Wednesday, March 20, 2013

From Depression to Happiness - A Journey of 1,000 Miles Begins With a Single Step

It seems like everyone knows someone who has been diagnosed as depressed or who may not be clinically depressed but still experiences sadness from time to time. For a lot of depression sufferers, symptoms include loss of pleasure, loss of appetite, low energy and lethargy, guilt, sleep disturbance, negative self-image and irritability. How constant these symptoms are in one's life, and how strong they are, will determine the level of depression. Depression robs the brain of a chemical called dopamine, and that could be what prevents a person from any feeling of pleasure and happiness.

Get a dose of ancient Chinese wisdom

So, what should you do if you are depressed? Focus on taking the first step. There is a common Chinese saying, "A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step." This is wisdom from 5,000 years ago, based on the spiritual classic Tao Te Ching written by Lao Tzu. These days, depression is so prevalent, it has been called "the common cold of mental illness." Like other problems we face, feeling depressed could be overwhelming and seem like a such "messy" thing you don't know how to address it. Using Lao Tzu's wisdom, why not take one small first step first to address this. It can stop the downward spiral and provide momentum for things to turn around.

For example, as a first step, understand that depression is a treatable illness. If your depression symptoms are strong to intense, and you know that depression is a treatable illness, then you may be motivated to go for an appointment with a qualified health practitioner or mental health professional. The sooner you do this before the condition worsens, the easier it is to reverse the downward spiral. Check with the doctor, psychologist or therapist on what the best treatment options are and then choose a plan of action to address the situation.

Sometimes, you may just feel sad as you are had a bad episode come up and your symptoms are not persistent or severe enough to warrant seeing a doctor or therapist. In that case, you can just focus on taking a first step to uplift yourself. Make it a step that is small, doable and fun. Here is one simple suggestion - go for a short 10 minute walk. Psychologists and therapists working with patients know the benefits of getting your body in motion. You brain will start stimulating more neurotransmitters and neuromodulaters like dopamine and norepinephrine, and that will help you to feel better. Not to mention the positive effect of the sun and fresh air depending on the time of day and where you are walking.

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