6 Questions You Must Ask Before Choosing an Antidepressant

Which antidepressant is right for me? Sometimes we can figure out what is the best antidepressant just by asking the right questions. Before choosing an antidepressant, I think about these 6 questions with my patients. We can frequently narrow down the choices so we know which antidepressant to try first.

 

If you are considering starting an antidepressant, make sure to read my last post on common side effects of antidepressants, how long the side effects will last, and tips for how to deal with side effects. My next post talks about what to expect for a treatment response from antidepressants (ie the important question of “When will I feel better?”)



 

What is the best antidepressant?

I explain to people all the time that one antidepressant isn’t necessarily “better” or more effective than another antidepressant. The best antidepressant is the one that will work for you!

But how do we figure that out?"Which antidepressant is right for me?" Great question! Sometimes we can figure out what is the best antidepressant by asking the right questions. These are the 6 questions I think about with my patient's before choosing an antidepressant.

 

Just because a new antidepressant has commercials full of happy people that say they have responded wonderfully to the medicine doesn’t mean that it is better than a medicine that has been around for 20 years.

 

Unfortunately, we don’t usually know for sure which medicine will be the best antidepressant for you. There isn’t a blood test or brain scan that tells me a particular drug will work wonderfully for you.

 

Some people hope to get that information from genetic testing but genetic testing doesn’t actually tell us which antidepressant you will respond to. Genetic testing tells us how efficiently you will process the medicine in your body but not what will work. I think down the road genetic testing will be able to give us this information but, unfortunately, we are not at that point yet.

 

“Which antidepressant is right for me?”"Which antidepressant is right for me?" Great question! Sometimes we can figure out what is the best antidepressant by asking the right questions. These are the 6 questions I think about with my patient's before choosing an antidepressant.

Although we have no guarantees a particular medication will work, we are usually able to narrow the choices. We can better answer “Which antidepressant is right for me?” if we go through each of the following 6 questions.

6 questions to ask to get closer to your answer:

1. Have you taken an antidepressant in the past and done well?

 

I’m shocked by how often I see people who have a history of doing well on a medication but aren’t restarted on that same medicine later when symptoms return.



I think sometimes people are started on new medications because:

 

  1. A thorough medication history wasn’t taken.
  2. Someone (doctor or patient) falls for the promise of happiness shown in the commercials of new shiny medications.
  3. The patient wants to take something that has free samples available.
  4. Although the medication worked really well, the person had side effects. Hopefully, a different medication will work as well but without the same side effects (btw this would be a great reason for trying something new!).

 

Whatever the reason, if you have done well on a medication in the past there ought to be a very good justification as to why a different medication is being chosen!

2. Is there a family history of success on a particular medication?"Which antidepressant is right for me?" Great question! Sometimes we can figure out what is the best antidepressant by asking the right questions. These are the 6 questions I think about with my patient's before choosing an antidepressant.

Another important indication of the best antidepressant to choose is if there is a family history of success on an antidepressant. If your mom and sister both take a particular medication and have a good response, I can’t see any reason not to start you on the same antidepressant. The genetics are similar in your family and people often respond well to medications that others in their family use.

Know your families mental health history!

 

Sometimes it’s hard to talk to family about their mental health history but it’s important information to know. Ideally, before you go see a doctor for an assessment ask your family if anyone has any psychiatric history, has taken any psychiatric medications, and what their response was.

 

If it turns out someone in the family has done well on a medication for a similar condition this can save you a lot of time trying other medications that may not be effective.

 

3. Generic vs Brand name: "Which antidepressant is right for me?" Great question! Sometimes we can figure out what is the best antidepressant by asking the right questions. These are the 6 questions I think about with my patient's before choosing an antidepressant.

Newer isn’t always better and it’s a heck of a lot more expensive! For the most part, people do fine on generic medication and I recommend using them. Most people do not notice any difference between them.

 

That being said, there is a certain amount of allowed variability in the amount of active ingredient in a generic medication as compared to brand. This can be significant for someone that is barely taking an effective dose to control their symptoms. If the generic has 5% lower levels of active ingredient someone may experience a return of symptoms. If the generic has 5% higher levels they may feel better. Or if someone is prone to side effects, the side effects may increase if the active ingredient is higher.

