Depression can rob people of their sense of aliveness and vitality, interfere with job performance, disrupt relationships, and increase the likelihood of self-harm.
So are there tools we can use to help clients reduce and even prevent suffering from depression?
My friend, Elisha Goldstein, PhD has identified 5 natural ways to create an anti-depressant brain.
Elisha is a clinical psychologist in private practice, co-founder of The Center for Mindful Living in LA, and author of the book Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion.
For years now, I’ve studied what helps create more resilience and happiness within us. I’ve looked at my own life, the lives of my clients and students, and the psychological and neuroscience research.
What I’ve found is that within each and every one of us are a core set of natural anti-depressants. When we intentionally tap into these resources, it shifts our brain activity in ways that can lend itself to shaping an anti-depressant brain. Here are a few suggestions:
- Mindfulness could reduce depression.
Mindfulness practice is connected to lower depression scores, and we can actually see why in the brain. When people practice mindfulness they spend less time in the part of the brain that ruminates on the old stories that keep us stuck in the past. Instead, they spend more time connecting to the area of the brain responsible for sensing the world.
- Self-compassion can powerfully fight anxiety.
Self-compassion reduces rumination (spending time rehearsing those unhelpful stories from the past) and increases well-being. This is inversely correlated with anxiety and depression.
- Compassion practices can increase empathy.
Compassion practices can shift activity to the left prefrontal cortex, and that has been more associated with positive emotions and resiliency. We can also grow the areas of the brain associated with empathy and compassion.
- Play can be a natural anti-depressant.
Studies reveal that the act of play as well as creating more enriching environments can give us energy, make us more efficient, and serve as a natural anti-depressant.
- Living with purpose could reduce inflammation.
Living with greater purpose has been shown to reduce the expression of genes associated with cellular inflammation. Cellular inflammation is associated with many diseases and depression.
The science that continues to come out about mindfulness, self-compassion, purpose/compassion, play and confidence and their neurological benefits is incredibly motivating.
And I know these effects are real, not only because of the science but because of the thousands of people whose lives have changed as a result of engaging this work.
But don’t take my word for it – begin to bring these natural anti-depressants into your life, and see what you notice.
Of course, this list just scratches the surface of how to naturally create a more antidepressant brain.
Now we’d like to hear from you. How have you used some of these ideas in your work with clients? Please leave a comment below.