Depression, the continued battle

I suffer from chronic depression. A lot of people do. What we do about it when we have it is different for a lot of people as well. What I want to look at today is the core of depression. I will use myself as an example for this, and I intend to craft a story for you. the reader, on how I dealt with and continue to deal with depression. 

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The Depression that Stays Hidden: Dysthymia or Persistent Depressive Disorder

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By Johnston Kelso, Marketing Intern

If you’re someone who works in the mental health field or have ever seen a movie or a show where someone was extremely sad for long period of time, you can more or less have a good idea of what depression looks like, right?  Nope, wrong. 

A lot of us know the signs behind Major Depressive Disorder because they are extremely disruptive to that person’s quality of life. Symptoms include: sleeping all of the time, never sleeping, crying all the time, marked absence from work or class, pessimistic, and self-defeating thoughts. When many of us see these symptoms, we know that person is depressed.  However, it is not always so obvious.

There are many different forms of depression. For example, there is Bipolar Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, and Dysthymia. I wish to speak about the hardest to spot, and as a result, the least well-known form of depression previously mentioned: Dysthymia. Dysthymia is often extremely hard to spot, simply because the symptoms of Dysthymia are mild in nature, mild enough to hide, and mild enough for a person to function daily without much impediment. To get a better idea of what Dysthymia is, let us look at it in the contrast to the poster-child of depressive illnesses: Major Depressive Disorder.

Let us first look at the many similarities between Dysthymia and Major Depressive Disorder. Both of them obviously include the depressive thoughts, rumination, and pessimism. They both can involve over or under sleeping, a feeling of always being fatigued, and a lack of motivation. Both mental illnesses can launch someone into suicidal thoughts and thoughts of inadequacy. So by now you may be asking, “Well what’s the difference then?” There is one main difference between Major Depressive Disorder and Dysthymia: the intensity of these symptoms.

Under Major Depressive Disorder, a lot of the symptoms are so intense that it often gets in the way of that persons normal functioning. They experience crying spells they cannot control, are so fatigued, tired and unmotivated they cannot make it out of bed. They also have such a hard time concentrating that they cannot function in an environment that requires even minimal amounts of attention.

Dysthymia is not as intense. In many cases, those with Dysthymia are able to function under normal circumstances due to the diminished nature of its symptoms in comparison to Major Depressive Disorder. The symptoms of Dysthymia are much more subtle than Major Depressive Disorder, which is why it’s so difficult to spot. It’s important to actively listen to what people say and pay attention to the behaviors they display.

There is another feature of Dysthymia worth mentioning. This feature actually caused a change in name for Dysthymia in the DSM V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition). It is now called Persistent Depressive Disorder due to the feature that in order to diagnose Persistent Depressive Disorder one must have exhibited the symptoms for at least two years! This is one of the most notable features that separate Persistent Depressive Disorder from Major Depressive Disorder.

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Finally, there is one last piece of information you should take into consideration when thinking about Dysthymia, or as we now call it, Persistent Depressive Disorder. This piece of information is that people who suffer from Persistent Depressive Disorder are more susceptible to having Major Depressive episodes.

If the reasons are not already apparent, imagine a boat that is filled with a little bit of water. At this point, the water is only weighing down the boat not sinking it. This represents a person with Persistent Depressive Disorder. Then a storm comes. This storm represents a traumatic life event. The storm causes waves that fill the boat up and eventually sink it. This is a metaphor for a traumatic life event throwing someone with Persistent Depressive Disorder into a Major Depressive episode.

In summation, Persistent Depressive Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder are equally as important to diagnose and to treat, but Persistent Depressive Disorder can be hard to see due to its muted symptoms.  If you think a friend might be suffering from even a minute depression, take time to talk with them and really listen.  You would surprise the good you can do by simply listening and asking the right questions.

References

Mayo Clinic article from their website www.mayoclinic.org which references these sources:

Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia). In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. http://www.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed Oct. 12, 2015.

