Depression is categorized in one of four ways, namely mild, moderate, severe depression and dysthymia. For a diagnosis of mild depression at least one core symptom (persistent sadness or low mood, or, a marked reduction or pleasure in activities previously found enjoyable) must be present and no more than five additional symptoms that have lasted for a few weeks.
Medication for mild depression is often ineffective and probably not even required. Even without specific interventions many people with mild depression find their symptoms lifting over time, although this could take up to three months. However, sitting back in the hope symptoms will pass is a risky strategy, mainly because they could get possibly worse. Reasons for this vary but experts generally point to factors such as the resilience of the individual, lifestyle, diet and exercise, the level of emotional and practical support the person enjoys and, of course, the circumstances that contributed to their depression.
An increasing body of research supports the use of exercise for mild depression; in some cases it has even been prescribed by family doctors. Because exercise boosts our supply of endorphins it quickly lifts mood and reduces anxiety. Exercises can easily be fitted in with daily routines and could include brisk walking, swimming, jogging, cycling, dancing or anything that gets the heart pumping and the body moving. Exercise also helps to tone the body and reduce the risk of cardiovascular health issues.
Fatty, sugary, high carbohydrate and highly processed foods make people feel drowsy and can affect mood. Any move away from this type of food is a positive step. An emphasis on fish, fruits, salads and vegetables is a much better alternative. It can be an effort to move away from a diet where you crave sweet fatty foods but over time and with resolve you will feel the benefits.
The market for self-help books and other materials is flourishing. Unfortunately the market is also unregulated so whilst some material is good some is truly awful and possibly even dangerous. It stands to reason that you need to take care when selecting self-help materials for mild depression. Look for the background and qualifications of the person selling the material. Celebrities fall into my ‘be very careful' category, but again, some are better than others and some are more formally qualified (e.g. TV doctors).
Aside from choosing carefully, the problem with self-help material is that it requires a good deal of self-motivation to put into action and this is something in short supply when your mood is low. Failure to stick to a self-help program can simply feed into your already low mood. Sometimes it can help to recruit a friend or loved one to help you along. Alternatively, you might like to consider signing up to online cognitive therapy sessions. A good therapist will provide you with insight, education and tasks to help you find relief from depression. The fact that feedback is built in to the process is an incentive to practice the techniques suggested and to move forward.