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Healing Depression by Taking Care of Your Mind, Body, and Spirit

“Suffering is not caused by pain but by resisting pain.”~Unknown

Prior to my twenty-second birthday I was spiraling down a self-destructive path, partying at all hours of the morning and drinking excessively to numb my pain. I was a rebel with a cause, as the lure of the nightlife kept me away from my dysfunctional home.

I was searching for love and happiness in all of the wrong places, but the universe stopped me dead in my tracks, both literally and figuratively, when my brother committed suicide.

Devastated by the loss of his presence in my life and the close bond we once shared, I felt utterly alone. I couldn’t fathom my life without my beloved brother. His death was not something I anticipated.

I needed answers and some sort of explanation as to how a happy-go-lucky young man had changed into a moody and depressive person.

In my grief-stricken state, I went to the public library and retrieved books on suicide and mental illness. I needed to categorize his disease. Was it bipolar, schizophrenia?

Coincidently, I had a medical appointment with a general practitioner. I was a new patient and had never met this doctor before. But I immediately felt at ease with him, and though I went in for a physical reason, I left his office with a plan for self-healing.

After a few sessions with the doctor, I learned about depression, dysfunction, abuse, and addiction. Initially I didn’t know what those terms had to do with me and my brother’s death.

I was completely overwhelmed, and as I excavated my past, I plummeted even deeper in my darkness. I remained stuck in stage four of the grieving process—depression.

My pain was so unbearable I even contemplated my own death. When the doctor offered antidepressants, I declined.

I chose talk therapy as opposed to antidepressants, not because of any stigma, but because I envisioned myself in a vegetated state for the rest of my life.

I already had family members in this predicament and I vowed that it was not going to me. So I was quite aware that I was genetically predisposed to manic or bipolar depression.

After one year of dealing with my issues, I abandoned my own treatment. I was caught up in a whirlwind romance with my prince charming. We got married and built a life that my girlfriends dreamed of.

Yet, I was still unhappy and, after a nine-year relationship, I found myself divorced, picking up the pieces of my life, and headed back to the doctor’s office.

I was severely depressed and diagnosed with bipolar tendencies. Still, I stubbornly refused antidepressants.

In my mind, I had already established my happiness was not going to be found in a pill. So I kept searching for what I believed would make me happy, only to self-medicate by stuffing my emotions in binge eating, alcohol, and co-dependent relationships.

I was a walking contradiction and I really “thought” I resolved my past. So why was I still unhappy? Once again the universe stepped in, and third time was definitely not a charm.

For two and a half years I endured a turbulent relationship that had me consumed with passive-aggressive behavior and endless drama. When I severed the ties, I hit rock bottom. It was time for me to confront myself.

I was fed up of repeating the same patterns and I was ready to get serious with my life. I resumed my therapy sessions. I started journaling, and I gradually established a holistic approach to take care of my entire well-being, encompassing mind, body, and spirit.

MIND

• Saying positive affirmations three times a day (morning, mid-day, and at night)—such as “I love and accept myself,” “I am at peace in my life,” “I deserve to be happy,” “I feel good physically, mentally, and emotionally”—dispels the negative chatter.

• Focusing on the solution of what’s bothering you is highly effective, instead of fixating on the problem. Worrying only increases stress-levels.

• Reaching out to friends and/or a professional offers support.

BODY

Practicing yoga or any form of exercise increases your energy.

• Eating a balanced diet with lots of greens, reducing processed sugars, and drinking lots of water is not only healthier for your body, it also nourishes the mind. In the book The Ultra Mind, author Mark Hyman correlates how “junk” food can affect our moods and diseases such as depression.

Sleeping is important, ideally eight hours. You’ll feel refreshed and a lot less prone to making poor choices.

SPIRIT

• Acknowledging your emotions instead of burying them with alcohol, sex, food, etc is much more responsible, because you’re 100% in charge of your own happiness.

• Finding at least five things to be grateful for shifts the focus from what you perceive as missing in your life.

Forgiving others and most of all yourself is necessary in order to let go and move on.

• Praying, journaling, and meditating increases inner calm.

• Listening to your intuition can save you from needless suffering.

