Six Elements That Can Help You Beat Depression (Part I)

kelliemontgomery's picture

There's been A LOT of research on depression, to say the least, over the last 20 years. Much of it has focused on the benefits of therapy and medication. While both have been found to be effective as a treatment for depression new research has emerged that addresses something we may have overlooked: the fundamental physiological needs of the human body. Our genes have changed very little since our historical hunter-gatherer days, yet our bodies reflect thousands of years adaptation to a lifestyle that has changed rapidly over the last two-hundred years. When a team of researchers from Kansas State University, headed by Stephen Ilardi, Ph.d studied modern day hunter-gather tribes (such as the Kaluli people of New Guinea highlands) they found something remarkable, clinical depression was almost completely non-existant among such groups. Cross cultural studies have shown over time that the more a society 'modernizes' the higher the rate of depression. "The human body was never designed for the modern post-industrial environment", writes Ilardi.
Consider the statistic that over 65% of Americans are clinically overweight. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors faced a fluctuating, seasonal food supply- with starvation around the corner. So it made sense for them to crave sweets, starches and fatty foods, as they were the richest calories source available. Today we find it VERY hard to resist the urge to feast on these foods (cheesecake, burgers, donuts, etc). Over the past several decades and for the first time in human history high-calorie foods have become available 24/7. The brain was never designed to regulate appetite in the face of such perpetual abundance, Ilardi writes. In addition, with all this nutritional abundance the number of calories people burn off each day has significantly dropped. How does this relate to clinical depression? Please read on.
It seems ironic that the hunter-gather lifestyle would compare more favorably to modern day society, which has produced ongoing technological advances that were created to offer us comfort. Yet, for some reason it has been found that hunter-gatherers are much more resilient than we are. With all the hardships and tragedies they may face in the environment, studies continued to show something quite interesting: "The hunter-gatherer lifestyle is profoundly anti-depressant". In his book, "The Depression Cure", Stephen Ilardi writes about the six most potent and protective lifestyle elements that our ancestors had:

*Dietary Omega-3 fatty acids
*Engaging in activity
*Physical excercise
*Sunlight exposure
*Social support

These six tenets may sounds simplistic, but when incorporated into your lifestyle and taken quite seriously, something profound happens- you feel better. I would like to explain more in detail in my next article so that you may truly understand how these six elements can change your life. I found these ideas quite inspiring and I hope you will as well.


Kellie Montgomery, LMFT


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