Everyone I have met has been touched by depression in some way, either they have suffered themselves or someone close to them has. It can be quite debilitating for the sufferer but also has a major impact on those around them. As a pharmacist, it is very confronting at how common it is and how many anti-depressant medications I dispense everyday.

There are varying degrees of depression and many different causes. It is important to get professional help in order to achieve the best outcome.

Although medications are often the first treatment people receive, we really need to look at the whole person and integrate certain lifestyle changes into the equation. We know that counseling and psychological therapy can be helpful but many people are unaware that other lifestyle changes can make a huge impact.

The following simple suggestions are a good place to start and are safe if you take medications:

FOOD:

  • Go back to basics and eat fresh wholefoods (as grown in nature).
  • Avoid packaged foods loaded with sugar and artificial additives as they have negative effects on brain function.
  • Increase your consumption of good fats such as fish, olive oil and nuts – your brain loves them.
  • Low levels of vitamin B12 may contribute to depression. It is found in animal products such as beef, lamb, chicken and eggs, however some people cannot absorb it effectively and may find themselves deficient despite eating them regularly.

EXERCISE:

  • Doing some exercise everyday, such as walking for 30 minutes, can improve your mental and physical health and the quality of your sleep.
  • Yoga may help to relax the mind and improve your feeling of well being.

VITAMIN D:

  • Low vitamin D levels are linked to depression and mental health problems.
  • The best way to increase your vitamin D levels is to go outside and get some sun on your skin (be sensible and do not allow yourself to burn).

SLEEP AND RELAXATION TECHNIQUES:

  • Inadequate sleep can affect your mood and is linked to depression.
  • Use relaxation techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing, to relax your mind and body. This can reduce anxiety and improve sleep.

STIMULANTS:

  • Although caffeine may improve your mood, it is best to limit your intake as it can increase anxiety and disturb sleep.
  • Smoking also worsens anxiety.

ALCOHOL:

  • Alcohol dependence is commonly associated with depression.
  • It is best to avoid alcohol or limit to a maximum of 2 standard drinks per day.

BE SOCIAL:

  • Surround yourself with positive, supportive people.
  • Get out and do something you enjoy.

These suggestions can be safely (and cheaply) incorporated into your life immediately. As your symptoms improve it is important not to stop your anti-depressant medications suddenly as this can cause a severe rebound of your symptoms. Discuss your situation with your doctor and design a plan together on how you can slowly reduce your medications.

 

Related articles:

http://dro.deakin.edu.au/eserv/DU:30065252/oneil-lifestylemedicine-2014.pd

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/05/19/warning-potentially-life-threatening-vitamin-deficiency-affects-25-percent-of-adults.aspx