Let me say at the outset that I do not wish to make light of the black dog of clinical depression. Being clinically depressed is a major body system dysfunction in our society. It’s effects are widespread and causes great distress to the individuals who have it and their families.
I want to focus more on the absolutely miserable segment of the diagram below, rather than on the clinical depression zone.
The body is an ecosystem and we can expect the incidence of depression and feelings for miserableness to continue to escalate at about the same rate as all other body system dysfunctions are escalating.
Like all dysfunctions depression has a range of causes. And as Lao Tzu said, every big problem starts off as a small problem which wasn’t fixed.
What appears below is a set of guidelines for avoiding the fall into a miserable black hole and for assisting you to climb out of it if you do.
I grew up in Whyalla on the north western shores of Spencer Gulf in South Australia. Whyalla was an industrial town, stuck far enough away from the centre of the world for it to be a self sufficient community. With a population of less than 10,000 it was a vibrant community.
In Whyalla, if you didn’t feel too good you said you felt ‘shidouse’. This fact sheet is for people who can identify with how the sad and miserable felt in Whyalla.
I see lots of people on anti-depression tablets who I believe are not all that depressed. When questioned as to the reason they started taking tablets they often say they had a recent bereavement in the family, or a particularly stressful time at work … They’ve gone to the doctor feeling miserable, cried and been diagnosed as depressed, without a blood chemistry analysis or psychological analysis to confirm whether that is true or not.
I often find that they have been on tablets for a long time and have no goals for getting off them.
The treatment is not effecting a cure. It is rarely accompanied by regular counseling, or a personal development program, vigorous exercise, a change of diet, or a total body tune-up.
There is a continuum which goes from feeling absolutely fantastic through to feeling absolutely miserable.
If you go past the miserable stage you can become clinically depressed, but you’d want to have a serious confirmation that it was clinical depression and not just a bad mood swing before you took a medically inspired prescription.
However, the fact that it is rapidly increasing suggests that as a society we’re doing something wrong; there are some things we used to do that we don’t do now. A highly significant contributor to depression is lack of physical activity.
When it comes to the black dog of clinical depression physical activity has a greater beneficial effect after one year than a pharmaceutical. (Find that hard to believe? Read psychiatrist David Servan-Shrieber’s book Healing Without Freud or Prozac.
John Abramson in his book, Overdosed America refers to depression as the ‘exercise deficiency disease’. He goes on to say that ‘short-term treatment with an antidepressant medication relieves symptoms but appears to decrease the likelihood of patients making the positive life changes necessary to prevent symptoms from recurring.’ If that’s not good enough for you go to the journal, Psychosomatic Medicine 62:633-638,2000 and read the results of the study ‘Exercise Treatment for Major Depression’.
The experts haven’t yet worked out how to prescribe exercise with any accuracy. If you go to the Aerabyte site you can see how to do it for yourself.
Causes of depression
The Causes are Legion
1. Lack of certain chemicals in the brain.
2. Lack of personal development.
This country is backward when it comes to personal development. People haven’t read the books, haven’t been to the courses.
3. A dysfunctional autonomic nervous system – ie. an over-stimulated sympathetic nervous system and an under-stimulated para-sympathetic nervous system.
4. Lack of physical activity.
If you are not regularly vigorously active, if you’re not getting enough oxygen into your body you’re setting yourself up to feel miserable. The research strongly suggesting that exercise deficiency is a major cause of depression and that over a period of 12 months a systematic exercise program can have more positive effect than a pharmaceutical treatment.
Depression appears to be an attention deficit under-activity syndrome. If you lock yourself up all day in a cage and chain yourself to the desk sooner or plater you might find yourself feeling miserable.
Aim for at least 800 Aerabytes a week. Get yourself a heart rate monitor and get cracking.
Train either before breakfast or after work and get in some exercise at lunch time.
5. Lack of essential vitamins, minerals and fats
This includes B group vitamins, the minerals that are precursors to normalising brain chemistry and omega 3 fats, nature’s own natural anti-inflammatory.
