Six Lifestyle Changes Packing An Antidepressant Punch


Usually, the letters TLC stand for “tender loving care.”

According to Dr. Steve Ilardi and his research team at the University of Kansas, TLC also stands for Therapeutic Lifestyle Change, a treatment protocol they developed for depression.

According to Ilardi, human genetic evolution lags far behind the lifestyle changes man has undergone the past few hundred years. Our bodies are still designed to thrive on plenty of physical activity and sunlight, social connectivity, diets loaded with omega-3s, and up to 10 hours of sleep each night.

Instead, many of us live on fewer than eight hours of sleep and eat processed foods that lack omega-3s. Most of us are sedentary, work indoors, and may or may not have adequate social interaction.

This mismatch between our paleolithic body and our modern lifestyle facilitates depression. The answer then, points out Ilardi, is to make lifestyle changes that accommodate the age-old needs of our body.

Although the lifestyle changes prescribed are common-sensical, they must be performed regularly, consistently, and with the necessary knowledge to make the effort effective. Ilardi offers the required knowledge in his book The Depression Cure.

Therapeutic Lifestyle Change in a Nutshell

  1. Avoid rumination or dwelling on negative thoughts by replacing rumination with an activity.
  2. Take a 1500mg omega-3 supplement each day, plus a daily multivitamin and 500mg of vitamin C. (Grain feeding livestock, instead of allowing them to graze on plant life, has helped deplete our diet of omega-3s.)
  3. Spend 15 to 30 minutes in sunlight each morning in warmer weather, and use a light-box during winter months. (Fluorescent bulbs are up to 50 percent dimmer than sunlight and cannot reset our internal circadian clock as sunlight does.)
  4. Get at least eight hours sleep every night.
  5. Be socially active. (Not only are we naturally social creatures, but also socializing helps us avoid rumination.)
  6. Exercise for 90 minutes per week. (The activity should elevate the pulse between 120 and 160 beats per minute.)

Ilardi believes that the lifestyle changes he and his team outline alter brain function, providing the same benefits that medications do only without the problematic medication side effects. However, the lifestyle changes require a commitment and follow-through that not all individuals will be able to make without ongoing support and encouragement.

The research that Ilardi and his team have completed shows impressive results. Still, if you are seeing a doctor, counselor, or psychiatrist about depression, and especially if you are on medication, consult your treatment providers before making any changes in your routine.


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