How Focusing on Your Faith Can Help with Depression & Anxiety

By | Depression | No Comments

It has long been believed that having faith is key to getting through some of life’s greatest challenges. A spiritual practice can often give people the strength and confidence to push through obstacles and make positive changes.

But can faith have a positive effect on depression and anxiety? According to new research, it can.

Your Brain on Spirituality

According to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, meditation or any other form of regular spiritual practice (such as prayer or religious contemplation) has been linked to a thickening of the brain cortex. The study, which was the first to investigate whether there is any physical evidence in the brain linked to the protective effects of faith against depression, looked at 103 adults at either high or low risk of depression, based on family history.

At the end of the study, magnetic resonance was used to view participants’ brains, and the images clearly showed thicker cortices in those participants who placed a high importance on religion or spirituality than those who did not.

But even more significant was the fact that the thicker cortex was found in exactly the same regions of the brain that had shown thinning in people with a high risk for depression.

3 Ways Faith Can Help You Fight Depression and Anxiety

Every individual requires unique treatment methods to combat their symptoms of depression. While cognitive behavioral therapy and prescription medications work well for many people, many others may be helped by embracing a spiritual practice.

If you are suffering with depression, here are three reasons why you may want to focus more on your faith:

1. Faith Offers Hope

A belief in a loving power greater than ourselves can help us feel hopeful, even in our darkest hours. Faith turns wishful thinking into great expectations. And when we start to expect goodness in our lives, we naturally feel hopeful for our future.

2. Your Behaviors Evolve

Whether it’s through praying, meditating, or attending some sort of spiritual service or gathering, faith-filled people tend to experience positive changes in their attitudes and behaviors. Where once you may have had a knee-jerk emotional reaction to a situation, you might now be able to center yourself instead and face situations with calmness and clarity.

3. Your Perception Changes

Faith has a way of helping us see ourselves and our lives differently. Problems turn into opportunities, enemies into friends, and impossibilities into possibilities.

 

While it may take some time before you feel relief from your depression or anxiety, by embracing faith, you will be better able to cope with the symptoms.

If you or a loved one are suffering from depression or anxiety and would also like to explore treatment options, please reach out. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

SOURCES

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/living-the-questions/201603/4-powerful-ways-spirituality-can-ease-anxiety-and-depression

https://psychcentral.com/news/2018/07/31/for-many-with-severe-mental-illness-spirituality-plays-role-in-well-being/137462.html

https://psychcentral.com/news/2014/01/19/how-spirituality-protects-the-brain-against-depression/64698.html

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/1792140

Finding the Sweet Spot: Is Your Child Over-Scheduled?

By | Adolescents/Teens, Children | No Comments

Families are busy these days. Between a parent’s busy home and work life, and kids in school with after school activities, it can be hard to figure out a balance. Certainly activities outside of school will enrich your child’s life, but at what point is it adding value, and when is it pushing your family over the edge?

 

Lack of Sleep

It’s important to make sure your child is getting enough sleep. After they’re done with school and their extracurricular activity, they should have enough time to do homework, eat dinner, and get at least eight hours of sleep. If you have trouble getting them out of bed in the morning, if they’re lethargic all day or sleeping in class, your child may be over-scheduled because they’re not getting enough sleep.

 

Lack of Down Time

Kids benefit from unstructured time. Unstructured time helps them relax and decompress. It’s important to note however that screen time is not unstructured time. Time spent using electronics doesn’t relax them or help them decompress from the day. It doesn’t add stress, but it doesn’t take it away, either.

 

Your Child Acts Out When They Get Home

One of the biggest signs that your child is over-scheduled is if they come home from school and have a meltdown. When kids are at school, there’s much that’s expected from them. They have to have self-control all day, and a lack of unstructured time over the week can make them feel like they can’t take it anymore.

 

Finding a Balance

It can be difficult to find that sweet spot between a healthy number of activities for your kids, without your family having to sacrifice in other areas. First, evaluate how much time you’re spending on an activity. Include time spent at the activity, the time preparing, time spent at practice and driving to and from. Research shows that eight hours a week works best for children. Five to seven activities over the course of a year is at the top end of the “sweet spot” before extra activities start to have a negative impact.

 

Make a conscious decision to have some down time over the course of a year. Maybe pick a season not to have any activities scheduled for your children, so you can all enjoy some structured family life. Things like doing chores, helping with dinner, etc. is a boon to both children and families. Everyone benefits from family engagement.

