Exercise and Major Depression

Learn how exercise and physical activity can change your brain chemistry and support your major depression treatment plan.

Exercise is prescribed for a wide variety of health conditions — from heart disease to diabetes. Science shows being active can improve your physical and mental health, and make positive changes in your brain chemistry. But if you’re battling major depression, the thought of working out may seem unthinkable. Here’s some information about the benefits of exercise that may change your mind.

Exercise and Nerve Growth    Early brain chemistry research found that mice living in an exercise-friendly environment stopped acting depressed after a stressful social experience — while mice who didn’t exercise stayed depressed. Scientists attribute the mice’s recovery to the growth of new brain nerves caused by exercise.  This and other research has led scientists to understand how brain nerve growth works in humans, too. Adults affect their brain chemistry through experiences — such as physical activities — and how they respond to them. The proteins largely responsible for the brain’s ability to adapt and change are called neurotrophins. Antidepressants affect neurotrophins in the brain — and so does exercise.

Benefits of Exercise Therapy for Depression In addition to stimulating new nerve growth and improving your ability to think, remember, and learn, exercise boosts serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and endorphins in your brain. These neurotransmitters help you calm down and focus. In studies, exercise therapy has also shown an antidepressant effect.

One Duke University researcher, James Blumenthal, PhD, has been studying exercise and MDD for over a decade. “Based on the best available evidence to date,” Dr. Blumenthal believes that “exercise may be generally comparable to medication in the treatment of MDD.” Similar studies continue to find at least modest clinical benefit for exercise and better mental health. But don’t self-treat your depression symptoms or try to get through your recovery with exercise alone. Talk to your doctor about treatment and self-care options — including exercise — that are right for you.

Adding Exercise to Your Treatment Plan Once you start exercising, you’re likely to notice some changes in your symptoms right away. “Simply moving more and sitting less will make a difference in how you feel,” says exercise physiologist and dietitian Amy Ogle, MS, RD. “And if you typically exercise alone, consider working out with a group or partner because the social connection helps lessen depressive symptoms.”

Shoot for at least 2 1/2 hours of exercise in a week. Strength training counts toward that time, too. Just remember to check with your doctor first, especially if you have another medical condition.

“Sticking to a plan and following your progress,” Ms. Ogle adds, “will renew your sense of self-mastery and control.”  You can progress to the following routine:

  • 5-10 min warm-up, gently moving upper and lower body in full range of motion
  • 30 min aerobic exercise, such as walking, light jogging, swimming, biking or a group exercise class. You should be able to talk, but not comfortably sing.
  • 5 min cool-down and stretching
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Boost Your Energy Level in 11 Steps

Learn how to recharge your batteries so you can keep on going like the Energizer bunny.

Tired of Having No Energy?

Everyone feels tired now and then, but are your energy stores totally depleted? Think of it this way: If you blow a fuse in your house, you can’t expect to get power back by lighting a few candles and searching for food with a flashlight. You’ve got to find the bad fuse, replace it, and reset the system. Same goes for your energy. Before you reach for the big Cs to snap out of your sluggishness (you know . . . cookies, candy, carbs, and caffeine concoctions), we’ve got an 11-step plan to pep you up.

Consider Your Sleep Habits

It’s pretty basic, but you need to get your ZZZs. Sleep loss is a major energy drain. Our bodies and brains need 6 to 9 hours of sleep to restore good brain-cell functioning (i.e., the ability to perform physically as well as mentally, since both coordination and thinking require those brain cells to work well). Getting on a regular bedtime schedule will help set your internal clock so your body knows when to sleep and when to wake. Find out what’s causing any sleep issues you may have.

Train Your Brain

Tell your body you want to watch Glee reruns all night and — thanks to mechanisms called feedback loops — you downshift energy production. This explains why you can feel too tired to move even though you’ve been sitting around all day. Tell your body to move and it responds by giving you the energy to get moving. Your body teaches your brain. That’s how healthy behaviors become automatic habits. This may be tough the first few times you try, but it gets easier.

Stay Hydrated

Getting to the point where you’re just starting to feel thirsty (a mere 2.6% drop in hydration levels) is one of the quickest ways to take the spring out of your step. In fact, being even just a little dehydrated can lead to unpleasant feelings, such as fatigue, crankiness, and foggy thinking. When you feel yourself dragging, grab a tall glass of water. Another plus of H20: people who drink water throughout the day consume a whopping 9 percent fewer daily calories.

