A number of activities can have a tremendous impact on improving outcome measures for the treatment of depression. Incorporating any or all of the following recommendations can have a considerable impact on reducing the severity, intensity, and frequency of depressive episodes.
EXERCISE – Aerobic activity for at least 30 minutes three times a week can have a marked improvement on both physical and mental health. In the last few years, the clinical data on the mental health benefits of aerobic exercise has become clearer and more substantial.
MEDITATION/RELAXATION TECHNIQUES – Learning to apply different relaxation techniques can reduce anxiety and improve depression symptoms considerably.
SOCIAL ACTIVITY – Increasing contact with loved ones and those closest to you on a regular basis can markedly reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, as well as provide long-term physical health benefits.
REDUCED RECREATIONAL DRUG USE – Alcohol, marijuana, and benzodiazepines can have profound depressive effects and can dramatically worsen mood.
GOOD MEDICAL CARE – Appropriate treatment of medical conditions (such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or sleep apnea) can significantly reduce the likelihood of developing depressive symptoms.
QUALITY SLEEP – "chronic-insomnia," Impaired sleep (delays in falling asleep, frequent awakenings, late-onset insomnia) can have a substantial effect on worsening fatigue, exacerbating daytime drowsiness, and decreasing work productivity.
IMPROVED DIET – Reducing the intake of refined sugars and increasing the intake of foods consistent with the Mediterranean diet (plenty of fruits and vegetables, fish once to twice a week, etc.) can have a significant impact on improving both mental and physical well being.
MANAGING WORK DEMANDS – Reducing the stress level associated with work and encouraging greater separation of both work and home life can have a substantial impact on reducing anxiety and managing depressive symptoms more effectively.
MODERATING CAFFEINE INTAKE – Excessive caffeine use can cause irritability, agitation, impaired sleep, jitteriness, and other physical effects that can make depression and anxiety worse.
MIND-BODY TECHNIQUES - Examples of mind-body techniques that may be helpful for depression include:
Acupuncture | Yoga or tai chi | Massage therapy | Music or art therapy | Faith or spirituality
SUNLIGHT – Increasing your exposure to sunlight (while being mindful of too much early on) can have a positive impact on mood, especially during winter months. Light therapy with a light box can be especially helpful in those with "winter-holiday-blues,"–Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
PSYCHOTHERAPY – If depressive symptoms persist, seeing a qualified therapist can help define the root causes of the depression, improve coping skills, and help devise an effective treatment plan.
Although by no means exhaustive, this list will hopefully provide some viable options to effectively address depressive symptoms before medications should be considered.