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I came across an article talking about the benefits of yoga to depression and lower back pain, here. While the article doesn’t really talk much about how Yoga would help depression, I can think of a few reasons why yoga might be good for our mood:

  • Yoga is often done in groups, so you get some social contact. Sometimes we can find people annoying, and sometimes we just want to be alone, but other times it’s good to mix with people.
  • Practicing Yoga it is usually a calming and relaxing exercise, which directly makes us feel better. And most exercise is generally good for the body and the mind.
  • Doing new things often comes a self of self-accomplishment, it’s nice experiencing new things, and adding to our skills.

Come to think of it, part of the benefit is directly yoga, but part of it comes from just getting out there and being active. I wonder if anyone’s done any research on the beneficial effects of starting a new hobby? Whether it’s joining a social netball team, a dance class, or whatever, if it involves doing things with people, and trying out new things, it’s hard to see it not being helpful.

So, if you’re at a place where you have a lot of time on your hands, maybe you should think about getting out there and trying something new? It could be yoga, could be something else. Either way, it’s probably worth giving it a go.

A couple of months ago, we wrote about an ecological perspective on depression. I recently noticed Time Magazine has an article on Eco-Therapy. A couple of interesting exerpts:

…Eco-therapists point out that human beings have evolved in synchrony with nature for millions of years and that we are hard-wired to interact with our environment — with the air, water, plants, other animals. But in the past two centuries, beginning with the Industrial Revolution, people have been steadily removed from the natural world, our lives regulated not by the sun or moon but instead by the factory clock. Recently it’s gotten worse, with the rise of the Internet and other technologies, like iPhones and BlackBerrys, that dominate our lives, pushing us even further from any appreciation of our natural surroundings…

…A 2007 study by researchers at the University of Essex in England found that a daily dose of walking outside could be as effective as taking antidepressant drugs for treating mild to moderate depression. Of course, it’s no secret that regular exercise is a powerful mood enhancer — although researchers noted that a similar regimen of walking in a crowded shopping mall did not have the same impact — and the boost in vitamin D production in people who spent more time outside in the sun surely helped as well…

Food for thought.

One of the more startling findings is that the rate of depression in the western world has been on the increase over the past century. One study (summary here) found the rate of major depression in U.S. adults increased from 3.33% to 7.06% over a ten year period. The study interviewed a large sample, and used their own questions, rather than relying on the numbers diagnosed by doctors, so an increase in the rates of diagnosis wouldn’t explain the result. The study found increasing substance abuse could account for some, but not all of the change.

One researcher has explained the increase in depression in cultural terms. Stephen Ilardi, from the University of Kansas, argues that depression arises because people are more adapted to primitive times:

“As a species, humans were never designed for the pace of modern life, we’re designed for a different time — a time when people were physically active, when they were outside in the sun for most of the day, when they had extensive social connections and enjoyed continual face time with their friends and loved ones, when they experienced very little social isolation, when they had a much different diet, when they got considerably more sleep and when they had much less in the way of a relentless, demanding, stress-filled existence.” (Source: Kansas University News)

His six recommendations for depression are to get more physical activity, spend more time in the sun, keep up social connections, improve our diet (by eating more food with omega-3s, and less fast foods), getting more sleep, and engaging ourselves in tasks to avoid rumination. I’ve come across similar recommendations before, and they are good self-care behaviours.

The thing about culture is that we can often be sucked into thinking that the way we do things is the way things are meant to be done. So we should look at whether we’re buying into the modern high-stress culture, and consider whether we should make some changes to our lives. Maybe it’s time to go ‘primitive’, and live healthier lives?

September 2020