Welcome to Joy Lab!: Welcome to the Joy Lab podcast, where we help you uncover and foster your most joyful self. Your hosts, Dr. Henry Emmons and Dr. Aimee Prasek, bring you the ideal mix of soulful and scientifically sound tools to spark your joy, even when it feels dark. When you're ready to experiment with more joy, combine this podcast with the full Joy Lab program over at JoyLab.coach
Henry: Hello, I'm Henry Emmons and welcome to Joy Lab.
Aimee: And I'm Aimee Prasek. Here at Joy Lab, we infuse science with soul to help you uncover joy. And we are doing that over the next lots of episodes by guiding you through some of the fundamentals of mental health, I'd say. But in a way that we hope really helps you not just feel better, but tap into your resilience and joy.
So if you have no idea what's going on, you're missing the usual intro. It might help to listen to last episode, episode 78, because we talked a bit about the course we are embarking on. But I'll quick summarize. We'll be dropping episodes on Wednesdays and Saturdays for a while as we share the most amazing collection of strategies and resources to support your mental health. And I'm so excited to be part of this adventure with you and all of the sharing of these resources because they absolutely transformed my life. And I hope that they support you as well in a really meaningful and measurable way.
Henry: And just a reminder too, that we're moving sort of systematically through body, mind, and heart. So strategies for each of those.
Henry: And it's a lot of information and it's sometimes might feel complex, but just take whatever works for you. Uh, we're gonna do our best to make it seem straightforward and accessible.
But, please, uh, stick with us and, and take what you feel is most beneficial.
Aimee: Yes. And as I said last episode, Henry and I will pop in to kind of support you and set some, some of the stage before Henry guides you through the main lesson. So that'll happen pretty much every time. There'll be a little bit of mixing it up as we integrate some of the elements of joy and things like that.
But mainly you can expect through this course to see us at the beginning or listen to us at the beginning. Henry will follow with a lecture and you'll get some strategies to support you.
So this first lesson, Henry will walk us through the course of it. Um, and then just kind of dig into a more complete understanding of depression, resilience, anxiety, and stress that I think is really empowering. And I'd say the first sort of action we can take with this lesson, is to just be sure that you've already joined the newsletter. If you haven't, join the newsletter over at NaturalMentalHealth.com. That'll help you as we send out emails, just kind of queue you up, you know, there's a new episode dropping and some other strategies will be in that newsletter as well.
Also be sure to follow us, the Joy Lab podcast on whatever platform you're listening to, uh, us on. That'll just help you again to know when a new episode drops. And it'll help support you as you move through the course and beyond. We also have a page on the website, NaturalMentalHealth.com, dedicated to this course so that you can find the entire series in one place.
It'll make referencing back easier. If you're a practitioner, perhaps you're sharing it with clients or patients, or you wanna share it with a friend or a family member. It'll make it easy to share and super easy to come back to so that you can find one of the lessons or episodes and the strategies along with it.
So unless Henry, you have something else to share, we can dive right into the first lesson.
Henry: Let's do it!
Henry: I want to tell you a little bit about myself and about the course before we really dig in and get going. I am a psychiatrist. I've been working for 30 years now in a very active practice.
I've seen literally thousands of patients, many if not most, who have suffered with depression of various forms. So I have a lot of experience and I think a lot that I can offer you as, as a, a guide. And I really want this to be a chance for you to really understand everything that I can lay out there for you that will help you as you recover from depression and hopefully prevent it in the future.
That is really the key. It's not just about getting out, but it's about how do you stay out. And I learned early in my career that, treatment as usual, the way that most psychiatrists and most physicians, and even most therapists treat depression, um, is helpful, and usually people get better, but many people don't stay better.
And I think the research really bears that out, at least with medications that the typical kinds of treatments that are used, while they might be helpful for a while, don't seem to last. They don't seem to help people stay healthy over long periods of time. We'll talk more about that later.
But I really realized early in my career, that I needed to practice in a different way. Part of that was because I was seeing my patients, get better but not sufficiently and needing something more that we weren't quite offering. And also part of it was that for me as a psychiatrist, I was not very satisfied with practicing in the way that we have come to practice.
So I, I realized I really had to change things up and over the last 20 years of my practice, I have been trying things out and refining them and learning as much as I can from all types of different fields and branches of psychology and medicine, but also Ayurvedic medicine and herbal therapies, and natural therapies, and mindfulness practices, and really trying to pull them together in what I consider to be a coherent way of working with this thing that we call depression.
Also like, most people I know, uh, there's been depression in my family. I've had my own struggles from time to time and, you know, just being a human being there is, uh, suffering, which we'll talk about what that means and how you deal with that. Some of it, of course, is genetic and biological, but a lot of it has to do with, what we think and how we deal with our emotions.
And so the course that we're about to embark on together, we'll try to deal with all of these things.
So I want to talk a little bit about the topics we're gonna be covering and then we'll launch into how I think about depression. We'll start by talking about some basic concepts and I'll try to describe for you how I have come to think about different forms that depression takes and different approaches that we might take to it.
