I have some exciting news following a small research project that I conducted over the last few months.
I present the article in a scientific format for ease of reference, and it includes some technical information, but it is definitely written for any reader.
Depression is a serious condition that continues to grow and affects millions of people globally.
Medication and psychotherapy have had some success in treating depression, particularly when combined, but the quest for more effective, natural and organic interventions continues.
I have designed a programme that marries my expertise and practices as a psychologist and a Wim Hof Method instructor, which appears to lower depression levels in a totally organic and sustainable way, for a period of up to 3 months following the face-to-face portion of the programme.
11 participants completed the programme and submitted their responses on the Becks Depression Inventory at three time periods: before the workshop (t0), 1 (t1) and 3 months (t2) later.
I found significant differences between t0 and t1 (p-Value = 0.02779), which were sustained up to 3 months later (p-Value = 0.00161).
This study has limitations, but it provides encouraging inputs for further research into natural and organic approaches to treat depression.
Depression, in its various forms, affects a large number of people globally. According to a study published in The Lancet in 2018, which reviewed the incidence and prevalence of of 354 diseases across 195 countries between the period from 1990 to 2017, depression was identified as one of three top causes of non-fatal health loss, affecting some 264 million people globally.
We know that depression affects almost twice as many women as men, and, in its extreme forms, it is a seriously debilitating condition with the power to destroy the lives of those who suffer from it, as well as the loved ones who surround them. It can lead to suicide.
Depression in its clinical form is called Major Depressive Disorder or Clinical Depression and is technically diagnosed when an individual experiences 5 or more of the following symptoms for a period of at least 2 weeks, where at least one of the five symptoms is either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure.
Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.
Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.
To receive a diagnosis of depression, these symptoms must cause the individual clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. The symptoms must also not be a result of substance abuse or another medical condition.
It is important to understand that while sadness is a key feature of depression, they are different. Sadness is a natural, emotional experience for most people, and regardless of its intensity, it is not necessarily depression.
It is the combination of symptoms and their complexity in someone's life that may lead a professional to diagnose depression, sadness does not indicate depression.
In the same study quoted above, depression counts was shown to increase by 33% between 1990 and 2007 and a further 14% between 2007 and 2017.
In summary, depression is a debilitating condition that directly or indirectly affects the lives of many people around the world, and that continues to spread as time passes.
Currently the primary modes of intervention are medication, psychotherapy, and in the most severe of cases, Electro-Convulsive Therapy. To date the most effective, seems to be the combination of medication and psychotherapy.
Depending on which country you live in, you may have free or paid access to some or all of the above treatment options, but regardless of the individual costs, collectively the condition costs billions of dollars every year.
Research suggests that the current, most effective treatment option is the combination of medication and psychotherapy. However, for many these are not suitable options, either because they want to stay away from medication and or do not believe in talk-based interventions such as psychotherapy.
Thankfully in the last few decades alternative methods that employ more organic approaches have been tested. Mindfulness, nutrition, meditation or lifestyle have all been investigated as tools to improve depression among others.
Personally and professionally, my approach to healing is natural and organic, and while I value the role medicine plays in our world today, my quest is for knowledge, tools and approaches that are non-invasive, self-driven and natural.
It is within this landscape that I developed and tested a programme that marries my knowledge, expertise and experiences as a psychologist, with my knowledge, expertise and experiences as a Wim Hof Method instructor.
For the reader unaware of the Wim Hof Method, it is based on 3 powerful pillars: cold therapy, breathing and commitment, and is "characterised by its simplicity, applicability and a strong scientific underpinning. It is a practical way to become happier, healthier and stronger and more powerful."
You can learn more here.
My interest was to explore how the marriage between a series of customised psychological processes and the physical processes of the Wim Hof Method (breathing and cold-therapy) would impact people in measurable ways.
My hypothesis was that when individuals reconnect to their Essence they would:
experience higher wellbeing
relate more positively to the world
strengthen their commitment
The programme included four interwoven components: a set of pre-work, a face-to-face workshop, a 1-month webinar, and a 3-month webinar.
The content of the programme was equally split between psychology and Wim Hof Method.
Participants were selected from within my network and were offered this learning experience free of charge, in exchange for completing all its component parts.
I initially aimed to run the programme with 10 participants, however, almost 50 people completed a 'selection survey' and 12 were selected.