 

One reason to choose brand is for people with allergies to inactive ingredients (fillers) that the active medication is mixed with. Generic medications do not need to have the same inactive ingredients as the brand medications so these fillers will vary between different companies. Since a pharmacy may frequently switch the generic company they get a medication from (whoever is offering the best price wins) it can be hard to keep track of which generic is OK to take. For these people, taking brand name may be worth it.

 

4. What symptoms are we trying to treat?"Which antidepressant is right for me?" Great question! Sometimes we can figure out what is the best antidepressant by asking the right questions. These are the 6 questions I think about with my patient's before choosing an antidepressant.

Some antidepressants work better for certain symptoms. Do you have:

  • Anxiety?
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
  • Depression?

 

Defining which symptoms predominate for you will help us with choosing an antidepressant to start. Some antidepressants are better for depression than for anxiety. If you are mainly anxious, I wouldn’t put certain medications as first-line options unless there is a compelling reason (like a family history of response).

 

5. What side effects are we trying to avoid?



  • Fearful of sexual side effects?
  • Weight gain?
  • Did you have a terrible experience with withdrawal side effects on a different antidepressant?

 

Which antidepressant we start may depend on the side effects we are trying to avoid.This may be a great medication to start first

 

For example, Wellbutrin/bupropion doesn’t have the same risk of sexual side effects as other medications. When choosing an antidepressant for someone with depression who is worried about sexual side effects Wellbutrin may be a great medication to start first (as long as the person doesn’t have a seizure disorder).

 

6. Are there any drug interactions?"Which antidepressant is right for me?" Great question! Sometimes we can figure out what is the best antidepressant by asking the right questions. These are the 6 questions I think about with my patient's before choosing an antidepressant.

Certain medications affect the clearance of other medications by either speeding clearance up or slowing it down. Let’s use an example: medication A speeds up the clearance of medication B. If you have been successfully taking medication B and I give you medication A, the levels of medication B will go down. When medication B levels go down you may no longer be at an adequate dose to control your symptoms (because your body is clearing it quicker).

 

The reverse happens if a medication slows the clearance of another medication. With this, medication B now builds up in the body and the person is at higher risk for side effects. Increased levels can be dangerous with certain medications.



A “real life” example of this is with Prozac and Tamoxifen. Tamoxifen is a medication used for certain types of breast cancer. Tamoxifen reduces the risk of their breast cancer coming back. If Prozac (an antidepressant) is added to Tamoxifen it causes the body to clear Tamoxifen quicker. The levels of Tamoxifen will be reduced so the medication may be less effective at minimizing the risk of breast cancer recurrence. Obviously, drug interactions can have serious consequences and we have to use care when choosing an antidepressant that can have interactions.

Choosing an antidepressant: So which antidepressant is right for me?"Which antidepressant is right for me?" Great question! Sometimes we can figure out what is the best antidepressant by asking the right questions. These are the 6 questions I think about with my patient's before choosing an antidepressant.

Make sure to go through each of these 6 questions when trying to make the decision about which antidepressant to start. It may still end up being a frustrating process of trial and error, but we have more of a chance of getting it right the first time if we ask the right questions.

 

Don’t forget: Depression and anxiety are treatable conditions! Antidepressants are only one part of the treatment equation. There are other great ways to help yourself feel better and sometimes doing a bit of all of these will get you better faster. Add in these other symptom management techniques that I review in the following posts:

 

Visit my mental health bookstore for a list of books I recommend for anxiety and depression (and many other mental health topics).

Stay tuned for the next post on antidepressant treatment response. I will talk about how soon to expect a response and how to know if you are having a response. Follow my blog so you don’t miss any of these posts!

8 Facts About Common Side Effects of Antidepressants

It’s important to know what to expect when starting on an antidepressant and to be aware of common side effects of antidepressants. Most commonly, antidepressant side effects happen when a medication is started. With antidepressants side effects are usually manageable and time-limited.