And then we'll talk a little bit about the subtypes of depression, as I understand them. It's purely my own thinking about this, but it's, it's something that I have found helpful, my patients have found helpful, and a lot of people I've, I've taught over the years have also found it helpful. And then we'll go through what I consider to be the very best, most effective lifestyle practices that help with depression.
You know, really what do you do best in terms of, of nutrition and movement and how do we deal with sleep problems, which is such a core issue. So we'll really try to cover that in some detail. They're really, really important things. And we really wanna focus on things that you can do for yourself. I don't want to just present things that are too difficult to do, or we have to work with a therapist or a professional.
I want to focus on things that are accessible to you that you can do for yourself. And it really will make a difference.
So it is partly about the body, but it's not only about body, and brain chemistry, and brain function. So I also want to talk about my understanding of what can you do with your thoughts, your emotions, how can you, you understand the ways that these things might contribute to depression even if you're not aware of it.
So part of what we'll do is to try to raise your level of awareness or consciousness of what's going on internally. I like to draw from a mindfulness practice and understanding to talk about those things, but we'll go beyond what is usually thought of as mindfulness because I really want to talk about skills that you can develop that will help you to relate to your thoughts, your emotions, and to yourself differently in ways that are really sustainable and that I think will really be helpful for you in the long term.
I also want to go beyond mind and introduce you to practices that I consider to be heart-based or heartfulness practices that I think really change the conversation. I think then we can go from talking about what is most helpful kind of physical practices or psychological practices to what can you do that actually changes how you live and how you relate to yourself in a way that makes you larger than you were before. That somehow increases your capacity to deal with the stresses and losses in life, which are inevitable. Before we dig into these things, let's talk about depression. And I wanna share with you how I understand what we have come to call depression.
We use the term depression, we in the mental health community, and really the community at large, we use it very loosely. And if you get into the diagnostic approaches used in psychiatry and mental health, you realize that the definitions are still pretty loose. Depression is not a well-defined, single entity. And I think this is one of the problems with how we treat it and approach it, is that we tend to see depression as one thing. And it is not.
It is many different things that show up in much the same way. I think that's because, when we're suffering, there's only so many ways that it can show up. There's only so many different ways we can express when we feel really, despairing or emotionally down in some way. And, depression is one of those that is really, really common.
But it's also, it shows up in very distinctly different patterns. So we're gonna get into that. how I think you can use that understanding of different subtypes of depression to really choose the best lifestyle practices, the best nutrients, the best medications even, and even the best spiritual practices that might be best suited to you if that's the pattern of depression that you have.
So I think the term depression, and even major depression, is very much overused. I believe that the vast majority of people who present for treatment of depression, who go into the medical clinic let's say, and they say, "I am feeling sad" or "I'm feeling down." They, and if you're, if you ever go into a clinic and you say anything along those lines, pretty good chance you're gonna fill out a questionnaire with nine questions. It's called a PHQ-9, and it's been widely used now to screen for depression. I think it's a useful tool, but here's what I think is happening. If you answer yes or, you give a score high enough, score on enough of these questions, you're going to be told that you have clinical depression and that you need treatment.
But what shows up as depression is a lot of different things. And so this diagnosis, I think, includes many, many people who don't truly have major depression, in my opinion. What do they have? They have something called an adjustment disorder or situational depression. You might think of it as stress-related depression.
I think this comprises about 80% of the people who are told that they have depression. And, what difference does that make? It feels very similar, uh, it shows up with a lot of the same symptoms. What's different in my view is that stress-related, situational depression, by definition, is supposed to be short term.
It's just temporary. It's related to what is going on in your life at that time. And you might need the support even of a medication for a while, although we're gonna talk about some really good alternatives to medication. But even if you do need that, it shouldn't be a forever thing. And I think we make a mistake, we as a healthcare industry make a mistake, when we do not give proper skills or teach you what can you do to really change this whole pattern so that it doesn't keep happening again. So regardless of where you fall in that category, if it's stress related, if it's purely a biological, genetic kind of depression, the things we're gonna talk about can be helpful.
They really can be helpful. So here's my definition of depression. I think depression is a condition that affects every aspect of who we are as human beings, there is really nothing left untouched. So it is very much body, mind, heart. It affects all of us. There are two really key symptoms that I use to help make that diagnosis.
One is, of course, the mood is bad in some way. Oftentimes the mood is low, as in sad or down or just kind of flat. But sometimes there's a lot of irritability, anger, anxiety, but the mood in some way is, is bad. It's not your normal mood. That's one really key criteria. The second thing, which I think is really helpful in terms of diagnosis is that there is also a loss of interest or pleasure.
And if those things aren't there and yet a person feels down or flat in some way, I'd be looking for some other cause for it. I don't think it's this condition of depression if the person still has the capacity to really enjoy things and go about their life and have their normal interests. Could be a physical thing, it could be related to another medication, but it might not be this thing we call depression.
Now, in a clinical setting, if we're trying to make a formal diagnosis of depression, we are also looking for a loss of the ability to function. That something has happened where you cannot function in your usual role in life, which might be, as you know, it might be that you're not able to be a student. You're not able to study or read or get your homework done. Or if you're a parent at home, you're just not able to quite take care of all the household daily activities. And of course if you're in a job that you just can't get to or you're, you go to the job, but you're not able to get your work done because of your mood, that would be another example of not being able to function because of it.