The key is consistency and repetition in order to create healthier habits. I know that life can get in the way and some days it can be challenging to cope.

By no means am I advocating against the use of antidepressants. But I’ve always believed in the mind-body-spirit connection, and I don’t think antidepressants are the sole source to dealing with a mental illness.

After a nineteen-year battle with depression, I can attest that treating the mind-body-spirit is not a quick-fix solution—and that it is possible to feel whole again. But have you have to choose to put effort into healing.

Do you practice any rituals to keep your mind, body, and spirit connected? Are you in a combination treatment, if so what are they?


Disclaimer: This post represents one person’s unique experiences in overcoming depression holistically. This does not constitute professional advice. Please consult a qualified professional for a treatment plan if you feel you have a serious condition and need help.

 Photo by tiseb

Avatar of Andrea Lewis

About Andrea Lewis

Andrea Lewis lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. She is the author of Dramaville is a not a place; it’s a state of mind. Her memoir promises to be filled with drama, emotional turmoil and an inspiration to never give up! Connect with Andrea at http://www.andreamlewis.com.

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  • Molly

    I suffered decades of depression and practiced all the holistic mind body things I could think of…meditation, yoga, supplements, sleep, exercise, etc… I finally gave in to medication and my life miraculously changed. I finally felt normal. Life became easy for the first time. My brain neede the drugs and I wish I had started on them earlier.

  • Big Dom

    I am Bipolar 2 and on a very light regiment of medication. Still, even with the pills helping to regulate my mood swings and keeping me from spiraling into a depression I’ve found that medication alone was not doing the trick. I was just treading water with medication and therapy. Over the last year I have started exercising regularly, practicing Zazen, eating mostly vegetarian, quit drinking and smoking. I find life to be more fulfilling now that I have taken an active roll in my wellness. The medication is essential in my life but not the end all be all. Take care of yourselves :)

  • Ariel

    Dear Molly I’m glad you’re feeling better! I’ve had to
    use medication a couple of times and it has helped me a lot. Sometimes it is
    needed, just like we need to understand and solve our life issues trough
    therapy, love, meditation or any other method. Let’s do whatever we have to do
    in order to feel better. I’ve come to terms on the meds: if that’s what
    it takes for me to be fine, so be it! No stigma or social prejudice will keep
    me from living a healthy and peaceful life. Our well-being should be our
    most important objective.

    My best wishes Molly!
    Take care
    PLUR (Peace Love Unity & Respect)

  • Kerry

    I needed to hear this this morning, Thank you

  • Matthew

    I’ve been a big fan of Matt Stone of 180 Degree Health for a few years now, and have also learned a lot from reading some of Dr. Ray Peat’s articles. I also tested positive for a compound heterozygous mutation of the MTHFR gene a number of months ago, and have found a huge benefit from taking L-methylfolate and some other B-vitamins in the active form (a good site to read about this is MTHFR.net)

    I’ve struggled with severe anxiety and depression my whole life, have had a brief psychotic episode, cut myself for years, was anorexic, OCD, suicidal countless numbers of times, have been hospitalized for mental problems on two occasions, and have been in therapy for over 10 years (with bad therapists who did more harm than good!)…

    …and after all that, I can’t help but agree with this pyramid you have here. Mind, body, and spirit. I’m constantly researching and trying new things; we all are. There’s a billion and one things to research under the categories of mind, body, and spirit…but since science is always discovering new things, I think the most important thing of all is to simply maintain an awareness of these things. The best thing we can do is to make an effort to take care of ourselves and to keep trying. “Persistence is better than perfection.”

    Thanks for sharing :)

  • Madame Defarge

    I have chronic depression and have to take medication. It’s just one tool in my arsenal, which also includes all the things you mentioned above.