 

I find when people are aware of potential side effects and how long they may last, they are more tolerant of transitional discomfort while their body gets used to the medicine. If people aren’t aware of the common side effects of antidepressants they may stop the medication assuming they don’t tolerate it.



 

In this post, I am referring to the common side effects possible on “newer” antidepressants such as Selective Serotonergic Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI), Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRI), and Atypical antidepressants. I am not referring to side effects from the “older” classes of antidepressants like Tricyclics (TCA’s) or Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOi’s). The side effect profiles of TCA’s and MAOi’s are different than with SSRI/SNRI/Atypical antidepressants and therefore I am going to stick to covering the medications most commonly prescribed at this time.

 

If you would like to read more about different medication classes check out this article that has a great summary.

Common Side effects of Antidepressants:Learn what to expect when starting an antidepressant and the common side effects of antidepressants. Antidepressant side effects are generally time-limited but feel more manageable when you know that what you are feeling is one of the antidepressants side effects. Learn tips on how to manage the side effects.

Antidepressant side effects are similar between SSRI, SNRI, and Atypical classes

In general, side effects are similar between the newer antidepressants. There are a few side effect variations between the different medications. These side effect differences can help us choose which antidepressant to start when we don’t have other specific reasons to choose one.

Variations in antidepressant side effects:

Some antidepressants have a higher chance of weight gain, withdrawal symptoms (ie discontinuation syndrome), sleep disruptions (interfering with sleep or causing sedation), or sexual side effects.



The most common side effects of antidepressants:

The most common initial side effects of antidepressants are headache, stomach upset, and jitteriness. These side effects will fade and shouldn’t be severe.

 

Sexual side effects happen in up to 40% of people on most of the “newer” antidepressants. The sexual side effects do not happen on Wellbutrin. In general, sexual side effects will last for the duration of time on the medication. The sexual side effects vary in severity and can be minor or completely impairing (ie inability to have an orgasm or get/maintain an erection). Sometimes, if a dose is lowered the sexual side effects will lessen however the medicine may also be less effective.

Antidepressants side effects are generally brief:Learn what to expect when starting an antidepressant and the common side effects of antidepressants. Antidepressant side effects are generally time-limited but feel more manageable when you know that what you are feeling is one of the antidepressants side effects. Learn tips on how to manage the side effects.

Initial side effects are generally brief (up to 2 weeks). They should feel like more of a nuisance than anything severe. If it’s severe, there may be a significant intolerance to the medication (or misdiagnosis). Most people don’t get any side effects if the dosing is increased gradually.

Start lower and raise slower with anxiety:

When people are being started on an antidepressant for the treatment of an anxiety disorder, I generally start the antidepressant at lower than recommended doses. Once it is tolerated, I then raise the dose slowly in small increments. Jitteriness is one of the common initial side effects and this can be extra unpleasant for someone that is already anxious.

How to handle stomach upset from an antidepressant:Learn what to expect when starting an antidepressant and the common side effects of antidepressants. Antidepressant side effects are generally time-limited but feel more manageable when you know that what you are feeling is one of the antidepressants side effects. Learn tips on how to manage the side effects.

If you have stomach upset from the antidepressant take it with food and don’t let yourself get hungry. Your stomach needs to adjust to the medicine and it should go away soon. If your stomach starts to feel queasy just eat again. Frequent smaller meals can help when you are starting an antidepressant. Unlike the queasiness from a GI bug, having food in your stomach will help you feel better.

 

If the antidepressant doesn’t bother your stomach than you don’t have to take it with food.

When to take the antidepressant?

Many antidepressants can be taken either in the morning or at night. Some antidepressants are more energizing or activating than others (ie Welbutrin and Prozac) so I recommend starting these in the morning. Paxil and Zoloft may have a bit more chance to cause sedation so start these at night. If the medicine doesn’t affect your alertness then take it whenever you are most likely to consistently remember it.

 

Sometimes the activating or sedating side effects are temporary. Once your body adjusts to the medication switch to whenever is best for you to consistently take it.


