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the Depression Cure: how to fortify your mind and become antifragile

the Depression Cure: how to fortify your mind and become antifragile

Hot Take: depression is not a natural human state, but a construct of modern society. Meaning, it is the result of unnatural innovations in how we live, eat, move, and how we're disconnected while never being more connected.

Now, let me pose a question: What would happen if you stripped us of our modernization?

What would happen if you threw us back into small, close-knit hunter gatherer communities and made us hunt and forage for our food? What would happen if you took away our technologies and innovations, and our distractions?

Thankfully, societies still exist that live in this 'primitive' fashion. 

And they're missing a few other characteristics of modern society, namely depression and obesity. 

They eat what they kill, which means more protein and omega 3's, and nutrients like choline that improve brain health and function. 

They move, a lot, they're lean, ripped even, and they didn't get it from the gym, but from their natural way of life.

They exist in small tribes where everyone knows everyone else. You can't do something wrong, because you'll be shunned by everyone that matters to you. You have a support system, friends, all with a single goal, to survive.

Years ago I read the book, the Depression Cure, by Stephen Ilardi, and it changed my view on depression. I wasn't depressed, when I picked up the book. I would never label myself as such, it's just not in my nature. 

However, if there were a natural cure to this state called depression, I wanted to understand what it was simply because this 'cure', if applied to someone who's not depressed, would also have positive effects, improving quality of life, happiness, meaning, and so forth. 

So, I read it, more searching for how to improve my life than solve the problem of depression. So, any guy, depressed or not, will benefit from this article simply as an 'optimal human way to live', but of course, if you have depression, you'll want to read it, too.

What I found in reading that book is that depression is not a natural human state, but the result of modernization. We've modernized so fast that our nature, or what we need to be at our best, has been taken from us. 

The good news: we can still get it, even in our modernized world, we'll just have to be a little different, we'll have to separate from the herd, so to speak.

Let's get into it.

Note: we're men. Men can talk plainly with one another. We can call one another out. We can be blunt. I do not have to take feelings into consideration. I can discuss truth without worrying about hurting your feelings. If this isn't how you want to hear things, don't continue reading.

I write everything, every article, tweet, newsletter, in part, to me. I don't want to sugar-coat what I tell myself. If I'm being a pussy, I need to tell myself to man up and then rise to that occasion. If you're too soft to hear that, please, do not read on, even if it's the exact thing you need to hear.

The Depression Cure: Are We Living Wrong?

In the book, Ilardi spends 10 years studying modern hunter-gatherer societies in Papua New Guinea and Africa. A decade is a long time. He was trying to see if these primitive societies, with no technology, we lived how humans once lived thousands of years ago for tens of thousands of years, would suffer from the depression that's growing at rapid rates, especially in our modern cities.

The answer was clear, no. They have none. Zero cases.

If you look at the structure of a hunter-gatherer society, you can see how humans are supposed to live. Men hunt, women take care of the kids and the village. Both men and women move, a lot. The community is small and very connected. Everyone supports everyone.

There are no distractions for the mind, no social media, no comparison syndrome. Your neighbor's hut is the same as yours. There's no envy, jealousy, there may be some, but not on such a grand scale or interwoven into daily life.

It's as if our modern society is completely at odds with what humans actually need.

We need to be active, but we don't need to be active in our cities.

We need close relationships, but we don't have them, even if we live in a building with a thousand people, we may not know any of their names, we have no common goal. We can be surrounded, but alone.

We need quality food. In our cities we have fast food. We have hyper-processed garbage, ripped of the essential amino acids, omega-3's, and nutrients humans need to be at our best.

It's these characteristics that make depression obsolete in these ancient civilizations, but, as you can clearly see, we can still have them in our modern culture, we just have to work at it. 

Exercise vs Big Pharma

I am not a fan of big pharma. It's a band-aid industry that creates drugs where the downsides are often worse than what they claim to solve. It's created laziness. Instead of prescribing healthy diet and exercise, our doctors prescribe a pill.

Even with new research showing that exercise is up to 2 times more effective than antidepressants at combatting and solving depression, doctors will still prescribe the latter, often which negative consequences.

I've had family members who were prescribed antidepressants, and a year into the medication they were told to get off them as new side effects were found. The side effects: increased suicide rates.

If you want to be an optimal human, if you want to have a clear mind, if you want to not have depression, exercise everyday.

The problem is that we don't workout when we don't feel like working out. Which is ridiculous. If we only do things when we feel like doing things, we'll never achieve anything.

Set a time during the day when you're going to lift and run or do some form of cardio.

Maybe you have to wake up earlier. Maybe you have to get to the gym before you head home and see the family. Whatever it is, do it. And do it daily. 

We have all of the weight training workouts you'll ever need in our Tribe, here for free.

