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Imelda Arreola. Ph.D., serves as the NAD Asian Shepherdess

Boost Your Body, Brain, and Mood (pdf)

I once heard a three-and-a-half year old girl say, “I am depressed.” In her innocence, she said it with charm, pushing back her shoulder-length, curly hair from her cheeks, ending it with a slight sigh. If you are like me, you smile at this little one’s expression. On a serious note, where in the world did this girl hear such word, ‘depressed,’ let alone. her lack of understanding at what It meant? Will she ever experience this dreaded pandemic growing leaps and bounds in this century?
The World Health Organization (WHO) says, “By the year 2020, depression will likely be the second leading cause of the disease burden, worldwide.”[1] Super Bowl winning quarterback Terry Bradshaw suffered from clinical depression and thought he would be taking medication throughout his life. Television personality David Letterman who built his career on making others laugh ironically says he struggled with depression. Business tycoon and billionaire T. Boone Pickens, had a serious battle with depression. Women are not immune to depression, for one in two suffers from the disease in her lifetime.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “In any given year, nearly 19 million American adults suffer from depressive disorders, with women suffering at almost twice the rate of men. Major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the United States.”[2] Depression is no respecter of people: the wealthy and the not so wealthy, the bright and the not so bright, male or female, and even young or old.
As defined by WHO, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental, ad social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”[3] In the Christian world, health includes a person’s emotional and spiritual well-being as well. Health is a dynamic condition resulting from the body’s constant adjustment and adaptation in response to stresses and changes in the environment for maintaining an inner balance or equilibrium. Definitely, health involves the total well-being of a person.
Depression is a physical illness. A depressed person has feelings of emptiness, loneliness, and hopelessness. Some other symptoms are: persistent sadness, irrational anxiety, and reduced activity. The day-to-day ups and downs that many people experience may lead to the ailment that may last indefinitely. On a different note, some young people may suffer the blues where they become sad or feeling low. The cause is understood like: a girl not having a boyfriend when all her friends have, or maybe getting a C in an exam. The cause of the feeling is understood and is temporary as it changes once she gets a boyfriend, or gets an A in the finals.
People get depressed as a result of poor lifestyle habits, and distorted thought processing of the ups and downs of their daily life. When this happens, there are two immediate things that one can do. First, get a medical check-up. The mind and physical health are interrelated. Depression can lead to calcium loss which results to osteoporosis. The brain function suffers, and such affects the whole person. Depression can be caused by, or aggravated by, another health condition. In turn, depression can cause or contribute to other health conditions. For example, cancer may develop in a depressed person, or a person that has cancer may become depressed.
Second, check your medication. Medication is the most common treatment for depression. Anti-depressants are the largest selling class of drugs with over $20 billion spent in the United States per year. Unfortunately, medications can cause symptoms for which they are prescribed. Read the fine print. Anti-depressants can affect mood, lead to dependency, and deepen depression.  Out of 10 people taking anti-depressants, two get out from depression, five remain clinically depressed, and three have no response. The Drug Industry says, “Medications for depression virtually help no one.”[4] Furthermore, Neil Nedley, a medical doctor who specializes in treating the disease says, “Medications for depression help some people, but in reality, this is not the cure.”[5]
Another common practice people do is self-medication by using caffeine, the legal drug that hurts. This is present in colored drinks like coffee, tea, chocolate, soft drinks, and even in pain relievers. However, fatigue, anxiety, mood swings, and behavioral change are some of the unpleasant effects from consuming these caffeinated substances. Furthermore, it harms the brain and nervous system by contributing to mental stress, irritability, anxiety, and depression. It also results to vitamin and mineral deficiency - the B vitamins, and calcium and iron, respectively.
Here’s the good news! There are far better alternatives to treating depression with far less side effects, and they are better than medicine! First, get moving! Duke University says, “Aerobic exercise is just as effective at treating depression as daily doses of Zoloft.”[6] Here’s some guideline to moderate activities: exercise most every day for a total of 30 minutes which can be accumulated throughout the day. This may include swimming, gardening, walking, and biking. Exercise improves sense of well-being; increases energy, efficiency, and endurance; lifts depression; reduces stress; and improves quality of sleep.
Light therapy is the second essential tip needed to combat depression. Exposing your eyes to daylight the first twenty minutes when you wake at 6 A. M. or earlier in the morning combats depression. Open the windows and let the sunshine in! For those who cannot possibly do this like some people who work night shifts, or those who live up north or down south with extremely short summers and long winters, a medical grade light box with simulated blue sky light is the best type of wavelength light for depression. Outdoor activities help keep the disease at bay. “Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun:….” Ecclesiastes 11:7. KJV[7]
Third, sleep is important to heal and rejuvenate the body, brain, and mood. We are a sleepless nation with sleep debt on the rise. When you are sleepy during the day, it means that you are not getting enough sleep. Interrupted sleep not only aggravates depression, but can cause it in some people. In return, depression impedes good sleep and irritability increases significantly. There should be a regular schedule of sleep. Everyone, young and old except infants who need more sleep, need eight hours of sleep. The best sleep is between 9:30 P. M. in the evening and 6:00 A. M. in the morning. Sleep in a dark, quiet room for the body to produce melatonin in order to have sound sleep that promotes healing for the body, rejuvenates the brain, and lifts the mood. This in turn prepares the body to produce serotonin shortly before waking up which is necessary to make one feel good during the day. Proverbs 3:24 NKJV says, “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; Yes you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.” [8]
Eating a plant-based diet as it comes from nature comes in fourth. A plant-based diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and whole grains is equally important to fight depression. A plant-based diet is rich in tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin, a hormone the body produces that makes you feel good during the day. A meat-based diet lacks tryptophan, so on the contrary, it dampens the mood.
The body is mostly water. Adults are 60% water, babies are 75%, and the brain is 85%. The body can function properly with adequately hydration, the fifth essential tip. Each day, we need five glasses of water to stay alive, eight glasses to feel great, and 10 glasses to rejuvenate.

