Teens and adults, avoiding these overlooked yet common causes of depression and anxiety can help protect your mental health.
Depression and anxiety have never been more prevalent. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that over 264 million people in the world suffer from depression and that 1 in every 13 people have anxiety.
Genetics, illness, life events, and history of abuse aside, in this blog post, we will be discussing some of the surprising contributors to depression and anxiety.
Preventable Causes of Anxiety and Depression
According to researchers, these include:
1. Social Media
Social media is a leading cause of depression and anxiety, as mentioned in my previous article about the link between social media and mental health. Supporting the claim even further, data analyzed from 2005 to 2014 showed that approximately 500,000 American teenagers (the ones who receive the most exposure to social media) are struggling with depression. The prevalence is more apparent in teen girls, and the negative effects can persist until adulthood.
According to clinical psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair, besides limiting exposure, practicing mindfulness can be helpful against the overstimulation associated with social media.
2. Lack of Sun Exposure
Why not allocate some of the time you spend in front of your smartphone or computer to getting some sun?
Exposure to a bit of sunshine increases your serotonin and prevents Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Getting some sun may also help manage anxiety and depression, especially when combined with counseling and other professional treatments.
Depending on how sensitive your skin is, aim to get 10 to 30 minutes of sunlight several times a week. Just don't forget to use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 to avoid getting sunburned.
3. Unhealthy Diet
Gut bacteria generate brain neurotransmitters that can improve your mood. Microorganisms in your gut release different chemicals, including serotonin, gamma-aminobutyric acid, and dopamine, all of which help regulate and boost mood.
Scientists are also beginning to see gut inflammation as a leading cause of depression. One of the ways to address this problem is to make positive changes in your diet. Therefore, by healing the gut, your depression may become more manageable. Dairy (milk and cheese from animals), refined sugars, gluten, and processed foods are some of the main consumables that can harm your gut and make depression worse.
To improve gut health, eat fermented and cultured foods instead and include plenty of healthy fats and fiber to your diet, which will help normalize your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables may also improve your mental health, according to a recent systematic review.
The Bottom Line
Besides reducing your exposure to social media and practicing mindfulness, getting some sun can improve your mental well-being since a significant number of light-absorbing molecules lie in the layers of your skin. These molecules can absorb and interact with ultraviolet (UV) rays, stimulating synergistic effects. However, as always, remember to avoid excessive sun exposure since it is a known cause of skin cancer. Lastly, keep in mind that depression and anxiety, as well as other health issues, can arise from gut dysfunction and chronic inflammation. Therefore, eating a well-balanced diet may help promote good mental health.