3 Ancient Practices to Fight Depression
Blog by Skyler Norris
Morgan Family YMCA
If you have experienced depression, you are not alone. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 18.1% of adults in America battle with depression. To put that in perspective, that’s 40 million people! But there is a silver lining. With so many people needing mental health support, the amount of research and development in medicine and other fields to find remedies and prevention techniques has skyrocketed, providing more options than ever. Some of this research has actually led us back to some ancient practices that have benefited people for thousands of years. Here are three practices that you can add to your depression treatment and prevention plan:
1. Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness Meditation is the psychological process of paying attention to the experience of the present moment with open curiosity and a willingness to be with what is. Although meditation is most commonly associated with Buddhism, elements of meditation can be found in many faith and non-faith traditions throughout history. And now the research seems to be catching up to what people have been practicing for centuries.
According to the Mindfulness Research Collaborative, a division of Harvard Medical School, mindfulness not only can help with depression, but also with anxiety, addiction, sleep, and weight loss. At the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties, we are working to meet the need for mindfulness practices with workshops and groups where you can learn the basics of mindfulness, what it can do for you, and practical techniques to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life.
Depression can often lead to isolation. Or does isolation lead to depression? Either way, depression and loneliness go hand in hand. Finding a supportive community that gives you a sense of belonging is a great way to feel less lonely. The importance of being in community is stressed in many religious and philosophical texts dating back thousands of years. Additionally, research has shown that group settings are beneficial for people dealing with life challenges. At the Y, we offer small groups like Journey to Freedom, which combine Christian principles and behavioral research in a group setting to find hope, healing, and restoration.
Exercise and its importance as it relates to spiritual and emotional health has been part of many cultural and religious teachings throughout history. The Bible, for instance, includes Proverbs prescribing exercise as well as countless references in the New Testament to athletic training being similar to the training of our spirit and our mind. Elsewhere, in the Far East, the practice of yoga dates back to around 3300 B.C.
Now, research is proving that exercise can be a powerful tool to prevent and treat depression. According to Dr. Michael Craig Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, “for some people, it works as well as antidepressants.” This is due to the fact that exercise releases endorphins, improves nerve cell connections, and affects the part of the brain that regulates your mood. And, as Dr. Miller points out, “this is a long-term treatment, not a onetime fix.”
In addition to support from our knowledgeable Health and Well-being coaches, Fitness Orientations, and personal trainers for your individual workout needs, the YMCA also offers over 200 weekly drop-in group exercise classes, which are an excellent way to get into community and maintain an exercise routine.