Beating the Blues
By Patty Butts, Ph.D., LPC
“You cannot keep the birds of sadness from flying over your head, but you can keep them from nesting in you hair.”
Like Jonah, we sometimes end up in the belly of the whale. At least that’s what it feels like. If it’s not the belly of the whale, maybe it’s the blues, melancholy or sadness. Some people feel temporarily blue because of loneliness, grief, death of a loved one, divorce, poor health, financial problems or other life stressors. These moods usually lift and the person will function normally again, but if it lasts for more than several months and interferes with daily activities, professional help may be needed.
Depression knocks at every door, but you don’t have to invite it in as a permanent guest. Like my grandfather used to say, “Fresh fish and house guests shouldn’t stay more than three days.” If the blues stay more than a few weeks, someone needs to move, and exercise is a great beginning. Studies have shown that vigorous exercise stimulates circulation, produces an increase in endorphins and releases serotonins in the brain, the hormones that encourage contentment and cheerfulness. Aerobic exercises such as walking, jogging, swimming, dancing, jumping on a mini-tramp and biking can generate a significant antidepressant effect. Brisk walking is as effective as any other exercise.
Learn to laugh
Say “Cheese!” University studies confirm that when we use our smile muscles and humor, it increases the endorphins in our brain. Humor is the ability to look at the absurdity in our own lives and find something to laugh about. It may not eliminate the problem, but it will help overcome the effect. Life is at least as funny as it is sad. Humor can stop misunderstandings and ease tension when no other strategies will work. Consider creating a humor folder with clever cartoons and quips. These clips are good to pass on to friends and family when they are ill, recuperating or just need a chuckle to cheer them up.
While there are many causes of depression or the blues, good nutrition plays a vital role. My No. 1 recommendation is to add essential fatty acids (EFAs) to your diet in the form of fish or flax seed oil or a blend that contains both omega 3s and omega 6s such as marine/borage lipid combination. Omega 3s, raise the serotonin level in our brain, improve moods and are found in fresh deepwater fish, flax seed or flax oil. A good quality fish oil or evening primrose oil are examples of good fats. "Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill" by Udo Erasmus is an excellent resource. Avoid saturated fat and transfatty acids. Bad fats (French fries, deep fried foods, etc.,) inhibit the synthesis of neurotransmitters by the brain because they cause the blood cells to become sticky and clump together, resulting in poor circulation, especially to the brain.
According to Dr. Norman Shealy, author of "Alternative Medicine," and Dr. James F. Balch, author of "Nutritional Healing," avoid sugar. That means honey, sucrose, dextrose, corn syrup and fruit juice. Avoid drinks or foods with aspartame because it can block the formation of serotonin and also cause headaches and insomnia. Your body reacts more quickly to sugar than it does to complex carbohydrates. The quick increase in energy by the intake of sugar is quickly followed by fatigue and depression. Stevia is an excellent sugar substitute.
Candida is a yeast-like fungus that inhabits the gastrointestinal tract, mouth, throat, genital tract and bowels and can contribute to depression and mental illness. According to Dr.William Crook, author of "The Yeast Connection," diet, antibiotics, and some birth control pills are factors that cause candida-related health problems. As yeast multiplies in the intestinal tract, villi in the intestines is unable to absorb vital nutrients needed by the brain and body. You feel hungry, your body craves sugar and bread, which contributes to more yeast overgrowth. Dr. Crook’s book is an excellent resource and has a candida questionnaire. The candisphere is a test your doctor can give to measure candida in the blood.
Remember when you are eating junk food, dead food without enzymes and empty calories, you are only feeding your mouth, not your body. Dead foods include food like coffee, sodas, candy, alcohol, pastries, peanuts, fried foods, processed foods, microwaved foods and margarine. Live foods include foods like broccoli, avocados, spinach, celery, cucumbers, limes, lemons, fish, almonds, sunflower seeds, olive oil, grape seed oil, flax seed oil, tomatoes, onions, garlic, alfalfa, peppers and sprouted wheat wraps. In the next minute your body is going to give birth to 720 million new cells. What quality of materials have you stockpiled in your body for it to use to make these new cells? When your body wears out, where are you going to live?
Our thoughts determine our feelings and actions. Wayne Dyer, a well known psychologist and author, has said, “When you realize that what you think about becomes your reality, you become very careful about what you think about.” When an African shaman prays for rain, he prays, “Thanks for the taste of the rain. Thanks for the smell of the rain. Thanks for the rain,” and somewhere out there it is raining.
We can change our thoughts and replace them with words from a positive song, positive affirmations or appropriate music.
Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives us something to do, but it doesn’t get us anywhere. Helen Keller said, “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows.”
Depression can be caused by loss, feeling trapped, guilt, and anger turned in on yourself. Acknowledge your feelings; it’s painful to lose a loved one in death or divorce. It’s distressing to have health problems. Write about your feelings. Find a support group or someone you can talk to about your pain or loss, but don’t dwell on it continuously. Widowed twice, I have felt the agony of loss and loneliness, but ultimately I had to ask myself, “How can I turn my pain into service or positive action?”
It’s normal to have a pity party when you are hurting, but make it a short pity party. My mother-in-law, Marie, was one of the most positive people I’ve known. She was in her 60s when first widowed, but said, “I’m not going to feel sorry for myself. I’ll take myself to lunch or have friends over for dinner.”
Marie frequently went for walks or to a shopping mall and said hello to everyone. She took lemonade out to the garbage man and in turn, he delivered her garbage can in the driveway next to her house. When Marie was nearly 80 she said, “I’m going to go visit the old people on the street.” The old people on the street were in their 60s.
Keep a gratitude journal. Each day write down from five to ten things you are grateful for — laughter, the giggle of a baby, sunrises, sunset, trees, rivers, forests, mountains, blue sky, rain, flowers, the song of a bird, music, a healthy heart — the list could go on forever. Develop an attitude of gratitude.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Surveys indicate 4 to 6 percent of the general population experience winter depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a severe form of winter blues. Those with SAD may lose their energy, gain weight, sleep too much, suffer anxiety attacks, and crave the wrong foods.
In winter, the level of indoor light produces about a tenth of the illumination of a full day of natural light due to shorter and darker days. Doctors recommend you stay in brightly lit rooms on dark days. According to Dr. C. Norman Shealey, “Getting outdoors in bright daylight as much as possible and sitting near windows in light colored rooms can help.”
Thomas Jefferson Medical Research Facility did a 15 year study on light therapy and found that a specific band of light increased serotonin levels significantly.
Apollo Light Systems in Orem, Utah, has developed a goLite which is that specific band of light. It can be purchased at Costco for about $150. and might cost twice that amount if purchased at a retail outlet. This portable unit can be used at work, home, or even when you travel. If you are having difficulty sleeping you may want to check your circadian rhythm. For an assessment of your circadian rhythm go to www.apollohealth.com and pull up circadian rhythm, then assessment tools.