With depression rates growing continuously every year, two reports recently published in IONS may offer more insight and help.
As the 21st century rolled around, increased rates of depression continued. The UK reports depression and suicide have increased since the financial crisis. MacLeans also confirms depression is on the rise.
The University of Toronto reports that the use of antidepressants in Canada has soared over the past two decades. A recent U of T study found a 353 per cent increase in antidepressant prescriptions (from 3.2 million to 14.5 million) between 1981 and 2000.
The medical field most often prescribes medication. The only other choice seems to be psychotherapy. Some complementary modalities suggest - among other things - light, music and massage therapy, as described in Canada.com.
But there are two more methods, not often mentioned, possibly because they don't cost a lot of money. They have been around for a long time under different names, like meditation and volunteering, but what is new is that scientific research is starting to back it up - making it more legitimate.
Self Directed Neuroplasticity
Don’t let the long label deter you. It is merely the idea that as the mind changes, the brain changes. Canadian psychologist Donald Hebb puts it in a different way: neurons that fire together, wire together.
The concept of neuroplasticity is not a new one, but carries a new label and has scientific research. Holistic-type healing modalities have long been advocating the mind-body connection such as Deepak Chopra‘s view that “where the mind goes, the body must follow.”
In a recent interview by IONS Director of Research, Cassandra Vieten with neurologist Richard Mendius, MD revealed the benefits of contemplative neuroscience or commonly known as meditation.
He explains that “one of the enduring changes in the brain of those who routinely meditate is that the brain becomes thicker." MRI’s show thickening of two regions - the pre-frontal cortex that is involved in attention, and the other is an area called the insula which is related to self-awareness and empathy. In other words it is possible for self-directed neuroplasticity to light up neural networks of happiness, love, and wisdom.
Vieten observes that even though contemplative science is “burgeoning”, this is not making headlines in the news. In fact quite the opposite, MSM seems to play into the “monkey brain.”
“The untrained mind is continually scanning for either something to want or something to fear,” says neurologist Mendius, adding, "Self-directed neuroplasticity is a great resource in a time when people are way too driven by greed, hatred and delusions." He goes on to explain the 5 steps to shifting the mind, which involve (1) breathing, (2)relaxing, (3) feeling safe, (4) a feeling of well being, and (5) the awareness as boundless space.
In an article by Stephen Post, PhD, shows that volunteering is both mentally and physically healthy.
In a collaborative project titled Cognitive and Emotional Health Project – The Healthy Brain, MRIs showed that the brain’s reward center, the mesolimbic pathway, was activated resulting in dopamine-mediated euphoria.
Again in a world where competition is encouraged and the “high” of winning is short lived, science has found a long term solution - the giver’s glow.
Post writes, “Giving may be useful in ameliorating depression because it allows positive emotions like concern and compassion to push aside negative ones like hostility and bitterness.”
Modern methods may not be so new, but science is catching up and offering people with depression other alternatives - ones that haven’t been taken seriously until now. Finding treatment does not have to cost a lot of money, and can enhance the present treatment. Consult your doctor first.