General Lifestyle Treatments for Depression

depression2Major depression is one of the major leading causes of disability in developed countries, according to the Surgeon General. Just as lifestyle changes work in losing weight, they can also work in treating depression.

Some of the lifestyle changes needed are: bright light therapy, avoid negative thinking, regular, restful sleep, daily spiritual exercises, regular physical exercises, deep breathing exercises, and classical musical therapy.

Bright light therapy: Seasonal Affective Disorder is a common condition in the northern latitudes. People have identical symptoms to depression which are solved when exposed to bright light (2000-10,000 lux) for at least 30 min a day. This can be done by using a special bright light such as a Hap-E light or by being outdoors at least 30 min. a day. It is essential that the eyes be exposed to the sunlight for this amount of time. This exposure can also help people with insomnia sleep better at night.

Avoid negative thinking: Researchers have found in studies that negative thinking has more strongly affected the outcome of depression, anxiety, perceived stress than any other factor. As soon as conscious awareness of an nonconstructive negative thought is realized, a positive thought should immediately replace it.

If a person will try for 14 days to work on replacing negative thoughts with positive ones, it will improve their outlook. Anytime they catch a negative thought, they start over with the 14 day count. They try to go 14 days without a negative thought. By the time they accomplish this, it will be a habit. Their outlook will change.

Regular, restful sleep: People need 7-8 hours of sleep a night. A lack of that amount can lead to depression. Insomnia also contributes to memory impairment and lack of concentration. To get a good night’s rest, be sure to get enough physical exercise during the day (although not right before retiring), get at least 30 minutes of sunshine, keep to a regular sleep schedule, avoid smoking, caffeine, and alcohol which interfere with natural brain chemistry. Also, try to avoid eating before sleeping so that the stomach can be at rest at bedtime. The evening meal should be eaten 3-4 hrs before bedtime so digestion will usually be completed, and superior, more effective rest will be experienced.

Daily spiritual exercise: An inner religious experience has been found to be effective in recovery from depression, according to several studies. Going through the forms of religion does not appear to help in depression. It is only the true studying that helps. One practice of reading a corresponding chapter of Proverbs a day has helped people with depression. Like chapter 1 for the first of the month; chapter 15 for the 15th of the month.

Regular physical exercise: Evidence shows that regular workouts help soothe deep sadness as effectively as antidepressant medications. To accomplish this goal, one needs regular rhythmic motion of large muscle groups. At least 30 min. 3x week (30 min. 6 x wk is better). Aerobic exercise increases serotonin levels in the brain. It also prevents and treats depression.

Deep breathing exercise: Exercising requires an abundant supply of oxygen. When you exercise, you need to deep breathe. As adults we are in the habit of only shallow breathing. Our breath only fills our lungs. We don’t breathe with our diaphragm. To practice deep breathing, lie down and breathe slowly in to the count of 6 hold 6 and breathe out 8. Do this for the count of 10-15 times several times a day. Your body will thank you. As you practice deep breathing, you can breathe deeper, hold it a couple of seconds longer, and breathe out longer. Remember to breathe so your stomach is filling up with the air. For optimum health, do deep breathing for up to one hour a day.

Classical Music Therapy: Music therapy is not a new practice. King Saul used it in Bible times when he was depressed. Not all kinds of music is beneficial. Music psychotherapy is where patients are encouraged to associate mental images with the music. It has been shown to improve mood even after only 6 weeks. Traditional classical music is the only style of music that has been demonstrated to improve mental health both subjectively and objectively to date. It is advised to listen to classical music 30 min. a day for optimal benefits. Mozart tends to have the best results on brain waves. Even 1 hr a week can be beneficial. This writer listens to classical music whenever I am in the car. I have my favorite composers by now. It has helped me a lot.

There you have some alternative lifestyle ways to treat depression: : bright light therapy, avoid negative thinking, regular, restful sleep, daily spiritual exercises, regular physical exercises, deep breathing exercises, and classical musical therapy. They are not to substitute for a doctor’s treatment. Lifestyle changes can work hand in hand with medication and therapy. I have used the lifestyle treatments in my own life. It has made a big difference in my life.