Hope is something that you can find within yourself and around those who love you, so hope is built from that network of support that you have - that's where you can find hope. Also, it's great to build hope around your volunteer work. It is said that volunteer work brings more to yourself than actually what you give to others and it's actually true. So one great way to build hope is to go out into the community and see how you can be of use out of help for others.
Behavioral activation can be very helpful in treating depression as well. Behavioral activation means that a person, even though he or she does not have the energy, even though he or she does not have the desire to go ahead and engage in certain tasks, they will be encouraged by a therapist or by a family member to go through the motions to continue doing their routine, to continue doing things that they enjoy, even though they're hating every second of it. And there is data that supports that as being an effective weapon in the treatment of depression.
Meditation/relaxation exercises can be helpful for some individuals who are struggling with depression. Mindfulness (whereby a person non-judgmentally notices the thoughts and feelings that they're experiencing), focusing on a person's breathing, stretching - all may have some role (certainly adjunctively - meaning in addition to - regular treatments) for the treatment of depressive disorders. Light therapy, whereby a person uses a light box to provide illumination at certain times during the day for certain intervals, has also been shown to be helpful for some people with depression. While this used to be used more for seasonal affective disorder (meaning people who have depression that manifests more during the winter months or specific times a year) it has been shown that in some people this can be beneficial. The decision to use a light box, though, should always be done with the guidance of a professional as there are some specific details that have to be worked out and it is not necessarily without any risks.
When we think of treatments for depression, we often divide them into medical and non-medical categories. Medical categories being ones that generally a medical doctor would be prescribing or administering, and non-medical ones being ones that either a medical doctor or a psychologist, a licensed therapist or a social worker might be prescribing as well. Let's start with the non-medical treatments first. First treatment would be no treatment, funnily enough. Sometimes a watchful waiting approach, monitoring someone, giving them time to recover, renewing their focus on the bread and butter activities of a healthy lifestyle. For example, focusing on their sleep, deepening their connections, exercising, renewing their commitment to meaningful pursuits in their life. That may be all that's needed in some instances to lift the depression. The decision to opt for that track should ideally be made by a mental health professional.
Exercise can be a helpful non-medical intervention in many individuals struggling with depression. Although the data is mixed regarding the efficacy of exercise in helping depression, anecdotally it certainly does seem to help people who are undergoing other treatments for depression at the same time. I usually recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of intense cardiovascular exercise three days a week to start, obviously assuming that a person is capable from a medical standpoint of engaging in that level of exercise. Before you start any program of exercise, always important to clear it with your primary doctor as well.
In addition to medications that are prescribed, there are various other natural herbal supplements that may or may not be beneficial for depression. Some of the more popular ones include something called SAMe (which is short for S-Adenosyl Methionine), Omega-3 Fatty Acids, St John's Wort, Vitamin B6, Vitamin D, Saffron Extract - to name a few. Regarding the potential benefits, lack of benefit or harm, it's really important to talk with your doctor individually about specific supplements. While they sound healthy, they sound natural, they sound like a good thing (and they may be in some instances) sometimes they're not always benign and some of them can carry some significant side effects as well as significant interactions with other medicines you may be taking that could then become dangerous. It's therefore really important to look into these but to also ask about them and to make sure that they're an appropriate fit for you in your specific situation. The other thing to keep in mind with many of these substances is that they're not FDA-approved for the treatment of depression and therefore they're not regulated in the same way that a medication might be. And therefore, when it comes to a medication, the companies go under a very rigorous scrutiny to ensure that purity, that what you're receiving, is what is advertised. With many of the supplements, there is significantly less regulation and there is the possibility that you may not be getting exactly what you expect to be getting. So that's another level of caution that a person should maintain when exploring these options.
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