Beating Depression: It All Starts with Getting Your Body Healthy
Break free from the unhealthy ways of the past. Being kind to your body is the first step that can help define the rest of your life.
By Faust Ruggiero, M.S.
Depression is primarily a physical disorder stemming from the imbalance in neurotransmitter production in your body. The correlation between physically unhealthy lifestyles and incidences of depression is quite high. The simple rule is that the healthier your body is, the more difficult it is for the depression life thief to do its dastardly deeds. This is not to say that healthy people cannot be depressed people. When it comes to fighting depression, a healthy body is a marvelous advantage.
Depression attacks you physically first, then moves through your emotions, and finally attacks your mind. It only makes good sense to give your body everything it needs to be as strong as it can be in this war against the life thief.
The criteria for a healthy body includes good nutrition, regular exercise, avoiding harmful habits, and seeking medical assistance when necessary. Pay special attention to the food you put in your body and understand that, as a physical entity, your body needs regular exercise to keep it healthy. You also need to avoid harmful habits like overeating, substance abuse, and physical harm. It also makes good sense to recognize and make good decisions for your physical health and to seek medical help if and when necessary.
If you are suffering from depression, you know that your body does not feel as good as it should. You may be tired, have aches and pains, and the systems in your body, based on poor neurotransmitter production, will not be operating at optimal levels. The question is, do you want to continue to live your life at the mercy of the life thief?
People will often do anything but take care of their bodies when it comes to addressing their depression. They will try medicine, they will try all kinds of trending approaches, and they will talk about their symptoms, trying to alleviate them at the intellectual level first. You really need to start with your body, since neurotransmitter production is at the root of everything you are feeling. So, let’s start with our healthy eating plan. I will make it simple and to the point so you can incorporate into your life with just a little effort.
My Healthy Body: The Plan
Good nutrition is all about putting the right things in your body, in the right amounts, and at the right times. People like to eat what they like, in the amounts they like, and when they like. Many people enjoy that full feeling in their stomachs and will eat until they reach that point. Your brain determines when you are full, so retraining your brain to reinterpret that process makes sense. This is how it happens. First, eat slowly. This gives your brain enough time to interpret what is entering your stomach. Second, give your brain an understanding of what nutrition is. You do this by slowly phasing out all those comfort foods that lead to weight gain and other physical problems. You should also remove accelerants like caffeine and energy drinks from your diet. Caffeine can raise the anxiety level and lead to depressive crashes, while energy drinks, often packed with caffeine, are also high in sugar. Sugar can also cause depressive crashes.
Comfort foods are a major problem when it comes to depression. People who suffer from depression will do anything to feel better. One can feel better, albeit for short periods of time, by introducing a food loaded with flavor enhancers that immediately provide a relief from the depression. Changing your diet really has to do with training your brain. One of the brain’s more adaptive processes is something we call habit formation. This is your brain adapting to the choices you make, and as it does, it provides less resistance to choices that may not be so good for you.
To retrain your brain, you can gradually (within a month or six weeks) reduce your intake of comfort foods and a gradually introduce healthy foods. Start by reducing the amount of comfort foods you eat. Comfort foods tend to be high in carbohydrates, sugar, and salt. Try to get away from fast foods, prepared foods that are made via your microwave, and foods with flavor enhancers, colorings, and chemical additives. Whole foods are your best bet.
Typically, adults should consume around 60 to 80 grams of protein per day. You can get your protein from meet (animal or plant based) if you choose to eat then, or you can introduce protein shakes and protein bars into your diet. Protein bars are a good substitute for candies, since they tend to be sweet. Do try to select protein bars that are low in carbohydrates and sugars. Protein synthesis is a key element in fighting depression, so getting enough protein in your diet every day helps fight depression and helps supply energy to your muscles. This is advantageous to you when you begin an exercise plan, as you will see shortly.
Try to get your carbohydrates from vegetables and fruits. If you don’t like to eat them with your meals, put them in a protein shake. In some cases, you can buy the shakes that include these nutrients to help create a healthy meal supplement. Balancing your diet is the first step in getting your body healthy. It is something you have control over, and little by little, it can help give you more of what you need to fight your depression.
There is one very important last point about nutrition. Very often, people who are depressed and not practicing good nutrition tend to become dehydrated or, at the very least, do not hydrate their bodies well. One of the most important practices to support good nutritional habits is to stay hydrated. Try to finish the drink even if you were taking small sips during the course of the day.
