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A Guide to Mental Wellness in Older Age: Recognizing and Overcoming Depression

Taking Care of Yourself with Depression—Healthy Lifestyle Choices

In addition to seeking professional medical help, you can take additional steps to enhance your treatment. An important part of getting better is modifying some of your lifestyle choices to promote healthier living. There are steps that you can take to help you manage your life and focus on the positive. Healthy lifestyles not only improve your quality of life but are also a strong disease prevention strategy.

If you have been diagnosed with depression, ask for support from a good friend or family member and tell them how you feel. Ask them to listen to you and not to judge or criticize. Keep names and phone numbers of people that you can talk to and that can help you.

Talking with those who have had similar experiences and feelings can be very helpful because they will understand how you feel.

Spend time with people you enjoy and avoid people who are not supportive.

Pace yourself—do not expect to do everything that you did before you had depression. Set a realistic schedule. Ask a friend or family member to take over some of the things that you need to do for a period of time.

Think positively and try to avoid blaming yourself or expecting failure. Identify areas of your life that are positive.

Identify problems in your life and list problems that you think may have triggered the depression. Work out a strategy to deal with the problems. Discuss them with family, friends, and your health care provider. Develop a step-by-step action plan—but plan realistic steps.

Identify pleasant activities and routines that you enjoyed before you became depressed. Think about those activities as well as those you would like to do. Once identified, start to return to that routine. Choose one activity each week from the pleasant activity and routine list.

Avoid making major life decisions. If you do need to make a major decision that will impact your life, ask a friend or family member for assistance.

Get exercise and spend time outdoors. Exercise and natural light can be effective natural treatments for depression.

Eat a healthy diet and limit your intake of sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and salt.

Be patient—it will take time to get better.

A Guide to Mental Wellness in Older Age: Recognizing and Overcoming Depression

© Geriatric Mental Health Foundation 2004
7910 Woodmont Avenue, Suite 1050
Bethesda, Maryland 20814
301.654.7850
info@GMHFonline.org
www.GMHFonline.org

Expert assistance was provided by Lissy F. Jarvik, M.D., Professor Emerita of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California-Los Angeles, School of Medicine; Susan Lieff, M.D., M.Ed., Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto; and Stephen J. Bartels, M.D., M.S., Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Dartmouth Medical School.

The Geriatric Mental Health Foundation grants permission to print, photocopy, and distribute this material. Please cite the Foundation, including the address, phone and website.