During my Skype with Lauren, I couldn’t help but notice her contagious smile. We talked about our lives, our similarities, and shared a lot of laughs. Her life has been an adventurous one: she spent time living in Taiwan, is currently following her dreams in Berlin, and her passion for helping others through her platform, The Undepression Project, shines so much that you almost forget that her motivation stems from her own experience living with depression. And this is exactly what she wants to show the world: depression can happen to anyone, it is normal, and you can heal.
Q: What inspired you to start The Undepression Project?
A: It came from a personal struggle with depression a few years ago. In my early 20’s I was struggling with all of the usual signs and symptoms. It did take a while for me to recognize it, though. It didn’t come on all at once, but was more of a slow degradation in my mood and wellbeing. I couldn’t help but think, “There is something seriously wrong. I am irritable all the time, I’ve got headaches, my body hurts, and I hate everything. I was constantly sad and crying - I looked at myself, and thought, ‘This is not the person I was a year and a half ago.’” I really didn’t know what to do about it. I knew it was clearly not a normal thing, there was something going on.
I realized who I was then was not the person I would like to be. That was not the way I wanted to feel. In searching, the only options I found were talking about it with a therapist, or going on pills. I wasn’t into either of those options. I was just at a point where I hated talking about my feelings, and sitting sharing with a therapist sounded like the worst thing in the world (I have since reformed, haha, and would highly recommend therapy!). And antidepressants didn’t seem like the right answer either, because they didn’t seem to me to address the real cause of my distress. I had recently done a few things that put me under a lot of stress, that I figured were certainly part of the problem. I had gotten married, moved to Taiwan, I had taken up a job that I didn’t enjoy -- it was just the perfect storm. I just hadn’t figured out what I could do to feel better, yet.
Then, my neighbor started teaching a new yoga class. She asked me to come for moral support. So I thought, “Why not?” I ended up going and I just fell in love with it. I was sitting there at the end of class on my mat, and I was just like, “Woah. My brain is so quiet, this is such a peaceful place to be. My body feels so nice!” You get that yoga glow, you know? Compare that to how I was feeling on a daily basis? It was leaps and bounds different. I thought, “This is cool. If I do more of this, maybe I’ll feel like this more often!” This was the very beginning of healing my mood. It led me to study nutrition, psychology, mindfulness, and become a yoga teacher.
I began to see that I could use this information to help other people, because I was sure I was not the only one going through this. I wanted to make the information needed to heal from depression more accessible, from anywhere.
Q: How did you go about starting this new chapter of your life, helping others?
A: I really wanted to put something out into the world that would make it easy for people to find answers to their questions about depression, about how to feel better, and about how to take care of their mental health. I began putting together all of the negative thought-combatting and anti-anxiety techniques that I had been using, and made a list of these more traditional approaches. On top of that I added the integrative approaches that I’d used, including nutrition, yoga, mindfulness, exercise, etc. I started asking myself, “What if there was an online course where people could learn all of this stuff from home?” When you are depressed, you don’t necessarily have the energy to exert a lot of effort into healing. If there had been a program where I could’ve sat on my couch and start working on this stuff, I would have loved that, so I thought other people would like that too!
Q: How does The Undepression Project help you combat depression?
A: The course teaches you what depression is, how to I recognize it, what the symptoms are, what it looks like in you, and it helps people dig a little bit deeper into why they are feeling a certain way. It takes you through the neuroscience of depression: how it affects your brain, and how it affects your body.
Then it teaches you how to change your thoughts. There are some cognitive behavioral therapy techniques in there that are really helpful, as well as mindfulness, meditation, and how to calm your body and calm your mind. Reversing that hyperactive stress response that a lot of people get with depression is imperative in the healing process. There are exercises in a workbook and simple assignments to practice for a few minutes each day.
Depression can affect people in a lot of different ways, from the kind of anxious depression, to the sad, more melancholy depression, and varies in severity. No matter which you are experiencing however, you can use your body to change your brain and how you are feeling. The Undepression Project ecourse features exercise options, yoga, and videos on how to do it. And then there is also a nutritional component: how to add healthy things into your life and how to slowly phase out the things that aren’t making you feel better- and how to recognize what those are! From recipes, to a course calendar that you can follow, it basically has everything that I used. It is in a sequential order that slowly ramps up. As you follow it, and work through the material, you’ll have a much better understanding of what depression is, and have a toolkit you can draw from to overcome it.
The course launched in mid March of 2016 with beta testers helping her work some of the kinks. By April, The Undepression Project was in full effect, and the results so far have been amazing. Lauren has witnessed a lot of people go through the course, and she is thrilled with how much they have grown and progressed. As of now, it is just Lauren running the course, but she is looking to grow her team. As for the future of The Undepression Project she says, “I would like to get more people on my team so that we in turn can help more people! I also plan to also expand the course as more research comes out, and offer some new courses on not just recovery, but how to stay depression-free in the future. Just put information out there and hopefully lessen the stigma surrounding depression and mental health.”
One of her biggest goals is to make talking about mental health as normal as discussing your physical health. If we begin to treat them with the same importance and understanding, we can help people heal instead of hide. She compares it to going to the gym for your brain - if we continue to train our minds to heal and grow, we can all become happier and healthier individuals! “It is very rare that anyone would go to a doctor, describe the feelings of depression, and have the doctor ask about their relationships, the food they are eating, or the activities they do." Lauren insists that the key is finding the deeper cause of people’s depression. "Healing those things and working from there is not necessarily easier, but it will always be more effective.” Lauren wants people to know that courses such as The Undepression Project are an option. With pharmaceuticals and therapy so entrenched in people’s minds, they often forget that some of the best healing takes place in the simplest ways.
“I just want to leave with this: Depression is normal. It happens to almost everybody at one point or another. Depression is going to make you feel like it isn’t normal, like you are the only one feeling this way, and that no one wants to help you. It is exactly the opposite. There are loads of people that want to help you. There are options for healing. There are so many different ways to get yourself through this. It is not going to last forever.”
Explore more about The Undepression Project on the site or sign up for the course here. You can also join the email community for regular tips on mental health. Make sure to follow Lauren on Boomcast! We all need a little support sometimes, and regardless of the stage you are in, know that you have a community that you can turn to when you need it.
Lauren is offering the Boomcast community a 20% discount to her course. Use the promotional code “BOOMCAST” to get your discount.