What Is Focused Meditation
Meditation is the practice of becoming self-aware through breath and attention to connect the mind, body, and spirit.Meditation as a whole can change the structure and function of our brain. That being said, focused meditation or a guided meditation for focus is by far the best one. Meditation for focus and concentration can come in different forms. Experienced meditators use the following:
- Mindfulness this meditation involves us to be focusing on your breath and observing thoughts. This allows us to focus on our feelings without becoming too absorbed in them.
- Concentrative a meditation that gets us to focus on a particular point be it a word, breath, object, or a point in the space youre meditating. This is meant for us to pay attention to that point and prevent our minds from getting distracted.
- Moving this meditation involves gets us to focus on slow and repetitive movements similar to yoga or tai chi. The goal is again to be focusing on your breath while relaxing your body and mind with the movements.
Focused meditation, also known as concentrative meditation, is the practice of meditating and bringing your attention to one single object. This object can be something practical and tangible, such as a mandala painting or a candle flame. It can also be something abstract, such as a phrase or a sound .
Tip : Eat A Healthy Depression
What you eat has a direct impact on the way you feel. Reduce your intake of foods that can adversely affect your brain and mood, such as caffeine, alcohol, trans fats, and foods with high levels of chemical preservatives or hormones .
Dont skip meals. Going too long between meals can make you feel irritable and tired, so aim to eat something at least every three to four hours.
Minimize sugar and refined carbs. You may crave sugary snacks, baked goods, or comfort foods such as pasta or French fries, but these feel-good foods quickly lead to a crash in mood and energy. Aim to cut out as much of these foods as possible.
Boost your B vitamins. Deficiencies in B vitamins such as folic acid and B-12 can trigger depression. To get more, take a B-complex vitamin supplement or eat more citrus fruit, leafy greens, beans, chicken, and eggs.
Boost your mood with foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.Omega-3 fatty acids play an essential role in stabilizing mood. The best sources are fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, tuna, and some cold-water fish oil supplements.
Can Depression Be Prevented
You can help prevent depression by getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet and practicing regular self-care activities such as exercise, meditation and yoga.
If youve had depression before, you may be more likely to experience it again. If you have depression symptoms, get help. Care can help you feel better sooner.
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Find Something To Look Forward To
This is a technique I routinely use as an anti-blues vaccination. When Im down I search for something to put on the calendar that makes me happy and excited. Indeed, this 2007 study showed that people get an emotional lift when they contemplate a future fun event, versus looking back on a fabulous activity from the past. Book a trip, buy concert tickets, plan a partywhatever brings a flush to your cheeks and rumble of joy to your belly. My biggest mood-turnarounds arise when I begin a project that can potentially create some good in the world and lead to fulfilling connections. For example, Ive volunteered as a mentor to underserved young women who want to write, sought publishing contracts to write a book, taught workshops, submitted a video to do a TedX talk . The point is: stop continually telling yourself nothing good will ever again happenyouve been there, seen that, done that.
The Upshot: Depression is a diagnosable and treatable condition. Theres no reason to suffer in silence, or to guess whether or not what youre feeling qualifies as depression. Your primary care physician can help direct you to someone who specializes in mental health. In the meantime, heres a guide to the signs and symptoms and a quick assessment quiz. You can also download one of these mental health apps for more information.
*Names of patients are changed
Try These Five Tips For Decreasing Depression
There isnt a quick fix as in Boom, youre cured and will never again be beset by the blues. But, there are techniques that can help lift the emotional paralysis and ruminating that often accompany depression. Both of which make it much more difficult to focus on the behavioral changes that are necessary to prevent a relapse. Luckily, there are ways to punch holes in the curtain of unrelenting darkness.
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Where Can I Find Clinical Trials For Depression
Clinical trials are research studies that look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat diseases and conditions. Although individuals may benefit from being part of a clinical trial, participants should be aware that the primary purpose of a clinical trial is to gain new scientific knowledge so others may receive better help in the future.
Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health and around the country conduct many studies with patients and healthy volunteers. Talk to your health care provider about clinical trials, their benefits and risks, and whether one is right for you. For more information, visit NIMH’s clinical trials information.
Early Losses And Trauma
Certain events can have lasting physical, as well as emotional, consequences. Researchers have found that early losses and emotional trauma may leave individuals more vulnerable to depression later in life.
