Are you waking up most days just feeling “blah?" Perhaps you don’t want to do anything except lie like a couch potato and watch TV—and even that is unsatisfying. You not only feel low energy but kind of miserable. Perhaps you’re mad at yourself for not getting the house cleaned, not getting your work done, or not getting those papers filed. Perhaps you’re feeling a bit lonely, left out by friends, or unsupported by family. You may dwell on mounting bills or the fact that you’re 10 or 20 pounds overweight. You may feel aches and pains in your neck or back. Or you may just feel grouchy and want to remain undisturbed by life’s demands and conversational opportunities. You may compare yourself unfavorably to your friend, roommate, cousin, or neighbor, who always seems to be on time, well-groomed, and on track to meet her goals. We all have those “blah” days—but why do they happen, and what can we do about them? Below are 10 scientific reasons why you may be feeling out of sorts.
Some of us have brains that are more sensitive to the effects of stress. Researchers are just beginning to uncover the biochemistry behind this differential. The most common forms of antidepressants target the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine because some research concludes that low levels of these chemical motivators are part of what makes us depressed. However, only some people respond well to the most common forms of antidepressants, while others try drug after drug with no substantial mood improvement. A recent research study, published earlier this year in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may reveal the reason why. The research suggests that differences in the way our brains process a chemical called galanin may make some of us less resilient and able to bounce back after difficult experiences.
Less sunshine during the winter months can give us the blues, and this effect is more pronounced for some people than others. Researchers Keller and colleagues studied hundreds of people and found that during the spring, moods improved; participants also reported more outdoor activities. We may also be more cognitively flexible and able to think creatively about solving our problems in the spring, compared to winter. A subgroup of people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, a condition in which the winter blues turn into full-blown depression along with associated changes in sleep, appetite, and motivation. Sufferers are more likely to be women. Exposure to outdoor sunlight also provides us with vitamin D, a substance with clear links to depressed mood.
Most people in the US have insufficient or deficient levels of Vitamin D. The reasons are not clear, but could be related to nutrition and insufficient sun exposure. People with dark skin are more vulnerable to vitamin D deficiency, due to a decreased ability to process vitamin D from sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency has been statistically linked to depression. In a large Dutch study by Hoogendijk and colleagues (2008) of over 1,200 persons aged 65 and older, levels of vitamin D were 14 percent lower in persons with minor or major depressive disorder when compared to those not showing depressed mood.
Hormones are substances produced by the endocrine glands that influence many bodily functions, including growth and development, mood, sexual function, and metabolism. Levels of certain hormones, such as those produced by the thyroid gland, can be factors in depression. In addition, some symptoms of depression are associated with thyroid conditions. Hormones fluctuate during the menstrual cycle and may create vulnerability to sad or depressed moods in the premenstrual period, as well as during perimenopause, and menopause. There are individual differences in how much our moods are vulnerable to the effects of hormones. If you are more vulnerable, you may want to consult a physician to see if medications are needed to help regulate your hormones. You could also try alternative medicine treatments, such as acupuncture, to reduce hormone-related mood imbalance.
Our moods are not only a function of what happens to us, but also of how we view the events in our lives and the meanings we assign to them. There are stages in most of our lives in which we seem to be working hard and doing all the right things, but don’t see many external rewards coming our way. We may not be paid what we feel we are worth or be able to afford as nice a house, car, or vacation as our friends. We may struggle to find the right partner, while our friends or siblings seem to have no problem finding love. We may have to work longer and harder than our friends to get the same grade on a test or earn a living. We may experience a difficult breakup or loss. Life naturally isn’t fair; periods of struggle, suffering, and loss are inevitable. If we expect fair or special treatment all the time or expect things never to change, we are bound to be disappointed. So if you’re feeling sad because of recent events, remind yourself that hard times are part of life and will pass. You can also try to deliberately broaden your view and focus on the good parts of your life or the experiences you are proud of.
Childhood Adverse Events
Stressful life events can wear down our physical and mental resources, making us more vulnerable to both depression and physical illnesses. A history of childhood trauma, including abuse, poverty, or loss of a parent, can reset our developing brains to be less cognitively flexible. It seems that our brains naturally go into a “fight, flight, freeze” response to stress or a threat, and we often have to use our prefrontal cortex or executive center to get out of this state. Prolonged stress in childhood can make our brains less interconnected and resilient; our brains can more easily get “stuck” in negative thinking patterns or stressed out states, resulting in us being less able to change tracks.
