Late fall can be rather bleak in Canada. Most of the leaves are off the trees, the weather is getting colder – and in some places snowy. Even harder are the shorter days, when driving to work and home is done in the dark.
We may think we Canadians are a ‘hardy sort’; but, for many people, late autumn leads into winter depression.
Everyone has periods of unhappiness in his or her life, but major depression is a clinical term used to describe the condition when feelings of sadness and hopeless last more than 2 months. Depression can limit your quality of life and contribute to chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. In extremes, it can also lead to suicide.
1 in 6 Canadians experience some form of mental health disorder each year and the majority suffer from some form of depression or from anxiety. These continue to be the fastest rising diagnoses in the country, and the total cost to the Canadian economy is about $51 billion a year, with one-third of that due to lost productivity.
Still, depression is considered an illness that can be treated. Therapies often include psychological counseling and anti-depressant medication.
However, antidepressants come with significant side effects and dangers.What’s more, recent studies have raised questions about their effectiveness. At the very least, it’s clear from recent studies that often a significant change in lifestyle is necessary to reach the light at the end of the gloomy tunnel.
But taking the actions necessary is especially difficult when one is in the depths of depression.
Here are a few ideas, some changes in attitude and to lifestyle, which can uplift spirits and move the focus off depression and bring healing and recovery:
Gratitude – expressing gratitude is often suggested as a way to lift thought and bring happiness to yourself and those around you. However, this is not always as easily done as said. One idea I find most useful is to use the alphabet – each day a new letter to find something to be grateful for. It may take some creativity ( ‘x’ is for…..?), but at least it keeps thought occupied in that direction for almost a month.
Domestic Pets – the average pet, such as a dog, cat – even a goldfish – can provide therapeutic benefits. Pets can ease loneliness and depression, reduce stress, and provide us with unconditional love and affection. A pet is also a great stimulus for healthy exercise, which recent studies indicate can also substantially lift mood.
Mindfulness and Meditation – Psychologists from the University of Exeter recently published a study into “mindfulness-based meditation”, finding it to be better than drugs or counseling for depression.
Oprah calls happiness guru, Gabrielle Bernstein, the voice of the spiritual generation. Bernstein suggests that happiness comes from within and taking time to replenish yourself with meditation, calm breathing and respecting yourself each day. Her approach begins with her motto: “The outside world is a reflection of your internal condition.”
Could this internal condition be equated with a gentle awareness of your original nature, a genuine expression of your ‘inner light’ – that ‘kingdom of heaven’ that is within each one of us? The acknowledgment of our true spiritual nature, the higher self within, is an unlimited source for happiness and well-being.
It may require daily commitment to find that kingdom within. But, the results can be permanent because it is our true nature. Once we find our inner light, it can’t really be taken from us. And it comes with no negative side effects.