7 Ways to deal with depression.

Depression is a real problem nowadays. According to recent studies, one in every two people will experience depression by the age of 60… That’s half of our population!

No-one really knows what exactly causes depression but…

  • genes are believed to be one of the factors that influence about 30% of the predispositions for depression.
  • stressful life events such as childbirth, loneliness, financial difficulties or unemployment can play some role in it too.
  • people with some particular personal characteristics may be more prone to have depression than others as well.
  • it is known also that some diseases and medications can contribute to depression a great deal.

So, how exactly do you or your relative or friend feel when experiencing depression? 

Surely miserable for most of the day. To be diagnosed with depression such symptoms need to occur nearly every day for at least two weeks. If you lose interest in your usual activities, sleep poorly, notice a decrease in concentration, have less energy, lose appetite, weight and libido, then you may be diagnosed with clinical depression.

How can you improve your mental health on your own?

  1. Many studies have shown that the best method of dealing with depression is exercising! A few decades ago we used to exercise… 4 hours a day! Nowadays many of us struggle to find 30 minutes for exercising a few times a week! Professors from the University of Toronto analysed over 26 years’ worth of studies on depression and confirmed that even moderate physical activity like a short brisk walk every day is very beneficial. Studies actually shown that people who exercise for 30min 3x a week felt improvement in their well-being equally well as people who were given antidepressants but did not exercise. What’s more, these who took antidepressants were 3x more likely to feel depressed again within the next 6-12 months after finishing their treatment! Surely it’s difficult to get motivated but once we manage to start doing it we’ll quickly notice a boost in general well-being levels, an increase in confidence and greater emotional stability. 

  1. Another very important factor is to spend time with people who support you and who you can trust. If you have depression you feel like you want to stop socialising and sit on the sofa all day but this will only make things worse. Close relationships are a huge happiness booster! Unfortunately, as many as 50% of Americans report that they don’t have any close friends. Recent technology development and Internet usage leads us to social isolation. Studies shown that creating and maintaining relationships with others release hormones that are responsible for reducing stress and anxiety levels.

 

  1. Try to devote more time to your passions, things you really like and enjoy. This also has been proven in many studies as a great method for 
    improving well-being!

 

  1. Healthy eating is an obvious fact … and yet so few of us take it seriously and follow the right advice. Food and drink have such an enormous impact on our mood and well-being …

  • If you feel tired and you need to focus, eat a bit of dark chocolate, a banana or some walnuts.
  • If you feel angry, drink some green tea.
  • If you feel sad, apparently drinking some low-fat milk can make you feel better.
  • Upset? Get some bananas and oranges.
  • When you feel depressed, try  to have more fish oil (omega -3) on a daily basis.

And, of course, drink at least a few glasses of water a day – something many of us constantly need reminders about.

  1. If you feel overwhelmed and exhausted de-plugging, getting more sleep, disconnecting for a few hours, or a whole day, may be very helpful. However, withdrawing from your life for more than a day is dangerous and not helpful at all. Remember that even if it feels like the right solution, your depression symptoms will probably get worse. Get more sleep than usual if you feel like you need to, but don’t waste too much time in front of the TV avoiding people, your responsibilities and life!

  1. There are many ‘helpers’ that work but only very temporarily and you should avoid them particularly when you feel depressed: alcohol, the Internet, drugs, and medications to boost your well-being. Some people may need antidepressants but these may make you feel unwell for a while before they start to work. Of course, I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone not to take any antidepressants on your own without speaking to your doctor about it! Try to take other steps first (such as exercising) before you and your doctor decide that you need to be on medication to cure your depression.

  1. What can also be very helpful is to plan your day to ensure that you have some structure, routine and things to look forward to; things you might enjoy doing even if you are not feeling 100% right yet. Remember to get some Me Time –  perhaps a trip to the cinema or a nice long bath with a book.

If you try these techniques and you still feel unwell, or your symptoms are deteriorating, you need to speak to your doctor. You may need antidepressants for a while. Just remember that they often take at least a few days to start to work properly, and they may make you feel a lot worse first before they actually start to work and make you feel better!

How to be happier? And why we should think of others more?