Kriston L, et al. Efficacy and acceptability of acute treatments for persistent depressive disorder: A network meta-analysis. Depression and Anxiety. 2014;31:621.

AskMayoExpert. Persistent depressive disorder. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2015.

Hales RE, et al. Depressive disorders. In: The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Psychiatry. 6th ed. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Publishing; 2014. http://www.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed Oct. 12, 2015.

Depression. National Institute of Mental Health. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml. Accessed Oct. 12, 2015.

Depression. National Alliance on Mental Illness. https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Depression/Overview. Accessed Oct. 12, 2015.

Cristancho MA, et al. Persistent depressive disorders: Dysthymia and chronic major depressive disorder. In: Encyclopedia of Clinical Psychology. 1st ed. John Wiley and Sons; 2015. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/book/10.1002/9781118625392. Accessed Oct. 13, 2015.

Stewart D. et al. Risks of antidepressants during pregnancy: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Oct. 12, 2015.

Coryell W. Unipolar depression in adults: Course of illness. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Oct. 12, 2015.

Ciechanowski P. Unipolar major depression in adults: Choosing initial treatment. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Oct. 12, 2015.

Ravindran AV, et al. Complementary and alternative therapies as add-on to pharmacotherapy for mood and anxiety disorders: A systematic review. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2013;150:707.

Natural medicines in the clinical management of depression. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://naturaldatabase.therapeuticresearch.com/ce/CECourse.aspx?cs=MAYO&pm=5&s=nd&pc=09-30&searchid=53681138#keywordanchor. Accessed Oct. 12, 2015.

Hoban CL, et al. A comparison of patterns of spontaneous adverse drug reaction reporting with St. John’s wort and fluoxetine during the period 2000-2013. Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology. 2015;42:747.

Marchand WR. Mindfulness-based stress reduction, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and Zen meditation for depression, anxiety, pain, and psychological distress. Journal of Psychiatric Practice. 2012;18:233.

Rohren CH (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Oct. 22, 2105.

Hall-Flavin DK (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Oct. 27, 2015.

 

Postpartum Depression

“This is an illness that takes away
a woman’s ability to access joy…
right at the time when she needs it the most. “

By Lindsay Ries, MHALC Intern

As the Mother’s Day celebrations come to an end, it’s necessary for us to understand what mothers go through. At MHALC, we express how mental illnesses do not discriminate. Meaning that no matter your gender, race, age, occupation, or lifestyle–you can be diagnosed with a mental illness. Even mothers, who are given the gift of children, can experience mental illness and it’s actually quite common. To be more exact, 600,000 women were diagnosed with postpartum depression just last year. It’s an illness that needs to be addressed, properly understood, and treated.

Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that affects women’s feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, exhaustion after they give birth. It’s caused by various factors, including but not limited to, sleep deprivation and chemical changes in the brain due to altered hormone levels. The lack of sufficient rest that mothers receive after giving birth leads to physical pain and exhaustion, while the change in hormone levels can result in mood swings.

postpartum-depression-common-symptoms

This is a very real mental illness and is not be confused with what some refer to as baby blues, which is a term to describe unhappiness, worrying, and fatigue. Postpartum depression’s effects are so severe that the mother is unable to take care of herself, her child and family, and loses interest or ability to participate in activities that were once so easy to complete. These feelings usually begin shortly after the child’s birth but may also not surface until a month after.

If you or someone you know is experiencing postpartum depression-like symptoms, it doesn’t hurt to reach out.  MHALC is here to provide the right educational materials, support groups, and direct you to the help you need. It’s ok not to be ok. Please don’t be afraid to take care of yourself and seek help.

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Sources: National Institute of Mental Health

 

 

Depression

Every month, we highlight a different mental illness to try to break down the reality of its symptoms and impact.  Depression, one of the most common mental illnesses, affects more than 16 million adults every year. Although common, depression is highly misunderstood. Many people confuse it with normal feelings of sadness but it is much more than that. Depression can make people lose interest and motivation in life to the point where living seems futile, leading them to suicidal ideation. 