Profound early losses, such as the death of a parent or the withdrawal of a loved one’s affection, may resonate throughout life, eventually expressing themselves as depression. When an individual is unaware of the wellspring of his or her illness, he or she can’t easily move past the depression. Moreover, unless the person gains a conscious understanding of the source of the condition, later losses or disappointments may trigger its return.
Traumas may also be indelibly etched on the psyche. A small but intriguing study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that women who were abused physically or sexually as children had more extreme stress responses than women who had not been abused. The women had higher levels of the stress hormones ACTH and cortisol, and their hearts beat faster when they performed stressful tasks, such as working out mathematical equations or speaking in front of an audience.
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Regions That Affect Mood
Increasingly sophisticated forms of brain imaging such as positron emission tomography , single-photon emission computed tomography , and functional magnetic resonance imaging permit a much closer look at the working brain than was possible in the past. An fMRI scan, for example, can track changes that take place when a region of the brain responds during various tasks. A PET or SPECT scan can map the brain by measuring the distribution and density of neurotransmitter receptors in certain areas.
Use of this technology has led to a better understanding of which brain regions regulate mood and how other functions, such as memory, may be affected by depression. Areas that play a significant role in depression are the amygdala, the thalamus, and the hippocampus .
Research shows that the hippocampus is smaller in some depressed people. For example, in one fMRI study published in The Journal of Neuroscience, investigators studied 24 women who had a history of depression. On average, the hippocampus was 9% to 13% smaller in depressed women compared with those who were not depressed. The more bouts of depression a woman had, the smaller the hippocampus. Stress, which plays a role in depression, may be a key factor here, since experts believe stress can suppress the production of new neurons in the hippocampus.
Depression Can Be Treated
Even the most severe cases of depression can be treated. Depression is commonly treated with medication, psychotherapy , or a combination of the two.
Antidepressants are medications commonly used to treat depression. People respond differently to antidepressants, and you may need to try different medicines to find the one that works best. Researchers also are studying and developing other medications for depression, such as brexanolone for postpartum depression, and esketamine. You can learn about recent developments on these and other medications at NIMH’s Science News webpage under the topic Treatments.
There are many different types of psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or interpersonal therapy. The particular approach a therapist uses depends on the condition being treated and the training and experience of the therapist. Therapists also may combine and adapt elements of different approaches.
Depression affects each individual differently. There is no one-size-fits-all for treatment. It may take some trial and error to find the treatment that works best. You can learn more about the different types of depression treatment, including psychotherapy, medication, and brain stimulation therapies, on the NIMHs webpage about depression. Visit the Food and Drug Administration website for the latest information on warnings, patient medication guides, and newly approved medications.
What to Consider When Looking for a Therapist
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What Are The Different Types Of Depression
Two common forms of depression are:
- Major depression, which includes symptoms of depression most of the time for at least 2 weeks that typically interfere with ones ability to work, sleep, study, and eat.
- Persistent depressive disorder , which often includes less severe symptoms of depression that last much longer, typically for at least 2 years.
Other forms of depression include:
- Perinatal depression, which occurs when a woman experiences major depression during pregnancy or after delivery .
- Seasonal affective disorder, which comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in late fall and early winter and going away during spring and summer.
- Depression with symptoms of psychosis, which is a severe form of depression where a person experiences psychosis symptoms, such as delusions or hallucinations .
Individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder also experience depression.
Major Or Clinical Depression
Major depression is much less common than mild or moderate and is characterized by severe, relentless symptoms.
- Left untreated, major depressive disorder typically lasts for about six months.
- Some people experience just a single depressive episode in their lifetime, but major depression can be a recurring disorder.
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Onset Of Depression More Complex Than A Brain Chemical Imbalance
It’s often said that depression results from a chemical imbalance, but that figure of speech doesn’t capture how complex the disease is. Research suggests that depression doesn’t spring from simply having too much or too little of certain brain chemicals. Rather, there are many possible causes of depression, including faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, medications, and medical problems. It’s believed that several of these forces interact to bring on depression.
To be sure, chemicals are involved in this process, but it is not a simple matter of one chemical being too low and another too high. Rather, many chemicals are involved, working both inside and outside nerve cells. There are millions, even billions, of chemical reactions that make up the dynamic system that is responsible for your mood, perceptions, and how you experience life.
With this level of complexity, you can see how two people might have similar symptoms of depression, but the problem on the inside, and therefore what treatments will work best, may be entirely different.
What follows is an overview of the current understanding of the major factors believed to play a role in the causes of depression.
