You know exercise and engaging your thoughts are vital steps for a healthy, well-functioning brain. But can you hit the gym when simply getting out of bed seems like a tremendous effort? Even cooking a healthy meal or handling a simple crossword puzzle might seem overly challenging for someone struggling with depression.
It is a dilemma my patients frequently mention. Melancholy, after all, alters the brain’s chemistry in a way that lowers motivation, reduces a man’s energy level, reduces the ability to sustain focus, and heightens the perception of pain. It may increase irritability or stress, making it challenging for people to engage in social activities. Depression has even been proven to shrink the hippocampus, a key element of the mind that plays a vital function in learning and memory. As an outcome of these brain changes, depressed patients may experience memory lapses, dull thinking, or an inability to “connect the dots.”
The exciting news is the fact that I do often prescribe drugs for my depressed patients). In addition to drug and treatment there are a host of easy lifestyle changes that can help put you on the road to recovery and reduce the symptoms of depression. As a bonus, a number of these changes have also been demonstrated to enhance brain fitness, resulting in a brain that functions better now and well into old age.
The key for those suffering from depression is to recognize that each tiny step they take makes a real, quantifiable difference in their brain wellness also to begin small. A five-minute walk, for example, might not seem like a boast-worthy achievement to some healthier individual, but to a person who spends most of his day on the sofa, it may function as first critical step on the road to better health. Of course, any lifestyle changes should be manufactured underneath the watchful eye of a medical professional, so if you suspect you might be, make sure you speak with your physician, or are depressed.
Here are nine brain-boosting ideas to help you overcome depression:
Get a checkup. This might seem as a no brainer, particularly when you’ve already been to your physician for your own analysis and treatment of depression. But many long standing health conditions can contribute to reduced brain fitness, while not being the main cause of your depression. Being overweight, for instance, is proven to reduce brain function and can promote depression. It may also lower robbing you of a key brain, your ability to exercise – and mood-booster. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, anemia, thyroid issues, concussions or other brain injuries, stroke as well as other health problems can all take a toll on brain fitness, as can low quantities of Vitamins B12 and D, and testosterone (in men). Getting these states under control can help increase your brain, which will get you in the best condition to bounce back from depression.
Assess your drugs. I often find patients who have no notion their drugs are causing unwanted side effects. Particularly, drugs given for stress, sleeplessness, pain and even depression can cause mood changes, brain fog, or alternative cognitive and health problems, so it is a good idea to review your complete drug list along with your physician to ensure they are not interfering unnecessarily together with your brain function or health.
Sleep. Insomnia and sleep apnea, in particular, have been proven to reduce brain function, which can give rise to depression. A lot of people put up with sleep disorders and incorrectly assume they’re untreatable. Not only are both states often treatable, but treatment will help reverse the damage done to the mind and result in dramatic improvements in brain function. My sleep apnea patients tend to be amazed at how different they feel after treatment. And diagnosis is not more difficult than ever before – having a small apparatus supplied by your physician it is possible to do a sleep study in your dwelling.
Get moving. You undoubtedly know that exercise is good for the brain. But recent research has shown us that exercise boost brain function and can actually grow the hippocampus. Exercise is an invaluable tool in treating depression and a a great mood booster. I always propose they start small because miserable individuals may get the idea of exercise physically and emotionally daunting. Walk five minutes a day for four days, then add two minutes until you are walking 30 minutes a day, five days per week.
Get joined. Depression can be socially isolating but making a powerful attempt to socially participate is brain- and mood-boosting on many levels. Taking a dance class, attending a gathering that is spiritual, or volunteering helps to engage parts of the brain that are critical for brain fitness. Even Skyping with a far away grandchild can help kick the mind into gear and offer long lasting cheer.
Eat well and take DHA. I recommend the Mediterranean diet, which can be low in fat and cholesterol and high in Omega 3s, vegetables, fruit and nuts. But I also recommend adding the Omega 3 fatty acid DHA to the dietary plan. DHA, which can be located in supplements and in oily fish, has been shown to reduce symptoms in those with major depression as well as to boost brain function.
De stress. Easier said than done, I understand. But anxiety could be both a contributor to depression plus a byproduct of depression, so pressure reduction is a worthwhile cause and is a major brain drainer. While straightforward tension reducers can assist you to take a number of the pressure from your lifetime, cognitive behavioral therapy along with other therapies can help change thinking patterns that are unhealthy. Set time aside to consider the stressors in your lifetime and brainstorm ways to reduce them. And when you’re feeling stressed, try my 7-7-7 respiration exercise: shut your eyes and breathe in while counting to seven, hold your breath and count to seven, breathe out while counting to seven.
Be aware. Meditation has also been proven to improve brain function, even in healthy people and has been proven to aid in treating depression. Look online for tutorials on how to go it alone if you can’t take a class, or borrow a DVD from your library. Enlist the help of a close friend if that is too much or loved one to take the basic steps to get you started. Begin with just a couple of minutes of composed or meditation respiration a day after which work your way up to 20 minutes, several times weekly. Yoga, and tai chi are other pursuits that will have drumming therapy and brain and mood benefits – which involves rhythmically banging on a drum – in assisting folks calm their mind and body, demonstrates similar promise.
Get thinking. I’m a neurologist, so I revel in telling visitors to use their brain, but I Have got science on my side as well. Fascinating research recently has demonstrated the mature brain is malleable in ways we once didn’t even imagine. Using your brain – by performing complex mental tasks – has been revealed to enhance brain health, which can help you reduce the apparent symptoms of depression. It’s hard to get a blue person to gather the energy mental gymnastics need, so begin simply by making an effort daily to make a move somewhat emotionally challenging – read the newspaper for 10 minutes, try and memorize five items on your own grocery list, learn the names of three blooms that grow in your garden. Afterward plan to raise your daily “thinking time” each week.
Majid Fotuhi, MD, PhD, received his MD degree from Harvard Medical School and his doctoral PhD in Neuroscience from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He is Founder and Chief Medical Officer of the NeurExpand Brain Center located in Lutherville, MD, and author of Boost Your Brain: The New Art and Science Behind Increased Brain Performance.