What is depression?
The American Psychiatric Association states:
“Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.”
The APA also states the 1 in 6 people will experience depression in their lifetime.
Additionally, the APA states there are four primary factors that play a role in depression:
1. Biochemistry: Differences in certain chemicals in the brain may contribute to symptoms of depression.
2. Genetics: Depression can run in families. For example, if one identical twin has depression, the other has a 70 percent chance of having the illness sometime in life.
3. Personality: People with low self-esteem, who are easily overwhelmed by stress, or who are generally pessimistic appear to be more likely to experience depression.
4. Environmental factors: Continuous exposure to violence, neglect, abuse or poverty may make some people more vulnerable to depression.
And, these are all factors, indeed.
However, cutting-edge science is showing us that depression is not entirely what we thought it was.
There are four more factors that must be considered when evaluating and treating the cause of depression.
1. Gut health.
2. Unhealed emotional trauma.
3. The health of the Vagus nerve.
4. A sense of Purpose or meaning.
Let me explain.
You see 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut.
And, when we have low serotonin, we tend to have lower moods, and this can contribute to a state of depression.
So, in order for our body to restore proper production of serotonin, it will never come from a drug. We must work to restore our bodies own production of serotinin in the gut.
Therefore, gut health is vital in helping elevate your mood and help you get out of a depressive state.
Next, depression is correlated to unhealed emotional trauma.
Harvard reports that emotional trauma, both in childhood and later in life, leaves you most susceptible to depression.
If you have any kind of unhealed trauma (that can be big, or small), you are much more likely to develop depression.
An emerging model of how humans process and deal with stress may explain a very practical purpose for depression.
The vagus nerve influences many functions of the body.
One of which is immobilization or feining death.
The fight or flight response is very popular and well known. However, it is not the only survival response we have.
We are also programmed to feign death in the presence of a threat.
So, depression may not simply be what we thought. It may also be an ancient Survival Pattern designed to help us withdrawal and pretend to be dead, in order to survive.
Our bodies are genius at survival. So much so, that depression may be our way of staying physically safe from a perceived threat.
When you add in unhealed emotional trauma, the body has a good reason to pretend to be dead, so that it doesn’t experience the trauma again.
Understanding that depression may be a Survival Pattern helps us have self-compassion and compassion for anyone who has struggled with depression.
Perhaps it’s not them. Perhaps it’s an automatic response to stay safe.
When we see that gut health, unhealed trauma and our body’s nervous system are perhaps causing depression or at least contributing to it in a significant want, now we see why just telling someone to “be happy” is perhaps one of the worst things we can do.
Having depression doesn’t mean you are a bad person or that there is something wrong with you.
Perhaps, it does mean that something painful happened to you. And your body is trying to cope as best it can.
Perhaps having depression means you are not producing the neurotransmitters you need to feel better, because you do not have a healthy gut.
Perhaps having depression means that you are trying to stave off any further threats and survive.
Perhaps depression is an appropriate response to an unhealthy gut, unhealed trauma and a scared nervous system that wants you to play dead and be safe.
Perhaps we need to see depression differently.
Which brings me to the fourth point.
When was the last time a medical or mental health professional asked you…
“Are you living your Purpose? Do you have meaning in your life?”
It seems odd for me to suggest this. However, the research is clear.
A recent study shows that having purpose and meaning in your life literally helps you live longer.
The study states:
“Having a purpose in life appears to widely buffer against mortality risk across the adult years.”
It can be very hard to have purpose in your life when you are shut down, don’t have a healthy gut and have unprocessed trauma.
However, purpose can be a doorway to help you get free.
It’s vital to find meaning in your pain or depression. To ask for help. And to help others.
You don’t have to make some grandiose stand and be a super hero.
But, you can make small steps every day to help others. To find what’s meaningful. To get outside yourself and help other people.
This is a vital part of reducing your symptoms of depression.
Give the above, perhaps now you can see that wishing for your depression to go away because you took a pill – it not lined up with the most up to date research.
Yes, prescription medication can save lives, and many times we need to be on it for a long while.
I am on Adderall XR for the forseeable future. However, I do not believe that this drug will be the thing I need to feel better.
Drugs can save lives, but they can’t make your trauma go away or restore balance to your gut. Drugs can’t give you purpose.
They can save your life in the short term, but in the long term, without doing the rest of the work, drugs will just help you cope better.
So, what to do next?
1. Use cutting-edge technology to improve your gut health.
The best tool I know to improve the quality of your gut and microbiome health is Viome.
Viome is a cutting edge technology that uses advanced AI to give you the exact foods you need to eat to restore your microbiome to balance. This is a vital tool in helping you feel better and improve your mental health.
2. Do your trauma work.
>If you haven’t, get my book Claim Your Power.
It’s a 40-day Functional Life Coaching™ experience to discover your trauma, help to start healing it and then turn your trauma into power and purpose.
I put together a free coaching program to go with the book, so that I can coach you the whole time through your 40 days of CYP.
You may also want to check out EMDR, EFT/Tapping, Kundalini Yoga, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Neurofeedback and work with John Barnes Myofascial Release Practitioner.
Here’s a peek at the Functional Life Coaching™ process and how it helps with trauma:
3. Help your Vagus nerve get healthy.
Ask your John Barnes Myofascial Release Practioner to help release your Vagus nerve by focusing on your diaphragm and the upper neck that connects to the head. These are two key points that can help your vagus nerve.
Additionally, the breath is the fastest way to calm the vagus nerve.
A Kundalini Yoga breathing technique Long Deep Breathing (LDB) is perhaps one of the best breathing exercises you can do to calm your vagus nerve.
4. Find a sense of Purpose
Again, this is why I wrote Claim Your Power. I worked with people for almost a decade to create the framework of this book.
It’s about how to turn trauma into purpose.
>Grab your copy of Claim Your Power here.
As you can see, depression isn’t all that we thought.
There is new research and new tools to help us better understand depression and the exact steps we can take to help ourselves and/or our loved ones feel better and get free from depression.
I hope this article has been helpful. Please feel free to share it with anyone who may need to know this.
Please feel free to share this with your therapist, social worker, doctor or psychiatrist/psychologist and family.
It’s vital that everyone on your team be up to speed on the best tools to help take your power back from depression.
As always, remember to get out there, take action and make it real!
Your biggest supporter,
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