Weil: Mild depression treatable with simple lifestyle changes
December 16th, 2011
07:15 AM ET

Weil: Mild depression treatable with simple lifestyle changes

Andrew Weil is the director of the of the integrative medicine program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, and Professor of Medicine and Public Health, author of "8 Weeks to Optimum Health, Healthy Aging," and the forthcoming "Spontaneous Happiness." 

Depression has many forms. Worst among them is the kind characterized by deep, soul-crushing despair, so eloquently described in novelist William Styron's 1992 book, “Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness.”

"The pain of severe depression is quite unimaginable to those who have not suffered it. . . . the grey drizzle of horror induced by depression takes on the quality of physical pain. ..it is natural that the victim begins to think ceaselessly of oblivion."

I’m thankful that, unlike Styron, I have never had a major depressive episode. At times in my life, however, I have experienced a depressed mood for most of the day, more days than not, over weeks and even months.

During those periods I also had low energy, feelings of hopelessness, and a strong desire to isolate myself from social interaction.  Sometimes, I would become anxious and agitated as well. (The line between depression and anxiety is notoriously difficult to draw; many sufferers have some components of both.)

Sleep was fitful. Some mornings, I would find it hard to leave my bed and face another long day of gloomy ruminations about disappointments in life and my own shortcomings.

While, from the outside, my circumstances may have seemed enviable - I was a Harvard-trained M.D., a successful author, and had plenty of loyal friends - from my internal vantage point I could see nothing to make me feel cheerful, find nothing to enjoy, no reason to laugh.

It's clear to me now that according to modern psychological classifications, I would have been diagnosed with dysthymic disorder, the commonest form of mild to moderate depression.  It is this diagnosis that accounts for much of the epidemic of depression occurring today.

Many in such circumstances try to boost their mood with alcohol or other substances, but fortunately, my studies of addiction made me aware that such "solutions" usually end badly.

Over the years I tried various forms of psychotherapy and counseling but got little benefit from them.  Once, in my early 40s, I filled a prescription for an antidepressant medication (Zoloft) but gave it up after a few days because I could not tolerate its effects.  It numbed my body and dulled my mind.

This pattern in my emotional life was frequent in my twenties, thirties, and forties, then began to wane.  It has steadily diminished ever since and now rarely recurs, seldom lasting more than a day or two, even when I encounter tough situations.

It's difficult to pinpoint one reason for this welcome change. I think it is the cumulative result of many lifestyle changes I have made through the years. Specifically, I have:

Made a concerted effort to be more physically active. Increased physical activity is perhaps the single most important lifestyle change one can make to reduce the incidence and severity of dysthymia.

Added more omega-3 fatty acids to my diet, through frequent meals of cold-water, wild-caught fatty fish, and high-quality fish oil supplements. Research has firmly established that adequate intake of these vital fats is crucial to optimal emotional health.

Got my vitamin D levels into the optimum range.  Vitamin D deficiency correlates with suboptimal mood and brain function.

Made other dietary improvements, in line with my anti-inflammatory diet.  New research pinpoints a connection between inflammation and depression.
  • Began meditating each morning.  The practice has helped me improve my attention and not get lost in patterns of thought that make me feel unhappy.

If you struggle with dysthymia, take heart. In both my personal and professional experience, I have found it to be highly treatable through simple, safe, inexpensive lifestyle changes.

For a comprehensive overview of mild to moderate depression and my recommendations for preventing or alleviating it, see my new book, "Spontaneous Happiness." I became happier in the course of writing it and learned a great deal about the effectiveness of simple interventions.

For example, I was impressed by how much scientific evidence exists for the power of gratitude to boost mood. Feeling and expressing gratitude for the blessings you have is a powerful way of enhancing emotional well-being.  All you have to do is remember to do it.

For more on Andrew Weil's experience with depression, watch “Sanjay Gupta, M.D." at 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday and Sunday.

soundoff (870 Responses)
  1. amateur

    Heya i'm for the first time here. I found this board and I find It
    truly useful & it helped me out much. I hope to give something back and aid others like you
    helped me.

    June 13, 2021 at 06:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. harley davidson near me

    Great post. I will be going through a few of these issues as well..


    June 13, 2021 at 09:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. animal shelter near me

    You're so cool! I don't believe I've read through something like this before. So nice to find somebody with a few genuine thoughts on this issue. Seriously.. thanks for starting this up. This web site is one thing that is needed on the web, someone with a little originality!


    June 13, 2021 at 09:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. wells fargo bank near me

    I quite like looking through a post that can make people think. Also, thanks for allowing for me to comment!


    June 13, 2021 at 10:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. orthodontist near me

    Hello, I think your website could be having internet browser compatibility problems. When I look at your website in Safari, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping issues. I simply wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Apart from that, wonderful blog!


    June 13, 2021 at 12:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. credit union near me


    June 13, 2021 at 14:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. batteries plus near me

    I need to to thank you for this excellent read!! I absolutely loved every bit of it. I have you book marked to look at new things you postÖ


    June 13, 2021 at 22:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. office depot near me


    June 14, 2021 at 01:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. dollar general near me

    This site was... how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I've found something that helped me. Thanks!


    June 14, 2021 at 02:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. drive-thru testing near me


    June 14, 2021 at 03:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. dumpster rental near me


    June 14, 2021 at 03:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. walmart near me now

    Hi, I do believe this is a great site. I stumbledupon it 😉 I will revisit once again since I book marked it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide other people.


