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Lifestyle Medicine for Depression: Moving from Self-destruct to Self-care

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

I've always been astounded by how easy it's been for depression sufferers to be prescribed antidepressants here in the UK, without discussing firstly lifestyle in a more holistic way.

Having lived with a partner who was depressed for all the time that we were together, I observed and helped whenever I could, but it wasn't easy - his pain was my pain because I loved and cared about him. Being around it allowed me to work out from first-hand experience that there are several lifestyle changes that individuals with depression will often find helpful. It matters how you treat yourself - self-care really is of primary importance.

I dream of the day when antidepressants will no longer be our 'go-to' and we instead look at lifestyle changes, behaviour and self-care to come back to wholeness. This is now my raison d'etre and why I now do the work that I do, as an RTT® Therapist - because mindset and behaviour are most certainly our starting points with most things in life.

Numerous studies have revealed that positive emotions and a growth mindset help people build stronger coping strategies when faced with life's challenges, which aids in the prevention of depression. Positive emotions and a sense of well-being are associated with a lower risk of depression and suicidal thoughts.

It's important to note that these suggestions might not work for everyone, and consulting a healthcare professional is crucial for personalised advice.

Here are ten lifestyle changes that could improve symptoms of depression:

  1. Regular Exercise: Physical activity can increase the production of endorphins - natural mood lifters. Even a short daily walk can make all the difference.

  2. Healthy Diet: A balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins provides essential nutrients that support brain function and mood regulation.

  3. Adequate Sleep: Quality sleep is vital for overall well-being. Establish a regular sleep schedule and create a relaxing bedtime routine to improve sleep quality.

  4. Social Support: Maintain connections with friends, family, or support groups. Talking to others and sharing your feelings can provide emotional relief in times of need.

  5. Mindfulness and Meditation: Practices like mindfulness and meditation can help manage stress and promote a sense of calm. These techniques can be learned through classes, apps, or online resources.

  6. Limit Alcohol and Avoid Drugs: Substance abuse can worsen depression. Limiting alcohol and avoiding recreational drugs can improve your overall mood and mental health.

  7. Set Realistic Goals: Break tasks into smaller, manageable steps. Accomplishing even the smallest of goals can boost self-esteem and provide a real sense of achievement.

  8. Limit Stress: Identify sources of stress in your life and work on reducing or eliminating them. This might involve making changes in your work, relationships, or lifestyle.

  9. Engage in Activities: Participate in activities that once gave you pleasure, even if they don't seem appealing at the moment. Engaging in hobbies and social activities can provide a sense of purpose and joy.

  10. Talk Therapy: Professional therapy, such as Rapid Transformational Therapy (RTT), can be highly effective in treating depression. A therapist can provide coping strategies and a safe space to discuss your feelings.

Remember, it's important to reach out to family, friends or your community if you can. Furthermore, discuss your symptoms with a healthcare professional to create a tailored treatment plan or give you some very effective tools to cope. Depression is a medical condition, and with the right support, it can be managed and oftentimes even overcome.

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