- What Is Depression?
- Find a therapist to overcome depression
Stresses Piling Up
As Robert Sapolsky argues in his book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, our human stress response systems were designed to respond to acute, time-limited stressors that normally require a physical response. When our ancestors had chased off that marauding tiger, they could relax and eat. The stressors in today’s world are much more chronic and less able to be controlled by taking action, and we often don’t get the break afterward to recover and regroup. Financial stress, loneliness, constant fighting with loved ones, being bullied, long commutes, academic or job demands, or unemployment can drag on, triggering a cascade of effects across many areas of our lives. When stresses hit us one after the other without time for recovery, they can leave us depleted and despondent, with insufficient pep to bounce back.
You may be feeling bad because you’re sitting around brooding about life’s disappointments or trying to find a reason why things aren’t going your way. Research studies by University of Michigan psychologist Susan Nolen-Hoeksema and colleagues show that sitting around thinking about your negative mood or negative events just makes everything worse. One negative thought leads to another, and then another—until you get buried in a mountain of problems and negative predictions. This can easily lead to a loss of perspective and motivation, one that can interfere with actually taking action aimed at addressing the problem. If you find yourself in a negative thinking cycle, get up immediately and do something else pleasant or neutral to engage your mind. This can be as simple as emptying the dishwasher, rearranging your closet, going for a walk, talking to a friend, or getting on with a work project.
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Your Inner Critic
Do you have a critical inner voice constantly judging and criticizing everything you do, especially when things don’t go your way? The inner critic compounds the effect of anything negative in your life by blaming you for it. It keeps drawing your attention to the negative and spoils your pleasure when something positive happens by telling you that ”it won’t last” or “you don’t deserve it." This negative dialogue takes you out of the moment and makes you feel depressed. Negative thinking can be a symptom of depression and may be a causal factor in interaction with negative life events.
The first step to combat an inner critic is to become aware of what it’s saying; the second step is to externalize it. You could give your critic a name and imagine what it looks like—picturing it as a grumpy old crone, for instance, or a vicious barking dog. Then begin talking back to it, and telling it to back off. The inner critic generally has a negatively biased perspective and overestimates your responsibility for—and control over—outcomes in your life. It also often has perfectionistic expectations. Tell it to give you a break for a change!
Our human brains are wired to be part of a social group, and we experience loneliness as chronically stressful and depressing. Unfortunately, some of us have toxic or neglectful families that don’t provide support or presence when we need it. Similarly, we may feel that our friends are moving on—finding romantic relationships or having kids, for instance—and leaving us behind. Research using fMRI brain scans shows that even minor social rejection lights up the same areas of our brains as physical pain. Feeling left out, rejected, or excluded makes us sad; it can also lead to rumination about our faults, further darkening our moods. We become scared of further rejection and isolate ourselves, perpetuating the negative cycle. While there may not be an immediate cure for loneliness, it helps to get out in the world and pursue your natural interests, which can lead to expanding your social network. Staying in touch with old friends or family and deliberately seeking opportunities to connect may help as well.
The reasons for a down mood are often multifaceted and can be difficult to determine. If you feel depressed for two weeks or more, seek a medical consult to rule out or treat underlying biological factors. Consider consulting a mental health professional for help in managing stress and expectations, negotiating life changes, or dealing with the emotional aftereffects of past traumas and dysfunctional families. If you can’t afford therapy, antidepressants may still help to change the underlying biology. Exercising outdoors can provide both sunlight and mood elevation. Develop a toolkit of stress-reducing activities, such as regular exercise, yoga or meditation, watching funny movies, playing team sports, doing something creative or novel, and hanging out with and/or confiding in understanding friends.
To find a therapist, please visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.
What are 5 things that would cause you to feel depressed? ›
- Stressful events. Most people take time to come to terms with stressful events, such as bereavement or a relationship breakdown. ...
- Personality. ...
- Family history. ...
- Giving birth. ...
- Loneliness. ...
- Alcohol and drugs. ...
