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Depression and the Brain

by Dr Kai Swigart: Depression, the most prevalent perturbation, the world’s largest disability; can be overcome, no matter what its cause…

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Re-posted by permission of SUPERConsciousness.

Whether generated by thought, life experiences, or genetics; this murky miasma, when understood and accepted; will no longer hold us back or tie us down.

Like anxiety and other misanthropic moods, depression informs the brain that we are under threat. In fact, all negative emotions shift the brain into Survival Mode, creating the illusion that our life is in danger, and then our brain prompts us to fight, run away, or freeze with fear until the threat is gone (like flipping a switch from Safe Mode to Survival Mode and then back to Safe Mode again). A pair of Harvard researchers, Walter Cannon and Herbert Benson, dubbed these processes “stress response” (Survival Mode) and “relaxation response” (Safe Mode).

When in Survival Mode, our thoughts, words, and actions are limited to those associated with staying alive in the face of mortal danger. This is why states such as anxiety and depression are so tricky. When we begin feeling them, our brain shifts into a process that reinforces and intensifies the emotion (on a physiological level, emotionally and instinctually, we believe our life is in crisis when it is not). Within this state of relative urgency, we become unable to access any thoughts, possibilities, or courses of action except those related to escaping danger. Since our brain believes we are under threat, such emotions and instincts as anger, aggression, fear, leaving, and avoidance are intensified; while everything else, like truth, happiness, hope, factual information, and a balanced perspective; is temporarily blocked, until the brain believes the threat has gone away. Therefore, in order to overcome our depression, we must show the brain that we are safe. All approaches that help heal depression ultimately demonstrate to our neural net that the perceived peril has passed. When convinced, the brain will switch us back from Survival to Safe Mode and we will regain access to our full range of thought, possibilities, and courses of action. From this broadened perspective, we can deliberately ditch the daunting doldrums.

As we might systemically surmise, if this neurologic process has such a powerful impact on our emotional well being, then it will similarly effect our physical health; since they are hopelessly intertwined in a lifetime relationship. Our bodies come pre-loaded with self healing apps which are turned on and off by the brain based on information it receives from the nervous system. When in Survival Mode (fight, flight, or freeze), our self-healing apps are turned off. If we run into a hungry bear, raging hurricane, or salivating rapist; our bodies temporarily shut down their repair and maintenance systems, diverting all available resources to emergency services (When confronted by such real or imagined threats, our bodies shift their focus from fighting cancer, preventing heart disease, or quelling pneumonia to staying alive in the face of an eminent threat). Negative emotions, such as depression, alert the nervous system to danger (just like the bear, hurricane, or rapist would); signaling the brain to switch on its Survival Mode and turn off everything else; including the body’s natural healing processes.

With this physiology of depression in mind, let’s take a look at some options for overcoming it. It is important to realize that, since we are all so uniquely different, distinctive curative combinations may be needed by various individuals. What works for one may not work for another. When someone tells you what you need to do, this may simply mean that this is what worked for them. Give yourself permission to be who you are. When you find yourself, you will find your solution.

DEVELOPMENT

25 Cures to Consider

1. Nature: Our finest material world examples of truth, acceptance, and being present exist within nature. For me, truth is that which is natural without being altered; acceptance as non-resistance to truth; and being present as living with acceptance of the moment as it occurs. If we spend time in nature, and follow her example; our egoic resistance to life will melt away, along with its emotional creations such as depression. The exotic passion flower, delicate rose, or dancing daffodil wears no make up, mini skirt, or fake smile; she is not trying to be beautiful; she just is. Birds, crystals, oceans, and oak trees are freedom, magic, power, and majesty. They do not resist life, they are life. They do not seek comfort, popularity, or possessions; they simply live, fulfilling their purpose, until they die. Whatever happens, happens. Nature is not focused on its guilt from the past or worry about the future. It has no mind to pollute the present. It simply exists in it. When we become more like the bird, flower, or crystal our dejection will dissolve into a delicious desire for living. In this peaceful state of acceptance, our brain will realize that we are safely buttoned up. Nature can help transform depression into health and happiness.