1445911835769“Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced. It’s that absence of being able to envision that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope…which is so very different from feeling sad. Sadness hurts but it’s a healthy feeling. It’s a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.” -J.K. Rowling

Rather than sadness, a more accurate description is emptiness. Sleeping habits change to restlessness or sleeping too much. Those with depression usually experience feelings of guilt, hopelessness, and extreme irritability. Making decisions and concentrating becomes more of a challenge day to day.

Depression can reek havoc on the body as well. This mental illness can cause headaches, chronic body aches, and pain that may not respond to medication. Both weight gain or loss can be another symptom of clinical depression as eating habits fluctuate, thus putting stress on the digestive system. Stress and depression go hand in hand. A rise in stress hormones can tighten blood vessels and speed up the heart rate, increasing the risk of heart disease over time. 

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Although life events can cause depression, some people believe that is the only factor. However, like other medical illnesses, depression can come about from certain medications, genetics, co-occurrence with other illnesses, cognitive thinking patterns, gender, and a chemical imbalance in the brain.

In order to accurately address this very real and very prevalent disease in our society, we need to start treating it like one. We need to address how it is discussed and viewed, and not just in its actual treatment. It is up to us to educate ourselves and others on depression. We can fight the stigma surrounding all mental illnesses in an effort to create a world of healthier, more at ease minds. 

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Sources: Mental Health America

Everyone’s experience with depression is different.
This post is not intended to generalize symptoms
but rather give people a better understanding of what depression can entail. 

 

 

My Bipolar Story

Written by Greggo

I used to be mentally ill, now I’m mentally fit.

We’ll cover to that “used to be” in a bit. First let me share the beginnings of my fall into bipolar madness.

Pre-Bipolar

 In 1992, while living in Los Angeles, a depression appeared in my life. Without expecting it and without knowing why, I would cry. It happened most frequently during my morning commute. Then in the parking lot outside my job, I would push it down and go in to work. One particular life event triggered the emotional fits: my thirtieth birthday. Turning 30 meant real adulthood. But I didn’t feel grown. I still felt like a baby. I yearned for parenting from a father who had never taken care of me (and never would).

Two options came to mind as curative measures: check into a hospital, or move back to New York City. I chose the latter. In New York my family and friends, i.e. my support system, would sustain me.

That cure included an extraordinarily therapeutic cross-country road trip with my mother. She flew to L.A. and helped me pack my apartment, then we hit the road for home.

Ten days driving across the United States gave us unlimited quality time to talk about everything that bothered me. I backed myself away from the ledge.

Fast forward a few years. I had relocated to Barcelona. The crying spells returned. My girlfriend had broken up with me. Heartbreak equals sadness equals tears.

But what stands out most to me about my five years in Spain is the fun: becoming fluent in Spanish and dancing salsa. The first time in what would become my favorite Barcelona salsa club, the music, the vibe penetrated and took up residence in my soul. When I danced, my mind turned off. I focused on the music and my dance partner, and not on the fact that I didn’t work regularly and didn’t eat enough.

I mention all this to paint a picture. I wasn’t just home alone slumped on the living room floor crying over lost love. A lot of good and a bit of bad filled those years. I just didn’t know where the bad came from or what it meant. At the time, I dismissed it as relationship woes.

I characterize those isolated depressive episodes as slides down the hill.

In 2001 I fell off the cliff.

My Bipolar Side

A suicide attempt got me hospitalized and officially diagnosed bipolar. Now I know what triggered it. My mother had recently died and, much more subtly, a relationship that on the surface had rescued me in Spain, turned out to be unhealthy. It was pushing all my buttons. I felt trapped. But not just trapped in the relationship, trapped in life. At the time, I didn’t (consciously) identify the root cause of the problem, and even if I had, I didn’t have the life-management skills to rectify the situation.

