You may have heard the old saying, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Well, it turns out that may be the case with depression.

Through the years, I've read study after study that shows how depression increases your risk of dying. But a few years ago, a study came out that flew in the face of all these other studies. All of a sudden, the medical profession believed depression might actually be good for you. In this study, researchers evaluated over 2,400 women (all older than 65) for depression. The researchers found that those "mildly depressed" had a 60% less chance of dying during any three-year period, as compared to those who were not depressed.

So what's the truth? Is depression good for you? Or does it increase your mortality?

Turns out, the answer could be "yes" to both questions. Here's why: The authors of the most recent study felt that people who are mildly depressed might learn to cope better and get away from harmful situations. But many people can't overcome the obstacles in their life for one reason or another. When they give up, depression tends to lead to a higher risk of dying.

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Here's my take: Challenge (whether physical or mental) is good for the individual and for all life forms. Without challenge, we (and any other animal) become fat and lazy, leading to premature death. But if you view a challenge as conquerable, it can inspire and push you to become even stronger. For instance, if you stress a plant gently, it will become stronger to meet the challenge. The same is true with a muscle. Challenge a muscle with exercise and it becomes stronger. The brain, which is largely muscle, is no exception.

The best challenge you can give yourself when you're depressed is to do exactly the opposite of what you feel like doing. If your depression makes you feel like isolating yourself, invite a friend over or go out with a group of friends. If your depression makes you want to indulge in junk food, eat a good salad. And if your depression makes you want to take a nap, go for a walk.

The more little successes you have, the more positive you'll become. Before long, you'll develop some positive habits. And instead of depression causing a multitude of health problems, you'll find yourself healthier and feeling much better. This is also a great way to prevent depression. So get moving and challenge yourself!

Study: Depressed Women Live Longer, Associated Press, May 1, 2002. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, May-June 2002.
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