Thursday, 14 October 2010

Fighting the Blues

Poppets, this is the part where I tell you that I am not a doctor or a psychiatrist and that you should not be reading my blog as a subsitute for medical advice.

But I will also say that I know very well what it means to have the blues, not to mention the mean reds, not to mention a growing feeling that your school/workplace is, in fact, the anti-christ. If you are at the anti-christ stage, it is time to see a doctor. But assuming that you're not there yet, let's chat about tips for warding off depression.

The most obvious non-drug ways to prevent depression are nutrition, exercise and gazing at beautiful things, just so long as those beautiful things are not delicious marrieds or other cute people 15 years or more younger than yourself. I am thinking more in terms of the art gallery and Georgian architecture. I live near Edinburgh, so any time I want to look at Georgian architecture, I can take my pick of buses for £1.20 and gaze at classical symmetry all I want.

I found some great anti-depression nutrition foods listed in Redbook (UK, Feb 2009), so here they are:

1. Vitamin C (oranges, kiwis, sweet peppers, broccoli)
2. Omega-3 (salmon, mackerel, sardines, flaxseed)
3. Theanine (green tea or, in smaller amounts, ordinary black tea)
4. B Vitamins, esp. folic acid (leafy greens, wholegrains, seeds, beans, nuts, eggs)
5. L-tryptophan (turkey, chicken, beef, soybeans, cottage cheese)
6. Magnesium (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds)
7. Vitamin D (oily fish, eggs, cod liver oil, liver)

And of course you get Vitamin D from the sun, so you should get outside into the sun when you can (but wear sunscreen).

From mediaeval times, scholars complained of melancholy and today grad students seem to pop anti-depressants like candy, and it's been suggested to me that it is because we readers-and-writers sit too long in one place for hours at a time. Moving around is a great mood booster, and back when I had a student (i.e. free) membership in a gym, I found that 99% of the time, if I felt lousy on my way into the gym, I felt great coming out.

I leave it up to you what beautiful things you have to gaze at. I got through a very bad time by watching every single episode of Sex and the City because it reminded me of my friends, although I hasten to add that none of my friends behaved like the characters on SATC and that I do not recommend it for young people.* But I also got through it by listening to Gerard Le Norman's Les Plus Belles Chansons over and over again and, alas, by eating a lot of Ben & Jerry's ice-cream, the effects of which my figure has still not recovered. (Woe!)

The Jesuits advise that you read sad things when you're happy and happy things when you're sad, to even you out. I think it works with music, too. Les Plus Belles Chansons is very happy, even "Voici Les Clés", a song about a man who is sending his runaway girlfriend the house-keys in case she decides to come back.

I listened to Les Plus Belles Chansons last night, not because I was depressed but because I was in a musical mood. Meanwhile, I try to walk four miles a day along the sea, which surely must be good for me in all kinds of ways, and I today I ate a menu practically guaranteed to make me euphoric:


Omlette (2 eggs, cheese)
Coffee (only 1.5 cups--apparently more is bad)
Orange Juice


6 Almonds


125 g deli turkey on 1 slice brown bread
glass 1% Milk

6 more Almonds

(4 Mile Walk)




Roasted Portobella Mushroom
Tin of Salmon mashed up with yogurt on mixed Leafy Greens, Sweet Peppers, red onions, small tomato, 1 oz cheddar cheese chopped into weeny pieces
1 small glass white wine

I don't actually feel euphoric, but I do feel well-fed.

*Two of my husband's friends watched every single episode and claimed that they only did so because they knew I had watched it, and they wanted to know what kind of woman B.A. was marrying. Every time they say this, I get really unseraphic indeed.


fifi said...

Watching old movies is high on my cheer-up list (of course, watching them with someone is better than watching alone). The clothes are fun, the dancing is awesome... what's not to love?

The makers seemed to really grasp the concept of escapist, cheer-inducing entertainment. There is a deliberate optimistic, even Christian (and patriotic) outlook in many old films, not to mention a decency and innocence we don't often find in the cinema nowadays.

All the arts are great cheerer-uppers. Aren't we lucky to have access to such richness, whatever other blessings pass us by!

Jasmina said...

Art is definetely a cheer upper!I worked in a museum during the summer and I loved being surrounded by amazing art every day! As for the movies I agree with Fifi about the old movies doing the trick..for me my biggest comfort tv show so far has been Dr quinn medicine woman :)

Andrea said...

Six almonds! That's discipline!!

Anonymous said...

It may sound strange, but I've usually needed really gritty stuff to read to counteract depression, because when I'm depressed, the cheery, bright stuff doesn't seem to cut it - feels too unreal. (Yes, that's what depression can do to one's sense of reality.)

At one period in my life, I found the very grim, baroque mysteries of James Ellroy really helpful against depression. No one could suspect him of sugar-coating reality, yet he always seemed somehow to retain a kind of hope in the face of despair. Yet he isn't even a very good writer, or at any rate a good stylist. Or wasn't at that time; he has since improved.

The rosary can be helpful against depression, especially the kind that grows out of grief or self-recrimination. I speak here of its meditative qualities rather than the possibility of heavenly intercession, but of course the latter could very well be part of its helpfulness too.


The Sojourner said...

At my lowest point, I watched Tim Hawkins' "Hedge of Protection" routine (look for him on YouTube; he's pretty clean and HILARIOUS) over and over again.

Jennifer said...

Sometimes the Jesuit suggestion of happy things to balance the sad works, but sometimes, I find that when I'm sad or meloncholy, what I really need is to have a good cry. So if that's what I need, I find a weepy chick movie and cry my way through it. And then I usually feel better.

When it IS something happy I need, however, I usually go to museum, then go to the bookstore and get magazines to read in the bathtub, then to the foo-foo bath place to get really nice bubble bath, and then I do a spa night at home, with a nice hot bath, and brain-free magazines, and a big glass of water with rosewater in it, and my CD of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong duets. And then early to bed. Usually right as rain the next day.

fifi said...

Does anyone watch Lark Rise to Candleford? (BBC series, set in Victorian times) Seraphic, I wonder what you would think of the character of Dorcas Lane as a role model for singles. She struggles with some of the traps of singledom (meddling, holding on to an old flame for far too long when it's going nowhere) but she also lives a happy, useful life with great joy and attention to beauty. I love this series (so far).