good and cheer up is social work. When you help others, you feel good about yourself.
Without fear of judgment or criticism, writing is an effective way to release your emotions. In fact, whenever I have a bad day at the office, I come home and write in my journal. I am not saying that writing should be done on a daily basis, but whenever you feel low, express your thoughts on paper. Your diary will listen to your thoughts and allow you to explore emotions on those levels, which may not necessarily be in your mind, but come naturally to you when you sit down to give words to your thoughts.
Counter negative thoughts:
The mind plays an imperative role in the fight against depression. When you’re depressed, it is normal to think the worst thoughts. You might think that people talk about you behind your back. But is there proof? You might think that no one likes you. Beat your negative thoughts before they beat your confidence. Instead of letting your mind to rule you, take control of your thoughts.
Try something new:
Depression can make you feel as though you’re stuck in a rut. Try and push your limits to do something good. Pick up a book and read it in a park, brush up your culinary skills, learn a new language. Everything is a game for the mind so when you do something new, positive chemical changes occur. This alters the level of dopamine (the brain chemical) which is attached to the feeling of enjoyment, happiness, and learning.
Avoid alcohol and drugs:
It is common to see people with depression turning to alcohol and drugs. In reality, alcohol and drug abuse can worsen your depression. They also interfere with your anti-depressant medicines. So, stay away from alcohol and drugs as far as possible.
Meditation has a calming effect on your emotions. Holding on to your emotions for a long time feels suffocating leading to a major explosion. Meditate to calm yourself and zap your negative feelings.
Work towards having ‘fun’:
While it is easy to stay morose, do look for ways to have fun. Go out with friends or by yourself. Enjoy activities you like.
Buy health insurance:
Rather than buy health insurance when there is an emergency, invest in one when life is going well as it can ensure you get the medical care you need in an emergency. Even if you need to visit the doctor, a mediclaim policy will help you. Rising medical costs when you are not prepared for them can worsen depression. So consider getting a health insurance policy to protect yourself against the shock of high medical costs.
Choosing to be healthy and happy is up to us. Any health issue can open us up to depression even when things are going well. The above tips have helped many of my friends to heal mild to severe depression. Feeling better can be through doing something as simple as cooking a meal, spending time with friends, listening to your favorite music—all of which keep you in a calm state of mind.
This World Health Day, pledge to stay healthy and keep depression away.
From the WHO website
Depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. According to the latest estimates from WHO, more than 300 million people are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18% between 2005 and 2015. Lack of support for people with mental disorders, coupled with a fear of stigma, prevent many from accessing the treatment they need to live healthy, productive lives.
Depression is a common mental illness characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that people normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for 14 days or longer.
In addition, people with depression normally have several of the following: a loss of energy; a change in appetite; sleeping more or less; anxiety; reduced concentration; indecisiveness; restlessness; feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness; and thoughts of self-harm or suicide.