So we are going to talk about all of these things and ways that you can support yourself. Uh, whatever is it is that's going on.
I wanna frame this situation of depression in a slightly different way. One thing that you should know if you don't already is that, unfortunately, the rates of depression and anxiety and other mental health conditions are really increasing. They're going up a lot. And they're going up pretty rapidly. If you look at, you know, this is a pretty short time in history that we have seen a rapid rise in these conditions. Why is that happening? Nobody knows for sure, but I think there's a lot of reasons that are kind of common sense. That we need to know about and we need to address. And we're going to address them in this course.
First, there are a couple of things that you can't do much about. Things that really do make a difference with depression, but at this point in time at least, there's not too much that you can do to change them. One is your genetics. I think we're coming to the time where we're going to be able to change genetics in ways that are hopefully safe and helpful, but we're not quite there yet.
But if you have depression running throughout your family history or alcoholism, which is almost the same thing, genetically, there's a pretty good chance that you have inherited some genes that relate to depression. We're gonna come back to that because genes don't always mean that we're gonna have an illness and we're gonna come back to that in our next section. But, just basically your DNA is something that you have that you can't completely change or get rid of.
The second thing, which is really important, there are things we can do to soften this, but you can't change it all together. And that is: what was the environment that you grew up in when you were a young child? If you grew up in a family that was highly dysfunctional, where maybe there was a lot of chaos, anger, even abuse, or if you simply weren't given enough attention or neglected in some way or another; it's going to affect you. And it's going to stay with you to some degree throughout your lifetime.
It kind of sets a tone that is a lot to overcome. And, and people can really work hard at this in therapy to try to overcome it. I want to leave with a hopeful note on that because there are things that you can do to change that. You're not consigned to forever feeling badly if you had a difficult childhood.
But it does take work and it does take a kind of a concerted effort over time to change a lot of things. Including how you think about yourself and how you think about your past and your future. We'll get to that when we get to the kinda the middle and later sections of the course. But, acknowledging now that that makes things a little bit more difficult.
So one of the things that you can change, that you really can have some influence on, we're, and we're gonna focus on a lot of these in the early part of the course, there are changes that have occurred in the last 50 to 75 years, really since World War II, that have a huge downward impact on mood. It's what I consider to be a breakdown in resilience. Resilience is not exactly the opposite of depression, but it's, it's a really, really strong antidote to depression. And I believe that everybody, every one of you is by nature, resilient, and whole, and really able to face whatever stresses you have in your life, bounce back when you get knocked down, and if you get knocked down again, bounce back again.
I think that that is natural. And that everybody has that capacity. But we do have it in different degrees. Some people, by nature, because of good genes, maybe a really, really great family environment when they were kids, they are very resilient people.
They have a huge container or capacity to deal with stress. But, I see a lot of people who might fit that description, but so many things happen in their lives in a kind of a short period of time. Uh, for example, like somewhere in the middle of your life, maybe you're going through a hard time with your parents who are aging and getting sick and you're having to step in and help them out a lot.
And at the same time, one of your kids is struggling or maybe using drugs or not doing well in school, or maybe it's your marriage or your job. I mean, these things, nobody is immune to them. And if enough things happen in a short enough period of time, everybody is susceptible to depression or whatever else is kind of your go-to problem when you get enough stress.
But also there are changes in diet, which we will address because our, we do not eat the way our ancestors ate. We don't have the same nutrients in our food. Uh, we don't eat the same balance or kinds of foods. And this is how we've evolved. We've evolved to eat and get certain nutrients and many of us even in our society with plenty of food, many of us are malnourished or poorly nourished. We don't move our bodies anywhere close to as much as our ancestors did even a couple of generations ago.
Sleep has changed dramatically. From approximately nine hours a night to about six hours a night on average. That's a really big change in a short period of time, and it has a huge impact on mood. So we will spend an entire segment talking just about sleep and how important that is and what you can do to try to turn that around.
Also, you know, I don't think this is something many people would disagree with, we carry stress with us in a way that I don't think we are meant to do. It's not that life is necessarily more stressful now than it used to be, but I think that we carry it daily and over weeks and months and sometimes years without really getting a sufficient break from it. And that is not how we are made.
And then I think some of the things that used to really hold people together, that connected us as communities, you know, kind of small, manageable sized communities. The things that people used to be able to really organize their lives around, like extended families or a small town or, you know, religious, uh, institution or a church or something.
Those things are still there, but not quite in the same way. The fabric that held people together is not there quite like it used to be. And so we really need to focus on what can we do to create more meaningful connections. And what can we do to counter some of the, the streams that make us distracted or make us compare ourselves to other people in these, um, unfortunate ways that leave many people feeling less well about themselves.
So we'll get to all of these things and we're gonna start with our next section talking, I want to really dig into what I call the science of hope, because I really want our focus to be on hopefulness and what can we really do about this problem. No matter how long it's been there. Thanks for joining me, and I really look forward to being with you for this entire course.
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