The winter months are often a terribly depressing time for Canadians. The lack of sunshine alone can lead to decreased energy levels, a loss of interest in daily activities and the need for additional sleep.
But what if you're still feeling depressed once spring arrives and the warm weather and sunshine beckons you outdoors?
Although we may casually refer to "feeling depressed" during a momentary unhappy time in our life, individuals who suffer from prolonged depression feel sad and empty to the point that their feelings impair their day-to-day activities and interactions with other people.
In 2002, Statistics Canada reported that approximately 8% of adult Canadians experience a major depression at some point in their lives. Depression and anxiety continues to be Canada's fastest-rising diagnosis. From 1994 to 2004, the number of visits made by Canadians to office-based doctors for depression and anxiety almost doubled-a staggering 11.6 million people in 2003.
And while medication may be necessary in cases of clinical depression, it needn't be your first line of defense if your altered mood is a result of a variety of negative experiences you've suffered in your day-to-day life and you find yourself in a downward spiral.
Sure, if you're looking for a quick fix, antidepressants may work in the short term. But if you'd like to make a significant long-lasting change in your life, you have to be willing to make a significant long-lasting change in you the way you think- changing negative thought patterns into positive ones.
It's been my observation that depression and low self-esteem go hand-in-hand. People with high self esteem feel confident about themselves and have positive thought patterns; whereas those who suffer from low self esteem often experience feelings of shame, guilt or self-doubt-negative thought patterns.
Most of my clients come to me at a time of depression. They've felt lost, lonely, abandoned and neglected for most of their life. As a life coach, I believe in self-awareness and emotional intelligence. What does this have to do with depression? Well, before you can change your negative thought patterns, you need to learn who you are. To do this, I work with each of my clients and explore their behaviours-both positive and negative. Through this process we learn who they are: their values, strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. And then we use that information to set goals.
One depression-fighting strategy I encourage my clients to adopt is a regular exercise routine. Medically proven to boost your mood and lower rates of depression, exercise removes the buildup of stress hormones in the body, allowing you to sleep and concentrate better. When you exercise, your body produces endorphins, or feel-good chemicals, and leaves you feeling happier even after you've stopped. And with more oxygen flowing through your red blood cells, you become more receptive to new ideas and ready to take on more challenges.
In addition, maintaining a regular exercise routine provides a structure and focus in your life as you set and meet new goals. The accomplishment of these goals-no matter how big or how small-leads to a sense of achievement and improved self-confidence and self-esteem.
Using exercise as a way to combat depression is not a new strategy, nor is it the only method you'll need to employ in your journey to better mental health. But making exercise a priority in your life will bring you one step closer to the ultimate goal of a healthy mind, body and soul.