The Mysterious Brain
(I must preface this article by saying that if you are suffering from major depression please work with a qualified professional and DO NOT use this as a reason to discontinue any medication without first consulting your prescribing doctor.)
I have had two major depression periods in my life. It came on pretty quick, lasted for what seemed like an eternity, and then subsided almost as fast. For those who have never had true depression it is hard to explain. It’s not just melancholy or sadness, it is an unexplainable feeling that you just can’t will away. It is also very strange in that outside of those two times, I am a pretty upbeat, positive, glass half full type of person.
Unlike some people who suffer from depression, I did have emotional circumstances that preceded my depression. But instead of just being sad, it seemed to change something in my brain chemistry that just wouldn’t go away. Because I am stubborn, I never considered taking anti depression medication and even though the emotional circumstance that led me to these episodes didn’t change, eventually the cloud of depression lifted and I felt “normal” again.
Don’t get me wrong, like everyone, I still have times of unexplained melancholy, but I came to a realization after going gluten, dairy, caffeine and alcohol free five years ago doing the 28 day cleanse. I felt overall happier! And I wasn’t alone! After offering the cleanse to my patients, one participant told me afterward that she had been suffering from depression and was considering going on anti-depression medication. She told me that after the cleanse her “cloud” lifted and she no longer felt like she needed medication. She attributed it to cutting out gluten and told me later that when she started eating more gluten she started feeling depressed again. This makes sense because gluten can cause inflammation and studies show that depression and inflammation markers seem to go hand in hand. For me, I noticed a lift in spirits when I ate or drank anything with high levels of vitamin B. When I had another patient confess that she had been feeling depressed and anxious for a while I suggested that she try a Vitamin B supplement in case she wasn’t getting enough in her diet. She too told me later that it seemed to help. (See: Vitamin B12 and Depression.)
The brain is a very complicated organ. In my case my thoughts and circumstances seemed to trigger an alteration in my brain chemistry due to processes that are way beyond what I will attempt here. In some, the chemicals get released for unknown reasons and must be controlled by medication. In my opinion too many people go straight to the chemical fix through medication when psychological counseling and diet may be a better option. Just like with physical health, you should try the least invasive first. In both mental and physical problems, going to drug therapy first may not be necessary and can lead to a myriad of side effects and cascading problems. Remember also that physical and mental health go hand in hand. Exercising may raise your mood while pain can lead to depression. Make sure you are taking a holistic approach to both mental and physical health.
Food for Thought
Check out these articles below on mood enhancing foods. Please take these with an iodized grain of salt and use it as a starting point only since some of these contain foods you may be allergic or sensitive to. Also, foods like sugar, alcohol and caffeine may make you feel happy in the short term, the long term however may have the opposite effect.
Happiness comes from many things and is unique to everyone. The birth of my children gave me an overabundance of happiness and anxiety all at the same time. In my case the happiness far outweighed the anxiety. For some it tips the other way. Now I notice the better I eat and the more I exercise, the better I feel both mentally and physically.
A good lesson for happiness is to live in the now. Dwelling on the past and worrying about the future are two sure ways to a frustrating, unhappy life. Learning from the past and planning for the future is very different. Living and enjoying this moment right now can free you up to enjoy the journey we call life. When my kids were born it was the ultimate living in the now experience. I didn’t think about what happened one minute, one hour or one year before. I also didn’t think about where they would go to school or how much it would cost. I just stared down at the little face and was filled with an overwhelming sense of joy.
This is a lesson we can apply to everything in life. Focus on all the little (and big) things every day that make us happy. Remember life is a journey not a destination. Most of us focus too much on where we are going and forget to enjoy sights along the way. Don’t forget to pay attention to the sights along the way. You’re going to reach the end either way.
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