Depression can be debilitating, impacting everything from your ability to work to your physical health. While some people are predisposed to depression as a result of genetics, many others develop symptoms of anxiety and mood disorders as a result of stress.
Experts now know that chronic, high levels of stress can actually lead to the development of depression, making it important to develop healthy stress-busting coping skills that combat the effects of this common mental health condition.
One of the most powerful tools in the fight against depression is exercise. Researchers have found that regular physical activity can not only help maintain a healthy weight and improve cardiovascular functioning, it actually “counter depression and dissipate stress”.
Exercise helps reduce both the physical and mental symptoms of depression by reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body, leading to an overall reduction in the harmful effects of long-term over-exposure to high cortisol levels.
In addition to helping with the management of cortisol levels, exercise releases endorphins. These ‘feel good’ hormones flood the body during, and shortly after exercising, providing an all-natural anti-depressant that experts have found to be just as effective in counteracting depression as many prescription anti-depressant medications.
Along with exercise, food has been shown to be a powerful factor in both the prevention and treatment of depression and other stress-related conditions.
High levels of the stress hormone cortisol cause food cravings, particularly high-fat, high-sugar foods, leading to a vicious cycle of overeating that is fueled by out-of-control hormones. Eating sugary, processed foods triggers the release of an enzyme from fat cells that converts to cortisol. leading to even more cravings for unhealthy, mood-dampening foods.
By eating foods that are low in processed sugars, and high in healthy fats like Omega 3 such as salmon, nuts and avocados, you can help to minimize cortisol-driven food cravings. Other healthy anti-depression foods include ones that are rich in protein, fiber and complex carbs, as these are the ‘building blocks’ for a healthy body and brain.
Many of the signs and symptoms of depression can be prevented, minimized, or even eliminated, with healthy foods and exercise. If you, or someone you know, might be suffering from depression, it’s important to speak with a doctor before beginning a treatment program.
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