Given that drug treatments for depression are typically most effective in severe depression, and that January and February can be challenging months in terms of mental health, we thought it fitting to review a number of non-drug therapies for mild to moderate depression. Before making any changes, consult a health care provider for direct and individualized advice. Also note that in seniors and the elderly the symptoms of depression can be a bit different. Click the link for more information.
Social Interaction, Phone Call, Social Support
Social support is vital to us as human beings. We are social creatures, and it is often really nice to know that someone cares whether it be a neighbour, a friend, a healthcare professional or even someone we don’t really know that we share a positive social interaction with, in-person or over the phone. Support groups may also be helpful as the people we interact with may be facing some of the same challenges that we are. It can be helpful to know that we are not alone. Joining a club, group or recreational sports team may also be helpful, or agreeing with a friend to go out for a short walk regularly. For example, Toastmasters is a nonprofit educational organization that operates clubs worldwide with the purpose of helping members improve their communication, public speaking, and leadership skills, and it can be helpful to explore developing these vital skills in a supportive group environment.
Exercise and Yoga
Exercise such as walking for 30 minutes per day (though it’s OK to start smaller – eg. I picked up my mail this morning) can be helpful in mild to moderate depression. Keep in mind that high-intensity exercise (eg. an exercise class) and more frequent exercise (eg. 3-5 times per week) have been shown to be most effective
We can train our brain on what to focus on. So many of us focus on the negative things that happen in our lives and ignore the positive things. The following has been shown to be helpful in mild to moderate depression. For 1 week, each night, write down three things that you are thankful for (eg. food in the fridge, a roof over your head, the phone call you had with a friend etc.) and what you did to bring each event about. (eg. I went to the grocery store, I paid the rent, I picked up the phone). After the week is done, even if you just write down one thing a week that you are grateful for, and what you did to bring it about, the “anti-depressant” effect is maintained.
Yoga and Mindfulness
Mindfulness is where we bring our attention to the present moment by focusing on the breath or what we’re experiencing through each of our 5 senses (smell, sight, touch, taste and hearing). Yoga, tai chi and qigong are examples of mindfulness practices that involve movement – ie bringing our attention to the present moment and focusing on the movements we are performing. Yoga as a form of exercise has shown benefit in terms of mild to moderate depression.
Problem-Solving and CBT – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
CBT is a short-term therapy for depression, directed toward solving current problems and modifying dysfunctional (eg. inaccurate and/or unhelpful) thoughts and behaviors. It has been shown to be an effective treatment option for mild to moderate depression
Regular deep breathing, where the belly expands as you breathe in, and returns to neutral as you breathe out has been found to be effective in reducing depressive symptoms in patients with heart disease.
Light therapy involves looking at a bright light of a specific intensity for a specific amount of time, typically in the morning. It has been found to be an effective treatment in mild to moderate depression.
There are a number of other therapies we will consider using with patients, tailored to the individual case in mild to moderate depression including: personalized dietary, lifestyle and nutritional support, acupuncture or acupressure, bach flower remedies, afirmations, herbal remedies and hyrdrotherapy (using water at different temperatures to influence circulation), among other therapies. We meet patients where they are at, and work with them to create a treatment plan that fits their lifestyle and helps them achieve their health goals.
Naturopathic Medicine can help with mild to moderate depression
At Valley Naturopath, we help patients with variety of health concerns to achieve their health goals, improve their quality of live, and achieve a better level of health. For more information or to book an appointment, please call Active Chiropractic at 613-732-9215.
Originally published in the Valley Naturopath clinic newsletter April 2015.
The “Anti-breakdown” podcasts from Johnathan Prousky ND
Cochrane Review on Exercise in depression
Exercise, Yoga, and Meditation for Depressive and Anxiety Disorders – American Family Physician
Home-based deep breathing for depression in patients with coronary heart disease: A randomised controlled trial – International Journal of Nursing Studies
Cochrane Review on Light therapy in depressionRelated to: breathing . CBT . cognitive behavioural therapy . depression . Exercise . gratitude . gratitude diary . interpersonal interaction . Light therapy . meditation . phone call . problem-solving . social support . yoga