In today’s world of trial and tribulation many times the focus seems to be on what’s wrong with the world, how ‘depressed’ we all are, and the latest medical breakthrough that will relieve our miserable states of mind. And while the pharmaceutical industries continue to line their already deep pockets the individual members of society – that’s you and me – take more and more pills to ease our aching minds and souls.
But is this the real answer to depression? I say no!
I even wager that many times, what’s labeled as depression is really a lack of happiness – not a true state of depression. Let’s explore this.
Are You Suffering From Depression?
When you turn on your television to watch the evening news what do you find? Depressing news; the murder count, rapes, the troubling economy, politicians caught lying, extreme oppression – the list goes on. No matter how you look at this it’s all depressing news.
Whether we realize it or not we internalize this information and start to feel bad ourselves. In fact, this negative way of perceiving the world can become our silent ‘mantra’ that obscures the reality of the world with a sort of ‘black cloud’ hovering over our perceptions.
This type of thinking – whether you’re aware of it or not – leads to depression. We end up feeling down and out more often than not, we lie awake worrying about our own state of affairs (and often the perceived ‘sad’ state of the world,) we make poor eating choices, harmful living choices, and our state of mind becomes even more depressed.
Pills, Pills Everywhere You Look – But We’re Still So Sad?
What commonly happens next is the visit to our medical doctor or mental health practitioner. Next, well, you know what happens – a prescription is written. Maybe you get an anti-depressant, or a sleeping aide, or an anti-anxiety medication – no matter what it is most times you’ll walk out with one pill or more.
But I urge you to stop!
Now there are certain biochemical situations where you may need medication but in many of the cases these medications are being heavily over prescribed, delivering nasty side effects, and not helping the problem.
According to research when you’re feeling depressed you are experiencing low levels of serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone characterized as a neurotransmitter. It’s often referred to as the ‘happy hormone.’ It helps to regulate moods, curb anxiety, and fight depression. It also helps with sleep, sex drive, aggression, and appetite. In fact, many of the anti-depressants aim to increase levels of serotonin.
Natural Ways to Effectively Increase Serotonin
When it comes to feeling happy there’s no doubt that serotonin plays a vital role. What I want you to consider is this; there are all natural ways to increase levels of serotonin thereby improving your mood that don’t require a prescription.
According to research practicing acts of kindness, such as volunteering or contributing to charities raises not just your own levels of serotonin but that of the people being helped and anyone who simply witnesses this act of kindness.
In two studies out of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) results showed actual changes in the brain when people are altruistic. This included increased levels of serotonin.
Yes, that’s right. When you volunteer or give money to those in need you are not just helping them you’re making yourself feel better. Now this doesn’t just mean that once a week you can feel good by going to your local shelter and helping out. You can practice altruism in your daily life.
Hold a door for someone, make eye contact and say thank you, ask someone how their day is, pick up a piece of litter on the ground – all of these daily small acts of kindness will really pay off.
Making healthy, good decisions for yourself can also reap large rewards in overall happiness.
#1 Exercise – The more you move the more your body naturally produces serotonin and other neuropeptides that make you feel happy. If your not already exercising now is a great time to start. Go for a run, bike ride, or go to the gym and also find a partner because working out is also more fun with a friend.
#2 Eat Healthy Fats – 60% of your brain is made up of fat. So if you want to have balanced hormones and a boosted mood try Omega-3 Fats. Salmon, Sardines, Walnuts, and Flaxseeds are all packed with this brain building nutrient that helps improve happiness.
#3 Find Your Purpose - Mother Teresa spent 45 years of her life dedicated to the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying. She found her purpose in helping the Indian people and made it her life’s work. Rick Warren in his inspirational, life changing book, Purpose Driven Life, says, if we want to experience daily happiness and joy it’s vital to have a life purpose. What are your gifts? What are you passionate about? Is there any kind of work you could do all day and the time just flies by?
Take a minute and write down your top 3 strengths, top 3 passions, and top 3 opportunities you have right now to serve or add value to someones life.