Today, January 25th, is often called Blue Monday, a day that some consider the most depressing day of the year. It's not a real holiday. I wouldn't even call it pseudoscience.
While that science behind determining whether it is really the most depressing day is in question, the factors that go into the calculation all makes sense. The weather is historically bad, the days are short, new year resolutions start to fail, debt from the holidays comes due, and most importantly fans of 30 football teams have seen their season in depressing fashion. (Yesterday, the Patriots
Technically Blue Monday was last Monday, January 18th, but I reject it. It was Martin Luther King, Jr. day which gives us a reason to celebrate one man's great fight for racial equality. I find that inspirational, not depressing. There were a group of government workers who had 3-day weekends... not exactly a recipe for depression either.
Whether Blue Monday is legit science or a marketing gimmick to get people to buy vacations isn't important... depression is real.
Today's article is the most serious I've ever posted on Be Better Now. It might be the most serious, I've written in my life. As always, remember that I'm not a psychologist or a psychiatrist and this is certainly not a substitute for their years of expertise. Depression is best treated with professional help.
While depression is literally no laughing matter, as a Red Sox fan, I have to share this 15-second clip from Saturday Night Live:
Even a fake David Ortiz makes me laugh.
All jokes aside, this sadly is how most people react to depression. They simple tell people to just snap out of it. It reminds of these two comics I saw on Twitter.
If you know someone who is depressed it is important to exercise a little understanding and sympathy. If it was so easy to snap out of depression, it wouldn't be an issue. We'd cure it just like shutting an open window if it is too drafty in your house.
- Exercise - This WebMD article runs down some of the benefits. Improved self-esteem, reduced stress, improved sleep... hey sign me up, right? Exercise releases endorphins in the brain, which make you feel good. Since any exercise will do, why not kill two birds with one stone by doing some house or yard work? You'll get the feeling of accomplishment as well. This Forbes article suggests that group workouts can help too. Maybe you'll make a friend after a post-exercise Jamba Juice.
- Shed Some Light on the Subject - With Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in full effect during the winter season, sunlight has been shown to help others. Since going outside on a 25 degree day is a depressing thought in itself, a good second option is a light therapy lamp. Look for lamps that state their are 10,000 lux, a measure of light. Here's one with awesome reviews on Amazon.
- Talk Therapy - That's a fancy term for getting a shrink. It can be either a psychiatrist or a psychologist. You can get talk therapy from more than just psychiatrists and psychologists... social workers and counselors would qualify too.
- Antidepressant Medications - This one should be pretty obvious and may be a natural follow-up to the talk therapy step above.
- Limit the Alcohol - You've probably heard that alcohol is a depressant. You don't beat depression by adding a depressant to your life.
- Consider a Multi Vitamin - It looks like a there may a link between vitamin D deficiency and depression. That makes sense considering Seasonal Affective Disorder comes at a time when people naturally stay inside more, thus getting less vitamin D from the sun. For around $12 a year these Kirkland Multi Vitamins & Minerals Tablets give you plenty of vitamin D and a bunch of other vitamins too.
- Other Supplements - I'm always a little skeptical about supplements because it seems like more an more information is coming to light showing that they don't help. However, for completeness, this LA Times article covers a variety of other supplements that are thought to help with depression. The only one that seemed promising to me is the Omega 3s. Like the multi-vitamins above, Kirkland fish oil pills will set you back about $12 a year, which isn't bad. Might be a good place put some of that money you've been saving on this site.
I mention the two suggestions of multivitamins and supplements with the usual caveat of understanding health studies. Don't let snake oil salesmen convince you that some vitamins are crap and not digested and that their brand is a depression cure. Don't fall for the "it gives your body what it needs to heal." I only mention them because at their minimal cost, there is little downside even though there is a little credible evidence they help.
So what's the best way to cure depression? I think building a house with Habitat for Humanity would be ideal. You get outside with some group exercise, while accomplishing something and giving back to the community. However, if you live in a cold weather climate, they probably aren't building houses in snow.
You know what usually works for me. This may sound crazy, but The Beatles' Here Comes the Sun:
Maybe you have a happy song or movie that will help boost your mood?
I realize that some of these suggestions may be temporary mood boosters and they may not cure the underlying cause of the depression. Before you be too mean to me in the comments, please go back and read the introduction about this article not being intended to replace professional help.This post involves: