Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes, or TLC is a proven, yet simple treatment for depression that was developed at the University of Kansas. Steve Ilardi, PhD established the program and describes this new treatment in his hope-inspiring book, The Depression Cure. Dr.Ilardi begins by pointing out that clinical depression, across our modern world, has increased to an epidemic level and is spreading. He explains how making a number of primary changes in ones lifestyle can prevent and reverse depression symptoms. Put simply, he says “We were never designed for the sedentary, indoor, sleep-deprived, socially-isolated, fast-food-laden, frenetic pace of modern life.” He ponders how we can be so much more vulnerable to depression than our hunter-gather ancestors, and describes research that suggests people who live a lifestyle with hunter-gatherer features are much less likely to get depressed.
The Depression Cure identifies six key areas and the lifestyle changes that can significantly help prevent and reduce depression symptoms.
1. Brain Food - Dr. Ilardi identifies the consumption of Omega 3 Fatty Acids as critical for brain function. He provides guidance on how to adjust your lifestyle to increase your Omega 3 intake and monitor it ongoing. He notes another very helpful book on eating brain-healthy foods, “In Defense of Food” , by Michael Pollan.
2. Engagement - The last few decades have shown us an increase in research showing the importance of productive engagement over our lifespan. He outlines the importance of involving ourselves in activities that capture our attention and interest and keep us curious. Staying connected with others on a regular basis can have a very positive impact on how our brains work.
3. Exercise - It’s easy to guess that hunter-gatherers were in better shape than many of us today. Along with most medical doctors now, he stress the importance of getting moving at least three times per week in order to improve our overall health.
4. Light Therapy - Hunter-gatherers did not spend the same time indoors that we do today. Getting exposure to sunlight, being outdoors more often, he suggests, is required for our brains and bodies to feel alive and be engaged.
5. Get Connected - Social support structures help us feel connected, valued, understood and secure. All of these things help avoid symptoms of depression.
6. Sleep - This is a critical piece for improving our lifestyles. Sleep is paramount for proper brain functioning and a lack of good sleep can contribute to, and exacerbate, an number of health concerns.
The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes program, provides good examples, guidance and specific ideas on how to implement these changes and reduce the likelihood of depressive cycles and symptoms. Remember however, before you implement any significant changes, check with your health care provider. Change can be hard so also remember to give yourself a little compassion and some traditional TLC!
Bill Mory is a Texoma-based licensed therapist in private practice. He integrates mindfulness training in working counseling clients and is a strong community-building advocate and a provider of workplace training on a variety of topics. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.