Farm Ireland

Monday 26 June 2017

Battling the blues

Help is at hand to cure winter depression

Joe Barry

Joe Barry

Does anyone else agree with me that despite all our perceived woes, we are one hell of a lot better off than we were in the 1980s, and that we live in some style compared to the 1950s?

It depends on who you are talking to, of course, but just look at the number of lorries on our roads, ferrying goods to and fro -- a sure indicator of economic activity. Our welfare payments are way better than those available in Britain or America and, so long as our national exchequer can afford them, they represent a great safety net for those who need to rely on them.

Telling ourselves how well off we all are is, however, sometimes not enough. When life becomes hard to bear it is easy to slip into a feeling of doom and gloom, with no apparent way out. At times like this it's important to remember that there is help at hand.

A lot of people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is brought on by a lack of light. This affects the serotonin levels in our brains and can create a feeling of sadness and, sometimes, despair. One popular cure is to buy a light box and bask in the cheering glow of bright light for maybe two 20-minute sessions a day. This replaces the light that nature provides in the summer time and can cure the blues that are a natural result of shorter, winter days. It's important also to exercise properly by doing some manual labour or just walking for at least one hour a day. Diet is also a factor in curing feelings of sadness and, again, there is good advice available on what to eat to keep healthy during this time.

Junk food is to be avoided, as is lots of alcohol. Drink can make us feel a whole lot better for a short time, but it then actually makes depression worse. That's a pity for someone who really likes a drink or three, but facts are facts and we can still enjoy going out and having company and a chat over just one or two tipples.

There are, of course, things we cannot change on our own and while we might wish to have the whingers and moaners who jam the chat shows with their complaints to shut up for once, perhaps it's a useful safety valve for people with a perceived grievance.

We cannot avoid taxes, wet weather, lousy prices for our produce and the bills that arrive in the post. We can, however, improve our finances and our job prospects or businesses if we are in a good and optimistic frame of mind. Let's face it, we could be living in the Third World and actually be facing death from malnutrition or disease, or both. So long as there are people to listen and agencies to help out when times are tough, we can handle the worst of our situations.

Feeling down and depressed is very much part of the news right now, perhaps because of the unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves and our children and the thought that if we are out of work or in trouble with the bank we have, in some way, failed in life. We just have to keep reminding ourselves that depression is an illness that can be cured and not something to suffer with in silence. It is now finally understood as a naturally occurring, curable illness that can affect anyone. Even as recently as 20 years ago, many doctors simply hadn't a clue how to treat their patients. Now there is a wide range of medicines and therapies for coping with long-term sadness and a full awareness of the debilitating effects that depression can have on people's lives if left untreated.

There is a wide range of books available that deal with the subject, and I think one of the best is How to Lift Depression Fast by Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrell. It's available from good bookshops or on the internet. ISBN: 1-899398-41-4. The price is around €12.

Someone once said to me that if we can get out of bed, get dressed and have something in the larder to eat, then it's a good day. Those are wise words and worth remembering.

Irish Independent