Ronit Mor, ND
Depression is a common and serious neurological disorder that negatively affects how one feels and behaves. Some symptoms associated with depression include increased sadness, anxiety, loss of appetite, dejected mood, and a loss of interest in pleasurable activities.
On a global scale, 350 million people are affected by depression. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) states depression is the leading cause of disability in America among people ages 15 to 44 years old
In the United States alone, nearly 7% of adults are suffering from severe, clinical depression at any given time and the total economic burden of depression on the country is around $210 billion per year. And that’s before we add COVID-19 to the discussion.
One thing about depression, whether mild or severe, is that it tends to color the day from the moment you wake. If you’re depressed, your day is already colored blue before you even drag yourself out of bed, dreading the day ahead.
The good news is you may not have to turn to drugs to combat the blues. For occasional down days, adopting some simple lifestyle and diet changes and making them part of your daily routine can naturally boost your mood.
As Jon Barron points out in his book, Lessons from the Miracle Doctors, “Statistically, it turns out that people are more likely to die on Monday morning before going to work than at any other time of the week. There has been much speculation as to why this happens; but in general, most people agree it’s something along the lines of: “Most people have heart attacks on Monday morning because they are stressed that they are heading back to jobs they can’t stand after a weekend off.”
Here is a short list of morning habits that can get your day off on the right foot!
GET UP EARLIER
Research just completed by the University of Colorado in Boulder and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that women who are early risers have a lower incidence of depression than their peers. The study followed 32,000 nurses who were not depressed at the outset, for two years. After controlling for sleep duration, sleep quality, work shifts, exposure to light, weight, exercise and so forth, the researchers concluded that those who went to bed early and got up early had up to 27% lower chance of developing depression than the night owls. Experts point out that your preference for early versus late rising, or “chronotype,” may be driven by genetics, but it can also be influenced by things such as exposure to natural light, diet, and exercise.
START WITH WATER
If you’re one of those people who sleepwalks to the coffee machine and downs a cup or so before you can function, you might benefit by drinking water first instead.
Sleeping utilizes energy and water stores, and leaves us dehydrated in the morning. Begin your day with 16 oz of water or more to replenish used stores. This will, in turn, enhance metabolism and help you burn fat. In addition, water first thing in the morning gives your kidneys, liver, and digestive system a flush to help get rid of toxins that accumulated overnight. Experts say warm lemon water is the best for getting the cleanse job done.
Next to the air we breathe water is the most important element. Every life-giving and healing process that happens inside our body happens with water. Recent studies confirm the role of water in the maintenance of brain function. Our brain is made of 75% water. So, it makes sense that dehydration may manifest in the brain as mental and emotional imbalances and in extreme cases, temporary mental impairment.
In a 2013 study published in The British journal of Nutrition, researchers confirmed that dehydration results in increased sleepiness and fatigue, lower levels of vigor and alertness, and increased confusion. Most interestingly, as soon as the test subjects were given some water, the detrimental effects of dehydration on alertness, happiness, and confusion were immediately reversed.
Dehydration is a common and easily corrected deficiency that is present in what is estimated to be upward of 75% of society. So, be the exception! Start your day with water and boost your energy and outlook.
MEDITATE (INSTEAD OF STARING AT YOUR PHONE)
What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed each morning? How about check your phone? Don’t worry—you’re not alone. A recent study from IDC Research found that 80% of smartphone users check their mobile devices within 15 minutes of waking up each morning.
While cell phones and smartphones make our life so much easier, there’s plenty of evidence that too much device time leads to depression, brain changes as well as “stress-related conditions” such as hypertension, thyroid disease, heart failure, and coronary artery disease. Click here to learn more about the top negative effects from your cell phone to your brain.
Instead of reaching for your phone or laptop first thing when you wake up, try meditating for 7-10 minutes. Neuroscientist Richard Davidson of University of Wisconsin has found that people who meditate regularly exhibit high levels of gamma wave activity. Such activity allows these frequent meditators better control of their thoughts and reactivity. Additional studies have found that these high levels of gamma waves actually lead to brain neuroplasticity. This is “the brain’s ability to change, structurally and functionally, on the basis of environmental input.”
MOVE YOUR BODY
People who exercise in the morning before breakfast may enjoy benefits, such as increased energy throughout the day and greater weight loss. Making morning exercise a habit can improve your performance during the day and help you sleep better at night. What’s more, research shows that those who exercise early in the day are more likely to institute a regular workout regimen and tend to be more consistent.
Many studies show that people who exercise regularly benefit with a positive boost in mood and lower rates of depression. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine.
Regular exercise has been proven to reduce stress, ward off anxiety and feelings of depression, boost self-esteem, and improve sleep.
EAT YOUR BREAKFAST
Breakfast is indeed the most important meal of the day. It provides the body and brain with fuel after an overnight fast - that's where its name originates, breaking the fast! Without breakfast you are effectively running on empty, like trying to start the car with no fuel!
Apart from providing us with energy, breakfast foods are good sources of important nutrients such as calcium, iron and B vitamins as well as protein and fibre. The body needs these essential nutrients and research shows that if these are missed at breakfast, they are less likely to be compensated for later in the day. Fruit and vegetables are good sources of vitamins and minerals so try to include a portion of your daily recommendation at breakfast. And, of course, remember to eat quality protein too. That would keep you satiated for many hours and prevent you from craving high sugar, high carb snacks mid-morning.
Always include a few foods that encourage a healthy brain in your breakfast. These include:
And please eliminate the following harmful foods from your breakfast (as well as lunch and dinner):
Breakfast can be good for your waistline too, research shows those who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight and more likely to be within their ideal weight range compared with breakfast skippers.
SOAK SOME SUN
Sunlight and fresh air stimulates you. Darkness and lack of clean oxygen stifles you. Go outside for a walk or eat your breakfast while soaking sunlight on your patio.
Vitamin D is known as the "sunshine" vitamin. It is an essential fat-soluble nutrient. It helps keep bones healthy and strong, helps cell growth, and benefits immune function. Your body absorbs vitamin D primarily through sun exposure, although dietary supplements and certain foods are also sources of the nutrient. Epidemiological evidence shows that Vitamin D deficiency is associated with an 8%–14% increase in depression and a 50% increase in suicide.
Sunlight exposure is the primary source of vitamin D for most people. If you stay out of the sun or use too much sunblock you limit your exposure. That can lead to vitamin D deficiency. Since causality and efficacy of vitamin D supplementation remain controversial awaiting confirmation by systematic review and meta-analysis, it’s best to make a habit of safely exposing your self to sunlight on a regular basis.
The amount of sun exposure you need will depend on your climate, the time of day, and the time of year. People with lighter skin tend to absorb vitamin D more quickly. You may need anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours of exposure per day to get enough vitamin D from sun exposure alone.