Yoga is a an extremely potent practice to support mood stability, stress relief and reduction, and improving overall wellbeing, but sometimes more is needed to bolster our internal experience.
Depression is something that runs in my family so I have had plenty of experience with down days. If you've ever been extremely blue, you know the struggle. Feeling helpless, powerless, unmotivated, stuck, frustrated, sad, alone, and wondering when it will end.
While in some situations anti-depressants are an important tool, too often the power of specific life rituals and nutritional therapies are underestimated and underutilized.
Furthermore, many mood-stabilizing drugs take 4-6 weeks to kick in, so its important to have other tools to work with during down times. So how can you engage with down days and help counter depressive symptoms? Here are some ideas.
1. Eat Clean
Refined sugars, chemical additives, and processed junk all impact the brain adversely. Stick with clean, whole foods. In addition, avoid over-consuming Omega 6 oils — soy, sunflower, and corn — as they cause inflammation and effect the brain negatively.
2. Supplement Right
It is key to give your brain nutrients that help stabilize mood. Consume Vitamin D (2-5,000 IU daily), Omega 3's (eating low mercury fish 2-3x times weekly), and a B-Vitamin complex that includes B12, 6, and folic acid.
3. Ensure High Quality Protein
Sad or low moods can be related to a protein deficiency. It's something worth considering and exploring especially if you are a vegan or vegetarian.
4. Mellow Your Inflammation
The brains (and consequently, guts) of depressed people often show signs of inflammation which occurs due to processed foods and common allergens like gluten or dairy.
Explore an elimination diet and enact protocols to repair your gut like probiotics, fermentable fiber foods, and tests for leaky gut, IBS, or SIBO.
5. Move It
Cardio-based movements for 30-45 minutes, four days a week, are key to release endorphins and helps stimulate BDNF or brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a natural mood enhancer in the brain.
6. Schedule Up
Every Sunday, plan out your week. Schedule your movement times, social engagements, and meals. Even if you don't feel like seeing people, it is vital to not isolate yourself.
Having a plan will ensure you avoid too many pockets of free space where you can overthink your situation.
7. Get a Check Up
Sometimes depression or fatigue can be exasperated or caused by hypothyroidism, heavy metal toxicity, or a vitamin/mineral deficiency (iron, vitamin D, magnesium, etc.). The only way to find out for sure if this is causing your depression is to go to your physician and get a check-up.
8. Journal Daily
When we feel down, its important to journal and let go of the cyclone of thoughts in the mind. Even if you don't feel great about your life, take time to include some gratitude in your journaling.
It can be something small, like being grateful for the sun, breath, a piece of fruit, love of friends and family, water, etc.
9. Spend Time in Nature
Many studies have shown that being in nature for as little as 20 minutes can serve to relieve mild to medium depressive symptoms. Buy yourself flowers and plants, spend time in a park, or invite a friend to go for a hike.
10. Talk to Someone
Talk therapy serves as an important tool in down moods as it provides a chance to speak to someone outside of your immediate circle and to share what is present for you with a caring invested listener.
11. Get Poked
Acupuncture has been shown to enhance mood and support overall vitality especially during down times.
Even though you might not feel like it, put on a DVD from a stand up comedian, go to a comedy show, or watch a funny movie. Studies have proven that laughter improves mood.
13. Clean Up
Cleaning is extremely therapeutic as often depression is coupled with a lack of motivation. Organizing and cleaning will provide a sense of purpose, accomplishment, and energetically will make your living space feel more habitable.
While this list might seem overwhelming, choose a few rituals to explore and implement every day, or a few per week.
When it comes to coping with that daunting feeling of depression, it can be the simplest actions and small baby steps that add up and make a huge difference as you live your yoga off the mat!