For the last 50 years, we were led to believe that a lack of serotonin causes depression and low emotional states. However, the serotonin theory of depression has simply not been substantiated.
If you or your clients have struggled, wondering what was “wrong” with them when conventional treatments for depression or anxiety weren’t enough, you’re not alone.
In honor of World Mental Health Day on October 10, I want to invite you to expand your thinking and join me in conversation about a new way to consider depression.
Worldwide there are more than 264 million people of all ages who suffer from depression according to the World Health Organization. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death in 15- to 29-year-olds. Depression is disabling and accounts for more years living with disability than heart disease, stroke, or diabetes.
Many of us have heard that prolonged experience of depression (outside situational depression which occurs with an obvious life change such as divorce, a job loss, grief, and more) is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. This myth has been perpetuated even though there has been no study done in the last six decades that proves that depression is caused by neurological chemistry.
Plus, “normal” brain chemistry has never been established. In fact, the definition of “normal” for a person’s brain chemistry seems to be different for every single person just like our fingerprints and personalities.
However, since this myth is so widespread, most people are prescribed a cocktail of different psychiatric drugs. The percentage of people using antidepressants has gone up by 65% over the last 15 years — without a corresponding drop in the numbers of depressed people!
I’m not advocating against using pharmaceuticals entirely, but I do want to raise awareness that there is a deeper layer of this conversation.
In 2009, a meta-analysis of published data from studies of 14,000 depressed patients revealed there was no evidence that low serotonin contributed to higher levels of depression or that a stressful life event changed serotonin levels.
What they did find was a link between the number of stressful life events and the experience of depression.
Since there is a 17-year gap when something is scientifically proven to be beneficial and when it trickles down to the average physician and becomes standard practice (while there might be an explosion in yoga and mindfulness today, it’s taken 20 years to get us there!), I want to fill you in now on how to work with depression in a holistic way.
1. Depression is often an inflammatory condition
Your gut biome has a direct relationship with the brain — where the gut informs the brain and the brain informs the gut. If you experience leaky gut syndrome or a lack of healthy probiotics, it can cause a system-wide inflammatory response.
The best way to reduce inflammation is to get on an anti-inflammatory protocol which includes reducing animal products and processed food, eliminating common allergens such as gluten and dairy, as well as adding more healthy fats. It’s also good to consider strategic food supplements such as B12 if your levels are low.
2. Grounding/reconnecting in the elements
Another way to work with depression in a holistic way is to reconnect with the elements — get outside! Soak up the sunshine and Vitamin D and make sure your sleep/wake cycle is aligned with your natural biorhythms (essentially: go to bed when it’s dark and wake up with the sun).
We’re surrounded by technology 24/7 but it’s useful to go on digital detoxes periodically. And also, critically important, is to build community and connect with people IRL (in real life!). A couple of my friends spent just 20 minutes together reconnecting in person and it was so good for our souls!
Remember: You choose how to make meaning out of any life experience. When you reframe depression you invite it in to open a conversation and engage with that part of your psyche that is speaking to you through these symptoms.
Ask yourself: What am I experiencing in this health crisis? Why might I be experiencing this on a soul level? What is the message my soul is trying to convey? Is there a deeper truth at play here?
Often these surface-level symptoms (physical, psychological, mental, or emotional) are the triggers and the body/mind’s response to try to get our attention because something needs to be addressed.
Do you really want to mask this message?
Since it can get worse before it gets better, I want you to know about someone I follow and another valuable resource. Kelly Brogan, M.D. is a holistic psychiatrist and author of New York Times best-selling book A Mind of Your Own, Own Yourself. Dr. Brogan put down her prescription pad 10 years ago and takes a very holistic approach to managing depression.
As our way to raise awareness of holistic mental health treatment and build an inspiring, loving, and massively supportive community worldwide, we invite you to join us for our 5-Day Instagram Challenge. You can join for free and enter to WIN more than $3,000 in prizes!