If you’re a parent and you’re struggling or just need some support, call my office today and let’s schedule a time to talk.

3 Ways to Minimize Seasonal Depression

By | Depression | No Comments

Seasonal depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD for short, is a form of depression that typically impacts people during the winter months, when exposure to sunlight and temperature changes naturally occur.

Research indicates that about six percent of the American population, primarily those people living in northern states, suffers from SAD. It is also believed that one in ten Americans experience subsyndromal SAD, a milder form of seasonal depression, also called the “winter blues.” And, though the disorder can affect both men and women, it is more common among women.

Symptoms of seasonal depression include:

  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Increased weight gain
  • Lethargy
  • Increased appetite
  • Social withdrawal
  • moodiness

Though some people confuse SAD as simply moodiness, it is a real form of depression that is dependent on an individual’s hormonal state, as well as seasonal characteristics like exposure to light and temperature.

If you or a loved one are affected by seasonal depression, here are three ways you can reduce the symptoms that impact the quality of life.

Get Outside

While the temperatures outside may be a bit harsher than you’d like, it’s still a great idea to bundle up and get some sunshine, as much as you can. Our bodies need sunlight to boost our levels of vitamin D. Among other things, a vitamin D deficiency has been linked to mood swings, headaches and fatigue.

Exercise is also one of the best ways to release the feel-good hormone, serotonin. But it is much better to walk for a half hour outside in the sunlight than to get on the treadmill inside. So, if you can bare the chill in the air, head outside and get that body moving.

Use a SAD Light

Of course, there will be those days when the sun refuses to show its face and the weather is too severe to spend much, if any, time outside. The use of a SAD light can help reduce the symptoms of seasonal depression.

SAD lights are also called light therapy boxes, and the light they produce mimics natural outdoor light. Light therapy is believed to affect brain chemicals linked to mood and sleep, like serotonin and melatonin, easing SAD symptoms.

Eat More Produce

Feelings of anxiety are common among those suffering with seasonal depression, but according to Dr. Uma Naidoo of Harvard Medical School, relief may be found at the end of your fork. Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of essential nutrients like magnesium and zinc that ease anxiety and make people feel calmer. While you may be tempted to eat starchy comfort foods like bread and pasta, your best bet is to load up on as many whole foods as you can, with an emphasis on organic produce.

While the cold weather is likely to have most of us dreaming about spring, winter doesn’t have to be an emotional trial. By following these tips you may be able to lesson your SAD symptoms and get through winter unscathed.

If you or a loved one is currently feeling overwhelmed by SAD symptoms, and is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

Is Social Media Bad for Your Mental Health?

By | Addiction, Adolescents/Teens, Depression | No Comments

Have you been feeling a bit low lately, but you can’t quite put your finger on why? It may have something to do with your social media habits. According to a recent study, social media use can increase depression and loneliness.

For years people have suspected that social media use might have an ability to negatively impact our mental well-being. After all, it’s hard not to feel inadequate or jealous when looking at photos of people whose lives seem so much more perfect than ours. But now research is actually making a definitive link between spending time on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and a sense of loneliness and isolation.

It May be Time for a Social Media Detox

I encourage my clients to take a social media detox every now and then to gain a more positive sense of reality. They often report back to me that the detox offered some amazing and unexpected benefits such as:

Improved Self-Esteem

When you take a break from comparing yourself to other people, you can start to look at how great you and your own life really are.

New Interests and Hobbies

When you spend less time trying to get that social approval in the form of ‘likes’, ‘retweets’, and ‘upvotes’, you suddenly find you have a lot of time on your hands for other things.

Improves Your Mood

Trading in online friendships for real face-to-face ones makes us feel more grounded and connected to people. This can drastically improve our mood and sense of well-being.

Better Sleep

Many people are on their mobile phone in bed, checking their social media accounts. The blue light from these devices disrupts our sleep pattern. When we put these devices away, we inevitably sleep better.

Able to Enjoy the Moment More

I am a big proponent of daily mindfulness. By being present in our lives, we feel an increased sense of peace and joy. That’s priceless.

So how do you perform a social media detox?

Follow these 4 steps:

  1. Temporarily deactivate your accounts. Don’t worry, you can reactivate them again in the future should you choose.
  2. Remove all Social Media Apps and notification pathways from your devices.
  3. Use a web filtering tool to block social media sites. (Why tempt yourself?)
  4. Be prepared for some withdrawal symptoms and have other activities ready to replace the void.

If you follow these steps and take a break from social media, chances are you will find you feel a whole lot better!