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Big Picture Healing: Beating Depression the Old Fashioned Way

Photo courtesy of Suzan Marie

Lifestyles have evolved dramatically in the past 12,000 years. During the Stone Age, everyone lived in a hunter-gatherer tribe, engaging in hard work  outdoors, eating nutritious diets, and getting constant social contact. Their physically active lives meant that they got an average of ten hours of quality sleep every night.

Fast forward to today’s Modern Age. Now millions of people lead sedentary lives, spending many hours each day inside windowless cubicles completing mind-numbingly endless tasks. Meals consist of fast food, which is low in nutrition and high in saturated fat.  Many people are living life at a frantic pace, yet don’t sleep nearly enough – getting an average of only six hours a night.

Although lifestyles have changed drastically, the human genome has remained the same, and the effects of our poorly nourished, inactive, isolated, demanding, and insomnia-ridden lives are proving to be quite catastrophic to our physical and mental health. In contrast, the few hunter-gatherer tribes still in existence are healthy, strong, fit, and most importantly, happy.

Because of the disconnect between our environment and our physical and emotional requirements, a huge number of people are now dealing with depression and anxiety. In fact, my own depression is what started me on my journey toward self-fulfillment. Luckily, it has been proven recently that the adult human brain is changeable, as opposed to the previously held belief that the brain became fixed somewhere in adolescence.

Many therapists are now putting two and two together. People were happier in the Stone Age! With the new knowledge that the adult brain is malleable, many therapies to overcome depression and anxiety include incorporating some of these ancient habits in order to nudge the brain back toward a penchant for happiness:

  • Get plenty of restorative sleep.
  • Eat a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Alternatively, take 1,500mg of omega-3 daily (fish oil caps).
  • Get at least 15 minutes of exposure to sunlight each day.
  • Aim to spend 90 minutes a week moving your body physically.
  • Connect socially Although the brain thinks the pain of depression is similar to an infection and that we should isolate ourselves from others, what we really need when we’re feeling down is more human interaction.
  • Be cognizant of what those before us have had to overcome, and how small our problems seem in comparison.
  • Accept yourself as you are.

In addition to taking a page from the history books, also try to:

  • Find a healthy escape that will keep you busy on a regular basis.
  • Keep track of your mood. Try to identify triggers for your depressed times.
  • Repeat positive affirmations to bouy your self-confidence.
  • Avoid labeling yourself as “depressed.” Labels often stick and can be self-fulfilling. Constantly reminding yourself that you are a “depressed person” will likely only make you more depressed. Although depression is very real and serious, avoid getting bogged down by what can seem like a permanent sentence.
  • Remind yourself that “this too shall pass.” As it turns out, my grandma was right.
  • Take a look at the big picture. As evidenced when Voyager 1 took the now famous photograph Pale Blue Dot, everything seems much smaller and less significant with a little distance and perspective.

Once you’ve gained the appropriate perspective and shifted your lifestyle so that it fulfills your needs, your brain should start to react accordingly. Combining the above strategies with a visit to your doctor will get you back on the road to happiness.  In order to stay on the right path: continue to respect your body’s needs and always be mindful of the amazing things that do exist in your little speck of the universe.


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The #1 Way to Completely Ruin Your Weekend

Photo courtesy of Crock TeesIf your ultimate goal is to have the worst weekend of your life, keep reading. If you want to spend days repeatedly fixing your own mistakes, you totally wish you were me right now. Don’t worry – I will tell you exactly how you can totally ruin your weekend BUT, in the interest of self-improvement, I’m also going to be forced to tell you how to enjoy your weekend instead. Just in case you change your mind.

It all started out innocently enough. I wanted a swimming pool in my backyard, but I couldn’t afford the kind that is installed by pool professionals. If I had that much extra money, believe me, that is what I would have done. BELIEVE. ME. However, when I pulled up my bank account balance on the internet, instead of numbers it simply said, “Do it yourself.” Hmmm.

Buying the pool and supplies was easy and kind of fun! I loaded a shopping cart with all kinds of pool rafts, tester kits, and chlorine tablets. I brought everything home (including the pool) and Operation Pool Fail began! I was given the title of Director and Chemical Engineer, due to my physical limitations, and I quickly led the rest of the family…into a weekend of pure torture.

  • Day 1 

    We built that pool so fast I think we broke a record somewhere. There was much back patting.

  • Two Hours Later 

    Directions? We were supposed to follow those? The pool began to look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa and we decided to start all over using the directions. We crafted an ingenious DIY tarp trench to allow for speedy pool drainage, and still waited all night for the pool to empty. (We did go to sleep, though.)

  • Day 2 

    We dismantled the entire pool we had assembled the day before so we could level out the ground underneath. This is emphasized in the directions.  We discovered an additional 87 other errors due to our poor planning and we had to work all day to fix them.

  • Day 3 

    We built the pool for a second time in sweltering heat and nearly dehydrated ourselves (ironic since we were building a pool). We became covered from head to toe in bug bites because no one thought ahead and bought some OFF!  After much sweat, some tears and a whole lot of kicking ourselves, we collapsed to ground and swore that we would do better next time.

