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

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.

Top Ways to Get Your Energy Back — Now

February 21, 2010 12:00 AM by Mehmet C. Oz, MD, and Michael F. Roizen, MD

You’re grumpy at the groundhog (who needed extra weeks of winter?) and a little short with your spouse, and you have been spending more time with the mac-and-cheese casserole than the treadmill. Winter can do that. But it doesn’t have to. Use these strategies to cuff the classic energy thieves that are still hanging around this time of year, and get your mojo back before spring hits:

Energy thief #1: Short, dark days.
What happens: Short days can cause seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — neurochemical changes in your brain due to lack of sunlight. This results in depression in up to 6% of Americans (the further north you go, the more likely you are to be a SAD sufferer). From late fall until spring, people with SAD become depressed, sleep too much, withdraw from friends, and battle low energy and relentless carb cravings.
Turn it around: Light therapy — sitting in front of a special box that shines ultra bright lights — has long been considered to be the best way to combat SAD. But a new University of Vermont study reveals that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) may be even better. CBT is a type of psychotherapy that helps people outsmart depression by teaching them to change their negative ways of thinking. In fact, in this study, CBT alone was able to stomp out SAD with a success rate of 81% (compared with 49% for CBT plus light therapy and 32% for light therapy alone). Why wouldn’t more therapies be better? Researchers surmise that trying to balance two therapies was just too confusing, but CBT alone allowed people to focus on the coping skills they needed to banish their winter blues.

Energy thief #2: You can’t get enough comfort.
What happens: When the mercury heads south, we crave calories, carbs (they help our brains make the calming neurotransmitter serotonin), and fat. In fact, a 2006 University of Massachusetts Medical School study found that once the days become shorter, we pack away an average of 86 extra calories a day and weigh more than at any other time of year. We also snarf down more total and artery-clogging saturated fat.
Turn it around: Just cozy up to good-for-you carbs and healthy omega-3 and omega-9 fats that will satisfy your biology and your brain without packing on a gratuitous layer of blubber.

Trade meatloaf and pot roast for hearty whole grains like whole-wheat pasta and brown rice, or try polenta, a veggie burger, or salmon. Or warm up with a satisfying bean-based vegetable chili or Tuscan white bean soup. Since beans and whole grains are digested slowly, they’ll keep you full longer, so you’ll eat less overall. And if it seems like there are slim pickings in the produce department, now is actually the prime time to load up on nutrient-packed starches, including sweet potatoes and winter squash (roast or bake them with a drizzle of olive oil). Finish your feast with seasonal winter fruit (think apples, pears, oranges, grapefruit, and tangerines, or even frozen berries) topped with a sprinkle of heart-healthy walnuts or almonds and you’ll get all the carbs and fats your body craves — but you’ll do it the healthy way.

Energy thief #3: You stay in. On the couch.
What happens: Your workout plan bites the dust. We log less exercise in winter than any other time of year, with a paltry 45% of Americans and 36% of Canadians keeping active. Pretty ironic, since exercise can lift you out of the winter doldrums by boosting energy, improving mood, and helping you sleep better.
Turn it around: Start with your schedule. Make regular exercise appointments on your calendar the same way you’d ink in any other non-negotiable activity. But give yourself a bit of a break: Don’t think exercise needs to be a hard-core trip to the gym. Taking the dog for an extra-long walk or doing crunches and lifting weights in front of the TV count, too. 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.

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.”

Foods That Fight Pain

After posting my previous post on Chronic Pain. I started to do a little more reseach and found some interesting stuff.  As we all know, what you eat can help or hurt you.  I have found out that if I load up with vitamine C mainly in fruits I can manage my depression much better.  So I was wondering if other foods can help relief pain.  I found some soothing foods one should include in there chronic-pain-management strategy.  Afterall we all need to eat, it’s worth a try.

Whole grains are a good source of magnesium, a mineral that has been shown in aimal studies to short-circuit muscle pain.

When it comes to spices with potential pain-relieving properties, go for the gold: ginger and turmeric. Ginger contains a quartet of substances (gingerols, paradols, shogaols, and zingerone) that have analgesic qualities similar to aspirin or ibuprofen.

Turmeric — a spice used in Indian and Thai curry dishes — contains curcumin, another ginger-family member that may also help nip pain in the bud.

Strawberries are chock-full of vitamin C, an antioxidant with powerful pain-reducing properties, according to research. Some studies suggest vitamin C may help people experience less pain after breaking a bone or having orthopedic surgery.

Spinach or arugula salad for a jolt of vitamin K. Vitamin K also helps maintain strong bones and healthy joints. In one study, older adults with ample blood levels of K were less likely to develop osteoarthritis, compared to a low-in-K control group.

Yogurt and other dairy foods contain two bone-building nutrients: calcium and vitamin D. Not only does vitamin D do more than buoy bone strength, it may also play a role in diminishing chronic pain, according to some study findings.

The resveratrol in wine, grapes, and grape juice may have an analgesic effect similar to aspirin, according to a handful of animal studies. But if you add resveratrol to your list of pain-busting nutrients, just watch how much of it you get from red wine. Experts recommend no more than one daily glass of wine for women, men can get a little more.

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