Stop Believing These Lies To Improve Your Mental Health

Mental health issues can be complex and difficult to navigate. At the same time, it can be easy for those around us to tell us how to heal our depression or anxiety — just go for a walk around the block, focus on the positives, stop dwelling on it. Society might want us to believe that getting over mental health issues involves quick fixes, but neuroscience shows us that there are actually quite a few lies out there that are not only incorrect but could be harmful as well.

If you suffer from depression, you're not alone. As many as 17.3 million adults in the U.S. are affected by a major depressive disorder, or 7.1%, according to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Nearly 2 million children between the ages of 3 and 17 suffer from depression as well. Women are twice as likely as men to experience depression, and the elderly are also at high risk. Depression has been linked to other medical conditions that affect your body's health, such as cancer, stroke, HIV, eating disorders, substance use, diabetes, and polycystic ovary syndrome.

Will these fixes really make you happier?

It's easy to think that if we just have more of what makes us happy, we'll become happier. But neuroscience actually says that the opposite is true (via MindBodyGreen). The more pleasure we receive, the more pleasure we need to sustain that level of happiness. It's similar to using drugs like cocaine to reach a high, needing more and more each time it's used. Eventually, the "pleasure centers" in our brains wear out, leading to depression.

Money is a common answer to the question, "What would make you happier?" but this is only partially true. In the U.S. the relationship between money and happiness starts to weaken once an income reaches $75,000. It becomes an issue of having more and more but that never being enough.

Alcohol and marijuana are also often used as claims to happiness, but that's just not true. Alcohol can shrink the brain and impair decision-making, which can contribute to depression. Marijuana use can cause premature aging of the brain and decreases brain blood flow and is also linked to an increased risk of depression and suicide in young people. Neither should be relied on for boosting your mood.

Sweets are also a quick fix — that sugar high can leave you feeling on top of the world. But in the long run, too much sugar can cause inflammation, and it's linked to depression, diabetes, and dementia. From money to substances to sweets, perhaps the answer to helping improve mental health lies in moderation.