5 Ways to Connect out of Depression
When people use the word ‘exhausted’ when really they mean ‘lonely’, it is easy to miss the need for connection around us. When connected people feel an improved sense of well-being, better attendance and performance at work, plus deeper relationships that survive life’s challenges.
There is a rising concern that the connected world of technology makes us more disconnected from the present moment and what surrounds us. That we humans are not ‘made’ for this fast paced life of technology and that to evolve we must become conscious. However, disconnection occurs regardless of technology because the disconnection is in the mind. Each of us must find what aspect of connection is needed in that moment to reconnect to the present joy of life.
Originally labelled as ‘intrinsic’ or ‘extrinsic’ causes for depression, i.e. either a chemical imbalance or life event that triggers depression the overall root is the same. The mind and its negative thought cycle disconnect the individual from connecting fully to the experience of life.
An initial stage is to manage the depression. I said “I have a chemical imbalance and it’s not my fault I am like this. I can’t do anything about it. I accept that this is how I live and all I will have from life.” This was not acceptance. I was so disconnected from a fulfilled life that this was the amount of effort I perceived required to ‘manage’ my mood. I dared not see further to potential joy.
I meet many people at this stage. It’s a great place to get to from that isolation to being functional and managing the lows. It’s a relatively safe place to exist. It is hard to accept that there is more beyond this stage of managing a health situation. To become aware of the remaining disconnection even during ‘management’.
The degree of shift needed to heal and connect could be from massive life changes, but always require small and simple daily activities to build a stronger ability to connect often with ease. Try the following four ways to connect is a daily tool that is important to build.
My disconnects were (a) my physical environment and (b) poor emotional resilience. I began building tools to develop my emotional resilience in daily life, and eventually dealt with relocating to a sunnier climate. Of course, this sounds easier than it was to do.
Living in cities can be very disconnected from nature. I dreamt of whale song and the sounds of the ocean waves lapping the sandy beach. It is a full sensory experience to be in nature - the sounds, smells, air and sight.
Traditional Chinese doctors, Ayurveda and Shamanic practitioners advise that being in nature everyday contains healing powers. It reminds us of the immense power of nature, the timeless duration of evolution, sounds and rhythms that enliven the natural senses and ability to see the abundance of all living things being provided by Mother Earth. It is also the connection to being made of the same materials as in nature and its cycles of life.
Ideas to try:
Stand on grass or earth or sand for at least 10 minutes a day.
Watch the movement of leaves in the wind.
Observe birds and bugs - those creatures that just seem to get everywhere!
Notice the changing seasons and write notes on how they impact your moods, energy, food cravings etc.
Psychology studies worldwide show that peer support, social contribution and engagement are the connection required to reduce the symptoms of depression. Charities and medical services often provide peer support groups because of their proven effectiveness at permitting those with similar challenges to share in a safe space.
The idea is that to connect with others, see their suffering and hear their woes to appreciate what already exists in life, then this should help lift one’s own suffering. The mood and mindset of those around impacts each other, so review who to connect with and why. Help those less fortunate to humble and surround with happier and more connected people to inspire.
Ideas to try:
Find a peer support group online, in person or on a holiday that gives this opportunity and try it.
Volunteer for a charity or group that is something you would want to receive. Giving is the best way to receive.
Offer help to a stranger - take 3 minutes to talk to a homeless person or give a lost tourist some directions.
Nutritionists and functional medicine practitioners consider that depression may be due to a disconnection in the gut-brain relationship of the body for digestion issues. Imbalances in gut bacteria can lead to mood changes this is due to the neural pathways and vagus nerve relationship. In the simplest terms, when the gut is in stress it creates chronic inflammation within the body that affects the brain as well.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, social behaviour, appetite, digestion, sleep, sexual desire and memory. Ninety percent of the body’s serotonin is made in the gut that is decreased when gut bacteria are altered. Poor gut health dysregulates the mood and contributes to low moods. Often there is a correlation of Irritable Bowel Syndrome with depression scores and that specific bacteria treatment can reduce depression scores as seen in this study.