2. Hobbies: Leisure time activities are an important part of any healthy, balanced lifestyle. They help dissolve dolor through their creativity and release. Whether knitting, cooking, gardening, or baking; ; writing, strumming, painting, or chair making; hobbies stimulate fecundity, focus energy, and distract us from ennui. When thinking about or investing in hobbies, our resident brainiac realizes that we are snug as a bug in a rug. Hobbies can help transform depression into health and happiness.

3. Exercise: Weight training, cardio, and yoga improve physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health; showing the brain that we are safe and well (we would not have the luxury of lifting, scampering, or saluting the sun if our life was in danger). Exercise also provides structure and focus, improving our mood and distracting the mind from perceived problems. The many health benefits of exercise; greater strength, stamina, endurance, concentration, and longevity, to name a few; will create conditions that are incompatible with the blues. Exercise can help transform depression into health and happiness.

All approaches that help heal depression ultimately demonstrate to our neural net that the perceived peril has passed. When convinced, the brain will switch us back from Survival to Safe Mode and we will regain access to our full range of thought, possibilities, and courses of action.

4. Yoga: Throughout the ages yoga has been known to create balance, stability, and improved health. When experiencing its benefits, our control center realizes that we are out of harm’s way. Therefore, yoga helps prevent (benefits stop formation of despondency which keeps brain from shifting into Survival Mode) and decrease (benefits convince brain that we are not in danger and then it shifts out of Survival Mode) potential lugubriosity. Yoga can help transform depression into health and happiness.

5. Meditation: According to decades of scientific research, and millenia of spiritual practice, meditation is the single most effective method for transmuting depression. Most forms of such speculative contemplation slow the body down, convincing the brain that we are sitting pretty. Meditation can help transform depression into health and happiness.

6. Music: Music and relaxing sounds can produce a state of calmness deep within. This convinces our gray matter that we are currently impervious to danger (if we were under threat, then we could not chill on a hill being still). Music can help transform depression into health and happiness.

7. Smartphone Apps: There are some remarkably effective tools for transmuting abasement into alacrity now available at your iTunes Store and Android Marketplace. Apps for CBT, TFT, EFT, biofeedback, meditation, mantras, plucking your eyebrows, and brewing your morning coffee can now be found for your notebook, tablet, or phone. There are also apps for monitoring steps, heart rate, breathing, and so much more. Our ever-present gadgets can dissipate our dolefulness, making sunshine, love, and rainbows out of rain. When free to play with our new 6+, our neural net knows that we are safe, secure, and shielded from the pain. Smartphone apps can help transform depression into health and happiness.

According to decades of scientific research, and millenia of spiritual practice, meditation is the single most effective method for transmuting depression.

8. Sufficient Sleep: Physical, mental, and emotional systems are more stable and balanced when we get enough rest. When we are fatigued, these same systems experience depletion, instability, and imbalance; mimicking the conditions generated while under threat. A fatigued state is more likely to cause the brain to shift into Survival Mode, because of the physiological (adrenals, thyroid, hormonal), psychological (cognitive distortions), and emotional (shorter fuse or over-reactions) effects from the tiredness. The brain sees fatigue as weakness, and a possible sign of vulnerability to danger. When combined with other things like irritability, anger, and fear; the threat indicators will eventually add up to danger to the brain; and the brain will then kick us into Survival Mode, which will increase the severity even further. To master this mischievous little mind trap, it is important that we gain a firm grasp of this concept. Sufficient sleep can help transform depression into health and happiness.

9. Conscious Eating: Consuming regular meals of fresh, organic food each day, whether hungry or not, will help us regulate the utility of our bodily systems. When our dietary decisions help balance functions like our pituitary, adrenal, thyroid, and hormones; our brain knows that we are safe (these functions would be either spiking or depleted if we were in danger). The better our nutritional balance, the less likely the brain is to believe that our eating habits represent vulnerability to threat. Conscious eating can help transform depression into health and happiness.

10. Gourmet Sex: Researchers have recently discovered that “meditation and sex” are the same to the brain. Since meditation may be the single greatest blues buster, draw your own conclusions, while getting naked and grabbing your honey. If you are comfortable enough to share some steamy romance, then your orgasmic CPU will deduce that you are out of harm’s way. Gourmet sex can help transform depression into health and happiness.