  • http://twitter.com/aLotusE Emily

    My mental illnesses caused me to be hospitalized for the first time when I was 14. Thirteen years later, I am a mother of two. I believe I need to stop using so much medication, but I fear the return of the depression. I also think that practicing Zazen will help greatly, but find it difficult to be present in each moment while on meds & taking care of a four and two.year old. Sometimes I am just overwhelmed. I wonder if I can ever stop taking medication

  • Lisa

    Thanks for sharing Andrea – always so helpful to hear of the experiences of others. Sounds like a really challenging time. Love and kind wishes to you:)

  • http://www.facebook.com/kerstinmjanisch Kerstin Maria Janisch

    I suffered from depression for years. I’m now medication free and as much as I agree with these things said in this , in my opinion as a sufferer myself and as a scientist, I think medication in combination with therapy is the way to go. maybe not a long-term solution, but as possibility and option to give your brain a break. Depression is a biochemical imbalance of your neurotransmitters and it will help to improve brain function and put you in a state where you are able to deal with the root cause of the depression through therapy. The pill will not remove the issues and if not dealt with honest evaluation and talk therapy will always come back and haunt you. BUT you need to be in a plane to be ankle to

  • http://www.facebook.com/kerstinmjanisch Kerstin Maria Janisch

    BUT you need to be in a place to be able to do this; and that’s where medication comes in, to help you get to that stage.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=565595533 Andrea Lewis

    Hi Molly, Thanks for sharing your experience with depression. I’m glad to hear that the antidepressants are working for you. I did attempt to take them once but I only lasted 3 days, I endured all the side effects. Take care. xo

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=565595533 Andrea Lewis

    Hi Matthew, I’m sorry to hear about your struggles with mental illness. You are absolutely right, we must keep trying to take care of ourselves. Never, ever give up! Take care, xo

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=565595533 Andrea Lewis

    Hi Kerstin, Thanks for sharing your insights. I do agree with you that antidepressants will not remove the issues but one must be in a place to do deal with their issues via talk therapy. Take care, xo

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=565595533 Andrea Lewis

    Hi Lisa, Thanks so much for your kind words. I appreciate it. Take care, xo

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=565595533 Andrea Lewis

    Hi Emily, I am sorry to hear about your struggles with depression. Your doctor will help you determine if/when you need to stop taking the medication. Just take life one day at a time. Take care, xo

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=565595533 Andrea Lewis

    You’re welcome Kerry! Take care, xo

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=565595533 Andrea Lewis

    Hi Ariel, I agree! “Our well-being should be our most important objective.” Take care, xo

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=565595533 Andrea Lewis

    Hi Madame Defarge, thanks for sharing your method of treating your depression. Take care, xo

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=565595533 Andrea Lewis

    Hi Big Dom, thanks for sharing your method of treating your Bipolar 2. Glad to hear that your combination therapy is working effectively. Take care, xo

  • http://www.facebook.com/anthonykorahais Anthony Korahais

    Good article, Andrea, but don’t be so afraid of criticizing antidepressants. The scientific evidence over the past ten years is very damning of antidepressants. For sure, we know that they don’t work in 50% of cases. That leaves millions of people without a solution!

    I cured myself of clinical depression years ago using Qigong. No meds. No psychotherapy. Just Qigong. Here’s my story, if you’re interested:

    http://flowingzen.com/1912/depression-kills-qigong-saves/

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=565595533 Andrea Lewis

    Hi Anthony, thanks for your feedback and that’s wonderful you cured yourself with Qigong. I read your article, I’m very interested in learning more about Qigong. I downloaded the free audio. Take care, xo

  • formercalifnativeComesHome

    this posting came at a perfect time for me. I’m a man with depression. I have had this condition for a lifetime. I took meds for a short time as an adult but I guess I thought it was more like treating an infection; I took the prescribed course and then got off of them when I felt better. didn’t do the therapy then. As my internal/external life spiraled out of control this time, I sought and found a great PhD. therapist. She helped me to see how this problem has influenced my life since my teens. I brought up meds with her yesterday. She said the same thing that has been said here: they can be useful to get you to a place where you can do the real work. the meds worked before so I am going to go on them again while I work with the psychologist. It’s been a long time since I felt this level of hope for the future. just wanted to tell someone.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=565595533 Andrea Lewis

    Thanks for sharing. I wish you well on your journey with depression. Just know that you are not alone and stay hopeful. Take care

