Many of my patients do not want to take medication and I support their efforts to find a holistic solution. Here are my top recommendations:
1) Exercise: Believe it or not, exercise has been found to be the most effective treatment for depression. Of course, that's the last thing you feel like doing when you're feeling down. The minimum recommendation is 3 times per week for 20 minutes. More is better.
2) Weekly Psychotherapy: Long standing issues, family and cultural programming, habits of mind - these are just some of the issues that might be at cause. Depression is a sign that something in your life is not right. Get some help to deal with it.
3) Check your pleasures: Coffee, alcohol, sugar, and recreational drugs can lead to mood disorders. Even moderate use can be too much for depressed persons. Observe how your moods go up and down with use.
4) Supplements: All people suffering from depression should be taking Fish Oil for Omega-3 Fatty Acids daily. There is also compelling research on the use of Amino Acids, Sam-E, St. John's Wort, DHEA, and B vitamins. Read up and experiment.
5) Sunlight: It helps to get direct sun exposure every day if possible. If not available, a light box can bring a lot of relief. You can easily get your dose of light by sitting in front of one for 15 minutes a day. Light boxes are great.
6) Regular human contact: Many people are depressed because they are too isolated. We are social animals. Go to Meet-Up.com and find some people who enjoy the same things you do.
7) Challenge your thinking: Depressed people have depressed thoughts. A book that can be really helpful with this is Feeling Good by Dr. David Burns
8) Good nutrition: The way we eat may have a lot to do with fostering depression. Check out The Mood Cure by Julia Ross, Potatoes Not Prozac by Kathleen DesMaisons, and Seven Weeks to Sobriety by Joan Matthews Larson.
9) Yoga and Meditation: These are recommended for mild to moderate depression only. Severely depressed people need to become more active and outer focused.
10) Are you living your right life? Sometimes depression is an indication that things need changing. Sometimes drastically. Do an inventory of your life.
If these treatments have been tried and there is no change in a month, it is recommended get a full evaluation by a healthcare provider. It is important to rule out a medical condition such as low thyroid which would cause depressive symptoms.
Many people consider taking antidepressants a sign of weakness. It is not, any more than it is weak for a diabetic to take insulin. Depression is one of the most debilitating illnesses, with many people dying from it each year. It does not make you a better person to endure needless suffering.
© Catherine Auman 2009
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