Cut Back on Sugar

A sugar-filled diet gives you about a birthday candle’s worth of energy, while a healthy diet is more like an eternal flame. Work on limiting simple sugars (they end in –ose, such as glucose, sucrose, maltose, and dextrose — ribose is OK), syrups, and any grain that’s not 100% whole. Ribose is the exception because it’s a special sugar made in your body. It doesn’t come from food, but does come in supplement form and can help build the energy factories of your body. It’s not for everyone, so talk to your doctor first.

Trade TV Time for Exercise

No time to exercise, but plenty of time to watch TV? Exercise can do a world of good to boost your energy, so even on days when you don’t feel up to it, try to do some kind of physical activity, such as walking, strength training or cardio to kick your feel-good endorphins into high gear. Still uninspired? Try the 10-minute rule. Make a deal with yourself to get moving for at least 10 minutes. Chances are, once you start, you’ll feel so much better that you’ll keep going.

Spend Time in the Sun

Short days can causes seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — neurochemical changes in your brain due to lack of sunlight. From late fall until spring, people with SAD become depressed, sleep too much, withdraw from friends, and battle low energy and relentless carb cravings. To prevent SAD and get energized, try to spend some time in the sunshine. If there isn’t any, ask your doctor about light therapy, which involves sitting in front of a special box that shines ultrabright lights.

Sip Tea

Black, green, and white teas all contain the energizing amino acid L-theanine, which isn’t found in coffee. Green tea contains free-radical-fighting compounds that help you stay younger and avoid the aging and decrease in energy that accompany chronic disease. Although green tea has one-third the caffeine of black tea, it’s been shown to yield the same level of energy and attentiveness.

Get a Daily Dose of Magnesium

For a little extra get-through-the-day energy, top your veggies with toasted sesame seeds. They’re loaded with magnesium — a mineral that cells need in order to convert food to energy. Other magnesium-rich foods include: whole grains, dark leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, and cashews. Magnesium not only boosts your energy, it also helps strengthen your bones and keep your heart, nerves, muscles, and immune system functioning well.

Take a Power Nap

Close your office door or slip out to your car for a quick snooze. Power naps, or “cat naps,” can boost your mood, memory, and productivity. They also increase your alertness and energy while lowering your blood pressure. To get the most out of your siesta, keep it short (10 to 30 minutes), aim for midafternoon, and get comfy (kick of your shoes, loosen tight clothing and darken the room). Can’t take a nap? Opt for an afternoon walk or office-gym workout.

Eat More Mini-Meals

To stay energized all day, you have to eat often. That means shifting away from three big meals toward five to six balanced mini meals. To maintain steady energy levels, pair complex carbs that are high in fiber (e.g., beans, peas, and whole grains) with unsaturated fats (e.g., avocado, walnuts, or mixed greens with olive oil). Add protein, such as lean meat, nuts, fish, and edamame, as an accent rather than as a main dish.

Still Tired? Talk to Your Doctor

If you’ve tried everything under the sun to boost your energy but still feel tired, it’s probably time to make an appointment with your doctor. Share how you’ve been feeling, when your fatigue began, and what factors may be causing it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to find out what treatment options may be available to you.

Fine-Tune Your Focus

A short attention span is a hallmark of adult ADHD. But even those with highly distracted minds can take steps to improve their focus. For starters, ADHD adults can minimize daily distractions, like cleaning up cluttered personal spaces, powering down attention-stealing digital devices, and keeping daily to-do lists to a reasonable (and realistic) length.

Beyond that, there are lifestyle strategies that have a direct impact on the brain’s ability to pay attention:

Catch more ZZZs. Lack of sleep — common in adults with ADHD — worsens daytime fatigue and seriously impairs concentration and productivity. It also messes with learning, memory, executive functioning, and emotional stability. If you have a sleep-deprived ADHD adult in your life, suggest that they talk to their doctor about sleep aids that might help.

Hit the gym. According to research, exercise is a powerful tool to boost attention in adults with or without ADHD. But in ADHD-specific studies, exercise improved impaired attention, impulse control, and executive functioning by enhancing neurological functioning in parts of the brain responsible for these jobs.