11. Ditch the Drama: Drama is an exaggerated, distorted, and misleading misrepresentation of something. Whether intentional, accidental, or habitual; such egoic stagecraft can create the illusion that there is something very wrong. Drama can cause the brain to believe that we are in danger, shift us into Survival Mode, and then our histrionic thoughts and strong emotions fuel the fire. Such flaming theatrics can cause depressive symptoms to worsen. Stick to the facts, hold to the truth, live in the moment. If you examine your thoughts, while under the shrouded veil of melancholia; you will see that you are either fearful of the future, or dwelling on the past. Live peacefully in the present. Ditching drama can help transform depression into health and happiness.

12. Self Awareness: Increased ascetic understanding will help us realize what, when, and how we are thinking, saying, and doing; revealing higher level steps toward growth and change. From such an elevated vantage point, it is easier to see the truth, the facts, the evidence around us; and harder to get sucked into the game. When we balance our perspective based on truth and deeper realizations; our irrational beliefs, destructive drama, and exaggerated emotions are uncovered, and fade away. Self awareness makes us happier by revealing truth, exposing illusion, and proving to the brain that all is well. Self awareness can help transform depression into health and happiness.

13. Natural Supplements: Getting to know our body, mind, and spirit; and understanding what they crave; will improve our health and happiness today. When we have the natural resources we need to deal with life’s stressors; then we will cope more effectively, have more energy and endurance, and experience less distraction and dismay. When we decrease our depression through the mindful consumption of needed natural supplements; then our brain knows that we are safe, shifts us out of Survival Mode, and decreases rather than elevating our dejection. Such supplements could include the maintenance variety (e.g. multi-vitamins, C, choline, inositol, ginkgo, iron, aminos, fermented cod liver oil, calcium, etc.) or mood enhancers (e.g. St. John’s wort, SAMe, kava, etc.). Natural supplements can help transform depression into health and happiness.

Stick to the facts, hold to the truth, live in the moment. If you examine your thoughts, while under the shrouded veil of melancholia; you will see that you are either fearful of the future, or dwelling on the past.

14. Helping Others: Investing time and money in the well being of others is a scientifically proven prescription for beating the blues. Studies have shown that the single most reliable momentary increase in feelings of well being occurs just after performing an act of kindness for another. Such a gesture, along with the blissful burst it generates; shows the brain that we are skipping on sunshine (we would not be helping others or feeling joy if we were under threat). So ditch dejection by providing aid, support, or service to humanity. Helping others can transform depression into health and happiness.

15. Pets: The unconditional love of a dog or cat floods us with oxytocin and endorphins, fills our heart and soul with joy; and flips us into Safe Mode, or keeps us there. Our furry friends turn bitter into sweet sun salutations, dejection into hope for a brighter day; abasement into rhythms of alacrity and promise, and sorrow into smiles and peaceful play. Let’s face it, when our best bud races toward us, tail wagging in preparation for liftoff; jumps into our welcoming arms; and begins their lick attack; we instantly relax and start to grin. Pets can help transform depression into health and happiness.

16. Acceptance of Self: When you stop judging, criticizing, and blaming yourself; when you accept who you really are; when you respect, understand, and love from within; you will glow with the light of a star. After accepting yourself; you will no longer struggle with the acceptance of other people, places, or things. Acceptance tells our command structure that we are secure. Self acceptance can help transform depression into health and happiness.

17. Acceptance of Mistakes: Some people would rather die than admit they made a mistake, spend their entire life pretending to be a know-it-all to defend against their fears of inadequacy, and fail to learn the lessons or see the light. They spin endlessly within the recurrent cycles of delusion, twisting truth to fit their dark, distorted views. When we have issues with being wrong, we will be perpetually discouraged, since we cannot live without making mistakes. Errors are as common as eating, and without them we will rarely grow or change. When we welcome our mistakes, and find the value in their vestige, we will learn, evolve, and normalize their range. Accepting mistakes can transform depression into health and happiness.

18. Acceptance of the Unknown: If you have a high need to know what will happen; if without it despondency rules; then you are trying to live by controlling; so take charge, of yourself, with your tools. Control issues generate distress because we cannot control everything, and because of the problems that develop when we try to. When we get upset when something happens differently than we expected it to; and experience the resulting ennui; our brain thinks that we are in danger; and then drives up dejection, you’ll see. If this feels familiar, then work toward greater flexibility, self awareness, and self control. Acceptance of the unknown can help transform depression into health and happiness.

