Let’s talk about depression over coffee

Tom WestA recent study found that women who drink two to three cups of coffee per day are 15 percent less likely to develop depression than those women who drink a cup or less per week.

In addition, the study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that the java must have a jolt to it. Decaf doesn’t have the same effect. That suggests that getting the heartbeat up a little can make a big difference.

I don’t pretend to know what causes depression. Psychiatrists have discovered some chemicals that seem to help, but there doesn’t seem to be a single cure-all.

The 39-year-old son of a friend of mine did himself in a week ago in Mankato. I remember the son as a good high school basketball player, and his obituary reports that he coached youth teams and summer campers, and also umpired and refereed games.

But after he died, I learned he had struggled with depression for years, and that he had gone off his meds.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a column or two about “Blue Zones,” a book by Dan Buettner, that describes what those few places on the planet where people live to be 100 have in common — the highlands of Sardinia, Okinawa, the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica, and the Los Angeles suburb of Loma Linda, Calif.

I received an odd mixture of reaction afterward. One person said, “Why would I want to live to be 100?”

Maybe they envision that living a century means an extra 10 or 20 years in a wheelchair. The thing about Blue Zones people, however, is that they have 10 or 20 extra good years than the rest of us. Those are extra years to see grandkids and great grandkids grow up and get married.

The commonalities of Blue Zone communities are several. The people remain physically active. Sardinians tend sheep; Okinawans garden.

They have a purpose for being alive, whether it’s babysitting grandkids or looking forward to hunting, meetings or vacations with friends.

They eat a big breakfast, but otherwise use smaller plates, keep the serving dishes off the table, turn off the TV during meal time and pray beforehand.

They eat a more plant-based diet than most Americans, heavy on beans, nuts and green plants, but only a couple of small servings of meat per week.

They drink a glass or two of wine each day. The Sardinian shepherds love to get together in the town square for happy hour.

Family is important to them. They invest time in their children, stay faithful to their spouses and live near their aging parents.

Most of them go to church. A survey found that if you go to church four times a month, you will live four to 14 years longer.

They work at expanding or maintaining a circle of healthy-minded, supportive friends.

My first thought when I heard about the coffee study is that the people who drink coffee are probably sharing some of that coffee time with friends. But if caffeine is the key ingredient, not coffee, that shoots my theory.

What’s more, the same effect should come from Coke, Pepsi or Mountain Dew, but we don’t hear about soda pop parties being good for one’s well-being.

All I know is that it is easy to tell people to find a purpose larger than themselves, that they are loved, or that they should live a Blue Zones lifestyle. It’s a lot harder to change your own mindset and lifestyle.

The next time you ge together with friends for coffee, talk about it. The study suggests you’ll feel better.

And if that doesn’t work, here are a few quotes from country singer Willie Nelson that may:

“You will never find happiness until you stop looking for it.”

“Par is whatever I say it is. I’ve got one hole that’s a par 23 and yesterday I (darn) near birdied the sucker.”

“God has blessed you richly, so get down on your knees and thank him. Don’t forget the less fortunate or God will personally kick your a–. I’d love to do it for him, but I can’t be everywhere.”

“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”

Tom West is the editor and general manager of the Dairyland Peach. He may be reached at (320) 352-6569 or by e-mail at tom.west@ecm-inc.com.

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