No, I’m not saying that your depression will go away forever by using one simple tool. Obviously, that’s ridiculous. But hear me out.
First, as I’m sure you know, sadness is not the same as depression. When you’re sad you’re actually feeling something. In depression there is no feeling. Depression is a blankness, an emptiness, a dampening of your metabolic fire. This fire is the energy in your body.
And of course, fire is comprised of oxygen, heat and fuel. One of the quickest ways to alleviate depression physiologically is to increase the amount of oxygen in your body. And that is done through expanding your breathing. Not just deep breathing, but expansive breathing.
How to breathe expansively.
Lean over a pile of pillows on the floor, or the arm of a sofa, or over an exercise stability ball. Put your arms overhead and take really deep breaths in that position. Pull the air in through your throat and open jaw, and forcefully push the air out. Do that for one to five minutes. And do whatever you have to do to continue the breathing; shake your hands, yell, or cry. Whatever comes out, keep breathing. This is one way to lift yourself up out of that depressed feeling state.
Your Nervous System and Depression.
To know why you are “depressed,” you need to know somethings about your nervous system so you know why expansive breathing will help you.
In the olden days, pre-1995, before Stephen Porges published his Polyvagal theory, the world thought of the nervous system as “fight or flight,” or “rest and digest.” You were either ready for action or chilling out.
As it turns out, our nervous system is a little more complicated than that. What Dr. Porges discovered was that the “rest and digest” part of our nervous system has two branches. The “ventral vagal” branch and the “dorsal vagal” branch.
Let’s just think of them as the “social engagement,” very-good-feelings branch and the immobilization or “depressed and isolated” branch.
Ventral Vagal = “Very good feelings” branch
Dorsal Vagal = “Depressed and isolated feelings” branch
So how do I get out of this depressed, dorsal state?
Slowly. With lots of repetition. The way you change anything in your body.
To lift yourself out of a depressive state, you want to tone your ventral vagus. Expansive breathing is one way to do this. There are many additional ways to do so, as shown in this link.
What about therapy?
Regular contact with people who make your nervous system feel safe is another way to stimulate your ventral vagus. And therapy happens to be one of those types of relationships, primarily because it’s a relationship that is designed to be 100% about your needs. This is the long work of uncovering the historical origins of your body’s habit of getting stuck in dorsal vagal (depressed) functioning.
If you are interested in taking charge of your nervous system and building a strong foundation for your peace-of-mind and happiness. Give me a call. We’ll talk.
Call me for your complimentary 15-minute phone consultation.