6. Sugar induced hypoglycemia.
Most people have a high sugar, high refined starch diet (which amounts to the same thing as a high sugar diet.) After each time they eat, blood glucose level is quickly elevated drawing a response from the pancreas to produce insulin and drop the glucose level down. However, the blood glucose level drops too far and that is when people feel tired, depressed and hungry.
7. Stress of life — whether at home or at work. If you’re not living the life you’d like to live, if life is sucking life out of you rather than giving you life then you’re on the way to feeling miserable.
8. A meaningless and purposeless life.
Viktor Frankl called it the existential vacuum. Just as we’ve got to satisfy the inner hunger with more than food, so we need to satisfy the emptiness of life with meaningful and purposeful thoughts and activities. Each of us has to decide what is meaningful and purposeful.
9. Stress at home and at work
If we have no home or work goals and/or if we are not achieving our home and work goals we can become frustrated, angry, anxious and miserable. In the end it all gets too much. The crying and anger are symptoms of our anxiety, telling us to do something, something more than trot off to the doctor and take a tablet!
10. Physiological changes to the way the heart and autonomic nervous systems function that can be restored to good function by meditation.
For a full account buy the book, Instinct to Heal bypsychiatrist David Servan Schreiber.
The usual treatment is to take a tablet to redress chemical imbalance, and in many cases this is the correct initial treatment. However it doesn’t treat the causes of your misery or clean them up.
What You Can Do For Yourself
If you do what unstressed people do there is a good chance you’ll end up being unstressed yourself.
1. As a matter of priority adopt a high density exercise routine. You’ll burn off stress chemicals. You’ll experience the exercise-led recovery where the exercise stimulated the brains natural endorphins to give you a lift. The mind is just another body system.
Exercise is an excellent way to give it a tune up. Use the Aerabyte system to record your progress and adopt the aerabyte recommendations for people with depression, hypertension and diabetes.
2. Take stock. Establish the direction you’d like your life to take. Set goals in the major areas of your life and develop a plan to achieve them. Include in the things you set goals for:
- health and fitness
- career and work
- other people
- hobbies, distractions, holidays
- meaning and purpose-type considerations
- things and possessions
- finances …
3. Engage a life coach or counselor, someone who is as committed to the achievement of your personal well being as you are. Be prepared to pay them a fair and reasonable fee.
You want the best advice and support. Be prepared to be challenged. (Maybe you feel miserable because you need a bigger challenge!)
A counsellor will help you to complete the past.
A life coach will help you to create for yourself an optimistic future.
4. Hang around inspired and motivated people. Some of it will rub off. If you want more energy mix with energetic people. Learn what their secrets of a high energy lifestyle are.
5. Enrol in some high powered personal development programs to kick start you back into life.
6. Read some of the great personal development books.
7. Eat well. Stop eating the high sugar and highly refined starch diet. Eat the low density, high fibre carbohydrates (fruit and vegetables) with lean protein and your blood sugar won’t drop to the point where you feet tired and depressed.
8. Stop drinking alcohol and caffeine.
9. Set aside a day each week when you’ll go out and enjoy yourself in the great outdoors.
10. Go out mid week once a week. Go to the pictures or the theatre.
11. Stop working so many hours. maximum, 45 hours a week.
12. Get away from your office at lunch time. Get some physical activity and some fresh air.
13. If you have accrued annual leave take it immediately. Go away for at least 21 days. If you can’t afford to go away, stay at home but go out and do something interesting every day. Catch up with friends. Do things you’ve been putting off doing because you ‘didn’t have the time’.
14. Stop watching television. Television is a drug robbing you of your time and your vitality. If you’ve nothing better to do at night crawl into bed and read a book.
15. Invite friends over for cards.
16. Have a party. A week later have another one, twice as big.
17. Do some gardening. Gurdjieff said that the best thing you can do when you feel depressed is get out into the garden.
18. Pay attention to the completion of small things. Clean up. Clean up your house. Clean up your office at work. Make you bed every day before going to work. Clean up the kitchen sink before you go to work. Coming home to an untidy house doesn’t make for elevating thoughts when you step in the front door.