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MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS: Finding therapeutic lifestyle changes

Herald Democrat - 10/24/2019

In the last Friday's Mental Health Matters article, I introduced the concept of Therapeutic Lifestyle Change (TLC) as a proven, yet simple, treatment for Depression. These lifestyle changes were described in Steve Ilardi's book, "The Depression Cure" as a way to prevent, treat and to significantly reduce Depression without using drugs.

Why, though, do we need a different approach to treat depression? Contrary to the 1935 advertising slogan of the DuPont Company, the promise of "Better things for Better Living... Through Chemistry" has not materialized. In fact, the physical and mental health of US citizens keeps getting worse!

In 2014, the Statistic Brain Research Institute identified the United States as the most depressed of the 18 countries it studied. Additionally, according to the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development , the United States has the highest rate of Obesity, Diabetes and heart attacks of the thirty-five countries the organization follows. It's no wonder citizens of 42 countries live longer than the citizens of the United States.

Despite paying more per capita for health care than any other developed county, 6 in 10 adults in the US have a chronic disease and 4 in 10 have two or more chronic diseases. These are diseases that last longer than three months and are cured by medicine. According the Centers for Disease Control, "...the roots of chronic conditions that are the leading cause of morbidity and mortality can be traced to lifestyle factors....".

In his book, Dr. Ilard maintains that Depression can be successfully treated without drugs by implementing lifestyle changes. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health admitted 997 depressed men and women to the Multisite Cardiac Lifestyle Intervention Program. Participants attended groups twice a week for 3 months for a total of 104 hours. All participants were encouraged to 1) eat a very low-fat, plant-based diet, 2) engage in moderate aerobic exercise for a minimum of 3 hours per week, 3) do strength training activities at least twice per week, 4)practice stress management for 1 hour per day and 4) attend group support sessions for 2 hours each week for 12 weeks.

The results? 73% of participants reported no Depression at the end of three months! This validates the conclusions drawn by Dr. Ilardi that lifestyle changes can dramatically reduce depressive symptoms without the negative side effects of drugs. Given the enormous mental, social, and economic cost of unhealthy lifestyles, it's refreshing to know that individuals have the ability to improve their own health by following the guidelines in The Depression Cure. Over the next few weeks, Mental Health Matters will address each guideline in more detail.

Bill Mory is a Texoma-based licensed therapist in private practice. He integrates mindfulness training in working counseling clients and is a strong community-building advocate and a provider of workplace training on a variety of topics. The views and opinions expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.

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