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Make someone happy. Make someone smile. You’ve surely heard that good vibes and emotions, a positive mood and optimism are contagious. Studies from the University of Zurich in Switzerland, using MRI scans, indicated that people who spent money on others instead of themselves had more activity in the brain areas associated with happiness and altruism. In the research it was also highlighted that the amount of money spent on others did not matter.

The simple act of giving, not always expensive or material things, improves our well-being a lot.

In a different study, carried out by UK researchers, it was found that people who performed some acts of kindness regularly every day for 10 days had a significant boost in their happiness level. Such a short period of time as 10 days had made a huge difference! Again, the conclusion is: helping others makes us happier.

There is a popular Chinese proverb that fits here perfectly:
“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. 
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. 
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. 
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”

How to reduce stress levels and feel more in control? 

Do you feel you are getting stressed too often? Let’s look at what studies say about dealing with this problem. Being aware that stress can affect our well-being enormously and how to deal with it is certainly crucial for our well-being!

Remember that your emotions are just emotions and they are temporary. Don’t let them dictate how you feel. If something is overwhelming and you feel stressed and you feel that there is no solution, just TAKE A BREAK.

Depending on the situation, different things may help: talk to a trustworthy and supportive friend, watch a movie (preferably a comedy!), unplug and disconnect for a few hours and take a nice hot bath, practice mindfulness or go for a run (take headphones and turn on your favourite music).

When it’s difficult to deal with problems and we feel overwhelmed, it’s best to do some physical activity. Getting more oxygen to your brain, making your muscles tired – this always does the trick and will make you feel better, more confident and calmer!

Diverting your attention to your passion can also be very helpful but it may not always work, for example, if your passion requires quite a lot of attention and focus, because your mind may just not be in the right state, with lots of meandering and not-so-constructive thoughts.

It’s been proven that reading (a minimum of 6 mins) can reduce your stress levels by as much as 70%!

Whatever you decide to do, just don’t withdraw from your life, society, or work. That’s not a solution or a good method to deal with stress. It actually increases anxiety, stress and depression instead of giving you an opportunity to focus and find a solution.

One of the most helpful techniques that you can use on a daily basis to improve your resistance towards stress is to work on your outlook. The way you perceive different situations impacts on how you feel and how your body reacts. Studies found that perceiving difficult tasks more positively, as challenges rather than problems or threats, improves stress levels and makes us feel more in control and calmer. Try to avoid self-pitying, blaming others, and pessimistic and critical thoughts.

And remember. EVERYONE has problems, large and small, now and then. You are not the only one!

How much your happiness can be affected by a major event?

When psychologists talk about happiness, they don’t mean a temporary emotion and people who are happy just in a particular moment in their life (although of course ‘being happy’ is also considered as a short-term state of mind). Positive psychology as a science perceives happy people as those who are optimistic and content with their life more in general and in the long term. They use the terms life satisfaction or SWB (subjective well-being) to cover this in their research.

There is a term called the hedonic treadmill in psychology (which I mentioned in one of my previous blog posts) and it basically means that we get used to new things and situations quite quickly and come back to our usual happiness level after big events have happened in our life – which are significant in either a positive or negative way. Thus, lottery winners and people who lose a limb in an accident are on average, after around a year, as happy as they used to be before these major events took place! It sounds quite unbelievable but there is a lot of evidence that external factors, situations and events, even if significant, don’t have that large an impact on our well-being as we think they would have.

Happiness can be achieved and enhanced by using the power of your mind and inner abilities! We now know, for example, that a change of habits is possible. Our mind is a lot more powerful than we think it is. We often underestimate what we can achieve just by changing our mindset, setting goals and taking actions; and we overestimate external factors. Maybe because that’s easier? What do you think?

Have a look at my recent video about science & happiness: https://youtu.be/xd0KT9gJask and let me know what do you think about it! Thank you!:)

Productive Mondays! How many hours should we work, ideally?

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We often confuse productivity with being busy. What exactly does it even mean? We feel productive when we are very busy, when we have a lot of tasks and complete most of them. Usually the more hours we work, the more productive we feel.