Cardio, do it 5-6 days a week in whatever form you want. HIIT, or interval training, should make up a portion of that, 20-40%. If you can get into the habit of lifting weights and doing cardio daily, you'll dramatically change your life, but also your mind. 

You'll live longer, and live better.

Eating Like a Human

The difference in diet in these hunter-gatherer societies vs our modern societies is stark.

Diet should be simple. And we need certain nutrients and food groups to be at our best, and most of them can be found in meat.

Meat has creatine, carnitine, omega-3's (higher concentrations in grass-fed vs grain fed), choline, which is great for cognitive health, protein, b12, and a host of other nutrients we need to be at our best.

Fruits and vegetables are also important, especially for gut health as fiber is the best 'gut health supplement' you can take. Studies show that fewer non-refined produce led to less depression.

In short, eat food, real food. Eat organic and grass fed if you can. 

If you simply change your diet from processed foods and replace it with real food, things you can pick or kill, you're doing your brain a service, as well as your mental health. 

The Importance of Sleep for Fighting Depression

Another aspect of hunter-gatherers is their sleep quality. They sleep when it's dark. They're not bombarded by screens. They're not watching TV before bed or staying up later to catch a show. They rise with the sun, their sleep cycle is natural, and set, and their mental health is better off for it.

Quality sleep reduces stress, anxiety, and helps support optimal testosterone levels, and testosterone, in itself, is an anti-depressant hormone that you want at optimal levels for a number of reasons. 

When you lack sleep, your cortisol levels skyrocket, which is the stress hormone.

Multiple studies show a close link between depression and sleep problems. If you solve your sleep, which you can do, you'll improve your mind, mental health, and performance.

A few steps in doing this:

Limit screen time and blue light exposure before bed

The light from electronics and LEDs suppresses melatonin production, making it harder to fall asleep. Avoid looking at bright screens 1 hour before bed.

Make your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet

Use your bed only for sleep - not TV, phones or laptops. Block out all light from windows and electronic devices. The ideal temperature for sleep is 60 to 67 degrees F. White noise or a fan can block out unpredictable sounds.

Set a sleep schedule

Set your circadian rhythm by going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning. This can have a massive and profound effect on your ability to get a great sleep.

As a former insomniac, I've dealt with sleep issues for a long time. The above will help a lot, but I also created Man Sleep as a natural means to help falling asleep and getting a deeper, more restful sleep. Learn more about how Man Sleep can help you get a great sleep every night, here.

Be a Human with Other Humans

The final aspect of the research that Dr. Ilardi did with hunter-gatherer societies is the human connection aspect.

These tribes are small and close, with huts inter-connected in a confined area. Apartments are small, and inter-connected, but the humans living in them, aren't.

Each member of the tribe has a role, and each role is connected and pointed at the same goal, to help everyone live and survive. 

We need human connection. 

Multiple studies show that people who feel more connected to other people experience less depression. It makes sense, we're tribal animals, we're communal. Our societies evolved because we worked together, but they've evolved so much so that we're now completely alone within them.

For me, personally, this is the least important aspect, but it may be your most important aspect, and the research backs that up.

The key seems to be deep connections, not the frivolous sort we have in our modern society. Have your close pals, your tribe, those you connect with on a deep level, and make time for them. Don't get lost in the day to day without making time to spark up a stogie and grab a coupla with your buddies. 

Supplementing to Support Your Mental Health

Increase Your Vitamin D

Does vitamin D cure depression? No. The results of studies are too inconsistent, it does appear to help with anxiety, mood, and cognitive health, however, and it may help with seasonal depression.

Vitamin D is one supplement that most people should be supplementing with, not only will it help with mood, but also testosterone and immunity.

Check out our fully dosed, liquid gel Man D3 here

Try Adaptogenic Herbs

Do adaptogens cure depression? No. I explained my distaste for big pharma earlier, which makes natural supplementation a better option - secondary to diet, exercise, and being around humans, and sleep.

Adaptogens are interesting as they've been consistently shown to reduce stress, and perceived stress. And perception can be reality.

Much of our 'depression' is due to stress, to playing out the worst case scenario in our minds and then attaching our reality to that. Adaptogens can be a good addition to one's diet to combat this.

We include the best, most effective adaptogens in their full doses in Man Greens, Man MOJO, and DRIVE.

Be a Man

We've gone through the actionables, the things you can implement into your daily life that will actually help with your mental health, now, let's talk about building an antifragile mind, one that grows and strengthens because of chaos and disorder, not one that merely withstands it. 

Work, Improve, Evolve, Grow

Moving to other books, like Man's Search for Meaning, and Flow, we create meaning, we don't wait for it. Some of our truly happiest states are in deep work, or flow, where time stands still, where we're so into what we're doing that our stresses and worries disappear.

