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Breathing and the mental state are more connected than they may appear. Though we tend to see psychological and physical health as distinct from each other, they are deeply interconnected.
Author: Sean Coakley, Master breathing instructor
NOTE: Airofit is not suggesting or claiming we can cure depression or remove the need for medical guidance. But, as discussed below, studies have shown that the power of the breath can bring tremendous benefits.
While we all feel sad or moody from time to time, many people experience these feelings intensely, for long periods of time (weeks, months, or years) and sometimes without any apparent reason. Depression is more than just a low mood – it's a severe condition that impacts both physical and mental health.
Depression affects how people think, feel and act. Depression makes it more challenging to manage daily and interferes with study, work and relationships. Some common signs of depression are listed below. It's important to note that everyone experiences some of these symptoms from time to time, which may not necessarily mean a person is depressed. Equally, not every person who is experiencing depression will have all these symptoms.
While the exact cause of depression isn't known, several things can be associated with its development. Generally, depression does not result from a single event but a combination of biological, psychological, social, and lifestyle factors.
Personal factors that can lead to depression:
• Family history – depression can run in families, and some people will be at an increased genetic risk. However, this doesn't mean that a person will automatically experience depression if a parent or close relative has had the condition.
• Personality – some people may be more at risk because of their character, particularly if they tend to worry a lot, have low self-esteem, are perfectionists, are sensitive to personal criticism, or are self-critical and negative
• Severe medical conditions – these can trigger depression in two ways. Severe conditions can bring about depression directly or can contribute to depression through the associated stress and worry, especially if it involves long-term management of a condition or chronic pain
• Drug and alcohol use – can both lead to and result from depression. Many people with depression also have drug and alcohol problems.
Research suggests that continuing difficulties, such as long-term unemployment, living in an abusive or uncaring relationship, long-term isolation or loneliness, or prolonged exposure to stress at work can increase the risk of depression. In addition, today, we believe that pressures from a pandemic like COVID-19 can undoubtedly increase the risk of depression.
Significant adverse life events, such as losing a job, going through a separation or divorce, or being diagnosed with a serious illness, may also trigger depression, particularly among people already at risk because of genetic, developmental, or other personal factors.
Depression is often not recognized and can go on for months or even years if left untreated. Therefore, it's essential to seek support as early as possible, as the sooner a person gets treatment, the sooner they can recover.
Untreated depression can have many adverse effects on a person's life, including serious relationship and family problems, difficulty finding and holding down a job, and drug and alcohol problems.
There is no one proven way that people recover from depression. However, there is a range of effective treatments and health professionals who can help people on the road to recovery.
There are also many things that people with depression can do to help themselves recover and stay well. The important thing is to find the proper treatment and the right health professional for a person's needs.
Besides going into therapy and taking prescription drugs, there is a lot that you can do yourself to overcome depression. These natural ways of dealing with depression can help you fight negative thoughts and ultimately overcome severe sadness.
Meditation: An analysis of over 18.000 scientific studies revealed that meditation is an effective tool that can aid sufferers of several mental disorder, including depression. Practicing mindfulness positively affects serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid, neurotransmitters that make you feel happy and relaxed. Furthermore, meditating reduces cortisol levels - a hormone that significantly negatively affects stress and brings about positive results.
Physical exercise: Physical exercise has many beneficial effects in dealing with depression. Foremost, it releases endorphins in your brain that make you feel good. It also stimulates the formation of new brain cells, helps you sleep better, and increases self-esteem. In addition, it is recommended to perform your physical exercise outdoors, as the sunlight stimulates the production of vitamin D.
Seek support: When you feel depressed all the time, your first instinct might be to withdraw from public life. However, social support from compassionate people who you like is an integral part of coping with depression. Just talking to somebody about your feelings of depression can be of great help, so stay connected with those close to you that you trust.
Maintain a healthy diet: Food can have a profound effect on how you feel. Make sure that you eat regularly, hold back on processed foods and limit your sugar intake. This will ensure that you have enough daily energy to battle your depression. Some foods are considered natural serotonin-boosters. These foods are high in omega-3 acids (like fatty fish, walnuts) and foods that are high in tryptophan (like turkey, nuts, or tofu).
A study of 15 participants was conducted to assess the effects of coherent breathing at five breaths per minute on depressive symptoms and determine an optimal yoga schedule for future studies in individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD). During a 12-week intervention, depressive symptoms declined significantly in patients with MDD in both the high-dose and low-dose group.
Here are the basics on how to perform coherent breathing:
1. Lie down and close your eyes.
2. Gently breathe in through your nose, mouth closed, for a count of 6 seconds. Don't fill your lungs too full of air.
3. Exhale for 6 seconds, allowing your breath to leave your body slowly and gently. Don't force it.
4. Continue for up to 10 minutes.
5. Take a few additional minutes to be still and focus on how your body feels.
Gaining control of your breath is a positive step in helping alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression. Airofit provides a simple and easy way to interact with your breathing. Follow the instructions in our easy-to-use app, and you will begin to meditate (remove mental distraction) without even realizing it. Also, when working with our device, you naturally pay more attention to how your breath enters and exits the body bringing a deeper awareness and helping you slow down, bringing balance and positive energy with every breath.
Useful resources for dealing with depression Mind, a UK-based charity (https://www.mind.org.uk/) National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) a US-based organization (https://www.nami.org/Home) World Health Organization (https://www.who.int/health-topics/depression#tab=tab_1)