Gut microbiome also produces GABA which is another neurotransmitter that helps control feelings of fear and anxiety. There have been studies to suggest that certain probiotics can decrease anxious and depressive behaviour by increasing the production of GABA. An eight week study on patients with a Major Depressive Disorder found that probiotic supplements had beneficial effects on symptoms.
There are studies that suggest gluten can lead to leaky gut or intestinal permeability and can cause an immune reaction in the body. Intestinal permeability is when the tight junctions in the small intestine become damaged and loose. This leads to bacteria and toxins to leak into the bloodstream and create a chain reaction with inflammation being an unfortunate outcome. Persistent inflammation is also linked to chronic diseases of the brain so could be impacting mental health.
Get checked for leaky gut, it is likely you will then be advised to avoid gluten entirely in order to allow the gut to heal. Gluten containing foods: crackers, breads, cookies, cereals, granola, certain condiments UNLESS STATED OTHERWISE - you can find gluten free versions of most foods however they are usually full of fillers, corn products and sugars.
Ideas to try:
Reduce gluten for inflammation in the gut.
Eat foods high in fibre and probiotic rich foods in order to repopulate the gut bacteria as well as feed the good bacteria that is already there.
Eat probiotic rich foods: sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt
Have a fibre rich diet: any vegetables, especially onion, garlic, broccoli stems and asparagus stems, low glycemic fruit: berries
Eating foods like chia seeds, flax, aloe vera, marshmallow root tea, slippery elm tea, glutamine and collagen supplements, bone broth are great for soothing and healing the gut lining.
Avoid or reduce gluten in the diet, look for gluten free on packaging.
Written by Megan Mieta
Studies on gratitude have shown that it changes the brain to a more positive perspective. This is about seeing the good things in life rather than the woes. What is important for gratitude to have benefit is that it is a practice that is expressed.
If gratitude feels too cliche then try appreciation. This blog post covers appreciation practices.
Take the time to stop and consider 3-5 things to be grateful for.
Write them down in a list.
Tell the person(s) involved how grateful you are and why.
Make a daily social media habit of sharing your gratitude.
Metaphysically depression is a lack of connection to the universal oneness - the spiritual and Divine. It can be translated to living without a sense of purpose and passion. This sense of purpose is not as an individual legacy, however, but the sense of separation from the unity of all life.
Training as a yoga teacher I studied the Patanjali sutras which include the yama and niyamas. I created a worksheet to map my progress of healing with depression and identified what I was missing in my progress to healing: spirituality.
How to connect with spirituality?
“Mindfulness will lead you to spirituality” my friend Neil Seligman told me. I followed this with mindfulness in body, breath, being present, and all the above steps. But I hadn’t fallen into spirituality as I thought might happen. As with all these things, it took discipline and practice.
Every morning I moved and meditated, then I opened a book by a spiritual writer at a random page and read - just a page or so. I made notes and interpreted their lessons. Throughout the day I reflected back on that reading and how it resonated in daily life.
This practice drew out spiritual teachings in daily life for me. It was practical, efficient and connected to my life. In time, a deeply spiritual connection had been formed. A spiritual connection is a practice and not an exam, something to tap into daily with conscious application of full mind, body and energy.
Everyone has a different connection that resonates with their needs and at different times, no one size fits all. Sometimes it can help to have a person who is impartial to discuss the options and how to make them happen. Support of another that mirrors your vulnerabilities and asks compassionately why you are avoiding something.
Try the above connections over time and see how they can support at different times.
Download the worksheet here and work out where to progress.
Review with Megan if your diet might be contributing to your mental health.
Work with Nid on Law of Attraction practices, yoga nidra and movement practices to see how she can support your path further.
Try the suggestions and make up your own. Comment and share your suggestions with us.