The selection survey focused on the motivation to attend the programme, which was captured through an open-text questionnaire.
As well as motivation, selection criteria also included the desire for a balanced group on gender and ethnicity, with the aim being 5 men, 5 women, and 5 Asians and 5 Other ethnicities.
One female, Caucasian participants pulled out at the last minute, therefore the programme was run with 11 participants.
To measure mood changes I selected the Becks Depression Inventory (BDI).
To measure relationship type I selected the Adult Attachment Scale (AAS).
And to measure commitment I selected the Self-Regulation Questionnaire (SRQ).
The programme was composed of a set of pre-work activities (t0), a 2.5 days face-to-face workshop, a 1-hour webinar 1 month post the workshop (t1), and a 1-hour webinar 3 months after the workshop (t2).
The AAS, BDI and SRQ were administered at t0 and t1, only the BDI was administered at t2.
A paired t-test was used to compare means across the three time points.
A paired t-test was performed to determine if the programme was effective. Summary tables are presented below.
At t0, 11 responses were submitted for the BDI and the AAS, but only 10 for the SRQ.
At t1, 11 responses were submitted for all 3 tools.
At t2, 10 responses were submitted for the BDI.
The AAS scale revealed no statistically significant differences between t0 and t1.
The overall SRQ revealed no statistically significant differences between t0 and t1 either, however, statistically significant differences were found on two sub-scales of the SRQ: 'Searching for options' and 'Implementing the plan'.
The BDI revealed statistically significant differences, and it was therefore chosen as the only measure to administer at t2.
BDI means were compared between t0 and t1; t1 and t2; and t0 and t2. Statistically significant differences were found between t0 and t1, and t0 and t2, none was found between t1 and t2.
BDI Results: t0 - t1
The mean difference (M = 5.90909, N = 11) was significantly greater than zero, t(10) = 2.16570, upper-tailed p-Value = 0.02779, providing evidence that the programme is effective in improving depression.
BDI Results: t1 - t2
The mean difference (M = 0.50000, N = 10) was not significantly greater than zero, t(9) = 0.13876, upper-tailed p-Value = 0.44635, providing evidence that no additional significant improvements in depression were gained from 1 to 3 months following the workshop.
BDI Results: t0 - t2
The mean difference (M = 5.60000, N = 10) was significantly greater than zero, t(9) = 3.97752, upper-tailed p-Value = 0.00161, providing evidence that event after 3 months from the workshop depression levels remained significantly lower than the baseline at t0.
This research has serious limitations, but its results are incredibly encouraging.
Firstly, my statistical analysis skills are rather rusty and it is possible that I have missed something important in the way I thought about and analysed the data.
I am open to comments and suggestions to improve the depth of this analysis.
Additionally, the sample size is small. At 11-strong it is not large enough to prove something conclusively in a way that can be usefully generalised.
However, as a proof of concept, the results are encouraging and suggest the need for further research.
Thirdly, the lack of a control group deeply limits our understanding of the variables that contributed to the depression improvements. It is exciting to hypothesise that it was the programme, and in particular the workshop, to facilitate such improvements, but a more robust research method must be employed in future research.
And finally, there is a potential conflict of interest, given that the programme I designed now has a commercial element to it.
I know who I am and I am totally confident that I have run this mini research project with integrity, honest and positive intentions. I am not looking for approval or proof, I am looking for dialogue. The stories that emerged from participants thus far are so encouraging that I have no alternative but to offer this programme to the world.
There are other limitations, but as I mentioned at the beginning, while in a scientific format, I do not want to make this article a peer-reviewed-worthy write-up. I want to share these exciting findings with you, knowing that if something needs to emerge from them, it will.
On my part I will continue to be curious about the interaction between my programme and the participants' wellbeing, between mind and body, and I am hopeful to collect even more positive stories of people who found deep transformation and benefit by participating in my programme.
And finally, I would like to appeal to the research-minded people and organisations who may have a desire to fund and collaborate on further research to consolidate our findings into reliable and robust scientific data.
In the meantime, if you are interested to learn more about the programme and book your spot on the 31 January 2020, visit www.om-ice.com.
Thank you for reading my article.
I base all my articles on real case studies and research findings that are relevant to my work and my clients.
Feel free to reach out with any questions or if you would like to explore something together.