According to Dr. Hellerstein, MD of Columbia University, mental health issues like clinical depression, anxiety, and the more severe ones- bipolar, drug abuse and schizophrenia can actually change your brain size and chemistry. And while severe mental health issues have a larger impact, long term mild and moderate depression and anxiety also affect your brain in negative ways.
Common symptoms of depression include the obvious mood changes-sadness, loss of interest, but also changes in sleep, appetite, activity, bathing, and changes in cognitive function. Depressed people have impaired attention and memory, trouble making decisions, planning, setting priorities and taking action. Depression can alter how you process your thoughts and lower your ability to adapt your goals and strategies to changing situations as well as decrease your motivation.
Comparing the brains of depressed individuals to non depressed persons, German researcher Thomas Frodl found those who were depressed had abnormalities in several brain areas, specifically in the hippocampus, cingulate, and prefrontal cortex. The changes worsened over a three year period for the depressed persons.
But, the good news is, your brain is Plastic! Your brain has the ability to adapt and change to its environment, which is why it shrinks in certain areas if you are chronically depressed or anxious. There are lots of studies in neuropsychiatry and neurobiology to prove that if you change your attitude, get active and eat good food, you can change your brain, at any age!
Changing your attitude is a process. First you need to become aware of your thoughts. Notice what you are noticing. Second, how does the thought you are having affect you?
If you don’t like how you feel having a specific thought, change the thought to something more positive. Reframe it. Now how does it feel? And third, start your day with positivity. If you wake up feeling, “ugh…” make a conscious effort to change the ugh to an “ahhh” by putting something you really enjoy into your day. Or, make a conscious decision to find fun and goodness within the challenging day ahead. Smile, embrace the challenge and decide to have fun with the “ugh” making it an “ahhh”.
To your brain health and positivity!