 

Struggling with antidepressant side effects? Try liquid medication

If you are getting uncomfortable initial side effects you may benefit from trying an antidepressant that comes in a liquid form. These can be dosed in tiny amounts that are gradually increased as your body adjusts to the dose.

 

Beware! The liquid antidepressants usually taste awful. As soon as you are able to raise the dose enough you can switch back to the pill form.

Learn what to expect when starting an antidepressant and the common side effects of antidepressants. Antidepressant side effects are generally time-limited but feel more manageable when you know that what you are feeling is one of the antidepressants side effects. Learn tips on how to manage the side effects.

Antidepressant Side Effects

I cover antidepressants side effects with my patients when they are starting an antidepressant medication. I find side effects are better tolerated when people are aware of what to expect. If you are interested in reading more details about antidepressant side effects check out this article from Harvard that goes into more details.

 

This is not a complete list of all possible side effects. There are all sorts of random side effects that could happen that are either uncommon or an unpredictable response in an individual. Make sure to contact your psychiatrist if you have started on an antidepressant and have a question about a side effect.Learn what to expect when starting an antidepressant and the common side effects of antidepressants. Antidepressant side effects are generally time-limited but feel more manageable when you know that what you are feeling is one of the antidepressants side effects. Learn tips on how to manage the side effects.

More Resources and Tools for Treatment:

Antidepressants are one treatment for depression and anxiety. I have written other posts to help give people additional tools to overcome their symptoms faster.

 

Here are some of my most popular posts on depression and anxiety:

Visit my mental health bookstore for a list of books I recommend for anxiety and depression (and many other mental health topics).

 

 

 

 

11 Effective Interventions for Depression

Are you looking for ideas how to beat depression? There are many interventions for depression that can help. Don’t let your brain trick you into thinking it will never get better and that you will always feel this bad. This isn’t true! You may not believe me but I see people get better all the time! Instead of staying in bed or giving up, incorporate these treatment tools for depression and start on your path to recovery. The more you use coping strategies for depression the quicker you will feel better.

 

I have compiled a list of 11 effective ways to help depression. The more tools for depression that you can use the better you will feel.  Sit down and go through every coping strategy for depression that I have listed. Find a way to incorporate them into your life today. Make a commitment to yourself, write out a plan of action, and get started right away.



1. Self-care tools for depressionWondering how to beat depression? There are many interventions for depression that can help. Don't let your brain trick you into thinking it will never get better. You can recover with these effective ways to help depression. These tools for depression and coping strategies for depression are keys to complete recovery.

Self-care is extremely important and sets the stage for how we feel. If we neglect our self-care it is a message to ourselves that we don’t matter, we aren’t worth the effort, and we don’t deserve better. It is bad enough to feel depressed- don’t also look depressed or it becomes a constant reminder to yourself that you feel awful.

 

These self-care commitments to yourself need to be non-negotiable and done every day.

  • Shower.
  • Brush your teeth.
  • Brush your hair.
  • Put on clean, unwrinkled clothes.

2. Interventions for depression can be as “simple” as getting enough sleepWondering how to beat depression? There are many interventions for depression that can help. Don't let your brain trick you into thinking it will never get better. You can recover with these effective ways to help depression. These tools for depression and coping strategies for depression are keys to complete recovery.

Get enough rest. Focus on getting restorative, quality sleep. Even for someone without depression, it is hard to feel upbeat when you are sleep deprived. It is even more important to get adequate sleep if you are depressed. Sleep disturbances are unfortunately common in depression.

Insomnia or Hypersomnia?

Some people with depression have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or find themselves waking really early in the morning. On the flip-side, people can also have hypersomnia which means they sleep too much. This isn’t great either! We are hoping for as close to a “happy medium” as we can get to help improve sleep and mood.



Tips on how to sleep better

If you are struggling with sleep, read these posts I wrote for additional tips on how to sleep better:

 

3. Looking for ways to help depression? Eat healthy foodsWondering how to beat depression? There are many interventions for depression that can help. Don't let your brain trick you into thinking it will never get better. You can recover with these effective ways to help depression. These tools for depression and coping strategies for depression are keys to complete recovery.

