April 7 is the day the World Health Organisation (WHO) has dedicated to be World Health Day. And this year, in 2017, they’ve determined that the focus of World Health Day will be on depression.
According to the WHO, depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. According to the latest estimates, more than 300 million people are currently living with depression, an increase of almost 20% since 2005. Due to factors such as stigma and lack of support, many of these people are quite simply not getting the help they need to live healthy and productive lives.
But there is hope; psychologists and health professionals have tried and tested a range of self-help interventions over the last few decades and I’m happy to say that there are several simple, practical strategies you can apply (or help someone you love to apply) to improve your mood and your life.
Here are my top 5 tips:
One of the more common symptoms of depression is a loss of pleasure and satisfaction. Notably, a simple remedy for this is to schedule pleasurable and satisfying activities in to your days and weeks. Accordingly, set yourself the goal of engaging in just one pleasurable and one satisfying (something that may not be lots of fun but that needs to be done and will provide you with pride or contentment upon completion) each and every day. As your mood and confidence improve, you can gradually build from there
Although most people think of exercise as something that’s good for their physical health, which it is, it’s also so much more than that and one of the most powerful antidepressants and stress-busters available (see my previous post HERE). So boost your mood by finding a way to get out and get sweaty; you can run or walk or swim or go to the gym or … do anything that works for you
Although made famous largely by Buddhist monks, you don’t need to sit on a mountain top or head to the Himalayas to practice or benefit from mindfulness meditation. Rather, it’s something we can all benefit from and something that’s increasingly being seen as hugely beneficial as part of any intervention for depression. Check out some of the free apps available for your smart phone such as “Smiling Mind” and “Headspace”
Manage unhelpful thoughts
Although people frequently experience depression as a result of some negative life event, what the research suggests is that it’s not just the event itself that impacts our mood, but just as much or more so how we think about and interpret that event. So be careful of overly negative and unhelpful interpretations such as catastrophizing (making mountains out of molehills), personalising (blaming yourself for everything that goes wrong), having unrealistic expectations (of yourself and/or others), black and white thinking (assuming everything is all good or all bad rather than understanding that most of life falls in to the middle ground), and filtering (ignoring positive events and just focusing on negatives)
And finally, most importantly, realise that you’re not on your own and you don’t have to cope all on your own! As noted at the start of this article, more than 300 million people around the world are experiencing depression right now. Here in Australia, approximately 1 million people will be depressed at this point in time. If you add anxiety in to these calculations, then we’re probably looking at about 3 million Australians. So you are most definitely NOT alone. Just as importantly, help is available. Talk to your GP; find a local clinical psychologist; or there are some great resources on the websites of organisations such as Beyond Blue and for young people, Reach Out, and there are other amazing organisations that work with schools and universities to help smash the stigma associated with mental ill-health to make it easier for those suffering to seek help (check out batyr).
In summary, therefore, depression might be a prevalent and at times, debilitating condition; but it’s also very treatable and notably, something we can all overcome if we pitch in and help each other.
So let’s make April 7 a truly HEALTHY day – physically and mentally!