The average adult human’s body is made up of almost 70 percent water. Water helps keep a normal body temperature, lubricates and cushions joints, protect your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues, and helps rid the body of wastes through urination, perspiration, and bowel movements. Most important, it has a profound impact on the way the brain performs. Try to stay hydrated.
Oh, no, there’s that E word that so many people despise! Remember, what you give your brain is what your brain adjusts to and then tries to keep you doing—or not doing. Get off the couch and start becoming a bit more active. Start by introducing about 30 minutes of exercise into your daily routine. Try to do this at the same time every day and try not to miss a day. It could be walking, riding your bike, or using exercise equipment if you have some. At the very least, program some mild or calisthenics, or you can begin to do some of the fundamental yoga exercises.
The benefits of including exercise in your daily routine are twofold. First, it breaks the sedentary routine your mind has adjusted to. We know the unmotivated lifestyle is a key factor in depressive symptomology. You want to change that, and you can do that by introducing short periods of gentle exercise to get you started. The other advantage is that it helps you become a healthier person, and you need that to help you fend off your life thief. It doesn’t matter what type of exercise you do; you just want to get started with something, and you want to be consistent about it.
If you can, invite a friend to exercise with you. Sometimes depression drains your motivation making it difficult to maintain an exercise plan, so having an exercise buddy can increase your motivation and may help to keep you consistent with the plan. If possible, as your mind and body adjust to the physical changes, increase the scope and duration of your exercise sessions.
Avoiding Harmful Habits
While including all this good food and exercise in your plan, you also want to avoid all those harmful things you did or may still be doing that can exacerbate the depression symptoms. The best way to start this is to establish a daily schedule that is healthy and consistent. Get up at the same time every day. Incorporate a good diet, exercise, and a few items of interest. Get the abusive substances out of your diet. Avoid too much time on social media, on your cell phone, just watching movies and TV, or even reading time loaded with comfort foods. That habit formation I discussed earlier is what causes your brain to pair good choices with not-so-good choices. For example, reading is a good thing; reading with a bag of cookies and a soda next to you is not so good.
Often, people with depression tend to look for comfort items. Tobacco can be one of those. It is unhealthy for your body to begin with, but it also creates highs and lows in your brain. Though you may not feel any euphoria when you smoke a cigarette, you will note that you feel better after you smoke one. That is because cigarette you are smoking addresses the withdrawal from the last cigarette. It is creating highs and lows that you do not need. Marijuana is the new substance savior, but make no mistake about it, it is a drug. It does create highs and lows, and contrary to popular belief, it can be addictive. Be careful with this one. Vaping is also viewed by some with people as safe, or at least not as bad as smoking. The mist that vaping produces was never meant for your lungs, and for many, it is still delivering substances that can either heightened depression symptoms, or, at times, cause anxiety. This is another one to be very careful about.
Seeking Medical Assistance When Necessary
There are three kinds of people in the world when it comes to getting help with a medical problem: those who react quickly and call the doctor for almost everything, those who give a symptom proper attention and call a physician if necessary, and those who refuse any type of medical help altogether. When it comes to facing depression, you should staunchly avoid becoming a member of the last group.
When the information you have compiled suggests the need for medical intervention, you need to follow through. This might mean consulting a physician to either treat something you know is a problem or, at the very least, to determine whether it is a problem. Remember, one of the prime symptoms of depression is procrastination and not following through. If you are having trouble with this one, talk to your symptoms over with someone you trust to determine if scheduling an appointment with your physician is necessary. Let your trusted people help you. Don’t avoid medical help when you need it. Doing so amounts to nothing less than feeding the life thief.
A healthy body is a major player in the creation of a healthy mind and healthy emotions. Having a healthy body is the first step in removing depression from your life. Those who embrace the concept of a healthy body will eventually feel the rewards that come with being strong enough physically to wage war against a demonic force that has, for so long, taken over your life.
It Starts With your Body
Your life has been inundated with the darkness the life thief has brought into it. You have been desperate for a plan that can make you healthier and happier and remove depression and its symptoms from your life. It all starts with getting your body healthy. Many people attempt to alleviate depression by thinking their way through it and coming up with changes they believe are based on removing memories and present circumstances from their lives. While these all need to be done, it starts with your body. Too many people try to address their decision without proper nutrition and an exercise plan. Very few succeed. Start by making some improvements. Getting healthy is the first step in creating a foundation for the changes your body will need to make to say goodbye to the life thief.