To be alive with just five glasses of water is not enough. We need 8-10 glasses of water in order to feel great and rejuvenate, and for the brain which is mostly water to work its potential as God designed. Start each morning with two glasses of warm water with a squeeze of lemon for cleansing.
The following are some helpful tips to consider in combating depression. De-stress! In this fast-paced society we live in, stress is a commodity intertwined with daily life. Nevertheless, there are many ways to de-stress as reasons to stress. Enough amount of stress     
can keep us going; too much stress can be debilitating. Let us examine our priorities, and control and manage our stress instead of letting stress control us. Our list of things to do should be realistic and doable.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) was designed to treat depression and a number of mental illnesses. “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a form of treatment that focuses on examining the relationships between thoughts, feelings, and behavior. It works to solve current problems and change unhelpful thinking and behavior.”[9] Like Elijah in the Bible who just had his Mt. Carmel experience but ended up hiding in a cave,[10] it is easy to fall into such a trap. He exaggerated his situation by saying that he was the only one left when in reality there were 7,000 God-fearing people left, 100 of them were God’s prophets. What Elijah was going through was a typical characteristic of depression. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy corrects this distorted thinking by recognizing the fact and stating it right, and from there resolves the situation objectively. Its effects are comparable to antidepressant medications. CBT has been shown to boost brain power even in healthy people.
Supportive Talk Therapy alleviates depression by having somebody or a support group that listens, helps you decipher what’s going on and resolve a problem, then speaks positive and encouraging words that lift up the spirit. We are what we think so even a positive self-talk alleviates the mood.   
Get thinking. Problem solving and mental exercises are good for the brain. Research has shown that the adult brain is malleable in ways neurologists didn’t imagine. By performing complex mental tasks, we can boost brain health, which in turn, combats depression. Even something as reading the newspaper for 10 minutes a day, memorizing five items on the grocery list, or even better, memorizing songs or Bible verses can begin to recharge the circuits and mentally challenge the brain.
Have a grateful heart. An attitude of gratitude is an antidote to complaining. Find one blessing each day to thank God for, and by the end of the year you would have 365 of them. Counting your blessings proves a merciful God that cares and loves you unconditionally, and alleviates your mood. Jesus set us an example, Jesus’ life was a life of thanksgiving!
Get connected. Human beings are inherently social. God created relationships as channels of His goodness to humanity. Proverbs 16:24 NIV says beautifully, “Pleasant words are a honey- comb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”[11] Dr. M. Fotuhi, a Harvard neurologist and neuroscientist, commented, “Social engagements of any kind - …. boost your brain and mood on many levels.”[12]
Spend time with God in prayer and study of His Word. Prayer and meditation on the Word of God have mood and brain benefits. In Proverbs 4:20-22 NKJV, God admonishes us, “My son (daughter), give attention to My words; Incline your ear to My sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh.”[13] The book of Proverbs gives practical insights on good Christian living that alleviate all aspects of life. Furthermore, listening to classical music and singing gospel songs about Jesus dissipate distorted thought patterns and uplift the mood.
As for the three-and-a-half year old girl who was depressed with a charm, if I had a choice I would choose the latter. May God grant us His grace and power to overcome, heal, and be in abundant health as an expression of the charm of the One who said in Jeremiah 33:6 NKJV, “Behold, I will bring it health and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth.” Furthermore, He says in 3 John 2 NKJV, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.”[14]
[1] World Health Organization, Quotation based from the worldwide growth trend of depression
[2] National Institute of Mental Health, Quotation based from research
[3] World Health Organization, Definition of health
[4] The Drug Industry, Quotation based from results of medication intake
[5] Neil Nedley, MD, President of Neil Nedley Health Solutions and expert in treating depression
[6] Duke University, Quotation based from school’s study on exercise and depression
[7] Bible, King James Version, Ecclesiastes 11:7
[8] Bible, New King James Version, Proverbs 3:24
[9] National Alliance on Mental Illnesses, CBT has the same effect as antidepressants.
[10] Bible, New King James Version, 1 Kings 17-18, Story of prophet Elijah and his depression
[11] Bible, New International Version, Proverbs 16:24
[12] M. Fotuhi, MD, Harvard neurologist and neuroscientist
[13] Bible, New King James Version, Proverbs 4:20-22
[14] Bible, New King James Version, 3 John 2