The latest news from the World Health Organization (WHO) tells us that Depression is now the leading cause of all ill health around the world. Estimating that over 300 million people worldwide suffer from this potentially debilitating disease. It raises the question, “What can be done?”

It’s important to know that depression is a very treatable disease. Very often, just talking about how you feel with another person can actually cut the pain in half. When depression is left to fester in darkness, fear and shame, it only increases and strengthens. When you bring your thoughts out into a safe environment with a trustworthy person, you can gain a new perspective and perhaps begin to see some light of hope.

Yes, sometimes medication is needed, so consulting with a psychiatrist may help you find a solution that involves a combination of medication, to reduce the severe sense of helplessness and restore the chemical balance in the body, as well as therapy, which should always accompany medical intervention. Retraining your thought patterns is key to getting unstuck. Working with a skilled, compassionate therapist can help develop coping skills and thought patterns that lead you to a more healthy outlook on life. Depending only on medication does not do this; however, it can help you feel better enough to do what’s necessary to make important changes.

Diet and exercise are also important contributors to your mental health. Depression is known to have it’s origins in physical factors such as hormone levels, biochemical factors triggered by stress overwhelm, and certain nutritional factors such as insufficiency of vitamins such as B-12 and Vitamin D. Healthy eating and exercise helps alleviate some of these issues. Getting outdoors and walking in nature can increase levels of Vitamin D naturally and expose you to dirt that actually releases microbes with effects similar to those of antidepressants like Prozac.

Learning how to be still and detaching from chaos and drama is a skill that can be strengthened through meditation and deep breathing. Similar to proper diet and exercise, regular meditation can help rewire the brain to lower stress and increase memory and brain function. It helps you think more clearly and make better, less reactive decisions based on wisdom rather than reactivity caused by strong emotion.

Gratitude is a practice that can also help rewire the brain into a more positive direction. Keeping a gratitude journal or just making it a practice to think of three things to be grateful for before you get out of bed in the morning, and as you go to sleep at night can also begin to calm the nerve centers of the brain, helping you sleep better, which is essential to maintaining strong mental health as well.

Each of these suggestions is a good starting place to begin to alleviate depression. If, at any time, you experience recurring thoughts of death or suicide, immediately call 911 or go to your local emergency room, in the case that you cannot get in to see a doctor or therapist right away.

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