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The gold standard for treating major depression is a combination of anti-depressant medications and therapy. In 2006, actor Tom Cruise, a devoted scientologist angered people who adopt this treatment by suggesting Brooke Shields could have conquered major postpartum depression by taking walks and eating a healthy diet. According to most medical experts, Shields clearly would not have conquered her depression by adopting Cruise’s approach. However, Cruise, was, surprisingly, not completely off in his analysis.
The degree to which people experience major depression can be helped by changes to diet, by amount of exercise, and by pursuing a host of activities. People with major depression may also be helped by surrounding themselves with positive and supportive people, and by adopting a positive attitude toward their disease. A depressive person with a positive attitude sounds almost oxymoronic. However, expectations of what one expects to get out of treatment, and how one regards depression itself can affect, sometimes greatly, the degree to which treatment will be successful.
First, diet is a consideration for those who suffer from major depression. Certain foods tend to be “happier” foods, while others do contribute to depression. For example sugar has been shown to cause greater depression. Carbohydrates from white flours and starches also may augment depression because they are higher in sugar. People with major depression often suffer from weight gain, due in part to their medications. Further weight gain through eating a poorly constructed diet and getting little physical activity can lead to lowering self-esteem and thus greater depression.
Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids tend to have excellent mood-balancing properties. Many people with major depression and bipolar disorder also supplement their diet with either fish oil or flaxseed oil, available in capsules. Eating oilier fish, nuts, spinach, and foods cooked with canola oil can help bring these essential acids into the body and allow diet to help naturally enhance mood.
Getting regular exercise is also key for those with major depression. Cardiovascular exercise allows one to keep weight off, and provides an essential boost in endorphins, chemicals that clearly affect mood. Meditative exercises like Tai Chi and Yoga can also provide inner calm and inner peace, taming self-criticism. A combination of cardiovascular exercise and yoga can be a great way to boost the body’s response to fighting depression.
People with major depression often don’t want to go out or engage in normal activities. However, staying involved in life, when possible, can also help one fight major depression. Alternately, if participation in the workforce seems too challenging, try to take a class, or participate in a sport or a hobby that is enjoyable so that one is still seeing people.
Laughter really does help, and it does help to have positive friends who can joke with you, even about being depressed. Though it is not always possible to avoid people who seem to make a person most depressed, increasing contact with people who are supportive and who cheer you up can help elevate mood.
Many people also find relief by journaling when they are depressed. Alternately, some people keep a gratitude journal. They merely write down, whenever the spirit moves them, anything that makes them happy or grateful for their lives. A child’s laugh, spring flowers, the smell of cedar, or a pair of comfy socks are all good fodder for a gratitude journal. All will help remind one that there are still comforts or good things in life to be enjoyed, especially when the world seems to be impossibly dark and difficult to live in.
People with major depression may use alcohol or drugs to alleviate their feelings of despair. This tends to worsen depression, and is especially dangerous when combined with medications for depression. Avoiding alcohol and drugs is an extremely helpful step in fighting depression.
It may also help to keep reading about your condition, or to belong to a local or Internet support group. Group therapy can help one realize how common major depression is, and that one is not alone in this fight. Reading about other’s struggles with depression can also prove inspiring for some.
Though none of these suggestions will cure depression, they may indeed help depression lessen. Taken together along with therapy and medication, they may prove more effective than do therapy and medication alone.
In a recent German study at the Munich Institute, St John Wort has proven to be as effective in treating depression as any depression medication.
Only about 4 percent of patients had to stop using it because of side effects. I would though check with my doctor first before I dropped any prescribed medication.
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