Six Lifestyles From Dr. Steve Ilardy at the University of Kansas
To Prevent And Recover From Burnout And Depression
- A diet that includes a 1:1 ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids— Omega-6 fatty acid has become extremely prevalent in the modern diet do to cooking with corn oil and consumption of corn-fed cattle and fish. The modern North American diet now has a 16:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. Researchers have found that a 1:1 ratio seems to help prevent depression by enabling the brain to produce serotonin. (Nemets, Stahl, & Belmaker, 2002; Peet & Horrobin, 2002; Nemets et. al., 2006). Generally, a 1000 mg daily omega-3 supplement will return the ratio close to 1:1.
- Exposure to at least 30 minutes of bright sunlight every day—Bright sunlight prompts the brain to produce serotonin. Many individuals spend most of their day indoors either in school or in an office environment. Outdoors, the light is generally 20-100 times brighter than indoors. Even when outdoors, many individuals are unable to be exposed to direct sunlight due to their climate or due to significant air pollution. Kuller (2002), Rosenthal (1993), Kripke (1998), and Tuunainen, Kripke, & Enco (2004) have found that exposure to as little as 30 minutes of light from a 10,000 lux light-box is sufficient to protect against depression. Light-boxes may be purchased for as little as $160.
- 8-9 hours of sleep every night—During sleep, the brain produces serotonin. However, modern society provides artificial light that enables the average North American to stay up late, sleeping an average of only 6.8 hours (National Sleep Foundation, 2005). Morawetz (2003) has found that 8-9 hours of sleep is needed to enable the brain to produce an adequate supply of serotonin.
- Aerobic exercise—Mankind has historically experienced 2-3 hours of daily exercise, often traveling up to 10 miles per day (Cordain, Gotshall, Eaton & Eaton, 1998). Over the past 50 years, North Americans are increasingly employed at sedentary jobs. Stephens (1988), and Ross and Hayes (1988) have found that 30 minutes of aerobic exercise helps to prevent depression by influencing the amount of serotonin produced within the brain. Daily aerobic exercise has been found as effective as Zoloft in treating depression, and with a lower relapse rate (Blumenthal et all., 1999, 2001). However, see your physician before starting an exercise program.
- Interdependent social interaction— Many individuals find it difficult to develop and maintain deep interpersonal relationships due to physical isolation in their adopted country. Upon re-entry back to the States, they retain the same superficial style that they had overseas. Multiple researchers have found that deep interpersonal relationships prompt the brain to produce serotonin (Elkin et al, 1989; de Mello, de Jesus, Bacaltchuk, Verdeli & Neugebauer, 2005).
- Anti-ruminative activity— When individuals ruminate about a negative event, the stress reduces the brains ability to produce serotonin and makes one susceptible to depression (Just & Alloy, 1997). Television, movies and many novels frequently promote ruminative activity (Cropley & Purvis, 2003). Since the average North American spends about 30 hours per week watching television, the average North American spends more time in ruminative thoughts than individuals from countries in which television is unavailable. Those who employ alternative activities, such as getting absorbed in thought consuming sports or hobbies tend to prevent depression (Dimidjian et al, 2006; Wells & Papageorgiou, 2004). The key is that the activity must be so thought-consuming that rumination is blocked by the activity. One of the best anti-ruminative behaviors is praise to God. It is impossible to give thanks and praise while ruminating on negative thoughts. A consistent, daily devotional that includes 20 constant minutes of praise and worship (without bringing your own personal agenda and prayer requests) has been shown to eliminate negative rumination.