We’ve all been lead to believe that depression is a condition that exists in our brains that we have no control over. In a recent study, 87.4% of people surveyed said that they believed that depression was likely caused by a chemical imbalance. This common theory has been widely accepted, but in reality, never proven.
Not even by the companies that produce anti-depressant drugs. The idea that the chemicals in our brain may contribute to symptoms of depression is one that was fostered by pharmaceutical companies, and people have taken it as fact. The truth is there is no hard evidence that’s been done that can prove one way or another what is responsible for depression on a physiological level. For instance, drugs like Prozac and Zoloft that are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that keep more serotonin in the brain can alleviate symptoms of depression, but that doesn’t mean that there was a chemical problem to begin with. Much like taking aspirin relieves the symptoms of a headache, but not because your brain was lacking aspirin.
This was proven by the efficiency of another drug that reduces serotonin in the brain and had the same effect on depression symptoms as drugs that increased serotonin levels. The truth is that through decades of research, there has never been a “cause” of depression that can be associated to a physiological condition.
That being said, there are common precursors for depression that we are all susceptible to, and they have nothing to do with chemicals in our brains. They are little things that we all do every day that opens the door to the most common symptoms of depression. On the surface, they seem simple enough but have an accumulative effect over time. Before you attribute any signs of depression to something being wrong with your brain, pay attention to these 6 bad mental habits that can make you more vulnerable to the effects of depression.
Holding on to Negative Thoughts
I think the most common thing that people do that leads to depression is the harboring of negative thoughts. The most common form of holding on to negativity revolves around focusing on your past. Focusing on bad things in your life shapes your vision for the future. If all you think about is the negative things that have happened in the past, how can you even pay attention to the good things going on around you? It’s a function of attitude. If your attitude toward the world is negative, then your perception of the world is negative.
The notion of someone wearing “rose colored glasses”, and therefore only seeing things in a happy light, is not far from the truth. The same goes for seeing the world in a negative light.
Pursuing Unrealistic Goals
Goals are important in life, but if you are aspiring towards a goal that is never going to happen – you will constantly feel defeated. I’ve talked about this before and said that if your goal in life is to climb a mountain, but you don’t get off of your couch, you will constantly feel disappointed. Technically there is almost nothing you can’t do in this life if you put in the work and effort to do it. So in my previous example, your goal should be to get in shape, be more active, and make strides toward climbing that mountain. But, for some people, they want to just skip past the work part, and achieve the end result. It doesn’t work that way.
So many people are quick to self-diagnose. They think, “well, I’m not happy today – I must be depressed.” If someone thinks they are depressed, chances are that they will be. People then take the next step and start looking for ways to alleviate their self-diagnosed depression with anything that makes them feel good. Drugs, alcohol, sex, violence, food binges, intense workouts, and other destructive behaviors become the “medicine”. Hell, even when someone goes to a doctor and the doctor says that they are depressed, the first thing they do is fill a prescription for a drug. Underdiagnosis and overmedication are the medical practice of our times. Imagine what would happen to a person if they thought they were depressed and their doctor said, “no – you are normal, you’re just having a tough time right now.” We all have that same power to self-dispute as we do to self-diagnose.
Read: What Is Depression? The Dog In This Video Clarifies Everything
Schemas are a very interesting aspect of human psychology that often don’t get enough attention paid to them. Schemas are the cognitive structures that we’ve developed over time that determine how our brains process information. The easiest way to explain this is the notion of a “Debbie downer.” We all know that person or people in our lives that no matter what the situation, they always see the negative. Then there are those people that always see the silver lining. This isn’t a function of being naive or negative, it is just how that person’s brain works. Schemas shape our beliefs, so if you harbor negative schemas (no one like me), that is how your brain processes information on an ongoing basis. Changing how you think isn’t a matter of re-inventing the wheel, so to speak, it is a process of being aware of those negative schemas. Just like your brain can be trained to process information in a negative manner, it can be trained to see the good side of any situation.
Lack of Motivation
Motivation is a strange aspect of human psychology. Take someone who hates to run and put them in a field with a hungry tiger. All of the sudden you have a track star. Someone who won’t cross the street to go to a gym will walk 3 miles for a cheeseburger. Motivation is all about rewards. If you are unmotivated, there are no rewards. This is a catch-22 of sorts because a lot of people aren’t self-motivated. Sure, it is easy to be motivated in the scenario with the tiger, but what about scenarios where the motivation to succeed has to come from within? To complicate matters, not all people are motivated by the same things. For some, money is a great motivator. For others, it is happiness that gets things done. The key here is to find what it is that motivates you, and use it to your advantage.
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Depression can be both the symptom and the cause of exhaustion. I’m not talking about the kind of exhaustion that results from not getting enough sleep. I’m talking about the kind of exhaustion that keeps you from even wanting to think or move. Pure mental and physical exhaustion is an all-encompassing thing. A lot of times, exhaustion is a product of our busy, non-stop lifestyles. In other cases, it is a result of a brain that goes 100 miles an hour all the time. The best thing some of us can do is just slow down, recharge, and rest. I can’t speak enough good things about the power of meditation, and the effects it can have on your life. Take a few minutes a couple of times a day to just relax, and see if your mood doesn’t improve.