5 Ayurvedic Treatments To Help Men With Depression
Depression is an epidemic that affects more than 264 million people in the world. Although twice as many women suffer from depression compared to men, men are 85% more likely to commit suicide due to depression.
All too often, depression in men is missed by the person suffering, as well as the loved ones around them. This occurs because depression in men may look different than it does in women — especially since society discourages men from talking about their feelings openly. If you’re among the millions of men who suffer from depression around the world, Ayurvedic treatment can help. In this article on Ayurvedic approaches to treat men’s depression, we’ll cover:
- What is depression
- Causes of depression in men
- Signs you may be suffering from depression
- Why Ayurveda helps men suffering from depression
- 5 supportive Ayurveda tools for men experiencing depression
What is depression?
Depression is defined by the Mayo Clinic as, “A mental health disorder characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.”
Simply put, depression is a low emotional state that impacts a person’s mental and physical well-being. It can come on suddenly as the result of a difficult life event, ongoing family stresses, financial problems, or workplace issues, and depression may occur seasonally or be chronic. According to Psychology Today, male depression is underdiagnosed due to a variety of factors, including being taught to not show emotions or talk openly about feelings. As a result, men often downplay their true feelings, thereby masking their symptoms and depression. But it doesn’t have to be this way. By understanding the signs and symptoms of depression, you can proactively address your mental health. Seeking help when you need it is a sign of strength — not weakness — and will enable you to be a better partner, father, friend, family member, employee, and human being.
Are you suffering from depression? Here are the signs to look out for:
- Feeling hopeless and helpless
- A loss of interest in work, activities, relationships
- Increased irritability, shorter fuse, more aggressive, agitated, impatient
- Heightened sensitivity to criticism
- Increased misunderstandings in communication
- Self-medicating, recklessness, a sense of “what the hell”
- Difficulty concentrating and being productive with work
- Inability to control negative thoughts
- Profound fatigue, no energy
- Increase or decrease in sleeping
- Digestive issues that do not resolve
Causes of depression in men
According to Ayurveda, depression is caused when one or more of the three doshas — Vata, Pitta, and Kapha — become imbalanced. Improper nutrition and other lifestyle factors create imbalances in the doshas, which manifest mentally and physically. Other risk factors include lack of social support, isolation, and loneliness, and difficulty dealing effectively with stress.
How Ayurveda helps men suffering from depression
Ayurveda is the science or knowledge of life, and Ayurvedic medicine is one small part of that vast science. Originating 5,000 years ago, Ayurvedic medicine focuses on the body’s constitution and the energy forces within (known as the doshas). As a vast vehicle for understanding life itself, Ayurveda provides support, treatment, and a path of self-understanding. Treatment is customized based on the doshic constitution of each person — as opposed to assigning a one-size-fits-all approach (as Western medicine tends to do, especially when it comes to treating depression). As a path of self-understanding and life itself, Ayurveda can bring the mind and body, and spirit into balance, thereby creating optimal well-being. Ayurvedic treatments include using food as medicine, breathwork (pranayama), yog-asana, meditation, herbs, following a daily routine, and self-massage (abhyanga). The benefits of integrating Ayurveda, the knowledge of life itself, into your day, balances the doshas, increases energy, and the daily routine that emerges soothes anxiety and depression.
5 supportive Ayurveda tools for men experiencing depression
If you’re a man suffering from depression and you’ve made it this far in the article, you’re probably wondering, “How can Ayurveda help me?”
In the following section, I will walk you through 5 ways you can use Ayurveda to treat your depression starting today. Please note, this content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need help with your treatment plan, consult your doctor and book a free consultation with me.
Focus on Gut Health
“Your gut is your second brain.” Have you ever heard this phrase?
Medical professionals coined this phrase when they discovered the connection between the neurons and neurotransmitters in the brain, and the gut. Both our gut and our brain play a key role in regulating our overall well-being, including our emotions. But when the digestive organs are inflamed, irritated, dry, or imbalanced, our emotions can go haywire. As a result, depression may occur.
To take care of your gut health, here are a few things you can do:
- Eat meals at regular times, even a tiny meal that suits your appetite
- Space your meals three hours apart, so your previous meal is fully digested before you eat again
- Use food as medicine, and consume foods suited to your doshic picture.
Practice Pranayama, Systematic Relaxation, and Meditation
When you’re feeling depressed, anxious, or stressed, your mind becomes crowded with too many thoughts — many of which are negative in nature. To calm your mind, relax your body, and relieve stress and anxiety immediately, practice pranayama and meditation. The most powerful and helpful is to Learn Diaphragmatic Breathing and Change Your Life. Pranayama consists of breathing practices that help to strengthen and balance your mind and body connection through prana (energy, or think chi). Being guided in the correct application and technique of pranayama is critically important, as there are various pranayama techniques available depending on your specific needs. Practicing systematic relaxation, pranayama, and meditation can be done in a guided manner and will rebalance your body and mind while also helping you feel more relaxed. What’s more — when practiced consistently, these techniques will help you feel less stressed, anxious, and depressed.
Use Food as Medicine
We become what we consume, which is why ancient Ayurvedic texts say, “Take your food as medicine.”
Food can either be a slow poison that destroys immunity, health, and well-being, or it can be used as medicine to prevent and/or treat illness, increase immunity, and boost vitality. For example, if you consume too much sugar, the dopamine in your brain will become imbalanced. When this happens, you will crave more sugar, which will impact your cognitive skills and self-control. Basically, you find yourself unable to focus and always looking for your next sugar high. Meanwhile, your brain will be deprived of proper nutrients, meaning regulating stress and anxiety will become more difficult. When you use food as medicine, you eat food best suited for you that is free from harmful additives and natural in form (meaning whole, local, and preferably organic). This approach to health empowers you to proactively address your body’s needs rather than being reactive to issues as they arise.
Use Ayurvedic Herbal Remedies
Ayurvedic herbs have powerful healing properties and help to restore balance within the whole person, thereby decreasing anxiety, depression, and other mental and physical issues. When it comes to treating depression which herbs will be your best plant helpers depends on the whole picture of what is happening for you — from digestion to pain, to how depression manifests for you. Rather than trying to guess which herbs work best, speak with an Ayurvedic professional about your unique doshic constitution to determine which formula is ideal for your body type.
A few well-known Ayurvedic herbs, Ashwagandha and Brahmi, are commonly used. Here’s why:
Ashwagandha is an evergreen shrub that grows in Asia and Africa. It contains chemicals that are said to calm the brain, reduce swelling, and increase immunity. Ashwagandha is most often used as an adaptogen to stabilize physiological processes and relieve stress. Brahmi is a perennial herb that grows primarily in wetlands and tropical climates. It contains powerful antioxidants that aid in brain health, reduce stress and anxiety, and protect the brain from free radicals. As a result, Brahmi is typically used to treat anxiety and stress.
Spend Time in Sunlight
Being outside, especially using gentle movements such as walking, chi gung, tai chi, or sitting — can boost serotonin and Vitamin D levels which, in turn, improves mood, increases energy, and decreases pain. If you live in a climate with low sunlight, yes — we’re feeling that change already, and it amplifies with daylight savings time — try light box therapy in addition to being outside.
Above all, remember you don’t need to suffer alone. Society perpetuates this culture of masculinity where seeking help is seen as a sign of weakness. Let’s change the narrative together because there is nothing weak about realizing you’re feeling out of balance and then taking the steps necessary to bring your mental, physical and spiritual health back into balance.
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