My diagnosis marked the official start of my journey through bipolar. From then until I declared myself cured in 2013 I experienced subsequent suicide attempts and hospital stays, job firings, an eviction, a divorce (which ultimately may have been positive, but nonetheless is disruptive) and many other jolts. Bipolar illness is characterized by extreme emotional ups and downs. The downs obviously mean depression. The ups don’t necessarily mean happy. The mania at the opposite end from depression is closer to a super-sizzle rush of emotions, too much and too strong to be considered positive. That’s bipolar illness: ups and downs to the extreme. Sometimes all in a month, week or day.

Fortunately, through that entire period, I also had the steady thread of a great support system, good fortune with varying regimens of medications, and years’ worth of quality therapy.

Mental Health America of Lancaster County

Part of that support entailed a weekly support group sponsored by Mental Health America of Lancaster County. They held a free bipolar support meeting where participants could talk about our experiences that week in particular or in general without fear of reprisals. No one gave us advice about what to do or not do, we just talked and shared. That process of talking and listening was therapeutic. We connected. We learned that we weren’t alone, that we were unique and not just statistics or undistinguished patients undergoing cookie cutter treatment modalities. We learned coping strategies and formed a supportive community of friends. Ten years after having participated in those weekly sessions, I’m still friends and in touch with group members.

My Personal Bipolar Cure

By 2011 I had improved to where I no longer needed meds. Then in 2013 I moved to Colombia. And kept getting better until mental illness ceased to be an active concern in my life. I left bipolar behind. How?

The primary impetus behind regaining my health grew out of an unforeseen consequence of the illness itself. Getting fired from a number of jobs caused financial instability. Lack of cash meant I couldn’t keep my car in optimal working shape. When registration renewal rolled around, the car needed repairs and maintenance beyond my sparse means. I sold the it and became a pedestrian. There were buses, but we’re talking Lancaster, PA, not New York City. Sometimes the next bus wouldn’t be for another two hours, or four hours, or until the next morning. I gave up my car, I didn’t give up my life. When there wasn’t a bus, I walked. I walked in good weather. I walked in bad weather. Sometimes I would walk as many as eight miles in a day. Wash, rinse, repeat, day after day for months.

Consistent exercise outdoors stimulated my body to produce the chemicals necessary for balanced, healthy brain functioning. Mood-stabilizing medication and anti-depressants stopped being necessary.

Those healthy practices stayed with me in my life in Colombia. I continued to progress to the point where therapy could also be eliminated.

Post-Bipolar

Now almost at the end of 2018, by all accounts I’m thriving. That might not be the exact right word to use. I’ve had ups and downs, but nothing compared to that experienced at the peak (or valley!) of my grapplings with bipolar. Am I always happy? No. But who is?! Don’t we all have down days? Tough days? Mondays? My ups and downs are those normal to any 21st century human, and I’ve moved through them without medication, therapy, hospitalization, and even without stopping the day-to-day hustle called life. Hmmm, maybe thriving is the right word.

I haven’t written about bipolar in nearly all my five years in Colombia. Bipolar is my past and these days I get to focus on my present: living in and traveling around a beautiful, South American country.

That’s it. The story ends with me smiling and happy. My life is balanced. That sounds like cured to me. It certainly feels like cured.

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Greggo is a writer living in Colombia, South America. He blogs about his experiences (including those connected to bipolar) and Colombian culture and lifestyle at On Colombia  He also helps folks relocate to Colombia or otherwise improve their lives right where they are.

“On Colombia” link to his blog: www.grupoamos.com

 

A Day In The Life

A Day in the Life

Written By Gail L Stoltzfoos

A Poet and Writer In Mental Health Recovery

Author of:  My Treasured Gifts from God

 

To relate one of my days as a bipolar I must

begin the night before as I settle into my bed.

It’s often a coin toss whether it will be “sleep or bust”

long nights spent awake are the ones I most dread.

 

Best intentions, a sleep aid, even total exhaustion

are no guarantee that it will be sweet rest that I’ll find.

Thinking ‘mind over matter’ will the battle help me win

often does nothing to help, and isn’t that awfully unkind?

 

Looking into the next day’s calendar then has to become

an exercise in rearranging tasks for that much needed nap.