Do yourselves a favor and learn from my mistakes. If I learned anything this weekend, other than which bug bite cream works best and that I do NOT look good with hat hair, it’s this: the nitty gritty particulars of proper planning are much more preferable to witlessly winging it. By investing time in formulating a solid plan before starting a project, you’ll not only save time in the end, but you’ll also save your sanity, and possibly, your weekend.

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Does Taking the Road Less Traveled Really Make a Difference?

Photo courtesy of Bill Ward’s Brickpile
I’m a planner.  I feel better when there’s a plan in place for just about everything.  I lay out clothes for my entire family each night before bed. I make To Do lists. I know how I’m going to spend my money before I even have it. I planned what age I wanted to be married by and when my children would be born and succeeded at achieving both. Planning makes me feel in control of things and gives me a sense of accomplishment. I don’t handle surprises well at all and my loved ones have all been forbidden from throwing me a surprise party, like, EVER.

I had planned to live happily ever after with my first husband, but, after ten years of marriage, we found ourselves separated and filing for divorce. This was definitely not in my plans, and all of the life changes that occurred afterward were enough to really throw me off balance. However, despite it not being part of the blueprint I had created for my life, I slowly adapted to the idea and life after a divorce.  Now, 2 years later, I am happily remarried to an amazing man and good friends with my first husband. It seems The Universe knew what it was doing.

What I learned from this situation is that, while it’s good to be organized and have life goals, you can’t expect the unexpected. That’s kind of the whole definition of the word, right? Whether something takes you by surprise personally, professionally, or medically, it’s how you react that counts. You can spend your whole life making and executing plans, and bravo if you accomplish everything you set out to do. However, the real life lessons come from navigating the bumps in the road along the way.

Avoiding the bumpy roads keeps us in our comfort zone but doesn’t allow for the personal growth and self-awareness gained by facing a challenging situation. What we learn about ourselves as we face seemingly insurmountable obstacles can be quite an eye-opening experience and can lead us to re-think our original plans.  The next time your life goes off the grid, don’t panic.  Sometimes, the road less traveled can take you where you should have been going all along.

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Why Asking for Help Will Leave You Feeling Empowered

Photo courtesy of neoliminal
All my life I’ve had trouble asking for help. My mother says I have been like this since my childhood years and that I always wanted to do things for myself with little or no assistance from anyone. It’s easy to devise why I developed into a strong woman – my mother was and is an extremely capable, self-reliant and intelligent woman herself. With her as a role model, I flourished into quite an aggressive person, which gave me an overwhelming amount of determination and will to overcome obstacles. This has been very helpful in my life and has helped me through many difficult situations, including postpartum depression, divorce, single parenting, undiagnosed chronic pain, and creating a blended family with my children and my new husband.

However, I have discovered a fatal flaw in my seemingly endless ability to be self-reliant and independent. Until very recently, I simply did not know how to ask for help. I found the concept uncomfortable and 98% of the time I was adamantly opposed to it. I suppose some people would call me stubborn, and I guess they would be right. I am, after all, a Taurus. However, the inability to ask for help can lead to a great deal of problems when hmmmmmm…I don’t know – YOU ACTUALLY REALLY NEED HELP! Last year, I was presented with my biggest challenge yet, and I found myself fighting an inner battle, needing help at work, at home, and at life, but mentally incapable of asking for it.

Not only did I have a problem asking for help, but I also never even suggested to many of my close friends and family that I was anything less than perfect. This complicated matters even more when my need for help arose, because it was unexpected and surprising to those around me. They were under the impression that I had everything under control. My personal situation involved a diagnosis of a chronic medical condition that forced me to change my ways and begin telling people about my limits and asking for some slack. I learned how to let my friends in on the secret that I wasn’t Superwoman after all, with a PS that if they wouldn’t mind, could they please come to my rescue?

As you can imagine, my loved ones were quite surprised at first, but what may surprise you is what happened next. The more comfortable I became with admitting my limitations and declaring what I could and could not do, the more empowered I felt. The impenetrable walls I had spent a lifetime building up around me quickly crumbled and I felt free for the first time ever. Free from the pressure to perform, free from unreasonably high self imposed expectations, free to be the real me. I learned that it’s okay to be a person with problems. I don’t have to be perfect to be loved, and most of all, I have developed a deep appreciation for my amazing friends and family who have stepped up with the help I needed without even batting an eye.

Sometimes, asking for what we need in life can be a very difficult challenge for many people. The most ironic thing is, by admitting your weaknesses and vocalizing the things that you need help with, you’ll find yourself feeling stronger than ever.

Adrienne McGuire is a writer, educator, and wellness enthusiast. Her desire to balance family with career led her to abandon the corporate ladder to create the life she really wanted. Her journey down the road less traveled eventually led her to the doors of DailyPath, where she has become an integral part of the writing team.

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