***Author’s Note: If you believe you have been correctly diagnosed with serious mental illness and are treating yourself with Western medicine, I honor your path of healing and this article’s recommendations may not be appropriate for you. If there is any doubt, please consult a licensed health practitioner.
Depression is literally life-sucking.
It’s hard to imagine an experience worse than the numbness while in its seemingly endless hole. Depression tells us that life isn’t worth living. It’s not remotely surprising, then, that most of us relate to depression as something to fix or get rid of, and that there is an entire industry devoted to healing it.
But what if our depression isn’t a mistake? What if, when we relate to it correctly, it is exactly what we need and has a much greater purpose?
Stay with me—I promise this will make sense, and I assure you this isn’t a platitude-filled romp through unhelpful advice like, “Just love yourself more,” or “Be more grateful,” or “Just do the kind of stuff non depressed people do,” all of which is kind of laughable when we are in the pit of despair. It’s not easy to generate that when we’re in depression’s grip, and if we could just embody pure self love and be grateful through our depression, we would probably miss the ultimate point of it, which is to get us to make big changes in our lives.
From what I’ve learned through healing myself and helping others who have depression, it isn’t just a disease that randomly strikes us; most often it’s a signpost telling us that it’s time to shake up key areas of our existence.
I’ve found that depression is like tumbling down a spiral staircase of habits that don’t work for us, pulling us deeper and deeper into a vortex over time, and that it can’t be remedied by any one thing. Instead, we need to take a closer look at ourselves. To truly heal, we need to start by changing one of these habits so we can slowly turn the tides to spiral upward in the direction of fulfillment.
The challenge is that it can be hard to change even one habit. The Principle of Least Effort by French philosopher Guillaume Ferrero states that people will always choose the path of least resistance or effort by default. There’s a reason we formed these routines in the first place—they’re what came most naturally to us.
The best way to get ourselves to change a habit is to find a way to perceive it as easier to stop than to maintain. Often this can be accomplished by truly understanding what we’re dealing with. With that understanding, we can clearly recognize the cost and impact of continuing the way we have been.
Many of these depression-inducing habits are consistent from person to person, which is why the information I’m about to share can apply to so many of us.
Of course, I’m not a doctor, which is why I don’t offer professional advice about depression. However, I’ve healed my own depression and have supported many of my clients in feeling alive again by sharing this path with them. I’ve seen it work repeatedly.
Here are the three habits we can change in order to have more amazing lives:
Habit Change #1: Putting things into our bodies that make us depressed → Putting things into our bodies that help us heal
Over time, depression creates neurochemical patterns that can deplete the neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that give us the experience of happiness and motivation. The inverse is also true—if our bodies are not producing these neurotransmitters correctly, we are likely to experience depression.
The point of most antidepressant medication is to restore the balance of neurotransmitters by either producing more or preventing their re-uptake, but it’s interesting to ask ourselves the question, “Why are we depleted to begin with?” This is especially useful for those of us who don’t want to spend the rest of our lives living with the awful side effects of these medications.
To answer this question, we can ask ourselves:
Are we ingesting substances that exacerbate depression?
Alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, caffeine, and sugar can deplete key neurotransmitters, resulting in: a lack of drive and energy, anxiety, panic and sleeplessness, obsession, low self esteem, irritability and changes the capacity to experience pleasure and love. Initially, these substances give us the happy feelings we are looking for, which is why they are tempting to self medicate with. But over time, they do much more harm than good, and in most cases, our healing depends on our willingness to try life without them.
Are we eating foods that are giving us enough protein so that we get the amino acids required to produce these key neurotransmitters? Or are we spiking our blood sugar with simple carbs?
If our average meal consists of wine, crackers and cheese (aka my 20s), it may be time to switch to a balanced, whole foods diet. Eating simple carbs like white flour and sugar can cause mood swings that take us from hyper to irritable in a matter of moments. When I cut out all processed foods, my transformation was quick and palpable. I even stopped relating to these chemical-laden, over processed products as food because of how bad they made me feel, which made it easy for me to pass on them and choose healthier options instead.
Are we properly digesting the proteins we are eating so that we absorb the brain-nourishing amino acids?
