Month: November 2015

Five Things You Should Know About the Holiday Blues

Image courtesy Pixabay.comAre you looking forward to a happy holiday season, or are you gearing up for a stretch of sadness and stress that won’t let up until 2016? Not being excited for the end-of-year holidays doesn’t make you a grinch–many people experience the “holiday blues,” a worsened mood linked to the stressful period surrounding holidays such as Christmas.

Kathleen Doheny at Everyday Health spoke to a number of psychologists, who gave their best advice as to how to manage the holiday blues.

1. Don’t confuse the cause. “Holiday blues” are frequently confused with SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, a condition in which decreased mood is linked to the winter season. But SAD and holiday blues have entirely different causes. SAD is thought to be your body and brain’s response to getting less sunlight during the winter months; the holiday blues are specifically linked to the cultural context of Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s, and other holidays.

2. Don’t get caught up in expectations. People can have complex emotional associations with the holidays, both positive and negative. Try to temper both the good and bad expectations, and go into the holidays with a neutral attitude. It’s okay if it doesn’t turn out to be the most wonderful time of the year; at the same time, there’s no reason to expect that it’s going to be a trainwreck. Take your feelings as they come, rather than writing a script and trying to follow it.

3. What’s the plan? At the same time, think about what you can do to make your holiday plans as easy as possible. You’ll find that this is easier if you accept that your holidays don’t have to be perfect, or the same as previous years. You have more control than you think you do. You don’t have to accept every invitation you’re given, and if you don’t have anything to do with friends and family, there are plenty of things you can do other than sitting around at home. If you go to a dinner party, you don’t have to be the first to arrive and the last to leave. See if you can’t sit closer to the people you’re more comfortable around, and farther away from the people who stress you out. Make sure that you’re feeling okay before falling into other people’s plans for you. It’s not rude to want to feel safe and relaxed.

4. Practice mindfulness. During the holidays, even when we can’t control the actions of the people around us, we have some control over how we react. Try and accept both your good and bad feelings, and allow the bad to pass you by without holding on to them. It takes some practice, but you’ll find you can be positive and realistic at the same time.

5. Don’t compare your life with others. People tend to present a certain vision of themselves during the holiday season. Some people choose to emphasize their religious devotion, others their bond with their family, and others their economic success; all of these people want to frame themselves in a positive light that fits a special time of the year. Christmas cards and social media create a filtered version of reality that sometimes makes it seem like everyone else is happier and more successful than you.

Remember that many of these people, deep down, are going through the same experiences as you are. The stress of the holiday blues affects us even when we’re surrounded by our loved ones, posing for that Christmas card. Try not to compare your actual, lived experience to other people’s photographs and Facebook updates. Take a break from social media until the holidays blow over, and focus instead on your own life and your own holiday experience.

Are you or a loved one experiencing depression? See if you qualify for Lincoln’s clinical research study on depression today!

 

Six Things You Never Knew Could Affect Your Depression

lake-nyon-eva-mediumEven with proper treatment, battling depression can be a constant struggle. Even with the help of a medical professional, it can be hard to know how to help your mind prevent, or keep from prolonging, depressed episodes. Pamela D.H. Gardy, Ph.D., writing for PsychToday, has outlined a number of little-known factors that might tip the balance between healthy recovery and ongoing depression.

1. Blaming others. It’s good to be mindful of the ways that your relationships can impact your depression, for good or for ill. However, thinking of another person as the root cause of your depression can be an obstacle to recovery.

Unless you’re in an abusive relationship, it’s unlikely that correcting someone else’s words or actions will help end your depression. Instead, think of the “inner conversations” in your own head. How can you change those to benefit your mood?

2. Explanatory Style. Optimism (or even realism) can be difficult when you’re experiencing a depressed mood. However, you’re still in control of the way you explain things–both to yourself and to other people.

Think of it like you’ve been assigned the side of optimism in a debate. How can you present the facts as they are in a positive light?

3. Vitamin D Deficiency. If you’re feeling depressed, try asking your physician to rule out Vitamin D deficiency, which can mimic depression or worsen depression symptoms.

4. Hypothyroidism. Like Vitamin D deficiency, this is a physiological symptom that has a large effect on mood, and that can be (relatively) easily corrected.

5. Isolation and a lack of cognitive challenge. Depression often makes people want to withdraw, but spending too much time alone can only worsen depression. Obviously social engagement makes most people happier, and social peers are likely to challenge your negative thought processes in a way that’s hard to do for yourself.

6. Moving around. Spending all day sitting still and staring at a screen doesn’t stimulate the nervous system in the way that the brain needs. Even substituting a rocking chair, or a mobile office chair, can help offset the lack of stimulation that comes with a computer- or TV-centric lifestyle.

Exercise is a great way to combat mental illness, but that isn’t always easy advice to take. Even much less pronounced activity and movement can stop your depression from worsening.