Be more Zen. Mindfulness meditation may train the brain to focus better. This ancient mind-quieting technique teaches people to reign in mental chatter and focus on the present moment. Although more research is needed to confirm its specific benefits for ADHD adults, one study did find that meditation boosted neural processes in regions of the brain responsible of sustaining attention.

Eat breakfast. Skipping breakfast leads to low blood sugar later in the day — and that means no fuel for your brain cells. Talk about a recipe for poor focus. According to several studies, eating breakfast improves concentration, mood, learning, memory, and overall cognitive functioning. But watch what you put on your plate. Choose complex carbohydrates like fruit and whole grains, which trigger a slow, steady, attention-sustaining release of blood sugar.

Filter Out Distractions and Interruptions to Improve Memory

Filter Out Distractions and Interruptions to Improve Memory

By Mehmet C. Oz, MD, and Michael F. Roizen, MD

Feeling scatterbrained? If you’re having difficulty focusing on a good book, the nightly news, or even your spouse because the kids, pets, phone, TV, flashing e-mail, and more are driving you to distraction, don’t blame the interruptions. It turns out that a prime reason for midlife concentration lapses and late-life memory problems is an increasing inability to filter out the clutter — both human and digital distractions.

A growing stack of studies shows that although 30-something brains can focus on a topic with laser-beam precision while ignoring multiple distractions, older brains have frayed mental filters that let other information in, no matter how hard they’re trying to concentrate. It’s like looking at the world (or at least that pile of paperwork) through a wide-angle lens that also sees the unwashed dinner dishes, the beautiful sunset, the accountant’s memo, or the article you’ve been meaning to read.

Try This 4-Step Meditation Plan for Sharper Focus

American and Canadian researchers stumbled onto this concentration issue while using MRIs to scan people’s brains as they performed memory-related problem-solving tasks. Older people in the study couldn’t concentrate inside the banging, clanging MRI machines, even when wearing earplugs. Their brain scans revealed the extra mental effort used as they tried to filter out the distracting noise, tipping off researchers to the mental challenges of concentrating.

Here’s how to both minimize age-related distraction problems when you need to focus and how to put them to use when you need to think and see the big picture:

  • Turn off distractions. You can recapture much of your sharp focus by removing distractions when you have to do mental work. Don’t pay bills while watching TV. Turn off the radio when you’re starting an important conversation with your spouse or when you’re loading new software onto your computer.
  • Clear your desk, organize your house. Visual clutter can slow down your mental capacity so that decision-making takes more time and effort. Give your brain cells less to ponder by sweeping unnecessary stuff from your workspace, cooking area, computer desktop, closets, and even your car.

Banish Interruptions: 7 Steps to a More Organized Life

  • Turn distractibility into a mental asset. Harness your well-seasoned brain’s ability to retain lots of information by giving “multisensory learning” a whirl. That’s when you use several senses at once to enhance learning and memory. Instead of reading a long magazine article about the growing list of presidential candidates, watch an in-depth TV show about them. Getting the audio and the visual is an asset in this case.
  • Enjoy seeing the forest, not just the trees. Having a more flexible mental filter in place means you take in more pleasure, too. Whether you’re walking in the woods, biking on the boardwalk, or people-watching, chances are you’re noticing more than you did in your 20s and 30s. Savor it!

Can Food Help You Manage Depression Symptoms?

Interesting articel I found while searching for my previous post.

Can Food Help You Manage Depression Symptoms?

Learn how nutrients in healthy foods can play a role in your major depression treatment plan.

Research shows that several essential nutrients may affect your mood. If you’re being treated for major depression, some ways of eating may even add to the effectiveness of your medications. While it’s difficult to know exactly how much food contributes to your mood and mental health, the evidence is fairly strong for the following nutrients.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids You’ve probably noticed everything from designer cereal to bread, eggs, and milk labeled high in omega-3. “These essential fatty acids are vital to good health in so many ways,” notes Amy Ogle, MS, RD, a San Diego-based dietitian and personal trainer. “They promote healthy cell membranes and help reduce the low-grade inflammation caused by a chronically poor diet, stress, illness, and depression.” With respect to major depression specifically, the omega-3s DHA and EPA seem to be lead players. Your brain’s neural membranes depend on DHA for structure and function, which may help with cell communications.

Good sources of omega-3s include fatty fish, such as salmon, and designer foods fortified with omega-3s.