Eat healthy and nourishing foods. Sometimes people use food as a way to self-soothe and distract from painful feelings but that never works out well in the end. The cycle of stuffing emotions feeds into negative self-worth.

Carrots for comfort?

When people attempt to stuff emotions with food it isn’t generally by eating extra carrots. So-called “comfort foods” are generally highly processed and have no nutritional value. Sugary snacks and baked goods lead to a crash in mood and energy. These are not foods that make a body feel strong and healthy.

 

Using food as an attempt at self-soothing can result in unwelcome weight gain. As weight goes up, a person with depression may loathe themselves more, continuing to be immersed in a negative cycle of feeling weak and like a failure.

4. Don’t make depression worse! Avoid alcohol and drugsWondering how to beat depression? There are many interventions for depression that can help. Don't let your brain trick you into thinking it will never get better. You can recover with these effective ways to help depression. These tools for depression and coping strategies for depression are keys to complete recovery.

Avoid things that make depression worse. Alcohol is a depressant. This is worth repeating: ALCOHOL IS A DEPRESSANT!!!!! It will make you feel worse and will make it harder to recover. It will also negatively affect your sleep further depleting your emotional reserves (read my post The Truth About Alcohol and Sleep).

 

Drugs don’t help you feel powerful or in control of your life. Drugs don’t solve anything and only allow you to temporarily escape yourself. What happens after they are out of your system? Do you feel better? Do you feel more hopeful about your future and your ability to recover from depression? I can guarantee the answer is “No”.

 

Instead of reaching for something outside of yourself to escape bad feelings, look for answers within. Don’t continue to give yourself the messages that you can’t feel better on your own because you can.



5. Exercise is a great treatment for depressionWondering how to beat depression? There are many interventions for depression that can help. Don't let your brain trick you into thinking it will never get better. You can recover with these effective ways to help depression. These tools for depression and coping strategies for depression are keys to complete recovery.

I have written 3 posts on how to treat your depression with exercise. Exercise is a powerful and extremely effective method to help yourself feel better. Exercise doesn’t have to mean running 10 miles each day. Small amounts of exercise can make a difference in depression. Even 1 hour per week of exercise can help prevent and treat depression! Exercise will help you recover.

 

6. Coping strategies for depression: Use mantrasWondering how to beat depression? There are many interventions for depression that can help. Don't let your brain trick you into thinking it will never get better. You can recover with these effective ways to help depression. These tools for depression and coping strategies for depression are keys to complete recovery.

Mantras can be powerful reminders to yourself about what you want to focus on. They can help shift your thoughts from the negative to the positive. Positive thoughts help breed positive feelings and the opposite is true also: negative breeds negative.

 

Read my post 30 Powerful Mantras to Fight Off Depression which will give you examples of mantras to get you started.

Cognitive distortions will try to trick you!

Depression causes “cognitive distortions” which are thoughts that distort reality, aren’t true, and make you feel bad. Cognitive distortions reinforce negative thoughts and emotions so it is important to recognize and interrupt these patterns by doing things like mantras (and therapy too). This post explains different types of cognitive distortions.



 

Focus your thoughts on what you want for yourself and not on what feels bad. You don’t need to believe a mantra to say it. Over time, you will start to internalize these positive messages.

7. Relaxation, Mindfulness, Meditation are effective tools for depressionWondering how to beat depression? There are many interventions for depression that can help. Don't let your brain trick you into thinking it will never get better. You can recover with these effective ways to help depression. These tools for depression and coping strategies for depression are keys to complete recovery.

Relaxation, mindfulness and meditation are tools that can help with stress management, negative thoughts, and centering yourself by bringing you back to the current moment. I explain several of these techniques in my post 5 Ways to Stop a Panic Attack

 

On my resources page, I have listed several apps and links that are great for meditation and mindfulness.

 

  • Deep, calming breathing
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Restorative yoga
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness

8. Wondering how to beat depression? Make positive choices and say yes moreWondering how to beat depression? There are many interventions for depression that can help. Don't let your brain trick you into thinking it will never get better. You can recover with these effective ways to help depression. These tools for depression and coping strategies for depression are keys to complete recovery.

