Depression can suck the joy right out of our lives. We focus on negatives rather than gratitude, become fearful rather than generous, and forget about who and what we love. We isolate from others, withdraw into ourselves and before we know it sad, worthless feelings permeate our being. Our culture is big on taking antidepressants for depression, and medication helps a lot of people. However, medication isn’t the only medicine for depression. Many people find lifestyle changes helpful, too. What do I mean by lifestyle changes? The foods you eat, people you surround yourself with, physical exercises you practice, ways you think, and spiritual or religious practices you weave into your life all contribute to your well-being in ways that can diminish and even eradicate depression.
Experts really don’t know the causes of depression in every case. Often there is some combination of biological and environmental factors that underlie the incredible suffering of this condition. Sometimes depression arises in response to a particular situation. You may not be able to control whether or not you become depressed, but you can make some choices about what to do when depression knocks you down. Thinking about what you might do ahead of time is a good idea, since when you get depressed, motivation falters and thinking becomes cloudy. Here’s a thought you may not have considered:
Can sunlight lessen the effects of depression? I got to thinking about this last week while reading a letter to the Health&Science section of the Washington Post (July 2, 2013). A reader wrote about the positive effects of Vitamin D supplements on depressed, homebound elderly patients. The Sun is a natural source of Vitamin D and our number one natural resource. Is it possible we can use sunlight to reduce depressive symptoms?
It seems that way. Serotonin and melatonin regulation affect both depression and cognitive function (a broad term for many different abilities related to intelligence, brain injury, neurological function and mental illness). A study out of the University of Alabama Birmingham, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19638195, indicates the possibility that sunlight improves cognitive function.
What does this mean for you? Use these sunny summer days to take in sunlight in moderation. A thirty minute stroll gives you two depression busters: exercise and sunlight. Take water, pace yourself in the heat, and tell depression to take a hike!