Okay, now that I am back from getting the groceries -- both literally and metaphysically (you figure that one out) -- I'm all ready to dissect depression some more. Fortunately, others with much more street cred and PhDs than me are doing the same. Just two Sundays back, a wonderful article appeared in The Washington Post that shed more light on the subject of working out the blues. And it got me to thinking...
In the Post, Charles Barber wrote Healing A Troubled Mind Takes More Than A Pill And while he might have mortally pissed off the pharmaceutical industry and some psycho-scientists, he had a lot of good and helpful things to say about living with depression, managing it, and taking control. According to Barber, rather than just relying on medication, work, exercise, and (most of all) having a purpose that extends beyond yourself are the necessary prescriptions for keeping the head and the heart in balance.
This, of course, seems like common sense -- but it is common sense worth saying...and saying again. It has been both my experience and borne true from the rudimentary research I have done. Getting busy, absorbed, fulfilled by work is vital to not only feeling better, but also changing the depressed brain.
But, it's not just about feeling better, good work actually fixes our brain equipment.
According to researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, the depressed brain literally begins to lose volume in the hippocampus, a physical mechanism that allow you to feel happy. As bad as this equipment failure sounds, there are possible replacement parts. According to researchers at Emory University and the University of Toronto, cognitive therapy can actually help the brain retool its happy parts.
So it seems that all this research and writing points to the same point: Antidepressant drugs help to make a foundation of new, happy brain parts, but it is the repetition of positive acts and responses that really makes the depressed brain grow healthier. And, I would add, humor and just plain laughing more is sugar on top.
So, my new mantra has expanded to "make hay while the sun shines" alternated with "I'll take another helping of accomplished laugh-happiness please; leave the argh! on the side." Also, where are those Marx Brothers movies?
And for some more brain entertainment, check this out: