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Review from Booklist: More than 21 million people worldwide use Prozac or other antidepressants. These medications alter levels of the brain chemicals that mediate mood. Brain chemistry can become imbalanced due to genetic causes, conditioned or learned patterns, or stressful or traumatic events. While medication often can change brain chemistry quickly and easily, up to two-thirds of depressed patients do not respond, experience harmful side effects, or need medication for only a short time. Perhaps more important, antidepressants do not affect the person's way of life, which often supports the imbalanced brain chemistry. Robertson, an expert in pharmacology, has treated depression for more than 20 years and here offers a drug-free approach based on altering brain chemistry with diet, behaviors, activities, and thoughts. His programs help the individual adopt certain behaviors and diets to restore harmony to brain chemistry. Only restoring the balance will ultimately cure depression. This comprehensive guide gives a new option to those suffering from depression and a wider understanding of the disorder's biochemical roots. Penny SpokesThe Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs
Page updated November 23, 2012
Self Help for Depression - Five Steps
Self help for depression is an underutilized approach that millions can use to overcome depression. It isn't as easy as taking a pill, but the gains you make from using self help as a treatment option for depression will most likely result in long-term improvement in your mental health rather than short term relief from symptoms.
By making positive life-style changes, giving attention to nutrition, exercise and an active lifestyle, as well as balanced attention to , more than likely you will find that symptoms of depression will improve.
Lifestyle Changes for Depression
Step 1 - Doing without television can be a positive step for many in overcoming depression.
Friendships and positive relationships are an important part of overcoming depression. Avoid social isolation or activities that contribute to social isolation.
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Turn off the television. The television, while providing mental stimulation from an external source, can be mind-dulling and contribute to social isolation. It can provide a distraction, but at the same time drain you of mental energy and put you in a passive mode of life and state of mind that lends itself well to perpetuation of depression. Life Coach Mel Robbins, states regarding television, "In fact, after about thirty minutes of passive activity, you'll start to zone out completely. Psychologists call it "psychic entropy." Your mind has basically stopped doing anything useful or productive." This can contribute to depression. Think about doing without television in your home. There are actual three million homes in the United States who, for one reason or another, do not have a television. You will be amazed how many other mentally-engaging and culturally enriching activities can fill in the gap when you turn off the television.
Step 2 - Engage in activities that build self esteem.
Activities that build self-esteem can contribute to positive thought patterns and are an effective part of depression self-help.
Ulrich Orth and Richard W. Robins of the Department of Psychology at the University of California and Brent W. Roberts of the Department of Psychology of the University of Illinois, state in a research paper concerning adolescent depression, that "low self-esteem and depression are strongly correlated". This can be true of adults as well.
By engaging in activities by which you can grow as a person, you can develop greater self-esteem, self-efficacy, and will become stronger mentally, which can help you in winning the battle with depression. If we spend most of our life as observers and never really accomplish anything to speak of ourselves, we can start to compare ourselves unfavorably with celebrities and other who might appear to have accomplished more than we have. We then can lose a sense of value for our own lives.
By actively participating and creating, as well as by using our lives to help others, we can develop self esteem and gain a greater sense of purpose in our lives. This can help us in the battle against depression.
Step 3 - Outdoor activities and time spent with nature can also help
While shopping at the mall as a means of diversion actually contributes to slight decrease in positive mood, time spent in the outdoors with nature, can contribute to positive thought patterns and has proven to be effective for depression self-help.
Surround yourself with nature. "Nature has a way of creating a soothing atmosphere, which can be healing to the body and mind," states one depression self-help advocate. Spend time in the outdoors, hike, enjoy the beach, visit the park before work, walk around the lake, take a weekend camping vacation at a state park. Some refer to this as "green therapy". The sounds and sights of nature are soothing and calming and can help to alleviate some of the symptoms of depression. Positive art therapy also positively affects short-term mood.
Step 4 - Exercise Daily
Regularly engaging in low-impact exercise has proven to be more effective for mild and moderate depression than antidepressants, both in short-term mood and in long-term efficacy.
Low-impact exercise can be effective in the battle with depression. Harvard Health Publications of Harvard Medical School states, "a review of studies stretching back to 1981 concluded that regular exercise can improve mood in people with mild to moderate depression. It also may play a supporting role in treating severe depression."
By engaging in activities such as brisk walking, biking or swimming, our mental state is positively affected. Brisk walking, for example, not only has positive physical effects on the body and mind, but the forward movement of brisk walking, especially outdoors, instills a sense of purpose, of moving ahead. This can be a great psychological mood-booster. You should endeavor to engage in at least 30 minutes to one-hour of exercise four times a week.
Step 5 - Give Attention to Diet and Nutrition
Many show improvement in overall mood when giving attention to positive changes in diet. Nutrition is a vital aspect of mental health and one of several keys for depression self-help.
The Massachusetts General Hospital for Women's Mental Health states that the expression “you are what you eat” may be true with the impact of nutrition on both "physical as well as mental health". Good nutrition includes cutting out alcohol and to quit smoking. Alcohol is a depressant and can contribute to depression for some people. It also can be a way of self-medicating, which is counterproductive in the long-run. A diet low in sugar and fat, low in refined carbohydrates, that includes whole grain rice, bread and pasta, with an emphasis of fresh fruits and vegetables, can be of value for many in overcoming symptoms of depression. Good nutrition makes good sense.
Conclusion on Self Help for Depression
This article just touches on a few ideas in self help for depression. There is much more that you can do to overcome depression naturally, without antidepressant drug treatment. What one depression sufferer was told by her therapist is very close to the truth. In presenting the choices of pharmaceutical or non-pharmaceutical treatment to her, he said that pharmaceutical treatment may offer more short-term, immediate relief, but making lifestyle changes and getting to the roots of the depression issues is more difficult and a longer process, but will result in more complete and permanent relief from depression.
Additionally, it should be noted that there are times when professional help is necessary and advisable, such as when struggling with feelings of suicide. The support from professionals can prove to be a valuable aid and an important safety measure. However, whatever choices one makes in the way of professional support, self help and lifestyle changes are an important aspect of permanent relief or "cure" from depression. It is not a miraculous, overnight transformation (as Prozac was once touted to be), but it will likely result in gradual improvement.
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