  • Astha Kaushik

    I think the best way to be cheerful is to recognize ur problem first and solve it in d most honest way you can…i guess if you have a problem only your mind has the capability to solve it and no one else… and for that u need to keep your mind healthy and peaceful..if ur mind is at peace it can solve any of your problems..no matter how big or small…I guess your inner strength is always directly proportional to the peace of your mind…

  • http://www.facebook.com/hiba.khatkhat Hiba Khatkhat

    There’s nothing wrong with criticizing anti depressants, yes, they have side effects. But I do think there’s something wrong with completely dismissing them as a tool that can help people. The stigma against the meds are the same stigma associated with the illness. if you had diabetes and the doctor said take insulin, would you be so resistant? the point is, just like any other disease, approaching mental illness holistically (and yes that includes meds sometimes) is the best way to addressing it.

  • http://twitter.com/LynetteBenton Lynette Benton

    From what I’ve observed, dealing with depression is a lifelong effort. So, any tips that help one change what one can are useful. I don’t suffer from depression, thank goodness, but I know it takes a ton of stamina to deal with it. And I’m so happy for others that there are a host of ways to conquer it, or at least keep it in check.

  • O’Rien

    I suffered from depression for many years, and i decided to go on anti-depressents. But what I found is that if you expect the medication to do all the work you wont be able to recover fully, you also need to put effort into how you think, avoiding negative thinking traps and being as positive as you can. I wish everyone luck on fighting this battle, it can be the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but you will feel good again.

  • Alexandria Vasquez

    I have gone to therapy for mood swings (with a possibility of Bipolar II), and I agree. I don’t think medication is always the way to go. I am currently working on finding a system of taking care of my body mind and spirit in a way that will help me find inner peace. Thanks for the great article!

  • Chelsea Sawyer

    The natural way oh healing depression truly works wonders. I have been through depressing times and no medication of any kind helped me. I did meditation and with the help of my loved ones, I am now a new person.

  • http://www.aces-counseling.com/ DUI evaluation

    For almost four years, I have been dealing with depression. I lost someone truly dear to me and it was very difficult to face the world without her. It was really a difficult stage both for me and the people around me. However, I was able to overcome it, thanks to all the support from my family. I guess traveling and experiencing different things was also a huge but helpful step.

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  • bluebell

    as i write this i am currently off work due to depression…..depression seems to be a reoccurring event in my life, though this episode is not as bad as i’ve known it in the past….i guess i felt that throwing myself into work and just focusing on that one thing in my life would keep me going, but all it did was exhaust me to the point of having a breakdown of sorts and needing time off work…..i do realise that eating the right foods, drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep and rest, and having regular exercise all help in keeping depression at bay (as well as having a proper work and home balance), but when i’m on the spiral downwards, the last thing i think about, or have the energy to think about, is taking care of my mind, body, and spirit…..hence the resulting burn out and time off work to recuperate…..anyway, i guess what i wanted to say is that i can relate to your post and the desire not to have antidepressants…..i do realise i have to make a concerted effort to break this habit of depressive episodes in my life and that the responsibility for my own well-being is up to me…..thank you andrea for sharing your story.

  • yesica

    The MIR Self-Healing Method is a method developed by Mireille Mettes ,
    Dutch holistic therapist that relies on the repetition of a series of mental
    mandates that aim to make the mind ‘s grasp , assimilate and run to heal
    physical and emotional ailments .

    In itself , the name of MIR , besides being the first three letters of
    the name of its author , means something like ” Intuitive Mental Reboot
    ” to like a computer, which slows or when it begins to fail, it should go
    off and become to switch again to load programs and re- start a work session.

    When we get stuck repeatedly in the same thoughts and beliefs, our body
    responds to the meaning of all of them. Whether the person knows and feels sick
    ; problems and concerns, and therefore can not stop thinking about it . And the
    mind assumes that this is how the body should respond with pain, discomfort and
    symptoms of the disease are expected .

    This method of self-healing , simply dictates that the natural powers
    of self-healing of the body must be activated by sentences that are installed
    in the subconscious , like a program is installed on the computer and
    thereafter , automatically operate whenever the device switches on .

    More information on this video: http://tinyurl.com/n6k3gsz