For some people, a negative, stressful, or unhappy family atmosphere can lead to depression. Other high-stress living situations — such as poverty, homelessness, or violence — can contribute, too. Dealing with bullying, harassment, or peer pressure leaves some people feeling isolated, victimized, or insecure.Why does a person feel low? ›
Everyone feels low or down from time to time. It does not always mean something is wrong. Feeling low is common after distressing events or major life changes, but sometimes periods of low mood happen for no obvious reason. You may feel tired, lacking confidence, frustrated, angry and worried.Why does Christmas make me sad? ›
And while holidays are a time of joy, people sometimes have unrealistic expectations for how special something is going to be. This can lead to feelings of let-down later if those aren't met. Similarly, people may be more likely to compare themselves to others during this time of year.What makes sad list? ›
moving home. losing a loved one or a friend. being ill, or caring for someone who is ill. experiencing chemical changes in your body (from puberty, drugs or medicines)What depression does to the brain? ›
When you suffer from depression, your brain is physically changed. Research by the National Institutes of Health shows that you lose gray matter volume (GMV) when you suffer from depression. This loss is caused by parts of your brain shrinking due to the hormone cortisol impeding the growth of your brain cells.Are we born with depression? ›
Depression is known to run in families, suggesting that genetic factors contribute to the risk of developing this disease. However, research into the genetics of depression is in its early stages, and very little is known for certain about the genetic basis of the disease.What is the sad hormone called? ›
In people with SAD, a lack of sunlight and a problem with certain brain chemicals stops the hypothalamus working properly. The lack of light is thought to affect: the production of the hormone melatonin.Is it normal for a teenager to feel sad for no reason? ›
The teenage years can be really tough and it's perfectly normal to feel sad or irritable every now and then.What is a natural mood booster? ›
Try walking, playing a team sport or pumping iron at the gym. Diet also plays an important role in maintaining emotional health. Be sure to eat a diet rich in whole grains, lean meats, vegetables, fruits, beans and nuts. Interacting with others can also help boost a person's mood.
How can I lift my mood fast? ›
- Listen To Upbeat Music.
- Get A Good Laugh. ...
- Walk Around The Block.
- Declutter. ...
- Give Someone A Hug.
- Think About What Went Well. ...
- Allow Yourself To Vent.
15 small things you can do every day to improve your mood
- Wake up earlier. ...
- Make a friend smile. ...
- Have a quick tidy up. ...
- Write a diary entry. ...
- Smile at the first stranger you see. ...
- Take a walk.
Vacations can also improve our mental health by reducing depression and anxiety. Vacations can improve mood and reduce stress by removing people from the activities and environments that they associate with stress and anxiety.Why are holidays so stressful? ›
There are in fact many potential traps during the holidays. The APA study revealed the top stressors include lack of time, money worries, overcommercialization, gift-giving pressure and family get-togethers. The hassles of travel and worries about taking time off from work also make the list.Why does Christmas not feel the same? ›
'Based on our childhood experiences, Christmas has acquired unrealistic expectations of mythical ideas,' says Krystine, explaining that childhood myths about Santa and magic allowed us to suspend reality at Christmastime. 'As adults, we know we can never again enjoy those wondrous feelings and beliefs…What things make kids sad? ›
Children are more likely to experience sad moods when they have to deal with tough life circumstances. For example, children who are managing family separation, grief, physical illness, learning problems, family poverty, family ill health or other tough life situations are more likely to experience frequent sadness.How do schools act sad? ›
- Keep your eyelids low and make them look heavy, just like they would be if you were tired. Don't yawn though!
- Keep your mouth open. ...
- Stare at empty space. ...
- Discourage conversation. ...
- Touch/massage your face a lot as if you are washing your face. ...
- Don't pay much attention to people or things.
- “I realise now that the person I used to be is not the person I am.”
- “I don't feel alive anymore.”
- “Life is full of things I can't control.”
- “I've been trying to go on living like nothing has changed, but it's too hard.”
- “I'm not happy. ...
- “Why am I still here?”
A depressed person's brain does not function normally, but it can recover, according to a study published in the August 11 issue of Neurology, the American Academy of Neurology's scientific journal. Researchers measured the brain's responsiveness using magnetic stimulation over the brain and targeted muscle movement.Can your brain shut down from depression? ›
A depression not only makes a person feel sad and dejected – it can also damage the brain permanently, so the person has difficulties remembering and concentrating once the disease is over.
