You may be one of many people who experience periods of mild depression. Because of this you may feel your symptoms aren’t severe enough for treatment so you muddle along. It’s true that treatments for mild depression vary and they do not necessarily include medication. So what can you expect from mild depression and what can you do to help yourself?
The duration of your symptoms is likely to vary according to your resilience, your lifestyle, the people in your life that can offer emotional and practical support, and the circumstances that have contributed to your depression. Simply assuming your depression will pass of its own accord is not the wisest thing to do however as there is always the possibility it may deepen if some action isn’t taken. A variety of self-help tips and techniques can help to prevent your depression worsening and are very likely to improve your mood.
The use of exercise for mild depression is one of the best options around. Exercise is free and easy to undertake. Even very modest levels of exercise will boost endorphins, improve your mood and reduce anxiety. Try to build up to a program involving 30 minutes of exercise a day for five days a week. If you decide, for example that walking or cycling is for you, that’s great. If your mood is low however you might find that it’s easy to make excuses not to exercise the moment it rains, or gets too windy. For this reason it can help if you mix things up. Walking, swimming, yoga, cycling or anything that gets the heart pumping and the body moving is good. Joining a group can be helpful as it provides a little more motivation and fun and is less isolating.
Computerized cognitive behavior therapy is an interactive method of therapy via your home computer. The evidence to date suggests that it gives good results. There are a number of private companies who offer this service for a fee but you might find that your doctor is able to refer you to a free service. Free services aren’t available in all areas and even if they are you may find there is something of a waiting list.
Self help books and DVDs have been around for some time. This is a big market and the variety and standard of material varies considerably. Even the best material requires quite a lot of personal motivation. Nobody is around to encourage you to pick up the material and quite often there is no built-in feedback system. Concentration is often affected during depression, so if you find yourself putting the book down after a few pages, this can simply fuel the flames of your already dispirited mood. Keep this in mind before you spend your money. If you can find a self-help program with some kind of interactive system (preferably by someone qualified to offer advice) then so much the better.
So far the things I’ve discussed required some form of active commitment. You have to decide to exercise, or you have to decide to go down the self-help route. Diet is a little different. Everyone has to eat and drink and whilst there is still a decision-making element involved the fact remains that diet can and does affect mood. If you choose to eat fatty, sugary, high carbohydrate or highly processed foods then you can expect to feel sluggish, drowsy and low in mood. The obvious contrast is something like a Mediterranean diet and its emphasis on fish, olive oil, fruits and salads. Olive oil is thought to increase serotonin levels in the brain and acts as a natural form of antidepressant. Fish is high in omega-3 and again may help to protect your mood.
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.