Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses and can affect anyone at any age. Characterized by anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure), despair, and pessimism, depression has high morbidity and recurrence. Overall, more than 50% of the general population in middle- and high-income countries will suffer from at least one mental disorder at some point in their lives. This is obviously a major public health problem with significant consequences for society. We need clear guidelines as to what does and doesn’t work for treating depression.
As I sit in reflection in the very heart of the darkest time, the shortest day of the year, I am more aware than ever of the importance of silence, the silence that surrounds us as the world quiets, and the silence we find within ourselves when we stop and listen.
When I am silent, I hear my true self and access the depths of my soul. When I am silent, I hear with a caring heart. Silence teaches us to know reality by respecting it where words have defiled it. In silent reflection, I am able to abandon myself to the will of the Divine One. If our life is poured out in useless words, we will never hear anything because we have said everything before we had anything meaningful to say.
“Live in the sunshine, swim the
sea, drink the wild air”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
plenty of good reasons to be outdoors this summer, and now we can add ‘safe
haven’ to the list. As we all know, strict isolation strategies have been
employed since mid-March to curb the spread of the pandemic. The resulting
isolation, combined with fear of contagion and misinformation overload
(“infodemic”) is creating a great deal of confusion and stress.
no question that reducing the contact rate of latent individuals, and interventions
such as quarantine and isolation, can effectively reduce the potential peak
number of infections and delay the time of peak infection. However, as much as
I believe this to be true as it applies to being indoors, I question whether
being outdoors—even in groups—poses much risk at all. While there is still so
much we don’t know about the virus transmission, we have yet to see proof or a
strong likelihood that the outdoors poses a significant risk. In fact, research suggests it may be safer
compared to indoors.
distribution of community outbreaks of the current global pandemic shows
seasonal patterns associated with latitude, temperature, and humidity, which is
similar to the behavior of seasonal viral respiratory tract infections.
of many viral infections is associated with a lack of sunlight, which results in
low 25(OH)D concentrations and an uptick in diseases such as respiratory
syncytial virus (RSV) infection.,,While it’s
obvious that winter in temperate climates interferes with sufficient exposure
to ultra violet rays, the rainy season in tropical climates also results in low
“The greater the suffering, the greater God’s love is bestowed onto you.” Padre Pio
People have been increasingly distancing themselves from each other, even before this horrific pandemic hit. Years ago, in an interview with Self magazine, I was asked what I thought the number one contributor was to our poor health. My answer then was the same as it is now—a lack of intimacy. We’re losing the quality and ability to relate, not just to each other, but to our environment and Nature. For example, people go for walks, but instead of quietly connecting with nature, many are focused on their phones. People at my gym walk around with earbuds in and don’t make eye contact with each other. We are lonely, and most of us don’t even know it. With the sudden onset of COVID-19, we’ve isolated even more. Meanwhile, the opportunity to be present and in tune with our surroundings and each other exists every day. Even if we are physically distant, the importance our deep presence can make even the briefest or seemingly small encounters more lasting and meaningful.
Sometimes referred to as the “love hormone,” oxytocin is a powerful natural biochemical with physical and psychological effects. Acting as both a hormone (affecting the endocrine system) and a neurotransmitter (affecting the nervous system), oxytocin is well known for enhancing sexual behavior, reproduction, childbirth, breastfeeding, and maternal bonding. Perhaps less well known is the role that oxytocin plays in generating compassion, empathy, trust, relationship building, and social bonding.
The Whole-Body Effects of Oxytocin
Produced by large neuroendocrine cells in the hypothalamus, oxytocin is transported to and secreted by the pituitary gland, where it is released into the bloodstream and carried throughout the body and brain.1 When oxytocin enters the bloodstream, it affects the uterus and lactation, but when it is released into the brain, it affects emotional, cognitive, and social behavior, and enhances relaxation and psychological stability.
By helping the body adapt to highly emotional situations, oxytocin reduces stress and helps us respond appropriately to our social environment. Research shows that oxytocin benefits a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and irritable bowel syndrome.