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10 things that might be making you depressed

1 in 5 adults are affected by depression. But why? Are we a generation of inherently sad individuals, or are our lifestyle choices dictating our moods? This article examines 10 of the reasons why you might be feeling depressed...

1.) Grief and traumatic experiences: “Life is a rollercoaster”, as Ronan Keating so aptly put it. And with it, life brings various highs and lows, such as relationship difficulties, financial problems or the death of a family member. Some people will be more resilient to the ‘lows’ than others depending on our personality type (Jones and Kaplan 1975). Sometimes it can be difficult to identify a particular event which might have left us feeling depressed, especially if we have buried our feelings for a long time.

2.) Having a lack of purpose: Research shows that focusing on meaningful goals can buffer the negative effects of stress and other grievances. Without a purpose, our lives can lack a little structure. For example, individuals facing unemployment after years of full time work often report feeling lost. It is important to remember that we don’t have to be saving lives on a daily basis in order to feel a sense of purpose. Focus on the goals which are both meaningful and achievable to you.

3.) Are you getting enough sleep?: If you’re feeling irritable or sluggish on a daily basis, you’re not getting enough sleep. John Steinbeck wrote: “A problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.” He is not entirely wrong. Sleep is a restorative state which allows the body to repair and recharge itself for the day ahead. Experts recommend that adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night…and let’s face it, we need it!

4.) A poor diet: Healthy diets are often seen as a yellow brick road to a desired body image, or a prolonged lifespan. But don’t forget that your diet can have a huge impact on your mood and subsequently the chances of getting depression. Certain foods promote the maintenance of mood levels. Check out our January food blog for more details.

5.) A lack of exercise: Research tells us that if you sit still for more than 7 hours a day, you increase your likelihood of depression. If you’re based in an office, stand up or go for a walk every half an hour. It will not only help boost your mood, but your productivity levels too! Don’t neglect your posture, either. Studies have shown that slouching in your chair can make you feel lethargic and put you in a negative mood. You can calculate your daily sitting time here.

6.) Are you neglecting nature? If you’re feeling depressed, you might be lacking the sunshine hormone, vitamin D. We can get vitamin D from the sun and a number of foods such as red meats and eggs. It is widely recommended that you get at least 15 minutes of natural sunlight a day- but if you’re unable to get outside, your doctor might recommend that you take some vitamin D supplements. Going outdoors can be extremely calming and a time to reflect; also known as ‘ecotherapy’.

7.) Feelings of isolation or loneliness: Ask yourself, “how is my social life?” Relationships can help us in times of worry or stress. Allow yourself some time to spend with your friends, family or partner. But remember, it’s not about the quantity of friends that you have, it’s quality.

A toxic relationship with a friend or partner can be a lot more damaging than not having any friends at all.

If you’ve drifted away from family or school friends, force yourself to start a new hobby. It’s a great way to meet new people who have something in common with you, and it can be very motivating in the long run.

8.) Stress: We often don’t recognize signs of stress, especially if we have been stressed for a long period of time. But if stress isn’t managed effectively, it can not only have drastic effects on our bodies, but on our mental health too. First, identify what makes you stressed. Then, develop some relaxation techniques in order to combat it. We are all different, so try everything until you find out what works for you, and if necessary- see your GP.

9.) Underlying health problems: Mental and physical health are co morbid- in other words, one direct affects the other. Some physical illness increase our chances of depression, for example: physical disabilities which limit our ability to socialize, exercise, or even sleep. Sometimes, other mental health conditions can make us depressed, especially if we don’t realise that we have them in the first place.

10.) Self-criticism: Daniel Radcliffe said: “Being self-critical is good; being self-hating is destructive.” Asking yourself, “why did I do that?”, or “how could I do this better?” can help us to improve as individuals. However, being self-loathing such as saying, “I’m no good at anything” can be damaging to our mental health. Give yourself a break. Smile at yourself in the mirror or write a list of things you’re good at; just be kind to yourself!

Julia Pearce

Mae Julia yn Swyddog Cyfathrebu yn yr Is-adran Meddygaeth Seicolegol a Niwrowyddoniaeth Glinigol ym Mhrifysgol Caerdydd.

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