According to the World Health Organization, experts note that depression accounts for more disability around the world than any other condition. Doctors have diagnosed over 264 million patients with depression-related mental health conditions, and researchers link depression with a number of physical diseases and ailments.
Before television producer and filmmaker James DuBose of Woodland Hills, California, rose to head of programming at Fox Soul, he spent several years battling severe depression.
Mr. DuBose began noticing sustainable improvement by employing relaxation techniques. These relaxation techniques don’t replace care and monitoring by mental health professionals, but they are free and can stabilize patients suffering from depression. In some cases, those suffering from depression or depression-onset health conditions experience complete recovery after incorporating relaxation into their daily routine.
Scientists have learned that much of the body’s physiology and stress is connected to one’s breath. That’s because when someone begins experiencing stress symptoms, they take shallow breaths, the vagus nerve constricts, the heart rate increases, and blood pressure goes up.
Consistent stress symptoms cause the brain to go into hyperdrive (mania) and then crash (depression). To counteract these stress-induced responses, one should pay attention to their breathing and intentionally deepen their breaths.
For most people, breathing in for three to five seconds and then breathing out for two seconds longer will cause the body to calm fairly quickly. The sooner that an individual recognizes their stress response and begins deep, regulated breathing, the faster they can return to a state of calm and self-efficacy.
There are a number of breathing apps for smartphones or one can count internally, says James DuBose. Either way, concentrating on one’s breathing can bring instant relief for stress and creates a foundation for more advanced biofeedback care.
Similar to the technique above, one can breathe in for three to five seconds, hold their breath for the same amount of time, and then release their breath for five to seven seconds. This technique, called boxed breathing, forces one to pay attention to how their body feels, says James DuBose.
In addition to reducing stress, boxed breathing can train people to catch stress symptoms sooner. Most people that suffer from severe depression lack the ability to be self-aware; by the time they realize that they have stress, it has grown so strong that it seems irreversible.
Patients that recover successfully from depression, PTSD, and other stress-induced disorders learn to feel the signs of stress early within their body. This ability helps them address stress when it is more manageable and builds confidence in successful stress management.
To increase the effectiveness of boxed breathing techniques, one can also tense the muscles in their body, hold the tension, and then release that tension through their exhale. This technique further helps the patient recognize tension and relaxation in their muscles.
There are hundreds of effective guided meditations online. People can stream these guided meditations and follow the moderator’s instructions.
Most guided meditations invite listeners to close their eyes and relax their bodies. The speaker will talk the listener through various breathing and muscle relaxation exercises. Some also use strategic messaging and prayer to reduce stress using gratitude and positivity.
Mindfulness meditation often exists without external guidance. The individual assumes a comfortable sitting or reclined position, closes their eyes, and focuses on being present.
In this unguided approach, one feels what they feel in that moment, gathering sensory data such as sounds, smells, and the temperature of the air around them. Mindfulness focuses on self and situational awareness and can contribute greatly to reducing stress.
In guided imagery, a person visualizes scenes and environments that they find especially comforting, safe, and relaxing. For example, one might imagine themselves in their childhood home or at their favorite park.
Guided imagery helps the individual recognize positive feelings so that they can combat negativity bias (the brain’s tendency to latch onto negative experiences over positive ones), says James DuBose.