The Culture of Anti-depressants, Part 2
by Craig Nielson
I recently had a conversation with an exchange student from Germany and asked him what he thought was the biggest difference he noticed between life in the United States and life back in Germany. His response, with a chuckle, was “My God, you Americans take pills for EVERYTHNG. On T.V. you see pills for this and pills for that. Also, there is a lot more junk food in America. Fast food is not that common in Germany. People back home focus more on living healthy lifestyles.” This largely contributed my motivation for this article.
To what extent do we medicate ourselves in lieu of working hard to improve the quality of our lives? I’ve seen contestants on the Biggest Loser rid themselves of Diabetes through diet and exercise. I know from experience that making healthier food choices can positively improve my mood. I also sleep better when I work out regularly. Regular exercise also contributes to better cardiovascular health. But, we also have pills for all this. Which is easier? I know some people have diseases that can’t be helped with exercise alone and medication is vital for their health. For others, is medicating yourself really necessary? Have we in the United States just gotten lazy with our self care? Are the drug companies taking over our lives?
Here are some more lifestyle changes I made that contributed to my recovery from depression:
I learned that exercise produces endorphins that stimulate the brain and can act as a natural anti-depressant. I took to this immediately and started working out on a regular basis. I got into long distance cycling. The rhythm of pedaling helped me to process things I discussed in therapy or had read in a self help book. I made rides out to the ocean or up into the mountains as a scenic destination, rewarding myself for my efforts. Later, I got into running marathons and hiking. I am still physically active today. Find an activity you enjoy and get going.
To start steering my negative thought processes from bringing me down, I consciously began to being thankful for as much as I could recognize. It began with simple things like a hot shower, sunshine and the smile from a stranger. I practiced this daily until it became a habit. In time, I no longer had to consciously think about it. Now it’s a natural part of my routine thought process and anytime I feel myself slipping into darkness, I turn to recognizing all that I’m thankful for in the moment.
I was encouraged to volunteer to help others. This helped me to focus on people and away from my troubles. I began volunteering at my church and in my community. It felt good to know I was helping others. There are numerous opportunities to volunteer in your community and no shortage of members of the public who need help. You may even find an opportunity to be of service to others here on another page in this issue of Bliss Babe.
Believe in something greater than yourself
I was raised Catholic. There were many who prayed for me while I was in the hospital and at my worst. I returned to the Church and found much healing from reading the Gospels. Find a spiritual connection, and whether you believe in God or the Universe, connect to a power greater than yourself.
My battle with depression was won by fighting it with my arsenal of professional help, commitment, exercise, gratitude, service and faith. Most of all, it was indeed a fight – a long, drawn out fight for my life. It took grit, determination and perseverance. I believe this is the same for any success in life. I believe we can create any life we choose. That is why I am in the business of helping others, who are stuck in a life of mediocrity, to become fully empowered and live a bliss-filled existence. For those who are medicating themselves to get by, possibly unnecessarily, I invite you to kick the pills and fight for a better life.