Many of us have been there, it’s a feeling that life is pressing you down. Sometimes it’s feeling overwhelmed by what’s happening around you. Anxiety is easier to recognize because we’re aware of our fears. The expression is more in the open, whereas the numbness of depression is camouflaged and can be functional. Sometimes there’s even a misunderstanding that reality itself is supposed to be depressing. We’re conditioned to be responsible: pay bills, care for children, plan for retirement, but we can pass days, months, and even years without experiencing true joy or laughter. We don’t have to look for euphoric happiness, but we do need to have a feeling of contentment and fulfillment every day. It’s like air, food and water. Only when you emerge from a functional depression are you able to look back and realize that you were in it at all.
“No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated with any other means.”― Maimonides
Nutritional psychiatry is now verifying that a healthy mind starts with a healthy gut and good food with nutrients that nurture the body. Getting vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants (magnesium, zinc, B complex, potassium, etc.) from fresh, organic foods—fruits and vegetables not grown in depleted soil—will rejuvenate and energize you. So why are vegetables so good for us? Besides all the benefits mentioned above, one is crucial: their alkaline quality. Almost all food groups besides vegetables and many fruits are acidic. So most grains, nuts, legumes, all dairy, eggs, animal proteins, fish and seafood, alcohol, sugars, etc. are acidic. If your body is acidic, it’s more prone to inflammation, which is the root cause of many disorders, even in the brain. Alkaline foods are healers. The body also needs probiotics, the beneficial live bacteria that come from yogurt, pickled and fermented foods.
If you eat processed foods, you’re eating acidic, empty calories. Fresh whole foods, replete with micronutrients, don’t need to be “enriched,” “enhanced,” or “fortified” with supplemental vitamins that are poorly absorbed by the body. A feeling of sluggishness comes from the imbalance that results from processed foods—usually high in refined flour, sugar and salt—that are designed to keep you addicted. It’s a surprise to many of our clients that their diet can be a major cause of their depression. We’ve noticed that people start to feel better after just a week or two on the food plan.
Daily exercise is also crucial for well-being. When our stress levels are high we create more cortisol, a fight or flight hormone that ultimately exhausts us and makes us stiff. Movement—when you go for a walk, dance, or just move your body—gives your body a feeling of well-being. Exercise triggers serotonin, dopamine and endorphins, the positive hormones that lessen your perception of pain and relax you. Regular physical activity also has been shown to increase your self-esteem, easing depression.
We all know how euphoric it feels to wake up after a good night’s sleep. In our culture naps are often frowned upon, but they’re essential for those of us who don’t always get the rest we need. In these times we often turn to food or alcohol to address what can only be restored with true relaxation or a brief period of uninterrupted sleep. Sleep and relaxation also allow problems to be worked on in the subconscious, where solutions can arise naturally.
Real food. Movement. Rejuvenation. Bodies and minds need all three to be healthy and content. You also need a conscious attitude of appreciation, the ability to value what you have the inspiration and curiosity to engage and grow.