HOWEVER

There has been plenty of research where findings show that if we work too many hours we decrease our productivity A LOT!

What’s more, if we work a lot of hours for a few weeks or more – that’s just a perfect recipe for depression, burnout and anxiety which may even lead to a nervous breakdown!

Labour Economics published an article by Collewet and Sauermann where the researchers outlined their study done on call-centre workers. Even with part-time employees, increasing their number of working hours created more fatigue than productivity! (more about this study here )

Too few hours = we won’t achieve much.

Too many hours = we are tired and our productivity decreases a lot.

What’s the golden rule? What’s the perfect solution, then?

Chris Bailey in his book The Productivity Project (available HERE) talks about an experiment that he did. Namely, he worked alternate weeks for a very different amount of hours. One week he worked 20 hours and another one 90 hours, and in this way he did several weeks.

An important lesson that he realised? That while working 90 hours he did only a bit more work than while working 20 hours!

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When he had only 20 hours to do his tasks, he felt a bit of pressure that his time was so limited so he focused on using his more valuable time (when he had most energy and attention) to do the most important, difficult and meaningful tasks. With that limited amount of time it was also easier not to procrastinate too much (and, apparently, it’s impossible to completely avoid procrastinating) because he had to focus on what must be done, on priorities! During the 20-hour-work week he had more time to recharge and restore his energy levels in various ways too (meditation, exercising, sleeping well, socialising, etc.).

When we work a lot, it’s hard to remember all the time what’s most important, what we should pay more attention to, what’s the bigger picture. Although we work more, we don’t have enough energy and focus to do planning or to do it properly, and to think of possible improvements and solutions to various problems.

Chris dug deep in his research to find out the ideal amount of hours that one should be working so as not to get too tired and to be able to complete a lot of tasks in a productive way. He found that although 46 hours felt like the best working week for him most studies indicate that 35-40 hours a week is perfect to get the job done with maximum productivity.

Surely the more you enjoy your job, the more you are able to work. However, breaks and time to rest are crucial for your creativity, maintaining an innovative and open-minded thinking and approach, and your efficiency.

How many hours a week do you work? Do you have any control over it? Can you improve this aspect in your life to become more productive?

Why 92% people don’t achieve their personal goals?

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I’ve been thinking quite a bit about why I didn’t achieve some goals in the past and I realised a few things. I believe many of these reasons would be the same or similar for most of you as well (please comment below if you agree!)

  1. I achieve goals IF I’m asked to do them by someone important at work or at a university. So if a lecturer tells me to write a 5,000-word essay in 3 weeks, I’ll write a 5,000-word essay within 3 weeks. I asked for an extension a few times while studying my two degrees and working at the same time but an extension meant 3-7 additional days. No more. If I tell myself to write 2,000 words in 2 weeks sometimes it may take me 2 or 4 months!

I keep postponing my deadlines because they are MY deadlines. It’s kind of understandable. If I don’t perform well at work, I may lose my job and have no income for a while. If I don’t execute my own goals ‘nothing’ really happens … except that my well-being will probably decrease and I’ll feel like a failure. I’ll also complain about not being able to achieve my aims, and get all sorts of negative thoughts about not progressing much and staying at the same point of my personal growth for too long.

It’s quite disappointing that actually many of us don’t take our own personal objectives seriously enough. We don’t think of ourselves and our aims as priorities and complete them only when everything else is done. I must admit it’s difficult, especially for a working parent, to manage to do a lot when each day has only 24 hours but I’m confident that this can be improved. I don’t believe in making excuses because most people on the Earth DON’T have perfect conditions, resources and circumstances. Yet, some are more disciplined, consistent and perhaps stubborn, and are able to achieve what they want to and dream about!

  1. I’m too strict and I tend to expect too much from myself. I plan and want to do too many tasks in too short a time without thinking much about all the unpredictable things that can happen in life.

I’ve been impressed with writer Gretchen Rubin’s goal to blog 6 days a week. It’s actually a very challenging task, especially if you are a working parent. You may simply not feel well enough some days. Sometimes I don’t have any Me Time at all! HOWEVER, as with everything, I’ve learnt that there is actually a solution for such a problem! My friend (talented author Carol Browne – please see her blog here ) taught me that anyone can schedule their blog posts. How great is that!

