Trepidation: Should we be using more than just medicine to help treat depression?

Trepidation: Should we be using more than just medicine to help treat depression?

I attended an insightful evening at SAHMRI on depression. I don’t want to sound all melancholic at the start of this blog. However, quantitatively speaking, Australia is the unhappiest country in the world (per capita). We also have the highest prescription rate/use of antidepressants in the world (per capita).

Now I am really sounding melancholic.

Why do we have high rates of depression?

I was really saddened that Australia, a wonderful, optimistic, culturally diverse nation is so depressed. Are we trying to put a band-aid on by taking an antidepressant with the notion that quote un-quote “she’ll be right mate”? Are we ill-informed by our health & medical team? Or does one think or feel that a pill is the only way to remission? Or are we literally still stuck in time?

Maybe my past tense reference was justified…

Here’s the problem…

Depression is so much more complex than the first hypothesis from the 50s, which brought us the discovery of the first antidepressant, Fluoxetine (Prozac). The problem is that all that has changed in the last forty years is that we now have ten or more antidepressants rather than just one. The reason I am so passionate about the right co-care and management is because of the side effects of these medicines. For example, the growth factors in antidepressants can contribute to obesity, another morbidity that inundates our health care system.

So what can we do to help treat depression?

Recent advances have shown that our genes can be switched off by our environment, sedentary lifestyles and psychologically stressful events.  This includes our BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) genes, which are the fertilisers for our brain. They help protect and grow our neurons.  However, positively, we can also switch this gene on by exercising and meditating. Therefore our actions and choices can potentially lead to melancholy or greater health.

I guess this is more of a personal release than an education problem solving blog. Please pardon the lack of clarity/direction. But it many ways I feel this is the current position we are in.

It all starts with the little things:

  • Move more…
  • Find space, breathe, form boundaries and find silence/solitude…
  • Hug more…
  • Connect more (interpersonally)…
  • Connect with nature…
  • Nourish your body… (remember where amino acids are derived from… FOOD. And what do amino acids make? Neurotransmitters!)

The Ugly Side of Running

Running is not for everyone!

I was recently on a running track alongside a busy highway when I received a spray of abuse from a passenger in a car. It’s not  the first time it has happened – actually it’s surprisingly common. Obviously it didn’t hurt me, and I suppose it comes out of the joy within an action that bears no consequence. Whatever. I don’t really get it…but it leaves me thinking every time. In a twisted way it motivates me. I start to think about how I would respond if the abuser actually had the gaul to do it NOT from a car driving 80kph in the opposite direction to me!

So, with tongue slightly in cheek – and without wanting to be labelled an internet tough guy – I leave my response to destiny  in the hands of cyberspace.

Here’s why you’re better off undertaking some physical activity than riding shotgun in a passenger vehicle:



Build a bigger brain through exercise!

Today’s Western lifestyle is toxic for our brains.

The continual stress of rushing around, meeting deadlines, feeling guilty about not spending enough time with the family and poor sleep habits elevate levels of a hormone called cortisol in our bodies. While this hormone can actively destroy our memory faculties, some surprising research has shed light on a simple way to correct this decay. And it’s not what you might expect. (more…)

Another Year Older, Another Year Wiser?

This year I decided that I want to exercise more, but not because I want to lose weight! I hear many resolutions at the beginning of a new year to shed unwanted kilos. These are made with the notion that effort will be required, with resolve for active pursuit. There’s a good chance that you know someone who began the year with this goal, and their plan of attack may well have included exercise. I’m not writing with any advice on maintaining this resolution into the new year, but instead am wanting to put a new spin on why a sustained exercise regime may be important to you over the coming year.

I’m interested in enhancing my ability to absorb and retain information. This doesn’t come through as a common resolution, particularly in relation to an exercise program. As in the title of this post, accumulation of wisdom is often assumed to be resultant from being around for a while! Yet even though we have embarked on a new year with fresh expectations to change our world, reality is that most of us return to surroundings of familiar stimuli, generally in the form of routine. On the whole, routine is a positive aspect to lifestyle – it affords us proficiency and efficiency in what we do. However, too much routine also has the potential to rob us of learning capacity through understimulation of the brain’s learning centre. This may be the product of carrying out days and weeks fulfilling familiar tasks that do not challenge the mind with enough stimulus to form growth of new brain cells.

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a protein found in the brain with the role of building the circuitry of cells by which the brain functions. It is responsible for ensuring adequate storage space for any new information that is to be taken on board. In the absence of BDNF, new information is rejected from the brain in the same way that items are rejected from an overflowing storage locker. It simply won’t fit! Deficiency of BDNF causes cellular breakdown within the brain, which brings about a scattering of messages and a reduced ability to focus.

Clinical evidence is now showing us that exercise not only increases the presence of BDNF in the brain, but that there is a close correlation with the accumulation of exercise. Higher exercise levels (frequency and duration) are associated with higher levels of BDNF in the Hippocampus – the long term storage area of the brain where memories are filed – effectively creating more storage space in the brain via the addition of new storage units. So the essence of learning is much the same as the resolution to lose weight – effort is required to make yourself smarter! Don’t leave it to chance through the ticking away of another year in the hope that time on earth will bring about wisdom. Exercising is a proactive approach to build and fill brain cells with new information that will ensure you end the year wiser than you began.

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