Under the guidance of Professor Stephen S. Ilardi, Kansas University has instituted the Therapeutic Lifestyle Change (TLC) program to treat depression for community members and Kansas University students. The concept is based upon the idea that people used to be hunters and gatherers who spent most of their time outdoors. We used to live in small tribes, sleep regular hours, eat a simple diet, and spend a lot of time looking for food.
Professor Ilardi believes that even though our lives have changed, our bodies and constitutions haven't. He believes that depression is the result of a "toxic lifestyle." To that end, he's developed a program with six component parts.
1. Exercise. Three times a week, participants are encouraged to engage in 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, including running, biking, walking fast, or playing basketball--anything that gets their heartbeat up to 120-160 beats a minute.
2. Omega 3 fatty acid supplements. On a daily basis, they recommend 1000 mg of EPA and 500 of DHA.
3. Light exposure. On a daily basis, they recommend 30 minutes of sunlight or 30 minutes from a light box. (Personally, I've tried a light box and it hasn't worked for me but that's not to say it won't work for you. Also, some psychiatrists believe a light box can cause a mania or hypomania so you may want to check with your doctor.)
4. Anti-rumination strategies. Rumination means dwelling on negative thoughts. Dr. Ilardi believes that thinking negative thoughts makes you feel worse. (I couldn't agree more.) He suggests that when you start to ruminate, you need to stop, and do something else whether it's writing in a journal, knitting, or talking with a friend.
5. Social support. He discusses the importance of spending time with other people--even when you feel depressed. (Of course we all know this is easier said than done but it's certainly something to strive for.)
6. Sleep Hygiene. He recommends eight hours of sleep each night. He suggests that it's important to develop a bedtime ritual and to avoid caffeine and alcohol for a few hours before you go to bed.
The great news about all this is that it's working. I'm not sure how many people have participated but among those who have, they have reduced their symptoms by 60 percent!