If you would say yes to something if you weren’t depressed than it is a good idea to do it when you are depressed- even if you don’t want to. Acting (or choosing to do things) as if you aren’t depressed can cause a shift in your outlook and actually help you not be depressed!

 

  • If you would normally go have lunch with that friend who just asked you to meet her than say yes.
  • Do you get out of the bed at 7 every morning when you are feeling well? Then stick to that schedule. Staying in bed is depressing and allows you to immerse yourself in despairing and negative thoughts.
  • Did you make a commitment at work or outside of work that you now want to avoid because of depression? Just do it!


9. Ways to help depression: use uplifting distractionsWondering how to beat depression? There are many interventions for depression that can help. Don't let your brain trick you into thinking it will never get better. You can recover with these effective ways to help depression. These tools for depression and coping strategies for depression are keys to complete recovery.

  • Watch a funny movie or tv show
  • Play a game with your kids, friends, or family
  • Play with a pet
  • Listen to music
  • Dance
  • Read a good book
  • Get out in nature and look at the beauty
  • Play a sport

10. Essential tools for depression: Go to therapy!Wondering how to beat depression? There are many interventions for depression that can help. Don't let your brain trick you into thinking it will never get better. You can recover with these effective ways to help depression. These tools for depression and coping strategies for depression are keys to complete recovery.

It is hard to work through all of these negative and painful feelings on one’s own. Your brain is depressed so how is it supposed to be a neutral party that helps you feel better?

 

Recovering from depression takes support. Friends and family can be wonderful but it is not the same as going to therapy. A therapist is trained in particular techniques that can treat depression and their goal is to help you recover and feel like yourself again.



11. Antidepressants may be necessary as one of the interventions for depressionWondering how to beat depression? There are many interventions for depression that can help. Don't let your brain trick you into thinking it will never get better. You can recover with these effective ways to help depression. These tools for depression and coping strategies for depression are keys to complete recovery.

Antidepressants may be a necessary tool to get yourself feeling better. If you have moderate to severe depression it may be difficult to recover fully without medication treatment. Discuss with your physician if antidepressants are indicated for you.

 

If you do take an antidepressant, this will be one part of treatment but not the whole treatment. Antidepressants frequently give a partial recovery but not a full resolution of symptoms. Too often people (and doctors too!) forget that there are other essential things that need to be done to help you recover fully.

 

If you are considering starting an antidepressant make sure you read my posts full of information on how to choose an antidepressant, side effects to expect, and 2 common mistakes to avoid.

11 Effective treatment and coping strategies for depression managementWondering how to beat depression? There are many interventions for depression that can help. Don't let your brain trick you into thinking it will never get better. You can recover with these effective ways to help depression. These tools for depression and coping strategies for depression are keys to complete recovery.

 

Now you have 11 treatment and coping strategies for depression management. It may take using more than one of the treatment tools for depression but you can recover. Interventions for depression are effective but you need to use them consistently. Depression is treatable and people heal (read this wonderful post about one doctor’s story of recovery). Don’t let your brain trick you into thinking you will always feel this bad.

 

There is hope even if you aren’t convinced it will work. It is certainly not easy, but with treatment, I see people with depression recover and lead healthy, satisfying, and enjoyable lives. Believe in yourself and in your strength to persevere and get better.

 

It goes without saying that if you can’t keep yourself safe and are contemplating suicide that you need to reach out for help. Go to your doctor, go to the emergency room, if you are in the US call the suicide helpline at 1 (800) 273-8255. There are lots of people that want to help you.Wondering how to beat depression? There are many interventions for depression that can help. Don't let your brain trick you into thinking it will never get better. You can recover with these effective ways to help depression. These tools for depression and coping strategies for depression are keys to complete recovery.

Interested in reading more about how to beat depression?

Learn about how to fight the winter blues: Seasonal Affective Disorder and Light Therapy

 

Also, visit my Mental Health Bookstore for recommended books about depression and other mental health topics.