Is depression caused by a chemical imbalance? ›
Research suggests that depression doesn't spring from simply having too much or too little of certain brain chemicals. Rather, there are many possible causes of depression, including faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, and stressful life events.Is depression more common in males or females? ›
About twice as many women as men experience depression. Several factors may increase a woman's risk of depression. Women are nearly twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression. Depression can occur at any age.Who is more prone to mental illness? ›
Women are nearly twice as likely to suffer from major depression than men. However, men and women are equally likely to develop bipolar disorder. While major depression can develop at any age, the average age at onset is the mid-20s.What is the most common way to treat depression? ›
Medications and psychotherapy are effective for most people with depression. Your primary care doctor or psychiatrist can prescribe medications to relieve symptoms. However, many people with depression also benefit from seeing a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health professional.What hormone is lacking in depression? ›
Neurotransmitters in the brain — specifically serotonin, dopamine, or norepinephrine — affect feelings of happiness and pleasure and may be out of balance in people with depression. Antidepressants work to balance these neurotransmitters, mainly serotonin.What chemical in the brain makes you SAD? ›
Serotonin. You probably already know that serotonin plays a role in sleep and in depression, but this inhibitory chemical also plays a major role in many of your body's essential functions, including appetite, arousal, and mood.What are the 4 happy chemicals? ›
Other teens experience intense anger as a symptom of a mental health issue, traumatizing life experience, or simply from the stress and pressures of adolescence. Some of these common triggers of severe anger in teens include: Low self-esteem. Victim of bullying or persistent & unhealthy peer pressure.Why do teenage girls cry all the time? ›
Kids cry because they feel the innate need to express themselves. We all know that adolescents experience hormone changes during puberty and into their teenage years. Teenagers are prone to cry all through pre-adulthood. Obviously, emotions run higher in some young people than others.Why do girls feel sad? ›
Women produce more stress hormones than men, and the female sex hormone progesterone prevents the stress hormone system from turning itself off as it does in men. This can make women more susceptible to developing depression triggered by stress.
What vitamins help with depression? ›
Vitamin B-12 and other B vitamins play a role in producing brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions. Low levels of B-12 and other B vitamins such as vitamin B-6 and folate may be linked to depression.What causes lack of serotonin? ›
Certain drugs and substances such as caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, NutraSweet, antidepressants, and some cholesterol-lowering medications deplete serotonin and other neurotransmitter levels. Hormone changes cause low levels of serotonin and neurotransmitter imbalances.What foods increase happiness? ›
- Fatty fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of essential fats that you must obtain through your diet because your body can't produce them on its own. ...
- Dark chocolate. ...
- Fermented foods. ...
- Bananas. ...
- Oats. ...
- Berries. ...
- Nuts and seeds. ...
Anticonvulsants which are used as mood stabilisers include:
- carbamazepine (Tegretol)
- lamotrigine (Lamictal)
- valproate (Depakote, Epilim).
- Manage your stress levels. If you have a lot of stress in your life, find ways to reduce it, such as learning a few time-management techniques. ...
- Enjoy yourself. ...
- Boost your self-esteem. ...
- Have a healthy lifestyle. ...
- Talk and share. ...
- Build your resilience.
Foods with the highest 'antidepressant food scores' (AFS) were bivalves such as oysters and mussels, other seafood, organ meats, leafy greens, lettuces, peppers, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts.What is the prevention of depression? ›
Can depression be prevented? You can help prevent depression by getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet and practicing regular self-care activities such as exercise, meditation and yoga. If you've had depression before, you may be more likely to experience it again. If you have depression symptoms, get help.Where should I go to clear my head? ›
- Café or Coffee Shop.
- Movie Theater.
What's more, not taking vacation leads to increased stress, blood pressure and cortisol levels, which can increase inflammation and decrease immunity, Thaik said. “There's also lack of mental focus and clarity, and increased depression associated with not vacationing,” she said.Why do I get angry when I travel? ›
HuffPo explained that most air rage is caused by passengers becoming aware of the fact that they have very little control of anything when they're flying. "Anger goes up when you feel a lack of control," explained Dr Martin Seif, a psychologist who specialises in flight anxiety.
