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Psychology | Depression

Depression isn’t just unhappiness, it’s much more than that, it’s a feeling of hopelessness. So why do we feel that our situation or our life is hopeless? Researchers are trying to find out how our brains work, mainly using scanners. They now know that our moods and memories are controlled by brain chemistry. This link between mood and memory might help us beat depression.

Our primary function in life appears to be to survive and avoid pain; so how does our mind work when we are depressed? It appears to try to help us solve the problem of depression, the same as it helps us solve many other problems; by accessing memories of similar times in our lives. The brain chemistry switches us on to depressing memories. If we can remember other depressing periods in our lives, then we might find the answer to our current depression. It doesn’t quite work like that though. As we find all we can think about is depressing things, we tend to become even more depressed and struggle to think of a single ‘happy’ thought.

We have triggers in our environment that trigger memories. If we are depressed rather than looking inwards to beat depression, we have to look outwards to our environment. The natural environment can be particularly helpful. A walk in the park on a summer’s day; looking at the trees and the flowers, is far better than meditating and contemplating your navel as many people might suggest.

Depression is like a downwards spiral, if we let it, it just gets worse and worse. It is usually triggered by an event and the events seem to have something in common; loss. If we lose someone we care about, lose our job, lose our friends, lose anything important to us; then we tend to become depressed. It might start with a feeling of hopelessness at the thought of never seeing someone again, who has died. The hopelessness of being unable to put things right or even the hopelessness of feeling of guilt and sorrow, can drive us down into a sense of gloom that can be overpowering. The longer that mood envelopes us, the worse it gets, until it can be crippling. Depression, makes us feel like not doing anything, everything is an effort and we feel nothing and no one, is worth the effort. The feeling of hopelessness makes us feel that we just don’t care any more. We don’t care about others, we don’t care about ourselves.

It is important to get back to what life is about and try to remember that life is about survival. Rather than locking ourselves away, we need that walk in the park. We need stimulus that might trigger different memories that can help us. A holiday in a place where we were once happy, would probably be really helpful. Doing anything that we once associated with happiness;  eating our favourite food or spending time with a favourite person is likely to help.

It’s a good idea to take exercise when you’re depressed, it can help balance brain chemistry and clear out toxins in the brain. It is also useful to eat a healthy diet and avoid anything that might be slightly toxic to the brain like alcohol, drugs or tobacco smoke. It is important to take action, procrastinating and putting off doing anything about depression just means you slide deeper into the mire. Depression can feel like you are in such a hopeless situation that you just keep sinking deeper and deeper and there is no escape. The first step is to stop sinking and fight for air, then rise to the surface little by little, until you’re enjoying life again. Whatever you have lost, it can be replaced.  It might not be the same person, but it will be the same emotion.

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