Vitamin B12 This water-soluble vitamin is important to red blood cell formation and DNA synthesis. It may also help balance the level of neurotransmitters (e.g., serotonin, dopamine) in your brain. In a large study, women age 65 years and older who were deficient in vitamin B12 were two times as likely to be severely depressed as the women who were not deficient.

Good sources of B12 include fortified breakfast cereal and foods of animal origin.

Folate Another water-soluble B vitamin, folate occurs naturally in foods. Folate is required to produce new cells in your body, as well as RNA and DNA. Like B12, folate affects your brain’s neurotransmitters, which play a role in depression. Some research shows that adding a bioactive folate supplement to your depression treatment plan may reduce depression symptoms.

Good sources of folate include fortified grains, leafy green vegetables, and dried beans.

Selenium Selenium is a trace mineral used to make selenoproteins (important antioxidants). In a recent study, women with low dietary intakes of selenium were three times as likely to develop major depression.

Good sources of selenium include seafood, meat, poultry, nuts, and grains from varying regions (soil levels of selenium vary by location).

Other Minerals Minerals such as calcium, iron, and zinc found in a normal diet also support physical and mental vitality. Not getting enough of these nutrients can increase your risk of depression symptoms due to health conditions such as iron-deficient anemia. Be cautious of getting too much of a supplement. Avoid multivitamins and supplements that provide more than 100% of the Daily Value (DV) unless prescribed by your doctor.

Importance of Varied Diet Eating a well-balanced diet with a lot of variety — including 12 ounces of fish or seafood a week — will likely ensure you have sufficient nutrition. For women specifically, certain life stages can make you more vulnerable to depression. “Try to be proactive about protecting your nutrition,” Ogle suggests. “Find exercise options you enjoy.”

Quick Steps to Effortless Creativity

This post, by Belle on March 27, 2012, “Quick Steps to Effortless Creativity” really helped me with my creativity maybe you will find it helpful as well.

We are, by our very nature, creative. Creativity flows through us constantly. Yet when we strain and struggle to be creative, we’re only creating strain and struggle.

So sit back, relax, breathe.

The key to effortless creativity is simple: stop resisting it.

Creativity is as easy as breathing. Surrender to this and you allow your creative nature to shine through. And when you’re straining or stuck again, remember these steps:

3 Quick Steps to Effortless Creativity:

1. Know that you are inherently creative.

“Living Enlightenment is being intense in every moment and responding intuitively to achieve your limitless potential for creativity and joy.” -Paramahamsa Nithyananda

If we begin to believe we’re not creative, then that’s what we’re expecting and creating in our lives. Return to the truth of your inherent creativity. Feel the creative power surging through your veins at every moment. The fact is? There is no atom in your being that is not creative!

2. Don’t judge your creativity. This is the cause of so many of our “blocks.” We think we have to create in a certain way, to a certain standard, with certain tools on certain days! We’re very picky. Instead, accept whatever comes through you without judgement, only love. When you love what comes through for you, when you accept it and welcome it, you remove the blocks and enter the powerful flow of creativity.

You might find yourself getting creative about dinner- and if you let it flow, it’ll flow right through dinner and on to your canvas later. Or, you might find yourself inspired to create a treasure hunt- which will make your writing glitter with unexpected gems.

Don’t limit the ways in which your creativity longs to express itself, and you’ll find it overflowing in all areas of your life.

3. Get playful. If you’re laughing and having fun, your judging, ego nature takes a back seat. Ask yourself, “What’s the most fun and unexpected way I can approach this?” Then take yourself for a wild ride!

The trick here is to do something odd, different, or just plain immature for the sake of having fun! I promise if your first priority is to have fun, your creativity will be a wild horse you can barely keep up with. Turn dinner into a food fight, skip backwards on your way to a stuffy business appointment, make a necklace out of bubblegum “beads”- you get the picture!

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.”  ― Albert Einstein

95 Questions to Help You Find Meaning and Happiness

post written by: Marc

95 Questions to Help You Find Meaning and Happiness

Questions to Help You Find Meaning and Happiness

At the cusp of a new day, week, month or year, most of us take a little time to reflect on our lives by looking back over the past and ahead into the future.  We ponder the successes, failures and standout events that are slowly scripting our life’s story.  This process of self-reflection helps us maintain a conscious awareness of where we’ve been and where we intend to go.  It is pertinent to the organization and preservation of our long-term goals and happiness.

The questions below will help you with this process.  Because when it comes to finding meaning in life, asking the right questions is the answer.