I believe I can still expect QUITE a lot from myself but then I also need to:

be more self-disciplined,

try to work smarter and harder

and have a bit more flexible approach which means:

  • to review goals and action plans, e.g. on a weekly basis, think of ways of how to change them to make them work better
  • and try out more consistently various productivity tips.

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    3. Fear is another big factor. Consciously or sub-consciously I don’t always believe that I’m good enough, that I have enough knowledge or skills or qualifications to do something I enjoy doing. So yes, there is fear of not being able to do my goals to the standard that I want (perfectionism!). I wouldn’t say it aloud much but surely there is some fear of criticism and some days I  lack of confidence while working on my goals! It’s difficult to be highly motivated all the time especially when you don’t see progress quickly. Then you lose focus and try to find the reasons as to why your goals haven’t been achieved yet … But – everything worth doing takes time – they say.

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     4. Most of the time I didn’t have an action plan at all, let alone a good one. The idea of writing down goals and steps/actions in the form of an action plan always sounded a bit ridiculous to me … BUT there has been a lot of research which proves that people who write their goals down and who have action plans are A LOT more likely to achieve their objectives.

     5. Often I used to think I work hard on my goals but when I think about it now I can      see that I didn’t put enough effort in, or I stopped doing some of the tasks and taking action for days, weeks or even months (!) due to other commitments (work, family, taking care of the house). How can you achieve anything if you work in such an ineffective way?

Phew … It was really difficult to get to the bottom of the issue and to find out why I don’t achieve some of my personal goals. The answers aren’t always as straightforward as we think they may be. This didn’t feel like a very comfortable task but it’s definitely something that finally HAD TO be done in order for me to better myself and consider how I can achieve my goals in the coming year.

 

 

 

 

SELF-GROWTH. What is it: a bit of a luxury or an essential need?

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I’ve recently been thinking about personal growth. Is it more of a luxury or an essential need; perhaps even something necessary for our survival?

I found a blog where an author argues that personal growth is a necessity. Do you agree? I’m always curious about what other people think. At first, I was convinced that personal development is DEFINITELY a luxury. Why? Because first we need to meet our basic needs — indicated in Maslow’s hierarchy, for example—and then we can really focus on our self-growth, right?

We need some:

  • TIME
  • RELATIVELY STABLE CIRCUMSTANCES
  • SPACE

to reflect on ourselves, our goals, ideas, ambitions, wishes, and desires and to think how we want to, and can, achieve them. However, if we are not feeling safe (e.g. due to domestic violence) or we are very poor (I mean, you have no food for your lunch: that poor!), really, who then is able to think about some dreams? We would rather think about how to get out of our difficult situation. We worry about everyday basic stuff that people who can afford their bills and life don’t even think about. Once we have a roof over our head and enough food, and some other basic needs are met, surely we can then start to consider:

  • What are our real passions and aims?
  • What do we enjoy?
  • What are we good at?
  • What brings us happiness?

I recently was impressed by this straightforward but, at the same time, deep and intriguing quote: “The meaning of life is to give life a meaning.” Human beings naturally seek a purpose in life and think of its meaning but I’m convinced that to purposefully better oneself we need to think about it, devote some time to it, be ready for some sacrifices and, ideally, plan for all these factors.

Growth occurs when we live under some difficult circumstances—that’s true—but what grows are our strengths, such as patience and our understanding of the world. We become smarter and begin to see solutions that we haven’t seen before.

Personal growth is pursuing our goals, living our dreams, spending time on our passions. It feels a bit like a luxury because we need time for it… and time is precious, limited and extremely valuable nowadays. Surely you agree with that? Time in some situations is definitely more important than money. Now, who has time to think more about personal development and plan it effectively? It is a bit of a luxury then, isn’t it?

On the other hand, no Me Time and no Personal Growth often lead to frustration or depression, even if we have “more important” things to deal with and to worry about on an everyday basis. This suggests that personal development is … a necessary aspect as well, a need that should be fulfilled in our lives.

Is personal growth a luxury or necessity then?

What do you think?