Sometimes it all seems too much to bear – I just go numb,

worn out from this endless dance I am always trying to tap.

 

When I worked, my brain would seek for some excuse

that would satisfy a boss’ query without telling the truth

that I suffer from a disorder that puts my head in a noose –

forgive if the imagery is too coarse and rather uncouth.

 

Who wants to tell others you were awake all night

as you ‘cycled high’ within your sick, racing mind?

Mentioning mental disease is met with that look of fright,

or worse, with harsh words both uncaring and unkind.

 

Now it’s morning and as others face their new day,

I’m trudging through the motions, daydreaming of sleep.

Once again wishing there could just be a simpler way

to live as others do with a set schedule I could keep.

 

The house needs cleaning, the mail pile is shockingly high

as I settle in front of the tube ignoring the undone chores.

Facing any small task today simply makes me sigh

as I escape the world cocooning safely indoors.

 

Feeding my hungry husband seems to be such a bother;

harder still is hiding myself behind this mask I wear.

Worried he’s wishing he would have married another;

fearful he will take notice and seek my emotions to bare.

 

Guilt my constant companion as the evening settles in –

I’ve accomplished nothing – almost too worn out to care.

Depression my first feeling as the next day I begin;

often content to remain idle as I simply sit and stare.

 

The ‘crash and burn’ is worse than any hangover

ever felt when young enough to chose that wrong path.

At least this disease does keep me straight and sober!

Adding drugs or alcohol would be very, very bad math.

 

The reality that this is how I will always and ever be:

relying upon medicines to adjust my daily mood

is, perhaps, the biggest ‘downer’ that saddens me.

Yet, the key to overcoming is to not just sit and brood.

 

Does it seem an endless hamster wheel existence to you?

Without my God to sustain I would be quite a mess!

He provides strength and courage; walks with me too –

 easing my pain as he does my life sweetly bless.

 

My trials are minuscule compared to what so many face

who struggle with handicaps; awful injuries that maim.

This truth humbles me; forces my mind to staunchly brace

against the truth that it’s my bewildered mind that is lame.

 

I am thankful for the times I live in which do offer me

medicines that help control this frightful disease.

In days past I’d have been imprisoned; not living free…

this fact alone thankfully brings me to my knees.

 

Yes, it’s challenging to live as if on a roller coaster:

soaring high, feeling low – emotions oft’ beyond my control.

That’s why I keep blessings written in view on a poster;

asking the Lord’s protection for my struggling human soul.

 

Considering Alternative Paths Toward Mental Health

Considering Alternative Paths Towards Mental Health 

By Jane Sandwood

It is interesting to see conventional science turn increasingly to ‘mind-body’ pursuits such as yoga, Tai Chi, or meditation, to enhance mental health. It might have something to do with the fact that research over the past decade has been so conclusive; these activities have been found to reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels, leading them to be recommended in various settings, including cancer recovery, substance abuse rehabilitation, and even treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In this post, we take our cue from doctors who are increasingly opening the doors to spiritual pursuits, in an attempt to highlight the connection between spirituality and mental health.

Spirituality: The Missing Link in Mental Wellbeing

Various studies have been carried out on the link between spirituality and happiness. One 2009 study suggested that spirituality (rather than religious practices) determined how happy children were. Another groundbreaking 2010 study, meanwhile, found that there is a ‘secret ingredient’ in spirituality that makes us generally happier. The key, it seems, is stress relief, as well as the support we often receive from fellow believers.

It is vital to differentiate spirituality from religion. In essence, spirituality involves believing in a powerful life force that unites all sentient things and does not necessarily involved organized belief systems.

There are many ways to deepen spirituality: one is through nature, which psychologists like Jung believed to be crucial to making human beings understand our essential need to believe in something deeper.

Practises such as tarot readings can boost our mental health as well, not because they are meant to help us discover future events, but rather, because they boost introspection: the ability to better understand our own beliefs, desires, and actions. Tarot and other ‘energetically based’ techniques such as Reiki also encourage us to use our own intuition, which many practitioners believe is like a muscle that needs to be used often to be enhanced.