Stress is known to harm digestion, and when digestion isn’t working properly, we can’t get the nutrients from food that are necessary to keep us feeling good. In my case, it turned out I had a lot of food sensitivities that were irritating my stomach lining, preventing nutrients from being absorbed. Once I got tested and stopped eating those foods, my health got a lot stronger, and my overall well being improved immensely.
I also added some supplements to make up for the other vitamins I wasn’t getting from food. The Mood Cure by Julia Ross is an excellent resource for digging into this further. In particular, the worst of my depression lifted quickly when I started taking a good Amino Acid complex, a capsule or powder containing around 10 to 15 fundamental precursors to these key neurotransmitters.
Most people I know who have overcome depression have used this tactic to jump start their healing and gain enough clarity to begin changing other habits that have a high impact on well-being, like exercise, which can be hard to contemplate in the grip of depression.
Habit Change #2: Staying in misaligned relationships and careers → Letting go of what no longer serves us
Depression can be a big red flag that we’re off course and not listening to our heart’s guidance. Our mind can rationalize away the reasons to take action when change feels scary, but when we persistently don’t listen to our heart, depression can set in as our soul’s most serious attempt to get our attention.
Relationships and career are where I see this the most, because we have the greatest attachments in these two areas of life. Most of us avoid making essential changes in these domains, often hanging on far past the expiration date of a particular relationship or job.
If we are not excited to get up in the morning because we really dislike our job, the place where we spend close to one third of our lives, it’s going to be hard to feel happy. This is, in my opinion, one of the primary wake up calls we can receive courtesy of depression. Personally, I reached a point in my glamorous career as a record label executive where I realized I’d actually rather be dead than come into the office for even one more day. I had a million reasons not to quit what seemed like a dream job on the surface, but I walked away and never regretted it for a minute.
Depression is often an indicator that we have a greater life purpose that our soul wants us to realize, but our mind hasn’t recognized. When our work lights us up and feels completely aligned with our heart’s true desire, it can actually take us right out of depression. Even in my most challenged moments, I derive supreme joy from working with my clients. This is one reason why I offer Vedic Astrology Readings and coaching to help people find and live their true life purpose, because it is an antidote to depression.
This also goes for relationships. Nothing is more depressing than a stressful relationship that isn’t getting better. I’ve had a couple of experiences where I felt hopelessly down in a relationship I was convinced I could fix, only to feel completely revitalized the instant we decided to break up. Somehow, the depression that seemed all encompassing literally disappeared in the moment I decided to leave.
In these cases, most of us will attempt to attribute depression to literally anything but the actual cause because we are in denial that we need to leave our partner. Doing so feels like death and we tend to go to great lengths to avoid leaping into the frightening unknown. It’s important to be honest with ourselves…our aliveness depends on it.
Habit Change #3: Not paying attention to our surroundings → Consciously choosing our environment
If we are hanging out in our sweatpants and bathrobe in a dark room full of wadded up tissues and an unmade bed watching reality TV reruns, we probably won’t feel very inspired to heal. Our outer world reflects and impacts our inner world and vice versa. Entire ancient systems of study have been based on this like Vaastu and Feng Shui.
Putting on nice clothes and cleaning that sh*t up can make a profound difference to our well-being. Once we’ve changed the first two habits and risen out of the depths of despair, this isn’t a difficult step to take, but it can be well worth it.
Beautiful art can affect us in a big way as well, even boosting our immune system. Some people even believe that art alone can alter our brain chemistry. Every time we set our eyes upon something we find visually pleasing and harmonizing, we take that imprint into our consciousness. My life feels completely different when I’m surrounded by Visionary Art that is created with the purpose of elevating consciousness and creating exalted states. Check out some of my favorite, inspiring pieces here.
Music is the same way. Song lyrics literally program our minds. We may find ourselves humming along and singing words we’ve heard repeatedly. The question is, what are they saying? What message are we programming ourselves with? Years ago I stopped listening to music that had any message that was counter to what I wanted to become and it’s made a huge difference. I even started writing my own. The same goes for TV, movies, video games, and even people.
We become our surroundings, so it’s essential to have discernment around what we choose to immerse ourselves in.
Personally, I no longer experience depression for longer than a couple days at a time. I may have moments where I’m down, but then I look at these three habits, ask myself if I’m still embodying those changes, and course correct where necessary. When we view depression through this lens, and ask ourselves what messages it has for us, we can transform it into a gift.
Author: Eleanor Tara
Editor: Catherine Monkman