Depression – mind over matter?


Mental health issues are among the most debilitating that an individual can suffer. Unlike physical

illness, it’s not visible to the naked eye, but mental illness has a knock-on effect in every part of a

person’s life. From not sleeping, to being unable to work, to the more serious issues of eating

disorders and alcohol misuse, mental health can affect all areas of life. In the workplace alone, 70%

of line managers report managing an employee with mental health issues.

What IS depression?

Depression tends to mean different things to different people. Some claim that they are ‘depressed’

when they are just feeling a bit low or sad. Clinical depression is more than this; it is a very real

illness with very real symptoms.


 Feeling sad or hopeless

 Feeling tearful

 Unable to feel positive

 Difficulty sleeping or waking very early

 Reduced appetite or sexual drive

 Loss of enjoyment in things

With clinical depression these symptoms last for weeks or months. True depression is down to a

chemical imbalance in the brain – chronically low serotonin levels. Medications are available to

combat this, but many people don’t like the idea of relying on artificial means of support for

depression. So is there another option?

Mind over matter?

Antidepressants can have all sorts of side effects, some of them unpleasant and some less so. This is

just one reason why some patients prefer talking therapies and positive thinking to beat depression,

but how effective is this?

The problem with depression is that any positive feelings tend to get occluded because depression

magnifies negative thoughts. These negative thoughts then take on far more significance and

become overwhelming, leading to a downward spiral of illness. It can be very difficult to break free

from this. However, with milder symptoms, sometimes lifestyle changes can be enough to lift the


Helping yourself

It sounds trite, but the first thing to focus on is prioritising positive thought. Concentrate on

banishing any negative elements and bringing positive ones to the fore. And then:

– Surround yourself with supportive friends and family. It’s important that you spend time

with those who will be gentle on you.

– Eat well. A good diet does wonders for the body and mind. Avoid too much sugar, processed

foods and fast foods with empty calories.

– Sleep properly. The hours of sleep that you get before midnight are more beneficial than

those afterwards. Make an effort to go to bed at a sensible time and give yourself space to

wind own and relax completely before you go to sleep. Lavender can have a wonderfully

soothing effect; try sprinkling a few lavender drops on your pillow to help you sleep.

– Avoid alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant and though you may feel that it helps in the short

term, in the long term it will do more damage than good.

– Exercise. This may be the most important element of all. Exercise allows the brain to release

endorphins – things which make us feel good. An endorphin rush is a powerful thing and lifts

our mood very effectively.


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