Finally, yoga, which is a deeply spiritual pursuit, has been found to lower symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression, leading it to become the ‘it’ activity for stressed-out executives and employees alike.

Art Therapy

This therapy is used particularly in settings in which communication and self-awareness needs to be enhanced, such as is the case in substance abuse rehabilitation. One of the most powerful features of art is its ability to be interpreted in many ways. Therapists often use works created by patients to point out their ambiguous feelings about quitting the use of substances. Often, it is not a clear-cut decision, and it is important to address the negative feelings people can have about taking this important step.

Hypnotherapy

Through this therapy, clients/patients enter into a heightened state of awareness and deep relaxation. The uses of hypnotherapy extend beyond stress reduction. They include battling phobias, quitting smoking and other addictive habits, and making other important lifestyle changes.

Music Therapy

Listening and playing music reduces stress, helps us access our creativity and emotions, improves our memory and boosts our cognitive abilities in many ways. Psychological and neuroscientific research has pointed to a link between musical training in childhood and the enhancement of verbal abilities and general reasoning skills, but it never is too late to avail of its benefits.

Research on older adults, for instance, found that music can promote better mood, offer opportunities for social interaction, increase communication in dementia and Alzheimer’s patients, and reduce stress and anxiety. Benefits arise even when we just listen to music, so make sure to enjoy a few minutes of your favorite sounds a day.

So-called ‘alternative’ means to better mental health are increasingly gaining ground in conventional settings. It is vital to embrace the benefits of these practises as well on an individual basis, so we can help keep stress-related illness such as depression and anxiety at bay.

 

4 Exercises that Will Blow Away the Winter Blues

By Jane Sandwood

As the leaves fall down and the air grows colder, do you feel yourself becoming sluggish and blue? Well, this might be because you’re experiencing the winter blues. As a form of Seasonal Affective Disorder, the winter blues is characterized as low mood, depression, and exhaustion associated with the lack of sunlight during winter months. It affects 14 percent of the United States and can put a real downer on your holiday season.

 

However, you don’t have to be consumed by the winter blues. Instead, you can beat it with daily exercise. Check out these four workouts that are sure to help you feeling happier this winter.

1.  Run a Marathon

Exercise promotes positive mental health and running is one of the best ways to harness this positivity. Running outside provides you with much needed Vitamin D to increase your body’s energy level. However, if you’re like most of the world, it can be hard to motivate yourself to run outside in the cold. Therefore, you should sign up for a marathon to motivate you to train. The best way of getting over the blues is to not let it bring you down. So, by spending more time outside, your brain will reinforce the idea that you’re going to embrace all of the seasons. 

2.  Swimming

A great way to beat the winter blues is to take up an activity that isn’t affected by the weather outside. By swimming in an indoor pool, you’re working your whole body which can increase energy and reduce low mood. After your session, head to the steam room or Jacuzzi to get some warmth to stimulate the summer season.

3.  Sign Up for a Dance Class

According to Psychology Today, dancing improves brain functions, forces concentration, and promotes cognitive learning. By signing up for a class you’re also getting out of your home and meeting new people. Dancing in social settings can release endorphins that reduce stress, pain and the winter blues.

4.  Ski or Snowboard

Embracing the change in temperature and climate can do wonders for your mood. So, take advantage of the snow and head to the slopes. Skiing and snowboarding will make you feel as though you conquered the season and have been scientifically proven to reduce chemicals that fuel symptoms of depression. Snow sports also combine aerobic activity and strength building, which is known to improve mental clarity and help you think.

You don’t have to be cooped up inside your home this winter. Instead, embrace the cold season and beat those blues.

 

Social Media & Technology: The Impact on Mental Health

Social Media & Technology: The Impact on Mental Health
By Jane Sandwood

Thinking about a healthy lifestyle to aid mental health often focuses on diet, exercise, and sleep – and with good reason. All these factors have been proven many times over to impact on an individual’s mental wellbeing, as well as their physical health. 

