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Depression: Dealing with depression. Can you crawl your way out? Thoughts from Nev Bentley

One in seven Australians will experience depression in their lifetime

This is equivalent to 2.83 million people today. (Statistics according to Beyond Blue)

Important: this article is for information only. If you are experiencing depression or having detrimental thoughts, or if you're a danger to yourself or others, call beyond blue on 1300 224 636, 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

You may be depressed if, for a prolonged period, you've felt sad, down or miserable most of the time, or have lost interest or pleasure in usual activities.

It’s important to remember that we all experience some of these symptoms from time to time, and it may not necessarily mean you're depressed. Equally, not everyone who is experiencing depression will have all of the symptoms.

I was surprised when I found out I had depression 4 years ago. I was always the happiest person I knew. How could someone with a brilliant childhood and awesome teenage years wind up in depression?

I also used to scoff at people who were depressed and say, "What on earth is there to be depressed about!" But if you've ever been depressed, you'll know you don't need a a reason to be depressed. You just are.

Nowadays I can safely say I'm done with depression. It wasn't easy and it also wasn't quick to climb out of it. I don't think there's any quick fix, given that to get over it, it takes a massive change in thought patterns AND biochemistry in the body. It's not empowering to use the excuse that either

1) you're genetically predisposed to depression, or

2) the chemical imbalances in your body are causing your depression

With the chemical imbalances in the body... it maybe true that they're "out of whack." However, what caused the imbalance? Was it the thought patterns that caused the imbalance or did the imbalance cause the thought patterns? Our belief is that the thought patterns came first, and the chemical imbalance followed. By taking some actions (as listed below: keep reading!), you can forge your way back into good chemical balance.

Unfortunately I don't think anti-depressants are the answer. This type of medication may dull the negative emotions so you don't feel them so much... but the problem is they can also dull the good emotions too. So then you're in a position where you're just existing - with no emotions.

One thing I know is for certain: no one will will be able get you out of depression except for yourself. It takes some consistent effort; you need to keep on keeping on even if you think the things you're doing aren't working. I'm not sure if you're in the glory period of your life, or if you're in the darkest place you've ever experienced. If you're in the darkest place, taking action steps as listed here may seem silly or just too much to deal with. Many times when I'm speaking with people who are depressed, I'll give them advice or action steps and they say "Yeh I'd do that BUT....." and then comes a big one! The big but...

Just remember, giving all this a go is worth a shot. You might just run into happiness. It's better than the alternative.

Now... you probably knew studies have been done where people who were depressed were given a task of smiling in a mirror (from ear to ear!) for 10 minutes a day. They were told to make it really cheesy and obvious. Within 2-weeks symptoms of depression had vanished.

Steps to get you on the fast track to get out of depression

1. Clean up the past.

There's many different modalities out there to clean up the past. We've found the most effective to be Time Line Therapy®. It clears anger, sadness, fear, hurt and guilt. If you don't get rid of it, your unconscious mind will be knocking at your door with negative emotional responses. Click here to read more about Time Line Therapy®. In addition to this, we have also found hypnotherapy to be a gentle way to get your thought patterns back into the positive.

2. Smile into a mirror for 5-10 minutes a day

Science has shown that the mere act of smiling can lift your mood, lower stress, boost your immune system and possibly even prolong your life.

It’s a pretty backwards idea, isn’t it? Happiness is what makes us smile; how can the reverse also be true? The fact is, as Dr. Isha Gupta says, a neurologist from IGEA Brain and Spine explains, a smile spurs a chemical reaction in the brain, releasing certain hormones including dopamine and serotonin. “Dopamine increases our feelings of happiness. Serotonin release is associated with reduced stress. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression and aggression,” says Dr. Gupta. “Low levels of dopamine are also associated with depression.”

In other words, smiling can trick your brain into believing you’re happy which can then spur actual feelings of happiness. But it doesn’t end there. Dr. Murray Grossan, an ENT-otolaryngologist in Los Angeles points to the science of psychoneuroimmunology (the study of how the brain is connected to the immune system), asserting that it has been shown “over and over again” that depression weakens your immune system, while happiness on the other hand has been shown to boost our body’s resistance.

“What’s crazy is that just the physical act of smiling can make a difference in building your immunity,” says Dr. Grossan. “When you smile, the brain sees the muscle [activity] and assumes that humor is happening.”

In a sense, the brain is a sucker for a grin. It doesn’t bother to sort out whether you’re smiling because you’re genuinely joyous, or because you’re just pretending.

“Even forcing a fake smile can legitimately reduce stress and lower your heart rate,” adds Dr. Sivan Finkel, a cosmetic dentist at NYC’s The Dental Parlour. “A study performed by a group at the University of Cardiff in Wales found that people who could not frown due to botox injections were happier on average than those who could frown.”

And there are plenty more studies out there to make you smile (or at least, serve as reference for why you should). Researchers at the University of Kansas published findings that smiling helps reduce the body’s response to stress and lower heart rate in tense situations; another study linked smiling to lower blood pressure, while yet another suggests that smiling leads to longevity. The times when you don't feel like smiling is when you need it most.

3. Laugh until you drop

Laughing also has the same psychological and physiological benefits as above. We've found laughter yoga to be the best form of intentionally getting more laughter into your life. Read about laughter yoga and it's benefits by clicking here. Bentley Wellness holds regular laughter yoga events. The times when you don't feel like laughing is when you need it most.

4. Set some goals for your future

By our very cellular nature, we are programmed to always seek more, do more and achieve more. Setting some goals for your future is a great way to get some excitement into your life. It doesn't have to be anything big... it could be a holiday, a new car, an experience of some kind. It just has to be realistic and seemingly achievable for you.

5. Move

Motion creates emotion. Commit yourself to 20-30 minutes of walking and deep breathing per day. It's a secret of successful people. The times when you don't feel like moving is when you need it most. If you can do it in the sunlight, even better.

6. Have the guts to change your situation and environment

This might be the hardest aspect to follow. Some people are in loveless or toxic relationships. Some people are just surrounded by toxic people - friends, family or work peers. Lay down with dogs - wake up with fleas. It's an old mantra. How can you soar like an eagle when you're surrounded by turkeys?

Leave the toxic relationship... move to a location that excites you... say sorry or have conversations with the people you've been avoiding. Do it in humble sincerity and honesty.

7. Get off your device

Governments around the world put age restrictions on alcohol, gambling, driving and so on... However, we do not put age limits or restrictions on devices such as mobile phones and iPads. This has been a major contributing factor to child and teen anxiety. When a notification pops up on your device... ie, when someone "likes" your photo, it causes a momentary spike of dopamine. This is the same biological response that someone gets when they get a win on a poker machine.

What is dopamine and instant gratification?

Dopamine is a neurochemical created in various parts of the brain and is critical in all sorts of brain functions, including thinking, moving, sleeping, mood, attention, motivation, seeking and reward. Dopamine causes you to want, desire, seek out, and search. It increases your general level of arousal and your goal-directed behaviour. Therefore, because of dopamine giving us the desire to seek and be rewarded is where the issue of instant gratification comes in. Peoples dopamine receptors are being burnt out.

In whatever you choose to do, understand the action steps above are extremely powerful. The effort is worth it.

Yours in health,

Nev Bentley

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