The Holistic Approach to Treating Depression

Written by Karl Perera BA, MA, DipLC
March 31st, 2019 | Updated: March 24th, 2020

Anxious guy

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Depression is one of the most misunderstood illnesses known to science. Many believe it can be overcome through sheer willpower while others think medication is the only solution. In fact, a holistic approach that combines lifestyle changes with medical supervision and treatment often yields the most positive results.

Consider the following ways to improve your life which, when combined, will help to treat depression:

Medical professionals have long been aware of a link between sleep and depression. A lack of sleep can have a significant negative effect on a person’s mood, and depression can create a vicious cycle in which insomnia is both caused by and worsens depression. Good sleep hygiene can be key to this improvement. A memory foam bed , comfortable room temperature, and a white noise machine may help people sleep better along with avoiding screens or other disruptive activity near bedtime.

Research has also identified a link between diet and depression . According to one study, people who eat a diet that is more plant-based and includes whole grains, low-fat dairy and fish tend to suffer less from depression than those who eat more sweets and processed foods and fewer fruit and vegetables. The Mediterranean diet has been studied and identified as one that is particularly helpful in preventing depression.

Multiple studies have concluded that exercise can also help against depression. It appears to be most effective when the depression is mild to moderate, and the exercise does not have to be high-intensity. Even walking may be sufficient. While many studies focus on aerobic exercises, one study found that resistance training is similar in effectiveness to walking and running. The best exercise for depression is probably the one that a person enjoys and is thus most likely to stick to.

Along with lifestyle changes, therapy remains an important tool in treating depression. Two of the most popular and effective forms of therapy are interpersonal therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. Interpersonal therapy is a form of short-term therapy that focuses on a person’s relationships as well as major life events and how these contribute to depression. It identifies a few specific problem areas, such as unresolved grief or a particular relationship, and gives the person concrete tools to help them resolve the issues. Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches people how to recognize and stop negative thought patterns that can lead to depression.

Finally, all of the above treatments work well in conjunction with medical treatment. Medication for depression may be temporary or long term. Some people may be concerned about using medication to treat depression, worried that it will change their personality or rob them of their emotions. However, the right medication does neither of those things and instead allows a person to move past trauma and depression and engage more effectively with the world. Finding the right medication may take a little time, but it can make an enormous difference in treating depression. Depression can be an illness that is difficult to treat, but by approaching the whole person who is suffering from depression and instead of tackling just one or two symptoms, that treatment may be far more effective. The above approaches work toward a healthy body and mind and can lead to more positive outcomes than any single treatment for the disease.

More holistic treatments for depression