I began a “Mind, Body, and Spirit” series last week where we are discussing ways to improve your mental health by making changes to each of these facets of our being. Last week I gave you some examples of how to change your thought patterns in order to change your mood. This week we are going to talk about our physical selves with regard to mood. There is so much evidence that improvements in our physical health can also improve our mood and feelings of emotional well being. It just makes good common sense that if we feel physically well we will have more strength, stamina, and energy to go about our daily routines with ease. It is when we feel run down, tired, and physically unwell that we are more susceptible to anxiety and depression.
The physical realm is where I am placing most of my focus upon lately, in my attempts to combat depression symptoms. I am going to share some things that I am doing which work for me to improve both my physical and mental health. These are all easy and natural things you can do which involve being kind to your body. Think of your body as a sacred vessel. What you put into it and what you do with it has an effect upon your emotions and overall mood. I like to think of easy do-able steps that I can add on each week. Making too many changes at once leads one to feeling overwhelmed and giving up before you begin. Proceed with slow but steady progress.
Here is my personal list of physical/emotional wellness activities:
1. Get an annual physical examination.
There are many reasons why getting a physical can improve both your physical and mental health. Sometimes depression is directly related to a medical condition. For example, an underactive or overactive thyroid can be the cause for depressive symptoms. Other medical disorders and conditions which can cause depression include: stroke or heart disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, and Alzheimer's dementia. The way I found out I had MS was during a routine annual physical. So it goes to show how important it is to get a wellness check up at least once a year.
2. While you are getting your annual physical, ask about getting your vitamin levels checked.
My doctor routinely checks my vitamin levels during my annual exam but some doctors may skip this blood work. I would ask to have it done because a vitamin deficiency can lead to neurological problems and depression. This is how I discovered that I was low in both Vitamin B-12 and Vitamin D.
3. Think about taking supplements and vitamins.
Although supplements and vitamins can be regarded as “alternative” therapy for depression, they are now becoming more and more mainstream and some supplements are promoted by many general practitioners. For example, my doctor gave me a prescription for Vitamin D and told me to purchase Vitamin B-12 to help with my vitamin deficiency. Another supplement which may help with your depression is folic acid or Deplin. There are many more supplements and vitamins that I would like to talk about and I promise to devote more posts to this topic so we can fully explore the possibilities in depth. In the meantime there is a government run web site put out by the National Institutes of Health which will give you information about complementary and alternative medicine.