Everyone feels down from time to time; however if you feel really down for weeks on end and feel you no longer enjoy life, you probably have more than the normal blues… you may be suffering from depression.

What causes depression?

Research has shown that depression results from a flaw in brain chemistry, not personality. In other words – it’s not your fault that you feel depressed, and it’s not your fault if you’re having trouble getting out of it!

Depressed people don’t have enough of particular brain chemicals called neurotransmitters including norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin.

But what causes such low levels of these neurotransmitters?

The limbic system of the brain regulates emotions, the stress response, sexuality, sleep, and hormonal functions. The amygdala – widely known as the “stress center” of the brain – is part of the limbic system. When a chemical imbalance occurs in the limbic system, a prolonged state of depression could result.

Neurotransmitters help transfer messages between brain cells (neurons). These electro-chemical impulses travel between neurons at less than 1/5,000 of a second, which explains why your mood can literally change in an instant!

Researchers have found that many people who are depressed have low levels of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. If norepinephrine levels rise, depressive symptoms subside. However, some people who are depressed have very high levels of norepinephrine! Scientists believe that this may be true for other neurotransmitters. If this sounds confusing… you’re not alone! Some scientists believe that neurotransmitter levels can cause depression – while others believe that depression causes a change in neurotransmitter levels.

Which came first – the chicken or the egg? Some people may go through severe adversity, causing a change in brain chemistry that leads to depression; but not all people who are depressed have suffered trauma or adversity; and a person is often able to learn to change their depressive thoughts, develop better coping skills, and thus change their brain chemistry and rise out of depression.

So the wisest course of action may be to strive for balance, and use meditation for general well-being. Meditation is a wonderful complementary practice that doctors are increasingly prescribing – so that antidepressants can potentially become a “bridge” until the individual is able to manage their thoughts and emotions on their own.

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There are several mantras that are particularly helpful for coping with depression. Use whichever of these resonates most with you – or change them up day to day. Simply repeat the mantras over and over during meditation, either aloud or silently. If your attention drifts, gently bring it back.

It helps to have a smile on your face as you are saying these mantras. It doesn’t matter if the smile feels real at first… within a few minutes, it will!

I have enough: this mantra is especially helpful if you are depressed because of financial stress – it helps you shift your focus away from what’s missing – money – and onto the abundance in your life. This calming mantra can help you see your life in a brighter light.

Love: this simple mantra can help ease the pain of divorce, death or other relationship loss (or lack of a romantic relationship or friendships). While saying this mantra, picture as many faces of people you know. Spread the love from within, and you’ll feel better quickly!

Thank you: gratitude is one of the essential components of happiness. Meditation is a perfect time to let yourself luxuriate in the wonderful energy of gratitude. It helps you put a positive spin on a situation, and makes you become more appreciative of things – and like the first mantra, it shifts your focus onto what is good in your life that you may have taken for granted.

In addition, you can help yourself feel better with these daily practices:

Take excellent care of yourself – especially when you don’t feel like it or don’t care. This simple act of self-love helps so much!
Exercise. You don’t have to go to the gym, but go for a brisk walk!

Allow yourself to receive unconditional love from an animal. If you can have a pet, all the better because dogs need daily exercise, and they’re great cuddlers and companions. If you can’t have a pet, volunteer at your local shelter. Shelter cats and dogs are scared, depressed and they need you!

Help others. Take the focus off your own troubles by helping others. Volunteering is a great way to help others and it helps you feel better, too!

Take your vacations! Many people these days are not taking their full allotted vacation time in fear of falling behind at work. But studies have shown that this is counter-productive because you end up exhausted, burned out, and resentful. Go! Play!

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