The Curious Leader
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The Curious Leader

Three Healthy Ways to Turn Holiday Depression into Joy

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, in 2019, an estimated 66.3% of U.S. adults aged 18 or older have suffered from depression and received treatment in the past year. Coincidentally, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports a severe increase in substance abuse since March of 2020, when COVID was declared a national emergency. In addition, the Berkley Political Review claims anti-depression medication has skyrocketed since 1999, including 2,154,118 children aged 0–17 years (Citizens Commission on Human Rights International Mental Health Watchdog).

We’ve become a quick-fix, pill-taking society, but there are other ways to beat depression.

Depression is a mental health disorder that negatively affects how a person feels, thinks, and acts (World Population Review 2021). Since depression is an illness of how a person feels, thinks, and acts, then the best antidote is to address all three of these states as the first resort to treatment instead of a last resort.

STAY CONNECTED

Isolation breeds depression. Without human interaction, the mental wheels turn round and round, drilling a person deeper and deeper into the blues.

Lack of interaction with other people shrinks a person’s world and the opportunities for stimulation.

Even though a depressed person doesn’t feel like being active, there’s a balance between taking time to grieve and getting out of the house. If you feel blue, you should embrace those feelings, but not all day long, every day — there’s a difference between mourning and wallowing in self-pity. Stay under the covers awhile, journal, cry, and then get out for a walk, make a few calls, and let people know that you’re going through a tough time. Go to a couple of social events whether you feel like it or not.

It’s not natural to do something you don’t feel like doing, but no one will take better care of you than yourself. The more you get out and about, the better chance of lifting the doom and gloom — even if only temporarily.

DIET

The role of food and drink on depression has been grossly understated in treatment. Yet, maintaining a healthy diet is key to maintaining a balanced mood. Fortunately, people such as Kelly Brogan, M.D., Bill Code, M.D., and others, have provided extensive data on the effects of diet and substances on the brain. The absence of alcohol, drugs, and proper nutrition keeps the brain optimal.

Bad eating habits and depression can be a vicious cycle. Skipping meals lowers blood sugar and causes lethargy, irritability, and depression. Depression often leads to an increased desire for (unhealthy) foods. Eating to soothe emotional pain and emptiness never works. Sugar may sweeten the bitter taste of life, but like with alcohol, there’s always a price to pay for brief moments of pleasure. Guilt and feeling physically and emotionally worse are sure to follow the binge.

In May of 2011, Pub.med.gov., reported research linking alcohol use and depression. This is only logical since alcohol is a depressant drug, like other sedatives such as benzodiazepines that only mask the pain. Using alcohol or mood-altering pills to ease depression is like putting out a fire with gasoline. You don’t only add to the problem, you also create two problems instead of one.

ATTITUDE

The mind is different than the brain. The brain doesn’t think for itself. Instead, it is an organ designed to be the body’s command center. Therefore, it must be adequately fueled to perform optimally. The mind, however, is a conglomeration of thoughts, sometimes positive, other times negative. We choose which thoughts we listen to and then must live with the consequences that follow.

You may not choose some of the painful events in your life, but you can learn how to react in a way that provides growth instead of self-destruction.

If your mind tells you to eat and drink whatever you want, remain inactive, and hang on to self-torture, then you will continue to feel worse. On the other hand, if you refuse to listen to bad (internal) advice and do the opposite — eat healthily, get outdoors, stay connected — your mood will improve with every good choice.

You can also soothe yourself with understanding. Tell yourself, “It’s okay to be in pain. I’m going to nurture myself through this experience. I know that on the other side, I will have grown and found meaning from this painful experience.”

Whether it’s the holiday season or any time at all, there are ways to work through depression without dousing it away. Your body and mind are beautiful gifts meant to be treated with love and respect. No one will do a better job at that than you.

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Dr. Donna Marks

Dr. Donna Marks

Dr. Donna Marks is a licensed psychotherapist and an addictions counselor. She is certified in Gestalt Therapy, Psychoanalysis, Hypnosis, and Sex Therapy.