19. Family, Friends, and Community: This is a complicated, tricky, and individually specific consideration; since our relationships with others are frequently the cause of our pain. Everyone is uniquely different, has varying needs, and is exclusively impacted by contact with others. If being a hermit makes you happy, then enjoy your solitude. There is no right or wrong answer here. Some are too sensitive for this world, and find contact with people far too harsh, scary, and disappointing. This, for them, is totally okay; and should be accepted. Others crave social contact. Some quietly cruise along a scale of introversion, and others dance Grand Central with a smile. Research has shown that, for some, staying connected with others generates hope, health, and happiness. From my personal and clinical experiences, I must add that involvement with people can destroy our lives. It is important to increase our awareness of how people affect us, and assertively adjust our boundaries to support our needs. If peaceful friends make us happy, then let it be. If they are more than we can handle emotionally, or if their selfishness shatters our heart; then we should move them away in a hurry, before crying or falling apart. If they fail to respect our boundaries, values, and priorities; then we are better off without them in our lives (including family). For those with social interests, when possessing sufficient awareness of self and others; healthy contact with humanity can heal. If you are too shy or uncomfortable to deal with people directly, then you may want to consider forums or blogs for your communion. When contact with others helps us feel better, our brain knows we are safely under lock and key. Family, friends, and community can help transform depression into health and happiness.

20. Progressive Muscle Relaxation: This technique is a scientifically proven method for decreasing distress and improving sleep. When our muscles relax, our brain knows we are feeling peachy; since they would be tense and tight if a threat was really there. Progressive muscle relaxation can help transform depression into health and happiness.

21. Rumination Reduction: Thoughts generate emotions generate thoughts generate emotions generate thoughts generate emotions generate thoughts generate emotions… Get the picture? If you have a thought (including your interpretation of an experience) that makes you feel sad, then accept the experience and the sadness; and let it pass. The average emotion lasts 3-5 minutes unless you keep it alive by thinking again about what caused it. If you continue focusing on what happened (or what you originally thought), then you will create the unhappiness again. If you respond to this second round of despair with more thought about it, then you will generate a third. If this continues, then your repeating loop may expand and pull in additional causes of sorrow, misery, and gloom; increasing its cognitive distortions and intensifying its emotional grip. Rumination reduction can help transform depression into health and happiness.

22. Genuine Smiling: If we are smiling genuinely (rather than painting a counterfeit smirk across our visage), then our cabeza knows we’re chillin’, be no villain (we would not be capable of sincerely simpering if we were in mortal danger). Genuine smiling can help transform depression into health and happiness.

23. Routines: Maintaining a familiar structure, keeping life in its usual order, and putting back in their place things you use; will show the brain you are safe, not abused. Chaos and disorganization create distress, causing our gray matter to conclude that we are in conflict. Order convinces our command center that we are unharmed. Being organized can help transform depression into health and happiness.

24. Essential Oils, Incense, and Crystals: Wild orange tincture, the smoky smell of sage or cedar, and the energy of minerals in our hand; speak of safety, so our brain will understand. If we have the luxury of slathering on silky oils, getting lost in fragrant reverie, or sharing energy with lemurians in the dawn; it’s not likely there’s a leopard on our lawn. Oils, incense, and crystals can help transform depression into health and happiness.

25. Professional Help: Therapy or spiritual teaching can help us climb out of the darkness into the rainbow light of hope, belief, and care. When; through CBT, existential analysis, vibrational healing, or awakened consciousness; we learn to put depression in its place; our brain will know that we are safe and gloom erase. Professional help can help transform depression into health and happiness.

RECAPITULATIO Most of these cures for dejection, ways to drive out the dreaded dolor; are old news when considered uniquely, through their link to the brain we learn more. When we understand the physiology of depression, then we will naturally begin thinking of things that produce states of calmness, happiness, hope, safety, and peace. Once created, our brain will either realize that we are safe, preventing the survival shift; or kick us out of it when seeing that we are well. This is the process underlying the relative effectiveness of most depression treatment methods. Since we are all so contrastingly different, each of us will probably benefit from a distinctive combination of these and other curative considerations.

 Source: Super Consciousness

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