In his TED talk, “Depression is a disease of civilisation” says Professor Stephen Ilardi who has been a clinical researcher in the field of depression for the last 20 years. He compares our modern lifestyle with that of ancient tribes which have as much as 200 times lower incidence of depression.
Research shows that the incidence of depression continues to go up with every subsequent generation because we humans are not designed for sedentary, indoor, socially isolated, fast food laden, sleep deprived, frenzied pace of modern life. He believes that like diabetes, atherosclerosis, obesity, and asthma, depression is a modern inflammatory disorder originating from highly unnatural and stressful ways of living.
His team has come up with 6 ways to tame the stress response and they call it Therapeutic Lifestyle Change (TLC) :
- Omega-3 Fatty acids
- Anti-ruminative activity
- Healthy sleep
- Social connections
He emphasises that exercise is medicine as it stimulates dopamine and serotonin signaling thus having antidepressive and anti-ageing effects as well as increasing mental sharpness. 30 minutes of brisk walking with a friend per week is recommended as a very effective “low dose” therapeutic intervention.
Rumination is a hallmark of depression and it ramps up the brain’s stress response. It is most likely to take place when we are alone and idle. He recommends 3 steps to handle it – to notice it, to decide to step out of it and thereafter to redirect our attention to something like a shared activity (as opposed to a conversation which can often reinforce rumination), a solo activity such as playing a musical instrument, writing our thoughts down for about 10 minutes or going for a nature walk thus changing our context to prime other thoughts.
As it happens, in a moment of great inspiration I signed up to a 50 kms walk along a scenic route by the river Thames on the 10th of September 2016 which happens to be the International Suicide Prevention day. Last year four of us walked 25 kms and raised about 3000 pounds. This year we are 3 in our team so far. I look forward to raising some awareness about suicide related issues and in the process raising funds for Papyrus. It should be fun.