However, it is also important to look at behavioural factors. The enormous growth of technology, smartphones, and social media in recent years has also been proven to have an impact on mental health, with studies finding positive correlations between high ‘smartphone addiction’ scores and depression levels, anxiety, and sleep quality. 

Technology in your day

Be mindful about your technology usage and think about how you can manage it better. Now, this doesn’t mean you need to go off-grid and shun everything powered by electricity, but you can achieve a healthy balanced lifestyle by doing things in moderation. Think critically about your technology usage during the day and what you can do to make less stressful.

  • You might not be able to avoid technology at work, so be sure to schedule in regular breaks away from your desk for a short walk or chat with a co-worker.
  • Reduce email stress by setting aside blocks of time to deal with them, rather than responding to each one as it comes in.
  • Try switching off your phone – work or personal – for a few hours in the evening or at weekends, to reduce the temptation to be constantly checking it.

There are several different programmes which you can add to computers or smart devices which monitor and restrict your usage of other apps, helping you to disconnect more fully. 

Sociable or stressful

Social media is a particular facet of modern technology which can have a big impact on mental health. While great for connecting friends and family around the world and enabling sharing of photos and videos on a huge scale, it can come with a price. A study carried out on undergraduates in Utah reported that Facebook use is linked to participants’ impression that other users are happier and more content about life. 

Becoming fixated on the physical appearance, material possessions, or life experiences of others in comparison to oneself can exacerbate many mental issues including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should deactivate all your accounts, as the ease of contacting friends and family for support is a great tool. Instead, reflect on your usage of different platforms and maybe take a break from actively posting, liking, or commenting, and use direct message functions instead for a while.

Effectively combatting mental difficulties is a different process for everyone. Adopting a holistic approach and reviewing diet, exercise, and sleep patterns is a good place to start – and while technology and social media are unlikely to single-handedly cause mental issues they can certainly exacerbate the problem, so being mindful about your usage of those platforms is also advised.

 

6 Surprising Ways Exercise Can Improve Your Mental Health

6 Surprising Ways Exercise Can Improve Your Mental Health
By Jane Sandwood

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you’re depressed? You probably don’t think, “Hey, I should go for a run!” This is especially true if getting motivated to do physical exercise is difficult for you. Yet, this is precisely the habit you need to get into if you want to improve your mental health. Here are six reasons why that is.

Free Your Mind of Negativity

Exercise will take your mind off the nonstop flood of thoughts in your head and get you out of the house. Your thoughts have the potential to turn negative when you have unstructured time. You can redirect your thinking in a more mindful and positive direction by filling your time with physical activity.

Enjoy More Energy

Do you hit that afternoon bump of sluggishness? You can boost your endurance and strengthen your muscles by engaging in regular physical activity. Exercise allows your cardiovascular system to run more efficiently while delivering more nutrients and oxygen to your tissues. During the day, you get more energy when your lungs and heart work better. So, you put more pep in your step when you get your body in motion.

Get a Mood Boost

Drinking a glass of wine is one of the worst ways to relax after a hard day. You can do much more to improve your mood with physical exercise. Plus, you can experience these benefits without intense exercise. Research shows that several chemicals in your brain are stimulated by any physical activity.

Shed Some Pounds

The most well-known benefit of physical activity is that it helps you lose weight. You will naturally feel better when you have a positive body image. You will then be motivated to regularly exercise as you are happy with how you look. This in turn will improve your self-esteem and boost your confidence.

Release Endorphins

Research shows that you can reduce symptoms of depression when you release endorphins through exercise. Immune system chemicals that worsen depression are reduced when endorphins are release. Also, your body temperature increases, which is calming.

Get Better Sleep

If you have a hard time sleeping at night, regular exercise can assist you by deepening your sleep and helping you fall asleep in the first place. In turn, your mood will improve. After all, when we fail to get our eight or so hours of sleep each night, we tend to get cranky!