What do you say to someone who is alone for Christmas? ›
Here are some things to say instead:
- 'Great! ...
- 'Okay – and what will that look like for you? ...
- 'How do you feel about that? ...
- 'Thanks for sharing that with me'
And while holidays are a time of joy, people sometimes have unrealistic expectations for how special something is going to be. This can lead to feelings of let-down later if those aren't met. Similarly, people may be more likely to compare themselves to others during this time of year.What is Estress? ›
Stress is how we react when we feel under pressure or threatened. It usually happens when we are in a situation that we don't feel we can manage or control. When we experience stress, it can be as: An individual, for example when you have lots of responsibilities that you are struggling to manage.Why have I lost my Christmas spirit? ›
Christmas spirit disappears for all kinds of reasons: loss, separation, betrayal, grief, health problems.Why does Christmas get less exciting as you get older? ›
Scientists have discovered that a chemical in the brain governing the delivery and feeling of reward is altered physically as a person grows old, which explains why opening presents becomes less exciting.How do I find my Christmas spirit? ›
- Visit the lonely. Think about those you know who might not have family and friends to spend the holidays with. ...
- Go caroling. ...
- Look around before you look at your phone. ...
- Do some extra chores. ...
- Deliver some Christmas treats! ...
- Share a Christmas video. ...
- Be sneaky about it.
Overview. Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.Do mobile phones cause depression? ›
The majority of those who scored high on the fear of missing out tend to overuse their phones. Similarly, these individuals score high on anxiety and depression scales. That is because excessive use of smartphones interferes with social activities and therefore increases depression.What causes stress? ›
Emotional problems (depression, anxiety, anger, grief, guilt, low self-esteem) Taking care of an elderly or sick family member. Traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, theft, rape, or violence against you or a loved one.What causes anxiety? ›
Difficult experiences in childhood, adolescence or adulthood are a common trigger for anxiety problems. Going through stress and trauma when you're very young is likely to have a particularly big impact. Experiences which can trigger anxiety problems include things like: physical or emotional abuse.
What are the 11 symptoms of depression? ›
- A feeling of emptiness or sadness. ...
- Reduced interest in activities you used to enjoy. ...
- Lack of energy and constant fatigue. ...
- Irritability. ...
- Pain and other physical changes. ...
- Sleep disorder. ...
- Loss of appetite. ...
- Lack of concentration.
Age. Major depression is most likely to affect people between the ages of 45 and 65. “People in middle age are at the top of the bell curve for depression, but the people at each end of the curve, the very young and very old, may be at higher risk for severe depression,” says Walch.Which is not a symptom of depression? ›
During a depressed period, you may feel sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities. But then it will switch to a period of mania, when you feel euphoric, energetic, or irritable. Those are not symptoms of clinical depression.Why do they take away your phone in a mental hospital? ›
There are multiple reasons for this, ranging from privacy issues (patients might Instagram other patients), clinical issues (patients might isolate themselves and not go to groups), safety issues (they might break and use the screen glass for self harm), and liability issues (patients might sue the hospital if they ...Does staying off your phone help anxiety? ›
The good news is if you limit how often you use your phone, you will notice life-changing benefits, including: Less anxiety and stress. With less stimulation from calls, texts, social media updates and “urgent” emails, you may have less chronic stress and anxiety. More clarity.How can I improve my mental health? ›
- Connect with other people. Good relationships are important for your mental wellbeing. ...
- Be physically active. Being active is not only great for your physical health and fitness. ...
- Learn new skills. ...
- Give to others. ...
- Pay attention to the present moment (mindfulness)
- Death of a loved one.
- Losing a job.
- Starting university.
- Work promotion.
- Birth of a child.
- Winning the lottery.
Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Luke 12:25: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”What is the 3 3 3 rule for anxiety? ›
Follow the 3-3-3 rule.
Look around you and name three things you see. Then, name three sounds you hear. Finally, move three parts of your body — your ankle, fingers, or arm.
Research suggests that people with certain personality traits are more likely to have anxiety. For example, children who are perfectionists, easily flustered, timid, inhibited, lack self-esteem or want to control everything, sometimes develop anxiety during childhood, adolescence or as adults.
What are the 6 main anxiety disorders? ›
There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, specific phobias, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder and separation anxiety disorder.