    June 14, 2021 at 05:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. self storage near me

    Aw, this was an exceptionally nice post. Spending some time and actual effort to produce a really good articleÖ but what can I sayÖ I put things off a lot and never manage to get anything done.


    June 14, 2021 at 06:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. nail salons near me


    June 14, 2021 at 09:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. RV Repair Nearby

    Your style is very unique compared to other folks I have read stuff from. I appreciate you for posting when you've got the opportunity, Guess I'll just bookmark this blog.


    June 14, 2021 at 23:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. RV Repair Near My Location

    The very next time I read a blog, I hope that it does not disappoint me just as much as this particular one. After all, I know it was my choice to read through, however I really believed you would probably have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of complaining about something that you could possibly fix if you weren't too busy looking for attention.


    June 14, 2021 at 23:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Sprinter Repair Costa Mesa


    June 15, 2021 at 02:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Nearby RV Repair

    Great site you have got here.. Itís hard to find excellent writing like yours these days. I seriously appreciate people like you! Take care!!


    June 15, 2021 at 02:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. RV Repair Nearby


    June 15, 2021 at 02:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. RV Repairs Near My Location

    Aw, this was an exceptionally good post. Finding the time and actual effort to make a very good articleÖ but what can I sayÖ I put things off a whole lot and don't seem to get nearly anything done.


    June 15, 2021 at 06:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Sprinter Repair Orange County


    June 15, 2021 at 08:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Sprinter Repair Costa Mesa

    When I originally commented I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on each time a comment is added I receive four emails with the exact same comment. Perhaps there is a means you are able to remove me from that service? Thank you!


    June 15, 2021 at 09:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Sprinter Repair Near Me


    June 15, 2021 at 11:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Nearby RV Repairs

    Right here is the perfect blog for anyone who would like to understand this topic. You understand so much its almost tough to argue with you (not that I personally would want toÖHaHa). You certainly put a brand new spin on a topic that's been written about for decades. Wonderful stuff, just excellent!


    June 15, 2021 at 11:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. RV Repair


    June 15, 2021 at 22:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. RV Repair Shops Near Me


    June 16, 2021 at 05:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. RV Repair California

    Everything is very open with a precise clarification of the issues. It was truly informative. Your website is very helpful. Many thanks for sharing!


    June 16, 2021 at 05:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Click here

    This site was... how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I've found something that helped me.
    Thank you!

    June 16, 2021 at 07:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. RV Repairs Near My Location


    June 16, 2021 at 09:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. RV Repairs Near My Location


    June 16, 2021 at 12:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. batteries plus near me


    June 16, 2021 at 13:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. RV Repair Near My Location


    June 16, 2021 at 21:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. ankara escort bayanlar

    Hmm it looks like your blog ate my first comment (it was super long) so I guess I'll just
    sum it up what I had written and say, I'm thoroughly
    enjoying your blog. I too am an aspiring blog writer but I'm still
    new to the whole thing. Do you have any points
    for inexperienced blog writers? I'd genuinely appreciate it.

    June 17, 2021 at 00:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. RV Repair Around Me


    June 17, 2021 at 08:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Sprinter Repair Near Me

    Hi! I could have sworn Iíve been to your blog before but after going through a few of the articles I realized itís new to me. Nonetheless, Iím certainly delighted I found it and Iíll be book-marking it and checking back often!


    June 17, 2021 at 09:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. liquor stores near me

    Spot on with this write-up, I actually feel this site needs a great deal more attention. Iíll probably be returning to see more, thanks for the info!


    June 17, 2021 at 10:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. gas near me

    Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Thank you, However I am encountering problems with your RSS. I donít know the reason why I can't subscribe to it. Is there anybody having similar RSS problems? Anybody who knows the solution will you kindly respond? Thanks!!


    June 17, 2021 at 13:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. bowling near me


    June 17, 2021 at 15:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. flooring near me


    June 17, 2021 at 16:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. wing stop near me

    Hi, I do believe your site could possibly be having browser compatibility issues. When I take a look at your site in Safari, it looks fine however, when opening in Internet Explorer, it's got some overlapping issues. I simply wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other than that, wonderful site!


    June 17, 2021 at 20:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. bitcoin atm near me


    June 17, 2021 at 22:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. at&t near me


    June 17, 2021 at 23:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. food near me open

    I couldnít resist commenting. Exceptionally well written!


    June 18, 2021 at 00:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. chase bank near me


    June 18, 2021 at 01:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. guitar center near me


    June 18, 2021 at 01:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. firestone near me

    I absolutely love your blog.. Pleasant colors & theme. Did you build this website yourself? Please reply back as Iím attempting to create my own personal site and want to learn where you got this from or exactly what the theme is called. Cheers!


    June 18, 2021 at 07:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. auto detailing near me


    June 18, 2021 at 07:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. dogs for sale near me


    June 18, 2021 at 08:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. open restaurants near me

    I like reading through a post that can make men and women think. Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!


    June 18, 2021 at 09:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Nearby RV Repair

    Hi, I believe your web site could be having browser compatibility issues. When I take a look at your web site in Safari, it looks fine however when opening in I.E., it's got some overlapping issues. I simply wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other than that, wonderful blog!


    June 18, 2021 at 11:03 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.