Be a Healthy Woman: Gary Null on alternative treatments for depression

Be a Healthy Woman: Gary Null on alternative treatments for depression

April 22, 2009

Once again in our series of excerpts from Be a Healthy Woman!, Gary Null and Amy McDonald on some basic alternative treatments for depression:


Physical exercise is a key to lifting depression, especially when accompanied by a nutritious diet, meditation, and vitamin and mineral supplementation. According to Dr. William J. Goldwag, exercise is one of the most profound aids in the treatment of depression: “One of the major errors in the thinking of patients and therapists is the notion that in order to be active, you have to feel better. This is exactly contrary to our approach.

“We recommend that you do first, and the feeling comes later. In other words, you must do what you have to do regardless of how you feel. This aids in feeling better. You can’t wait until you feel good to do something, because in depression that may take days, weeks, months, or even years. You want to accelerate the process.”

Dr. Goldwag explains that people who exercise regularly will have days when they just don’t feel like doing it. “That’s the way depressed people feel about everything. They just don’t feel like it. They don’t have the energy, the motivation, the stimulation to do even the ordinary things. When it’s severe, you may not even have the will or desire to get out of bed in the morning.

“The exercise may consist of very, very simple things, such as just getting out and walking, getting up and doing some simple movements, some mild calisthenics, any kind of physical movement that gets the body in action. For some people just getting out of bed and getting dressed is a big accomplishment. That may be the first step.”

Exercise has many benefits. Dr. Goldwag adds, “Even doing a little bit of exercise will make you feel more energized later on. Finishing an exercise routine, even one that’s fatiguing, after a brief period of rest will give you a feeling of revitalization, energy, and a psychological feeling of accomplishment. It gives a feeling of ‘I’ve done it. It’s completed.’”

Yoga and Meditation

Dr. Michele Galante, a complementary physician in Suffern, New York, overcame depression in adolescence by learning how to center energy with yoga and meditation.

“When I was in my late teens, I went through a period of depression where my energy was low. My whole being was unhappy. My parents and others I loved thought I should try seeing a psychiatrist for a while. I went a few times, but that wasn’t satisfying to me. I thought nutrition might help, so I started drinking raw vegetable juices and became a vegetarian. I started eating to detoxify myself and to get myself back to feeling stronger again.

“Then I got into meditation and kundalini yoga. I learned about energy centers and started to learn how inner energy flows through the system. I began to sense blockages and to identify emotions and limiting thoughts that were holding me back. Through practice, I was able to center energy into the emotional center in the chest and abdomen, where stabilizing rootedness can occur. That started to awaken inner energies and to strengthen me.”

Dr. Galante says that depression is not limited to the mind. “The important thing is to not get too hung up in the head, where we have all these conflicts. Our center is the lower abdomen, where a baby grows in a woman. The Japanese call this the hara. In Zen we concentrate the mind and the whole being there. That’s the hub of the wheel. The mind can be clearer when you do that, and you don’t get hung up living in the realm of thought.

“Set aside ten to twenty minutes daily to quiet the mind, let tensions drain, open up, and resonate with the environment. Everyone does it in a different way. You can do it with meditation or biofeedback. You can do it with music, yoga, a hobby, it doesn’t matter what. Anything that takes you to a creative, quiet place and allows you to recharge. Learn to take the time to express your inner needs.

“I like to ask my patients the question, ‘Why do we have a physical body?’ My answer is always that we exist as a physical entity to carry around our minds and our hearts, in a sense our spirits, so that we can fulfill ourselves. We can then learn and grow and do what we need to do in life. We are nothing without our emotions. Yet we neglect and suppress our feelings. We don’t consider nourishing ourselves in a spiritual way. We need some sort of daily practice.”

Dr. Galante adds, “We have a lot of outward pressures. We have rules made by corporations that are fulfilling needs for profits and ruining resources. There is a huge lack of wisdom across the board. The only thing that can make you happy is looking inward. Bring your mind and energies inside. Sometimes, when you start out, all you see is unhappiness and tension. But if you keep at it, sitting down, breathing quietly, not moving, and slowly bringing the mind inside, you will start to feel a sense of peace, relaxation, and buoyancy. That is recharging your battery. That is the most profound thing you can do to bring your energy up.”

For more information on alternative treatments for common ailments, check out Gary Null and Amy McDonald’s Be a Healthy Woman!, now available directly from Seven Stories.

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