Feeling sad from time-to-time is a normal part of life, but feeling crippled by your sadness on a daily basis could be different.In our day-to-day life, we frequently use the term “Depression”, but this is often referred to as sadness. Sadness is natural and it occurs for various reasons, but depression is a state that is even more severe. By definition, depression is long-term sadness, that persists to a period of more than two weeks. It is a disease that is manifested in mankind due to the drastic alteration of food, thinking as well as other activities.Depression can be overwhelming and prevent an individual from enjoying things that he had an interest in earlier. It affects everyone differently, but it can interfere with the daily activities, work, and life in general.
The drastic change of human lifestyle from hunter-gatherer activity to agricultural activity, then to industrial activity moving on to the IT revolution has not been adjusted by the human mind when compared to the human body, resulting in the emergence of new lifestyle diseases among which one is Depression. Depression causes some sort of pain – both to the body as well as to the mind.
Depression –contributory factors
The explanation to the exact cause of this condition is yet to be understood by the medical community.Depression can run in families and some people will be at an increased genetic risk of the disease.This is caused due to negative or faulty circumstances in life as well as due to certain negative personal factors. Some people are at risk of depression because of their personality, particularly if they have a tendency to worry a lot, have low self-esteem, are perfectionists, are sensitive to personal criticism, or are self-critical and negative. The stress and worry of coping with a serious illness such as cancer can lead to depression, especially if dealing with long-term management and/or chronic pain. Some people might become depressed due to the death of a loved one or due to loss of a job.Drug and alcohol use can both lead to and result from depression.Everyone’s different and it’s often a combination of different factors that can contribute to depression in different people.
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness or hopelessness
- Loss of interest in usual activities, including sex
- Difficulty in concentrating and complaints of poor memory
- Insomnia or oversleeping
- Appetite changes, which may include weight gain or loss
- Fatigue, lack of energy
- Thoughts of suicide or death
Lifestyle changes that lead to depression
- Lack of physical exercise- Physical exercise can lead to increased level of positive neurotransmitters in the body like serotonin and dopamine. These tend to enhance mental sharpness and has an anti-ageing effect.
- Lack of exposure to sunlight
- Processed foods that have very little omega-3 fatty acids can have a depressing effect.
- Lack of appropriate quality and quantity of sleep
- Lack of social connection due to a life immersed in technology and socializing only through social media
- Living in the bad experiences and feelings of the past
Treating depression effectively means doing more than taking medications or going for therapy. Here, a change of lifestyle is essential to ensure a healthy mind and body. This will help a person to cope with the challenges of depression.
Food: Avoid junk food or food high in refined sugar and saturated fats.
Healthy Food include:-
Fatty acids – fish, nuts, fresh fruits, vegetables, olive oil (Omega 3 S and Omega 6 S)
Amino acids – meat, dairy products, certain fruits and vegetables (Enhance neurotransmitters)
Carbohydrates – whole grains, legume, spinach (stimulates serotonin)
Exercise: Exercising for 30 minutes a day and for 3- 5 days a week is recommended. It helps to alleviate depression, reduce stress, improve mood, boost self-esteem and provide restful sleep. It also helps to overcome excessive weight gain which is usually associated with depression.
Medicines – Several Ayurvedic medicines are available in the market to overcome depression. These are effective and are reported to have very little adverse effects. Major or moderate in grade depression demands inpatient treatment so as to get results. Snehapana, Vamana, Nasya followed by Rasayana drugs are the main part of the protocol.
Yoga Therapy – Selected Asanas and Pranayama schedules are reported to have positive and significant results in depression as per several published studies. These treatments result in stress relief, relaxation and spiritual enlightening. If depression is disrupting the sleep habits, deep-breathing techniques can calm the mind to help sleep better.
Sleep: Fatigue from lack of sleep can add to the symptoms of depression. Proper sleep is an important part of a depression treatment plan. Developing a calm bedtime routine can help to wind down at the end of the day. Following a consistent sleep schedule to improve the amount and quality of sleep should be made mandatory.
Relationships:Spend time with positive, supportive, and loving people so as to overcome rocky times.
Overcome stress: Stress builds upon itself, so it’s essential to combat stress with calming, soothing experiences. Stress management is different for everyone. This can be watching a favorite movie, reading a good book, practicing a hobby, listening to music, writing a journal, exercising etc.
Depression thus affects the quality of life of the person affected. It is multifactorial and the altered lifestyle is also a major contributor to the condition. Its symptoms of sadness and isolation can be debilitating. So a multidisciplinary approach under strict medical supervision is ideal for managing depression and this is very effective. Lifestyle alterations are the key points to be followed to get rid of depression. Ayurveda has mentioned almost all these approaches of depression many centuries back and hence it is being termed as the science of life rather than a system of medicine.
Dr Jithesh Madhavan MD, PhD
PG Department of Ayurvedic Psychiatry
VPSV Ayurveda College, Kottakkal