  1. In one sentence, who are you?
  2. Why do you matter?
  3. What is your life motto?
  4. What’s something you have that everyone wants?
  5. What is missing in your life?
  6. What’s been on your mind most lately?
  7. Happiness is a ________?
  8. What stands between you and happiness?
  9. What do you need most right now?
  10. What does the child inside you long for?
  11. What is one thing right now that you are totally sure of?
  12. What’s been bothering you lately?
  13. What are you scared of?
  14. What has fear of failure stopped you from doing?
  15. What will you never give up on?
  16. What do you want to remember forever?
  17. What makes you feel secure?
  18. Which activities make you lose track of time?
  19. What’s the most difficult decision you’ve ever made?
  20. What’s the best decision you’ve ever made?
  21. What are you most grateful for?
  22. What is worth the pain?
  23. In order of importance, how would you rank: happiness, money, love, health, fame?
  24. What is something you’ve always wanted, but don’t yet have?
  25. What was the most defining moment in your life during this past year?
  26. What’s the number one change you need to make in your life in the next twelve months?
  27. What’s the number one thing you want to achieve in the next five years?
  28. What is the biggest motivator in your life right now?
  29. What will you never do?
  30. What’s something you said you’d never do, but have since done?
  31. What’s something new you recently learned about yourself?
  32. What do you sometimes pretend to understand that you really do not?
  33. In one sentence, what do you wish for your future self?
  34. What worries you most about the future?
  35. When you look into the past, what do you miss most?
  36. What’s something from the past that you don’t miss at all?
  37. What recently reminded you of how fast time flies?
  38. What is the biggest challenge you face right now?
  39. In one word, how would you describe your personality?
  40. What never fails to frustrate you?
  41. What are you known for by your friends and family?
  42. What’s something most people don’t know about you?
  43. What’s a common misconception people have about you?
  44. What’s something a lot of people do that you disagree with?
  45. What’s a belief you hold with which many people disagree?
  46. What’s something that’s harder for you than it is for most people?
  47. What are the top three qualities you look for in a friend?
  48. If you had a friend who spoke to you in the same way that you sometimes speak to yourself, how long would you allow that person to be your friend?
  49. When you think of ‘home,’ what, specifically, do you think of?
  50. What’s the most valuable thing you own?
  51. If you had to move 3000 miles away, what would you miss most?
  52. What would make you smile right now?
  53. What do you do when nothing else seems to make you happy?
  54. What do you wish did not exist in your life?
  55. What should you avoid to improve your life?
  56. What is something you would hate to go without for a day?
  57. What’s the biggest lie you once believed was true?
  58. What’s something bad that happened to you that made you stronger?
  59. What’s something nobody could ever steal from you?
  60. What’s something you disliked when you were younger that you truly enjoy today?
  61. What are you glad you quit?
  62. What do you need to spend more time doing?
  63. What are you naturally good at?
  64. What have you been counting or keeping track of recently?
  65. What has the little voice inside your head been saying lately?
  66. What’s something you should always be careful with?
  67. What should always be taken seriously?
  68. What should never be taken seriously?
  69. What are three things you can’t get enough of?
  70. What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?
  71. What fascinates you?
  72. What’s the difference between being alive and truly living?
  73. What’s something you would do every day if you could?
  74. At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive?
  75. Which is worse, failing or never trying?
  76. What makes you feel incomplete?
  77. When did you experience a major turning point in your life?
  78. What or who do you wish you lived closer to?
  79. If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be?
  80. What’s something you know you can count on?
  81. What makes you feel comfortable?
  82. What’s something about you that has never changed?
  83. What will be different about your life in exactly one year?
  84. What mistakes do you make over and over again?
  85. What do you have a hard time saying “no” to?
  86. Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing?
  87. What’s something that used to scare you, but no longer does?
  88. What promise to yourself do you still need to fulfill?
  89. What do you appreciate most about your current situation?
  90. What’s something simple that makes you smile?
  91. So far, what has been the primary focus of your life?
  92. How do you know when it’s time to move on?
  93. What’s something you wish you could do one more time?
  94. When you’re 90-years-old, what will matter to you the most?
  95. What would you regret not fully doing, being, or having in your life?

Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.  And of course, check out our sister site, Thought Questions, for more thought-provoking questions like these.

Photo by: Hartwig HKD