We need a north star, something we're working toward, and meaningful work. 

Meaningful work doesn't mean meaningful to society, but something we have control over the outcomes, where our work actually matters. 

We create this work. We can have this work be work on ourselves, study, improvement. We can build businesses, we can stick with companies long enough that we gain more responsibility and this ends up leading to more happiness and fulfillment - jumping from job to job searching for happiness within a career appears to be the wrong approach in this light.

Men need work. We need challenge. With challenges comes the unknown, stress, worry, fear, but these are a part of life, and not something to shy away from or be broken by, but to rise above and power through.

Man Up: Create an Antifragile Mind 

Let's talk about everything going wrong, nothing going right, and the choices we can make from that.

Regardless of what happens to us in life, happiness, peace, and meaning, is a choice, and one we always have access to.

Reading Seneca's Epistles, you briefly pass through the story of Stilbo who, when confront with his family being murdered and home being destroyed is asked what has happened, and he says (paraphrase), I have everything I need.

The simple reality is that we don't always choose the events in our life, but we do choose how we react to them.

Required reading to toughen one's mind:

Man's search for meaning

- The way to love - Anthony De Mello

- Meditations

- Seneca's Epistles

- On living well - Epictetus

If you have a strong mind, nothing can break you, not injustice, not failure, not loss, death, pain of any kind, a strong mind is the antidote to depression, sorrow, and everything else, and it's a decision to cultivate it.

A fat, out of shape guy, who has a horrible diet, but has a strong mind, is immune to depression.

That said, a man with a strong mind is going to do difficult things simply for the sake of doing difficult things. 

So we've talked about how to scientifically reduce depression with exercise, proper diet, and proper sleep, but strengthening's one mind, essentially, manning up at taking all challenges head on, makes you antifragile to anything.

My old man had a friend, he was paralyzed as a teenager, completely confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life, but, he was one of the happiest guys my dad knew. 

What happens to us is of little consequence, we're fucking men, we choose our destiny, we choose our attitude, we choose how we react to the events in our lives one hundred percent of the time, without exception. 

We fight.

We struggle.

We bear burdens for others because we can handle it all. 

Years ago, I was in my basement as a young kid, talking to a pal, when my mom walked in crying. My cousin had killed himself. He had a daughter, a wife, and his wife was pregnant. Somehow, the idea that his family would be better off without him got into his mind and wouldn't get out. So he ended his life.

It's incorrect thinking, but I get it. The world dumps extreme amounts of shit on us, and somehow, we have to handle it. We get in debt, we can't find a way out, suddenly that life insurance seems attractive, suddenly we become more valuable dead, than alive.

It's not true. Us being here is far more valuable even with the weight of the world on our shoulders, even drowning in debt, with no way out, we are still more valuable to our families alive. His daughters, today, would say so, his wife, my mom, me, all of us, would plead with him to stay, to give it one more day, one more month, and the lows would eventually turn.

Don't let that thought take root in your mind. Expel it. It's a lie. It's evil. It's not true. Do what you have to do to solve the problems put in front of you, and removing yourself from the picture is not a solution, it's a cop out. Life is never too hard to handle.

We get one, why not live it fully to its end with all of it's trials and tribulations, knowing that downs are followed by ups and ups often by downs, that's life.

Watching, A Star Is Born, years ago, I absolutely broke down when he hung himself in his garage. My cousin came to mind. The feeling of hopelessness, which I'm sure we've all dealt with, came to mind. The dog, pure innocence, pure goodness, wondering what happened, was crushing. The idea that him being dead would solve his wife's problems, man. It's a tough movie to watch, and you have to come to the conclusion that giving it more time, putting in the work on yourself, improving, that's the answer, not ending it.

He removed booze, his life would instantly become better. Sometimes there's an albatross weighing us down, and the act of removing it from our lives can be life-saving.

There is a depression cure.

It takes work, discipline, all of the difficult things that make life better that people want to avoid. But it's all worth it.

Get off social media, stop looking at how others are living, and stop thinking that shit's actually real. 

You're your own man. You have your own life. You have your own goals. Think about what you really want, and why you really want it. And build your mind, your body, your life, and never, never, never quit.

Struggles make us better if we choose to allow them to make us better. Please, choose to grow from struggle, be antifragile, grow from chaos, grow from failure, man up, and keep going.

Do difficult things simply because they're difficult.

Life isn't easy, but make it less easy.

Workout. Run. Restrict pleasures. Love the pain. Find meaning in the struggle, amidst the sorry.

Work on being tough, and then get tougher. 

Strength and a good mind don't come from things going well, that softens you, you want difficulty, you want struggle, it's an opportunity to rise, to grow, to evolve.

Keep getting after it.

Keep being a Man in the Arena.

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