Six Simple Ways to Cure Depression: What Men
and Women Need to Know
I've been helping men and women deal with
depression for more than 40 years. I've been
successful, I feel, based on my own personal
struggles with depression as well as my
professional experience. Though I believe
medications can be helpful if used for short period
of times with people who are seriously depressed,
there are better ways for dealing with a problem
that is affecting millions of people throughout the
world. Simple life-style hanges have been shown to
be much more effective for curing depression than
pharmaceutical companies would have us believe.
Depression is one of the most destructive
diseases of modern life. According to Dr. Stephen
S. Ilardi, author of The Depression Cure,
Depression is a devastating illness. It robs
people of their energy, their sleep, their memory,
their concentration, their vitality, their joy,
their ability to love and work and play,
andsometimeseven their will to
Not only does depression take away our spiritual
and emotional health, it also undermines our
physical health. Recent research reported by Johns
Hopkins Medical Center indicates depression
increases the risk of heart disease and it also
aggravates chronic illnesses such as diabetes,
arthritis, back problems, and asthma, leading to
more work absences, disability, and doctor
Now results from a large Norwegian study
suggests that depression increases the risk of
death from most other major diseases, including
stroke, respiratory illnesses, cancer, multiple
sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease. It is also
associated with accidental deaths. This is an
important study because the number of subjects is
large and the research protocol is first rate.
Researchers gathered baseline information on
physical and mental health for 61,349 Norwegian men
and women, average age 48, and then noted the
number of deaths and their causes during an average
follow-up of nearly 4.5 years. Participants who had
significant depression (2,866) had a higher risk of
dying of most major causes of death, even after
adjusting for age, medical conditions, and physical
complaints at the study's outset.
As reported in the respected journal
Psychosomatic Medicine the research team concluded,
Depression may increase the risk of death by
directly affecting the cardiovascular and nervous
systems. In addition, depression may lead to poor
health habits, such as smoking, alcohol abuse, and
a sedentary lifestyle, and may affect people's
ability to follow treatment regimens.
With our modern pharmacological treatments, we
would think that depression would be cured by now.
But in fact it is on the rise. According to Dr.
Ilardi, About one in four Americansover
seventy million peoplewill meet the criteria
for major depression sometime in their lives.
And the rates of depression and suicide are going
up and up. Its roughly ten times higher
today than it was just two generations ago,
Yet, we continue to take anti-depressant drugs
in record numbers. More than 170 million
prescriptions for these drugs were written in the
last few years. In fact, antidepressants have
become the most prescribed drugs in the United
States. Theyre prescribed more than drugs to
treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol,
asthma, and even headaches. Drugs are big business.
Antidepressant drug sales alone have become a $21
billion dollar a year industry.
But are they really the best treatment available
for the millions of people throughout the world who
suffer from depression? Based on my own clinical
experience working with depressed men and women
over the last 44 years, I have found there is a
better way. It involves simple, safe, and
inexpensive life-style changes.
Dr. Ilardi calls them TLC, or Therapeutic
Lifestyle Changes. He describes six lifestyle
elements that are based on the practices that were
part of human life before we became so urbanized,
stressed, and depressed. These include the
1. Exercise. Three times a week get 35
minutes of aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise is
anything like running, walking fast, biking, or
playing basketball, that gets your heart rate
elevated to about 120-160 beats per minute.
Anaerobic exercise (like yoga or weightlifting) is
better than nothing, but the strongest
antidepressant effects have been observed from
aerobic exercise. Lots of people report that
finding a regular exercise partner and routine
helps them stay motivated.
2. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements. You
can buy these at a drugstore or health food store.
Look for a brand that will give you 1000 mg of EPA
and 500 mg of DHA per day. This is the amount that
has been shown in studies to be beneficial to
people with depression.
You can take these even if you are on
antidepressant medication; there are no known
interactions with drugs. The only side effects
patients reported are that they sometimes burp up a
fishy taste after taking them. Solutions to this
problem are to freeze the pills and take them right
before a meal. If all else fails, there is a liquid
form available that some people prefer.