Do you or a loved one suffer from depression? See if you qualify for Lincoln’s clinical research study on depression today!

Using Neuroscience to Boost Your Hapiness

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People who suffer from depression often get a lot of unsolicited advice on how to be happy, usually from people who have never been depressed. Most depressed people are tired of hearing that they need to “stop and smell the roses” or “look on the bright side.” Dr. Alex Korb at PsychToday has five pieces of advice based on real neuroscience, and that aren’t too strenuous for many depression patients who may have trouble with motivation.

1. Get sunlight. Especially during the warm months, your brain will respond positively to being out in the sun.

2. Move around. Many people recommend that depressed patients launch into an intensive exercise routine; however, you can get many of the same benefits just by taking a walk now and then, or staying on your feet for most of the day.

3. Stretch. Muscle tightness and soreness creates a negative feedback loop with your brain. Stay limber.

4. Get a massage. If you can’t afford a massage, ask a friend for a hug. Neurochemically speaking, hugs combined with stretching provide most of the benefits of a professional massage.

5. Breathe deeply. Much like exercise, depression treatment often calls for lengthy meditation exercises that can be difficult to adhere to. A few slow, deep breaths now and then are a great, low-effort substitute.

None of these tricks are likely to cure depression entirely, but they may serve as stepping stones toward a healthier, happier daily routine.

Do you or a loved one suffer from depression? See if you qualify for Lincoln’s clinical research study on depression today!

Is My Decreased Sexual Desire Caused by Depression?

Photo courtesy of: freedigitalphotos.net/ by David Castillo Dominici

Photo courtesy of: freedigitalphotos.net/ by David Castillo Dominici

Hyposexual Desire Disorder (HSDD) and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) both affect many women. As many as 33% of women may experience low or no sex drive at some point in their adult lives–and 30% of women with HSDD also exhibit symptoms of depression.

So while most women with HSDD aren’t suffering from depression, a reduction in sex drive might be a good reason to start examining your thoughts and behaviors for depression-like symptoms. People who are depressed lose interest in many things that they enjoy, or even that their body needs–including food and sleep as well as sex.

If you’re suffering from decreased sexual desire, ask yourself these three questions:

  • Am I eating well?
  • Am I sleeping well?
  • Am I taking pleasure in most of the activities I normally enjoy?

If you answer “no” to these questions, the change in your sex drive may be caused by depression. Hopefully this will guide you to seek out the appropriate professionals for the proper treatment. It’s worth noting that many treatments for depression cause low libido as a side effect, so treating your depression might not necessarily lead to an increase in your sexual desire.

Medical treatment is not always the answer for HSDD. If your lack of interest in sex doesn’t cause you any distress, there’s no need to seek a change. If you do want to seek a change, these changes can be behavioral. This might be a good time to decide what kind of sexual encounters you want in your life; conventional masturbation and heterosexual intercourse may not be right for you. There are as many ways to seek sexual satisfaction as there are people in the world. Be attentive to your own desires.

Do you or a loved one suffer from depression, or from decreased sexual desire? See if you qualify for one of Lincoln Research’s clinical research studies!

Source: Beth Orenstein, Everyday Health

7 Ways to Turn Happy Moments Into Lasting Contentment

girl-690614_1280Suffering from depression doesn’t mean you never experience happiness. But people who are depressed often find that the moments of happiness in their lives are gone almost as soon as they come.

A new experiment conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin has found that the longer you can hold onto a good feeling–even if it’s only a matter of seconds–the happier you will be in the long term. Dr. David Sack at Psychology Today has compiled a list of tricks to help prolong those happy moments, and put you on the road to long-term recovery.

1. Be mindful–Mindfulness just means paying attention to the moment. When you have a positive emotion, center yourself within that emotion instead of just moving on to the next thing.

2. Think of past and future joy–Getting stuck in a moment isn’t as helpful when the moment isn’t a happy one. At these times, try to remember previous moments of happiness, or anticipate happiness to come.

3. Share your feelings–Tell your friends and family about the things that make you feel good. It’s a way of getting that feeling out of your own head and planting it into the world.

4. Express yourself nonverbally–Don’t be ashamed to laugh or smile. Allow the feelings in your heart to spread to your body.

5. Be aware of your own habits–Some personality types have a habit of always thinking of ways an experience could be better, rather than accepting the happiness that an experience gives them. If this describes you, try to let go and be a little less critical sometimes.

6. Learn to love yourself–If you have low self-esteem, you might not feel that you deserve happiness. Once you learn that you deserve happiness as much as anyone, you can truly own the good feelings that come your way.

7. Count your blessings–This doesn’t mean you need to sit and think of how much worse things could be. What’s specific to your life that you feel lucky about? Use that as a jumping-off point to try and make your life even better.

Do you or a loved one suffer from depression? See if you qualify for Lincoln’s clinical research study on depression today!

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