By Dr. Paul Varnas | August 2, 2010
We hear a lot about depression and antidepressants. Antidepressants are among the most frequently prescribed medications in the United States, accounting for approximately 14% of the total US outpatient pharmacy costs in 2000, according to the National Institute for Health Care Management. More than 164 million prescriptions were written in 2008 for antidepressants, totaling $9.6 billion in U.S. sales, according to IMS Health. In the decade between 1996 and 2005 the use of antidepressants doubled, going from 13 million patients using the medication to 27 million patients.
Without making comment on the value of the drug therapy, it may be a good idea to come up with some natural strategies that can improve your mood.
1. Smile and look up: Try this little exercise. Look up, pointing your eyes upward and your head slightly elevated. While looking up, put a big grin on your face. While you are doing that, try to feel depressed–you can’t. Everyone knows that when you are tired or depressed it shows in your posture and in your facial expression. It is also true that your posture and your facial expression can help to determine your mood. One of the really innovative treatments for depression is Botox. The doctor injects it into the facial muscles–particularly the ones involved with frowning or stress. The muscles become paralyzed and the patient’s mood improves. By learning to control your posture and your facial expression, you can improve your mood. Several times each day, stand straight, with your shoulders back, look up and SMILE.
2. Breathe: Just as posture and facial expression can affect your mood, so can shallow breathing. If you do not breathe deeply enough, your tissues do not become well oxygenated. Try the following breathing exercise and see how much it improves your mood and energizes you. Inhale slowly through your nose and count to yourself. When your lungs are full, hold your breath and count, reaching a number that is twice as high as the first count (if you count to 10 breathing in, hold your breath for a count of 20). Exhale very slowly, and count to a number that is four times the number reached during the original inhale (if you count to 10 while inhaling, then count to 40 while exhaling). Repeat this 10 times and see how much better you feel.
3. Move: There have been several scientific studies that show exercise outperforming antidepressants for patients suffering with mild to moderate depression. Much of this research is posted on www.wholehealthweb.com. You don’t have to do heavy workouts; just be active. Go for a walk, shoot some baskets, or ride a bicycle.
4. Change your “oil”: The kind of oils and fats in your diet have a huge effect on your nervous system. There are many studies that show that taking omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA help with a variety of conditions including depression, anxiety and ADHD. Find a practitioner at www.wholehealthweb.com and ask him or her what kind of essential fatty acids you should be taking. Similarly, there are oils and fats that you should strictly avoid. You don’t necessarily want to go on a low-fat diet, but you do want to avoid hydrogenated (and partially hydrogenated) oils and trans fats.
5. Smell a pleasant aroma: The olfactory nerve (the nerve that enables you to have a sense of smell) is literally an extension of your brain. There are studies that show that certain aromas can affect blood circulation, the nervous system and the endocrine system. Some practitioners use scented oils therapeutically–and there is research to back this up. One study showed that patients who smelled lavender before having dental work, experienced less anxiety than patients who were not given the opportunity to smell the essential oil. You can purchase lavender oil and place a tiny drop under your nose.
6. Watch what you say to yourself: We all have an internal dialog. What kinds of things do you say to yourself? Do you focus on positive things, or on negative things? Slowly wean yourself away from negative thoughts. The questions we ask ourselves are very powerful and you should be careful how you phrase them. If something is not right in your life, your internal dialog can help you find solutions rather than just feel bad about the problem. If you are out of work, for instance, you may be tempted to say to yourself, “Why can’t I find a job?” Your mind is very powerful and will find answers for you. You will get answers like: “You are too old”, “Your skills are out of date” and so on. If you phrase the question differently, your mind can actually go to work on solutions. Ask this question instead, “How can I earn enough money to support myself and my family.” Your mind will go to work on the solution–and you will feel better than you did when you were asking the negative question. You could even challenge your mind a little and ask the question, “How can I get rich?” Do a little mental house cleaning. Change your internal dialog, ask better questions and see how MUCH BETTER you feel.
7. Create an anchor: An anchor is like a stimulus response. When Pavlov’s dog heard the dinner bell and expected food, the bell was an anchor. If you hear a song that makes you remember an emotional time in your life, that song is an anchor. You can create anchors in a systematic way, to create states, emotions and feelings that you want to feel when you choose to feel them. For example, if you want to create confidence at a moment’s notice, create an anchor. Remember a specific time when you felt confidence and/or can you fully associate to the confidence. Breathe the way you breathe when you are totally confident. Say what you say to yourself when you are totally confident. Double those feelings. Triple those feelings. Use your senses of sight, sound and feeling to recreate that confidence. When you are totally, completely in a state of confidence, make a fist with your right hand, squeezing it tight. Later, when you want to feel confident, squeeze your fist in exactly the same way you did during the exercise. We have an anchoring exercise at www.wholehealthweb.com. You can listen to the recording and create positive anchors for yourself. The exercise is on the front page with the MP3 files. It is entitled “How to Change Your State of Mind”. Here is the link: http://www.wholehealthus.com/how_to_change.html
Try these techniques and let me know what you think.