Personal Factors That Can Lead To Depression
Personal factors that can lead to a risk of depression include:
- family history depression can run in families and some people will be at an increased genetic risk. However, this doesnt mean that a person will automatically experience depression if a parent or close relative has had the condition.
- personality some people may be more at risk because of their personality, particularly if they tend to worry a lot, have low self-esteem, are perfectionists, are sensitive to personal criticism, or are self-critical and negative
- serious medical conditions these can trigger depression in two ways. Serious conditions can bring about depression directly or can contribute to depression through the associated stress and worry, especially if it involves long-term management of a condition or chronic pain
- drug and alcohol use can both lead to and result from depression. Many people with depression also have drug and alcohol problems.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Depression
Depression can affect your emotions, mind and body. Depression symptoms include:
- Feeling very sad, hopeless or worried.
- Not enjoying things that used to give you joy.
- Being easily irritated or frustrated.
- Eating too much or too little.
- Changes in how much you sleep.
- Having a difficult time concentrating or remembering things.
- Experiencing physical problems like headache, stomachache or sexual dysfunction.
- Thinking about hurting or killing yourself.
If you or someone you know has thoughts of hurting themselves, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.8255. This national network of local crisis centers provides free, private emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
There’s No One Reason For Depression
Lots of things influence whether a person gets depressed. Some of it is biology things like our genes, brain chemistry, and hormones. Some is environment, including daylight and seasons, or social and family situations we face. And some is personality, like how we react to life events or the support systems we create for ourselves. All these things can help shape whether or not a person becomes depressed.
Research shows that depression runs in families. Some people inherit genes that contribute to depression. But not everyone who has a family member with depression will develop it too. And many people with no family history of depression still get depressed. So genes are one factor, but they aren’t the only reason for depression.
Chemicals called neurotransmitters help send messages between nerve cells in the brain. Some neurotransmitters regulate mood. When a person is depressed, these neurotransmitters might be in low supply or not effective enough.
Genes and brain chemistry can be connected: Having the genes for depression may make a person more likely to have the neurotransmitter problem that is part of depression.
Stress, Health, and Hormones
Things like stress, using alcohol or drugs, and hormone changes also affect the brain’s delicate chemistry and mood.
Getting enough sleep and regular exercise often has a positive effect on neurotransmitter activity and mood.
Daylight and Seasons
Family and Social Environment
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How Is Depression Diagnosed
To be diagnosed with depression, an individual must have five depression symptoms every day, nearly all day, for at least 2 weeks. One of the symptoms must be a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities. Children and adolescents may be irritable rather than sad.
If you think you may have depression, talk to your health care provider. Primary care providers routinely diagnose and treat depression and refer individuals to mental health professionals, such as psychologists or psychiatrists.
During the visit, your provider may ask when your symptoms began, how long they last, how often they occur, and if they keep you from going out or doing your usual activities. It may help to make some notes about your symptoms before your visit. Certain medications and some medical conditions, such as viruses or a thyroid disorder, can cause the same depression symptoms. Your provider can rule out these possibilities by doing a physical exam, interview, and lab tests.
Read NIMHs Tips for Talking With Your Health Care Provider to help prepare for and get the most out of your visit. For additional resources, visit the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality website.
Ways To Manage Clinical Depression
Someone recently said to me:
Your tips are fine for those who struggle with mild to moderate depression. But what about if you cant get out of bed youre so depressed? What would you say to those who are really ill?
Shes absolutely right. Suggestions to improve ones mood and to pursue healthy living should vary from tips on how to stop crying. I understand that merely getting through the day is an act of triumph when you are buried in the deep hole of depression.
Since I have been there, more than once where staying alive consumes all of your energy I thought Id share with you what has helped me.
1. Just keep going.
My mom once told me, You cant wait for the storm to be over you have to learn how to dance in the rain. That is appropriate for a day, week, or lifetime weighted down by severe depression. Dancing in the rain demands perseverance and courage going forward despite the evidence of difficulty and forecast of doom. It means not ending your life, even as death appears to be the only and ultimate relief. It requires the kind of courage that Mary Anne Rademacher describes when she says, Courage doesnt always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says Ill try again tomorrow. And it is fear holding on a minute longer .
3. Go gentle.
4. Stop trying.
5. Read Styron.
6. Distract yourself.
7. Revisit your strengths.
Last medically reviewed on August 14, 2013
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