MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS: A Little TLC for Depression

By Bill Mory
Special to the Herald Democrat
Bill Mory

A little TLC could go a long way to treat depression. Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) is a proven and simple treatment for depression developed by Steve Ilardi, PhD at the University of Kansas.  He describes this treatment in his inspiring book, The Depression Cure.  Dr.Ilardi points out that clinical depression has increased to an epidemic level and is spreading.  This was true at the time of printing, and it likely continues to rise in the face of the challenges our country faces.

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.

These suggestions may sound a little like the advice our parents gave us as we were growing up. With many things, it turns out science proved them right!

Bill Mory is licensed therapist in private practice, in Texoma, who is an active member of the local behavioral health network and a provider of workplace training on Mindfulness, Emotional Brain Training and other topics. Learn more at views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.