3. Light Exposure. This element of the
protocol is most helpful to people who notice that
there is a seasonal component to their depression.
We recommend that people get at least 30 minutes of
bright light exposure per day. You can actually go
outside in the sun (take off the sunglasses, but
leave on the sunscreen!) or get light exposure from
a special light box that emits the same amount of
light (10,000 lux).
You should try to get light exposure at the same
time every day. Some people like to sit by the
light box while they eat breakfast and read the
paper. Some like to sit by it while they read or
study in the evening. Experiment to see what works
best for you. And dont miss a day of light
exposure if you can help it. This is something that
will only work for you cumulatively if you are
4. Anti-rumination Strategies. Rumination
is the habit that many depressed people get into of
dwelling on their negative thoughts. Rather than
coming up with a solution to a problem and acting
on it, people with depression often let their
negative thoughts spiral out of control. It is
important to recognize rumination for what it is
and put a stop to it immediately. Rumination only
makes peoples moods worse. When you find
yourself doing it, do one of these things: call a
friend, exercise, write down the negative thoughts
in a journal, or do some other pleasant activity
(like walking, reading, or talking to a
5. Social Support. This is good for men
and women, but men often need it the most. You have
probably noticed that as we get more depressed, we
are less motivated to seek out others for
socializing. This is the time to reach out to
others even if you dont feel like it. It may
save your life.
Exercising together can be a great way to
combine elements. Also being with others keeps us
from sitting alone and worrying and ruminating.
Theres a saying I use with my clients.
Never worry alone. A lot of the
destructiveness of our negative mind-set when we
are depressed is that we go around and around in
our own heads and dont get the benefits of
input from others.
Another thing I tell my clients is to help
someone else when they are feeling down. One of the
best pick-me-ups Ive found is the
satisfaction we get when we do something for
another person, even if its just a small thing like
a kind word or a small favor.
6. Sleep Hygiene. Most of us need to get
8 hours of sleep per night and most of us are sleep
deprived. Men generally get less sleep than women
and for depressed men, lack of sleep can be
debilitating. One of the biggest risk factors for
depression is sleep deprivation.
It may take awhile to re-establish healthy
sleeping habits. We often get used to sleeping less
and come to believe that we dont really need
that much sleep. Heres what can help. Go to
sleep and wake up at the same time every night.
Prepare yourself for bed by having a bedtime
ritual. Dim the lights, turn off the TV and
computer, put on your PJs, and do a quiet activity
like read. Avoid caffeine and alcohol for several
hours before you plan to go to bed. A soothing back
or foot rub before going to sleep can be a welcome
Of course youre not going to hear big
multinational corporations touting the benefits of
sleep, friends, healthy thinking rather than
stinkin thinkin , sunshine,
fish oil, or exercise. How can big profits be made
from these simple things. They may not make
pharmaceutical companies a lot of money, but
youd be surprised what good they will do for
the average human being trying to deal with the
stresses of modern life.
Try it, you may be surprised.
* * *
Wealth can't buy health, but health can buy
wealth. - Henry David Thoreau
is the internationally best-selling author of nine
books including Male
Irritable Male Syndrome: Managing. The 4 Key Causes
of Depression and
Mean: Saving Your Relationship from the Irritable
Male Syndrome. His
upcoming book, Tapping Power: A Mans Guide to
Eliminating Pain, Stress, Anger, Depression and
Other Ills Using the Revolutionary Tools of Energy
Psychology will be available next year. For over 38
years he has been a leader in the field of men's
health. He is a member of the International
Scientific Board of the World Congress on
Mens Health and has been on the Board of
Advisors of the Mens Health Network since its
founding in 1992. His work has been featured in
major newspapers throughout the United States
including the New York Times, Boston Globe, Wall
Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and USA
Today. He has been featured on more than 1,000
radio and T.V. programs including The View with
Barbara Walters, Good Morning America, Inside
Edition, CBS, NBC, and Fox News, To Tell the Truth,
Extra, Leeza, Geraldo, and Joan Rivers. He also did
a nationally televised special on Male Menopause
for PBS. He looks forward to your feedback.
You can visit his website at www.menalive.com
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©1996-2019, Gordon Clay