Depression affects a huge number of people in our country and prescriptions of anti-depressants are so common that I’ll bet you can name at least two people off the top of your head who take something to feel happier. That’s to say nothing of all the people you know who haven’t told you that they are taking a drug for anxiety, depression, or unhappiness.
Heck, antidepressants are so common that you’ll find traces of them in most municipal water supplies.
But there are more natural ways to lighten your outlook on life and help you find a happier disposition. Here are a few to try:
1. Dance! I love starting off my day with a Jazzercise class and it never fails to put a smile on my face even when I’ve woken up on the wrong side of the bed. I have a friend who simply cranks the disco music at her house and dances in her own living room to put the spring into her step as she enters her sixth decade. Check out some of the great free dance class offerings on YouTube for a fun time. Here’s a reggae dancehall workout with Keaira LaShea that will put a smile on your face.
It’s hard to nurture hurts or grudges as you become engulfed in music and movement. Not only does dancing offer cardiovascular benefits, it works your muscles and your brain as well, which can keep those synapses flowing as we age.
2. Laugh! I’ve become addicted to the new 24/7 comedy channel on the radio: 103.1 Comedy. They play a continuous stream of stand-up comedians ranging from classic Bill Cosby on raising kids and Eddie Murphy’s hysterical “I’ve got some ice cream,” to current comics like Kevin Nealon, Dana Carvey, and Jeanine Garrafalo. I’ve laughed so hard in the car on my way to pick up my kid’s carpool that I’ve arrived with smeared mascara from the tears. I don’t mind when I’m stuck in traffic because I’m so entertained by what I’m hearing.
Laughter releases endorphins like exercise does, and endorphins give you a natural high while putting a smile on your face. They have mobile apps, and are online, too. Give it a listen and see for yourself if you don’t arrive at your destination a little happier from having laughed all the way over.
3. Go on an Anti-Inflammatory Diet! What? This doesn’t sound exciting or mood-lifting? Here the fact: depression and inflammatory conditions like MS, heart disease, diabetes, etc., go hand-in-hand. When there is inflammation in the body, it’s not limited to wherever you notice the symptoms (joints, bowels, skin, etc.). Many inflammatory actions are systemic, meaning they extend throughout our body’s systems, and include the brain. When the brain swells, brain function is disrupted and higher thoughts processes like reason and logic are affected. The stronger, more primal and emotional brain functions – fight and flight, lust, anger, hunger, etc. – can supercede rational thought in an inflamed brain.
Many of my clients report a lifting of “brain fog”, a return of a sense of humor, and a sunnier outlook as the inflammation in their brain recedes on a customized anti-inflammatory diet. It’s much easier to be happy when you feel better and your brain is not inflamed!