Books to help you overcome depression:

30 Healing Mantras For Depression

Our thoughts help shape how we feel. Depression can cloud people’s outlook with negative thoughts that focus on everything that feels wrong. When thoughts are shifted toward the positive, outlooks change and the light can start to shine through. Postive, healing mantras can be used as one tool to help fight off depression and shift thinking patterns. Powerful mantras can help turn thinking around. This post includes 30 mantra examples to get you started. When you catch yourself in the spiral of gloom and projection- fight back by using mantras for depression. Pick a couple of healing mantras that resonate and use them throughout the day. It takes daily mantras for positive thinking to begin to emerge.

Daily mantras for positive thinking

Our thoughts help shape how we feel. Postive, healing mantras can be used as one tool to help fight off depression. Interrupt negative thoughts with powerful mantras for depression management. Use these 30 mantra examples to get you started. It takes daily mantras for positive thinking to take hold.
Healing Mantras

Every morning and night repeat your healing mantras to yourself. Each time you feel stressed, sad, or catch yourself focusing on what isn’t going right; take a deep breath and say your powerful mantras to overcome and get out of the negativity trap. Use this ritual to help reset yourself and as a reminder that you have made a commitment to yourself to focus on recovery.

 

Pair the mantras with things you do every day so its easier to incorporate them into your routine. Say them while brushing your teeth, doing the dishes, or as you walk out of the door every morning.

30 Mantra examples:

Our thoughts help shape how we feel. Postive, healing mantras can be used as one tool to help fight off depression. Interrupt negative thoughts with powerful mantras for depression management. Use these 30 mantra examples to get you started. It takes daily mantras for positive thinking to take hold.
Healing Mantras
  1. I am grateful for my life.
  2. I am strong and I will recover.
  3. I have the power to create change in my life.
  4. I can do hard things.
  5. I am persistent and powerful. I will shine today.
  6. My body has the power to heal.
  7. I am in charge of how I feel and today I choose happiness.
  8. I trust myself. I will nurture my health.
  9. I got this. I am strong.
  10. I will be OK.
  11. I live in today. I will make these moments matter.
  12. I will make small changes today.
  13. I can and I will get better.
  14. I am free of sadness today.
  15. I am a great person and I deserve to feel happy.
  16. I can do this. I want to do this.
  17. I will take care of myself and love myself today.
  18. I believe in myself. I can soar.
  19. I embrace the positive. I can find beauty.
  20. I am healthy and I am happy.
  21. I am grateful for this day. I will live in the moment.
  22. Everything I need is within me. I know what I need and I will take care of myself.
  23. I am committed to my goals and I will persevere.
  24. I am capable of amazing things.
  25. This is temporary. I am strong.
  26. I am improving every day and I am open to happiness.
  27. I am worth it. I will take care of myself.
  28. I am getting stronger and healthier. I am filled with energy every day.
  29. I am enough. I am whole. I am well.
  30. I am courageous, strong, and powerful. I will not stop.

    Our thoughts help shape how we feel. Postive, healing mantras can be used as one tool to help fight off depression. Interrupt negative thoughts with powerful mantras for depression management. Use these 30 mantra examples to get you started. It takes daily mantras for positive thinking to take hold.
    Healing Mantras

Put your healing mantras on a bracelet or necklace as a reminder

Do you need an extra reminder of your mantra and the commitment you are making to yourself to get better? Use this jewelry as a grounding tool when you are feeling overwhelmed. In those moments, you can touch the bracelet or necklace, take a deep breath, and repeat the mantra. This will be a ritual you use to bring yourself back to the current moment and out of a negative spiral.

 

If you can’t find your exact mantra personalize your own. On this bracelet you can choose your own fonts and whether the mantra is written on the inside or outside. The necklace can be customized to write mantras on all 4 sides. 

Healing mantras: Thinking changes our brain

Our thoughts help shape how we feel. Postive, healing mantras can be used as one tool to help fight off depression. Interrupt negative thoughts with powerful mantras for depression management. Use these 30 mantra examples to get you started. It takes daily mantras for positive thinking to take hold.
Healing Mantras

Negative thinking is a symptom of depression. Cognitive distortions are used to reinforce negative thoughts and keep us feeling bad about ourselves.

