20% New Zealanders, at some point in their lifetime, will experience a serious mood disorder such as depression.
One in five of us. That’s a lot.
The exact recipe for depression is different for each and every person.
The exact recipe for depression is different for each and every person. By ‘recipe’, we mean a combination of many things – problems at work or school, problems in relationships, financial stress, significant loss, the list goes on and on.
Without oversimplifying it, research is pointing to a range of physiological conditions also being ingredients that can make significant contributions to each unique recipe.
Such contributing physiological factors behind signs of depression are:
- Gut dysbiosis (more bad bugs than good bugs)
- Folic acid or B12 deficiency
- Food allergies
- Hormonal imbalances
- Low thyroid function
- Omega-3 fats deficiency
- Vitamin D deficiency
Put simply, our mind and our body functions as one system. So just as there’s no one thing that causes depression, there is no one thing that cures it.
Just as there’s no one thing that causes depression, there is no one thing that cures it.
As Mark Hyman, M.D. eloquently puts it, “Depression is not in our heads. It is in our bodies. When we fix the body, we fix the brain.”
I would personally love to see dietary and lifestyle factors, along with nutrient support used to nurture mental wellness, and using medication sparingly on a case-by-case basis. This way, I believe we can see improvement in the overall wellbeing of our nation – both mentally and physically.
“Depression is not in our heads. It is in our bodies. When we fix the body, we fix the brain.” – Mark Hyman, M.D.
As stated above, there isn’t one single factor that will relieve signs of depression, however, the lifestyle factors below will play a role in supporting your overall wellness, including that of your mind.
In a nutshell, we already know that we can change our minds to change our bodies, but we can also change our bodies to change our minds!
This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but it’s a good starting point for managing factors that are linked with imbalances in the body and providing the nourishing foundations for restoration.
1. Brain loving nutrients
Omega-3 fatty acids, while good for the whole system, are particularly nourishing for brain health. Our brains are about 60% fat, so it makes sense that eating plenty of healthy fats – particularly anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids – is an essential source of nourishment.
Vitamin D is another micronutrient that plays a role in our mental wellbeing. Some people uptake this best from direct sunlight, others from a liquid formula. There is a strong correlation between people experiencing depressive episodes and low levels of vitamin D.
2. Giving up Gluten
Studies have shown gluten to be inflammatory, and affect people with and without Coeliac’s. There is a correlation between inflammation in the body, and inflammation in the brain which humans experience as mood imbalance and stress.
Giving up gluten doesn’t have to mean missing out on your favourite foods or being difficult at when going out to eat. For some help on how to simply move towards and enjoy the many benefits of a gluten-free diet, read The Why and How of Going Gluten Free.
3. Making time to Move
When you have a rough case of the blues, exercise is often the last thing you feel like doing, and the first thing you need to do. The benefits of exercise extend well beyond how we look.
‘Exercise’ doesn’t have to mean an arduous workout that pushes you to your limits and isn’t enjoyable – ‘movement’ is a better term when speaking to the psychological benefits. Going for walks, doing some stretches or yoga, playing with the kids outside, having a paddle at the beach – are all great options to give your body a chance to move and get blood flowing. Start small but consistently.
We are all unique – different bodies and lifestyles function better with different kinds of exercise and movement. To find out more about how to exercise in the ways that are most supportive of your wellness, we have some tips in What Exercise is Right For You?
4. Sleep Soundly
Sound, uninterrupted sleep is crucial when it comes to maintaining our overall well-being. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to signs of depression. What some people don’t know is that even short-term sleep deficit has negative consequences.
If getting sleep or staying asleep is something you experience difficulty with, 5 Tips for Better Sleep and Energy has some simple and effective ideas for helping prep yourself for a good night’s sleep.
5. Be Kind to Yourself
Reframe the idea of someone being depressed to someone having depression. Depression is a voice in your head that relentlessly puts you down and tells you that life and everything in it is worthless.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of hearing that as your own voice and believing it. Offer yourself the patience and compassion you would offer a loved one without even questioning it. As humans we are fallible, and we are deserving of our own forgiveness.
We take the best care of what we love and value, ourselves included! Self-love can be hard; start with self-like. How to Practise Self-Love Daily has six simple little steps you can make on a daily basis to help you work on the relationship you have with yourself.
Please see your GP if you have concerns regarding your mood and anxiety.
If your situation is an emergency, or if you or someone is at risk, call 111.
For support, you can contact:
1737, Need to Talk? Free call or text anytime for support from a trained counsellor.
Lifeline 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland