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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 Spokes
Getting Your Life Back: The Complete Guide to Recovery from Depression by Jesse Wright, Monica Ramirez Basco Ph.D.
Getting Your Life Back: The Complete Guide to Recovery from Depression uses a similar approach and is recommend by Library Journal but not fully by Publishers Weekly who feels that the tone is preachy and somewhat condescending (typical of many psychiatrists). The texts is based on addressing several areas of life and psyche: thinking, taking action, addressing biological issues, relationships, spirit of spirituality. Addressing these key areas of living is a good foundation for mental health self-help. Library Journal states that the exercises in this book are well-developed and helpful.
The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs
Page updated December 9, 2015
Self-Help for Depression - Five Steps
This page has been edited and reviewed by psychologist R. Y. Langham, M.M.F.T., Ph.D.
Self-help is an underutilized approach that millions can use to get the upper hand depression. It isn't as easy as taking a pill, but using the self-help approach as a treatment option for depression can result in long-term improvements in one's mental health and well-being.
Making positive lifestyle changes like paying attention to nutrition, exercising regularly, and adopting an active lifestyle can improve depression symtpoms.
Friendships and positive relationships are an important part of overcoming depression. Avoid social isolation or activities that contribute to social isolation.
Turn off the television – Although the television provides mental stimulation, it can also dull the mind and contribute to social isolation. It is true that television shows provide a distraction, but they also drain you of mental energy and put you in a passive state of mind. This mentality can lead to depression.
According to life coach Mel Robbins after about thirty minutes of passive activity you will start to "zone out" completely. This is loss of focus, concentration, and attention "psychic entropy." In other words, your mind basically stops performing, rendering you unproductive. Psychic entropy can contribute to depression. Lower your risk of depression by reducing how much television you watch on a daily basis. Ironically, approximately three million homes in the United States do not have a television. You will be amazed how many mentally engaging and culturally enriching activities can stimulate you once 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, psychology professors at the University of California, and Brent W. Roberts, psychology professor at the University of Illinois, assert that low self-esteem and depression are strongly correlated in adolescents and adults.
By engaging in healthy and positive activities, you are able to improve your self-esteem, self-efficacy, and mental health—elements that are needed to win your battle with depression. It is important not to compare yourself to celebrities and others who may have accomplished more than you because it can cause a loss of sense of value and worth. Moreover, if you spend most of your life as an observer, you will never really accomplish anything.
When you actively help others you can develop a healthy self-esteem and sense of purpose. Serving others can actually help you win your battle against depression.
Step 3 - Outdoor activities and time spent with nature can also help
Shopping at the mall as a means of diversion actually contributes to a slight decrease in one's positive mood, while time spent in the outdoors with nature can contribute to positive thought patterns, and has proven to be an effective form of depression self-help.
Surround yourself with nature – According to a depression self-help advocate, nature has a way of creating a soothing atmosphere that can be healing to the body and mind. Lower your risk for depression by spending time in the outdoors (i.e. hiking, enjoying the beach, visiting the park, walking around the lake, or spending the weekend camping. Some refer to outdoor activities for mental health as "green therapy". The sounds and sights of nature can be both soothing and calming. They can also help alleviate some symptoms of depression.
Step 4 - Exercise Daily
Schedule regularly low-impact exercise for a method that has been proven to be more effective for mild and moderate depression than antidepressants, both in short-term mood and in long-term efficacy.
Develop a routine of low-impact exercise for effective self-help when battling depression. Harvard Health Publications of Harvard Medical School states that, "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, and/or swimming, you can positively improve your mental state. 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. Try to participate in 30-60 minutes of exercise, four times a week.
Step 5 - Give Attention to Diet and Nutrition
Make positive changes in your diet to improvement overall health as well as your mental health. Overall mood generally improves with balanced attention to nutrition. Nutrition is a vital aspect of good mental health and one of several keys for depression self-help.
According to the Massachusetts General Hospital for Women's Mental Health, the expression "you are what you eat" has a measure of truth; "nutrition impacts your physical as well as mental health." Good nutrition includes cutting out alcohol and quitting smoking. It is important to note that alcohol is a depressant that can contribute to depression (for some people). Moreover, some people use alcohol to self-medicate, which is counterproductive in the long run. A diet low in sugar, fat and refined carbohydrates (i.e. whole grain rice, bread and pasta) and high in fresh fruits and vegetables can be of value if you are trying to manage your symptoms of depression. Good nutrition makes good sense for overcoming depression.
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 anti-depressant drug treatments. A mental health professional in Central New Jersey presented the choice of pharmaceutical or non-pharmaceutical treatment to his depressed client, with the thought that although pharmaceutical treatments can offer short-term, fast-paced relief, lifestyle changes and understanding the origin of the depression can actually result in a more complete and permanent relief from depression, although at a slower pace.
Additionally, it should be noted that there are times when professional help is necessary and advisable, such as when struggling with feelings of suicide. Professional support can prove to be a valuable aid and an important safety measure. However, whatever choices you make in the way of professional support, self-help and lifestyle changes are an important aspect of permanent relief from depression. It is not a miraculous, overnight transformation (as Prozac was once erroneously touted to be), but it will likely result in gradual improvement.
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