What is Depression? The Low Down on Feeling Low:
Everybody feels sad from time to time. Sometimes that sadness is darker and deeper, usually morphing from one to the other when something horrible has happened. But the depression I’m talking about is more than just feeling sad. It is feeling sad… and helpless… and hopeless… and miserable… and numb more intensely and for longer periods of time than those who are sad, often without apparent reason. Nothing seems worth the energy it requires.
Depression is a very stable state. Your brain tends to act and think in ways that keep you depressed. Exercise would help, but you don’t feel like it. Getting enough sleep would help, but you have insomnia. Seeing friends and doing the things you love would help, but nothing is fun, and you don’t want to burden and bother your friends and family.
Everyday activities such as eating, cooking, getting out of bed feel difficult and overwhelming. Depression stops you from recognising your self-worth, feeling accomplished and finding a purpose in life. Those who are depressed are prone to self-punishing thoughts of worthlessness and even guilt. It is a condition that pervades thoughts, emotion, behaviours and sensitivities about everything and often cannot be traced back to one specific trigger.
Depression is characterised by at least five of the following symptoms:
- Depressed mood for most of the day
- Reduced interest in usually pleasurable activities
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Lack of energy
- Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
- Agitation or slowing down of physical movements
- Inability to concentrate or make decisions
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
The good news is, even if you are suffering from any of the above symptoms, it is possible to reverse the course of depression. We can change the way we act and communicate to cause an upward spiral out of depression. You only need a few positive emotions to kick-start the process, which then begins to fuel positive changes in other areas of your life. Exercise, sunlight, specific sleep patterns, certain muscle movements, and gratitude all alter activity in specific neural circuits, reversing the course of depression. Watch this space for more in-depth talks about these positive emotions and how we can do them together to reverse the course of depression.