Globally an estimated 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression.
The cause of depression we are often told is due to a chemical imbalance in the brain.
Depression is a ‘result of insufficient serotonin’. But is that true?RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
Scientific evidence shows this is not the case. The chemical imbalance idea arose from the discovery that substances that increase serotonin seem to help improve symptoms of depression. But research that has tried to confirm this hypothesis has repeatedly discredited the theory.
Breakthroughs in understanding the ever changing brain has opened up insights into many very common issues that have traditionally been seen as difficult to treat – like depression.
So let me introduce you to the concept of Neuroplasticity
Neuroplasticity refers to the idea that the brain is capable of changing its function in response to your environment, thinking, and emotions. It was once thought that the brain was “fixed” in the way that it functioned after childhood. Although the brain is likely fully developed by the mid-20s, neuroplasticity refers to ongoing changes in neural pathways that occur for life.
American Neuropsychiatrist Eric Kandel won the 2000 Nobel Prize in neuroscience for this discovery, which is behind many medical advances, including changing the way we treat learning abilities and mental illness such a depression.
You can improve the depression by exercising it in the same way you exercise your physical body.
And there is plenty of research to confirm that physical exercise has a positive effect on people who suffer from neuroplasticity depression.
Brain plasticity is a two-way street; it is just as easy to generate negative changes as it is positive ones. Research findings have shown that disorders like depression cause damage to the brain, or a kind of ‘negative plasticity.’
What’s important to realise is that your day-to-day thinking, habits and behaviours can have measurable effects on brain structure and function.
When you start to apply ‘positive plasticity’ in your day to day life, it makes your brain extremely resilient and is allows the process by which all permanent learning takes place in your brain, such as playing a musical instrument or mastering a different language to happen more smoothly.
What actually changes in the brain are the strengths of the connections of neurons that are engaged together, moment by moment, in time. The more something is practised, the more connections are changed and made to include all the elements of the experience.
Memory guides and controls most learning
As you learn a new skill, your brain takes note of and remembers the good attempts, while discarding the not-so-good ones. Then each time you repeat an activity it makes incremental adjustments and progressively improves.
Every movement of learning provides a moment of opportunity for the brain to stabilize — and reduce the disruptive power of the potentially interfering background noise of ‘negative plasticity’. So each time your brain strengthens a connection to advance your mastery of a skill, it also weakens other connections of neurons that aren’t being used.
The secret is to occupy your mind with new stimuli on a regular basis, ones that generate more ‘positive plasticity’. Exercise, reading, engaging conversation, listening to music, learning something new, are all things that can help this process.
When we do this consistently, we then change how we think and feel, and this helps to stop ‘negative plasticity’ and so remove one of the common cognitive distortions that leads to depression.
Connect here with WatchFit Expert Dean Griffiths