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. RV Repair Shops Near My Location

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


    June 22, 2021 at 00:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Mercedes High Top Van Repair Shop


    June 22, 2021 at 01:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. RV Repair Shops Near Me Now


    June 22, 2021 at 05:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. RV And Camper Repair Near Me


    June 22, 2021 at 07:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. RV Repair Shops Near My Location

    Very good write-up. I certainly love this site. Thanks!


    June 22, 2021 at 10:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. ufo podcast


    June 22, 2021 at 16:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. RV Plumbing Repair Near Me


    June 22, 2021 at 18:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. blank check podcast

    Can I simply say what a relief to find somebody that really understands what they're talking about on the web. You certainly realize how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people should look at this and understand this side of your story. I was surprised you're not more popular given that you most certainly possess the gift.


    June 22, 2021 at 20:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Local Marketing Companies Near Me


    June 22, 2021 at 20:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. RV Exhaust Repair Near Me


    June 22, 2021 at 22:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Best RV Repair Near Me

    This is a topic that's near to my heart... Cheers! Where are your contact details though?


    June 22, 2021 at 22:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Google Marketing Experts

    I wanted to thank you for this fantastic read!! I absolutely loved every bit of it. I've got you book-marked to look at new things you postÖ


    June 22, 2021 at 23:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. the dollop podcast


    June 23, 2021 at 02:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Internet Marketing Agencies Near Me

    You've made some decent points there. I checked on the internet to learn more about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this site.


    June 23, 2021 at 05:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. tara brach podcast


    June 23, 2021 at 10:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Google Marketing Agencies


    June 23, 2021 at 13:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. RV Mobile Repair Service Near Me


    June 23, 2021 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Digital Marketing Services

    Hi! I could have sworn Iíve been to this website before but after going through a few of the posts I realized itís new to me. Anyways, Iím definitely happy I came across it and Iíll be book-marking it and checking back frequently!


    June 23, 2021 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. RV And Camper Repair Near Me

    A motivating discussion is definitely worth comment. I do think that you should publish more about this subject, it may not be a taboo subject but typically folks don't talk about these subjects. To the next! Best wishes!!


    June 23, 2021 at 19:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. food near me open

    Oh my goodness! Impressive article dude! Thank you, However I am going through problems with your RSS. I donít know why I cannot join it. Is there anybody else getting the same RSS issues? Anyone who knows the answer can you kindly respond? Thanx!!


    June 23, 2021 at 22:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. RV Repair Parts Near Me


    June 24, 2021 at 00:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Internet Marketing Company Near Me


    June 24, 2021 at 00:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Rogelio

    I am sure this post has touched all the internet people, its really
    really nice article on building up new website.

    June 24, 2021 at 02:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. RV Trailer Repair Near Me

    Pretty! This has been a really wonderful post. Thanks for providing these details.


    June 24, 2021 at 07:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Digital Marketing Consultant Near Me


    June 24, 2021 at 09:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. SEO Marketing Company


    June 24, 2021 at 09:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Digital Marketing Firm

    Excellent blog you've got here.. Itís hard to find excellent writing like yours these days. I truly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!


    June 24, 2021 at 10:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. pharmacepticacom

    tadalafil liquid https://www.pharmaceptica.com/

    June 24, 2021 at 13:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. xvideos t


    June 24, 2021 at 15:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. RV Repairs Near My Location


    June 24, 2021 at 16:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Sprinter Repair Shops Near Me

    I blog quite often and I genuinely appreciate your content. This great article has truly peaked my interest. I'm going to book mark your blog and keep checking for new details about once per week. I opted in for your Feed too.


    June 24, 2021 at 16:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. RV Repair Shop Near Me


    June 24, 2021 at 21:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. wheel repair orange county


    June 24, 2021 at 22:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. RV Ac Repair Near Me

    I needed to thank you for this good read!! I definitely enjoyed every bit of it. I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you postÖ


    June 25, 2021 at 02:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Nearby RV Repairs


    June 25, 2021 at 02:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Camper Repairs Near Me


    June 25, 2021 at 04:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Nearby RV Repair

    Can I just say what a relief to discover an individual who genuinely knows what they are talking about on the internet. You actually realize how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More people really need to check this out and understand this side of the story. I can't believe you aren't more popular since you definitely have the gift.


    June 25, 2021 at 06:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. RV Sales And Repair Near Me

    I blog frequently and I seriously appreciate your content. Your article has truly peaked my interest. I will book mark your blog and keep checking for new details about once per week. I opted in for your Feed as well.


    June 25, 2021 at 07:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. RV And Truck Repair Near Me


    June 25, 2021 at 08:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Leadership Style Quiz

    Pretty! This has been an incredibly wonderful article. Many thanks for supplying these details.


    June 25, 2021 at 11:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. RV Repair Shops Nearby


    June 25, 2021 at 13:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. RV Repair Centers Near Me


    June 25, 2021 at 16:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Sprinter Repair Costa Mesa

    Having read this I thought it was extremely informative. I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put this content together. I once again find myself personally spending a significant amount of time both reading and posting comments. But so what, it was still worth it!


    June 25, 2021 at 17:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. RV Repairs Nearby

    I absolutely love your blog.. Excellent colors & theme. Did you develop this website yourself? Please reply back as Iím wanting to create my very own website and would like to find out where you got this from or just what the theme is called. Appreciate it!


    June 25, 2021 at 17:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. RV Windshield Repair Near Me

    An intriguing discussion is definitely worth comment. There's no doubt that that you should publish more about this subject matter, it might not be a taboo subject but generally folks don't discuss such topics. To the next! Cheers!!


    June 25, 2021 at 19:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. RV Repair Around Me


    June 25, 2021 at 20:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. RV Appliance Repair Near Me

    Hi there, I believe your blog might be having browser compatibility issues. When I take a look at your site in Safari, it looks fine but when opening in I.E., it's got some overlapping issues. I just wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Besides that, fantastic site!


    June 25, 2021 at 20:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. RV Repair Shops Near Me


    June 26, 2021 at 00:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Nearby RV Repairs

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


    June 26, 2021 at 00:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. RV Repairs Near Me

    Great article! We will be linking to this particularly great article on our site. Keep up the great writing.


    June 26, 2021 at 05:48 | 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.