An estimated 21 million adults in the US (8.4%) had at least one major depressive episode (diagnosed as a period of at least two weeks when a person experienced a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities, and had a majority of specified symptoms, such as problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, or self-worth.)
However, nearly two out of three people do not actively seek nor receive proper treatment.
While you may never experience a major depressive episode or receive a diagnosis, everyone has experienced some degree of depression during the course of their lives.
I want to provide some helpful information for when you find yourself in a “depressed” mood, or when you want to help a friend or loved one in need.
It’s a common (mis)perception that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, with neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. However, that theory hasn’t been proven in over 50 years of research.
While chemical imbalances ARE observed in people with depression, research suggests that something is causing it to happen. The question is, what?
Is it genetics?
Genes can play a role, but it does not determine your destiny. And, the research behind epigenetics (Greek for “above” genetics) has found that we have far more control over the expression of our genes than we think, along with other environmental factors. (if you’re interested in learning more about that, just comment below and we can send you some great info)
Is it other biological factors?
The mind and body are complex systems and are intimately connected, and when looked at as a whole, there can be various factors as to why depression manifests. Research is showing that things like diet, exercise, hormones, immune system, and your gut are all very influential factors.
As mentioned in our email last week, stress plays a major role. And it’s not the stressors themselves, it’s how we deal with and respond to them. When stress persists for too long, it affects your thoughts, how we feel, your gene expression, and your biology.
What can you do?
Medication can be effective and can act as “life-preserver” for severe cases, but it’s not the “end all be all.” They do not “fix” the problem permanently and depression often comes back when you finish taking the meds. They also come with a whole host of side effects.
To the have the most effective impact on your mood, start with addressing the root cause. Start with examining your thought patterns. Change how you are processing both your past and real-time events. When you do that, everything changes!
How do you handle stress? How do you handle traumatic experiences? What makes you sad or happy? This is all determined by what we call your mental “operating system.”
Your mind is a very sophisticated processing machine, performing precise calculations of billions of bits of information every second, for which most we are completely unconscious about. This is the process it follows in a nutshell:
- What does this mean?
- How do I feel?
- What do I do?
We are constantly creating meaning around the “data points” of our life. It can be something that happened many years ago, and it happens for things occurring in present time.
If something is was good, it will produce good feelings. If something was bad, it will produce “less-than” feelings. And our actions (or inaction) will always follow.
If you want to change this cycle, and ultimately change how you feel and the actions you take, the key is changing the meaning of the data points!
This is where one of your most powerful abilities comes in, your ability to reframe what something means to you. You can take your worst day and make it your best day. You can take what you view as your biggest weakness and make it your greatest strength. It all lies in your ability to see both sides of the glass, because they are always there, it’s never one or the other…
So, take a holistic view of the “glass,” what’s good and bad? What was challenging about it? What lessons and strengths did you get? What does this mean to you? Now, you always get to choose!
(this is just a brief snapshot of the process we follow with clients to help them overcome challenges and upgrade their “operating system.” And, it can be challenging to do on your own, especially for traumatic experiences and very challenging moments of life. If you want more guidance on how to effectively do this, please reach out!)
And because the mind is so intimately connected to your body, make sure you are implementing healthy habits to feel great and think great. Look at your diet, get outside, exercise a ton, LAUGH, SMILE! The better your body feels, the better YOU feel!
Most importantly, find the support and resources you need! Talk with a specialist about your health, talk through a stressful experience with coach, friend, or family member.
If you or a loved one are having a tough time, know that there are many options available, any action is better than no action at all. Remember, we’re just an email or phone call away to help.