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Last updateSun, 06 Nov 2016 10am

Back You are here: Home Home Site Sections News Avoiding Depression - What Actually Works for Disabled People?

Avoiding Depression - What Actually Works for Disabled People?

Depression is a far, far bigger problem than most people realise. Not only on a personal, but on a societal level. For individual sufferers, it is a life-altering and, in some cases, life-destroying condition which often renders people disabled in terms of their ability to carry out normal day to day living - despite seeming in full physical health. On a societal level, the rising levels of depression and the impact they’re having on society (economically, socially, and even politically) are ringing alarm bells in health authorities the world over.

Depression is an often devastating mood disorder. It’s likely that the depression of some sufferers may be influenced by their genetics, which render them more vulnerable than others to depressive episodes. For others, it may be brought on by a variety of factors, or attack apparently at random. If you are genetically predisposed towards depression - do not worry. This does not necessarily sentence you to a lifetime of recurring depression. The manifestation of a predisposition towards depression can be influenced by a number of lifestyle and health factors. While this by no means indicates that the development of depression is your ‘fault’ for not staving it off effectively enough (it’s an unpredictable and hard-hitting disease, and we live unpredictable lives!), if you know that you have a tendency towards depressive episodes, there may be some things you can do to limit them. Here are a few of the things that science says reduce your chances of developing depression:

Exercise - Particularly Outdoors

Exercise can help to fend off depression, and spending time outdoors can also help to fend off depression. Both appear to release mood-boosting chemicals within the brain, which have both a short and a long-term effect upon one’s depression risk. Spending time outside seems to aid our mental health in a variety of ways, for reasons which are not yet fully understood, but which are too clearly evident to ignore. The ‘greener’ and more ‘natural’ the outdoor location, the better. Sunshine on the skin infuses us with Vitamin D, and may aid in the production/release of mood-boosting hormone serotonin. Meanwhile, exercise improves both our physical and our mental health through a variety of mechanisms, including improving blood flow to the brain and the provocation of ‘natural highs’ via endorphins. Walking in particular is considered to be an excellent exercise by which to fend off depression. It often occurs outside - thus bestowing all of the outdoor mental health advantages - and appears to have a semi-meditative ‘rhythm’ to it which the human brain finds very useful indeed. It’s a kind of active meditation, which allows our brains the time and space to sort out and eliminate sources of psychological stress, while simultaneously providing great brain-boosting exercise.

Eat Right

We know, ‘exercise’ and ‘eat well’ are boring sets of advice which aren’t always practical. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that the brain relies upon the body for everything, and your body relies upon the fuel it’s given. The better the fuel, the better the body operates. The brain needs nutrients as much as any other organ, and if it’s deprived of the correct nutrients, it won’t work as well as it should. An increasing body of evidence is linking depressive disorders to poor diets. Diets rich in green, leafy veg, wholegrains, fish oils, and fruits are likely to reduce the eater’s risk of developing depression, while unhealthier diets actively increase that risk.

Prioritise Time - Especially Time For Relaxation

Stress is a major, major factor in the development of many cases of depression. While stress has many causes, lots of people state time pressures as a prominent cause of stress. Piling more work and tasks into our days than we have time to deal with is not a healthy way to live our lives - we’re not designed to do more than a few hours of ‘work’ each day, and our brains can’t take that kind of stress. To prevent depression, prioritise spare time in which to relax and let stress levels lower naturally. For some, this may lead to making harsh choices between time and money. On the one hand, it’s nice to be comfortably off - but, if spending too much time earning is taking a toll on one’s mental health, it’s probably best to render oneself slightly more money-poor in favour of being time-rich.

Sleep Well

The human brain needs sleep in order to function properly. Sleep disturbances and a failure to get enough sleep are massive problems in the modern world. We no longer follow natural sleep cycles - we go to sleep and wake ourselves up at artificial times, and this results in a good deal of lost sleep and chronic waking exhaustion. Our lack of sleep - or lack of good sleep - also means that our brains do not get the opportunity to do the vital ‘cleaning out’ and ‘taking stock’ they need, which can in turn lead to problems like depression. To keep depression at bay, therefore, try to follow a natural sleeping pattern, and see a doctor if you’re having trouble with sleep.

Post written and submitted for publication by Anne Smith