 

Thoughts are associated with chemical changes in our brain. These chemicals carry messages through our body to communicate how we feel. Fascinating research has demonstrated our brain’s neuroplasticity which is the ability of the brain to reorganize itself throughout life. Repetitive, positive thoughts can help rewire your brain and strengthen the brain areas that stimulate positive feelings.

Our brain’s amazing ability to change

An example: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and neuroplasticity

With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) people learn to identify and change destructive thought patterns that have a negative influence on feelings. CBT helps people identify a negative thought, challenge the accuracy of that thought, and counter it with more realistic thoughts. By doing this, negative thoughts begin to lose their power.

 

Reframing thinking and changing these patterns from negative to more positive thoughts shifts our brain connections and strengthens the parts of our brain that help us feel positive. CBT works to rewire our brains thanks to neuroplasticity.

 

I found a great post written by a woman with a history of depression who had brain damage after a suicide attempt. She writes about how she used neuroplasticity to overcome and recover and writes this blog to explain neuroplasticity more.

Daily mantras for positive thinking: What if I don’t believe them?

Our thoughts help shape how we feel. Postive, healing mantras can be used as one tool to help fight off depression. Interrupt negative thoughts with powerful mantras for depression management. Use these 30 mantra examples to get you started. It takes daily mantras for positive thinking to take hold.
Healing Mantras

You don’t need to believe the mantras in order to you say them. They may seem far-fetched or impossible to imagine but as you continue to say them, little by little, they will seem more real and life will seem less gloomy.

 

As you are using mantras, work to reframe negative thoughts to shift the focus onto progress and changes that are being made. When a thought like “I will never make any progress” enters your mind take a moment to analyze that thought. Challenge it! What is the evidence for or against that thought? Every time you successfully use a mantra or recognize negative thoughts it is an example of progress.

 

Changing thinking takes time and repetition but it can happen. Daily mantras will be part of this work to help shift the focus away from depression.

Mantras for depression: Is that enough to get me better?

Our thoughts help shape how we feel. Postive, healing mantras can be used as one tool to help fight off depression. Interrupt negative thoughts with powerful mantras for depression management. Use these 30 mantra examples to get you started. It takes daily mantras for positive thinking to take hold.
Healing Mantras

Depression is best tackled by using lots of different strategies. Often medication is a necessary part of treatment but your emotional health, thinking patterns, and habits also need to be addressed in order to recover fully.

 

Read my next post which talks about 11 effective interventions to treat depression. Mantras are one intervention in your toolkit for feeling better. This post will talk about 10 more tools to help you recover.

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Each improvement in self-care and change you make to thinking patterns will help you recover quicker and more completely. Mantras can assist you in healing from depression and start to interrupt the negative thought patterns.

 

Let me know what mantras have been helpful for you!

Read more about management of depression.

I wrote a series about using exercise as a powerful recovery tool for depression. I will show you how to set appropriate and helpful goals, get started on your plan, and stay motivated when you don’t want to get out of bed. Read these posts here, here, and here.

Interested in reading more about how to overcome depression?

Visit my Mental Health Bookstore for recommended books about depression and other mental health topics.

 

Books to help you overcome depression:

3 Tips For Exercise: How to Stay Motivated when Depressed

In the last 2 posts about exercise and depression, I discussed how to help depression. We talked about how exercise helps depression, why it’s important to exercise even if you take an antidepressant, and how to create a plan with achievable goals that are broken down into smaller action steps. Now its time to think about how to stay motivated when depressed. The motivation for exercise doesn’t come easily to many people. It is hard to get started with exercise but it also can be hard to keep going. Old habits can creep back in try to slow down your progress. Learn how to overcome depression and stay well.

 

In case you missed it, here are links to the previous posts:



How to Help Depression: Give yourself a pat on the back

Exercise is one answer to the question of how to overcome depression. In order to be successful, it is important to figure out how to stay motivated when depressed. Wondering how to help depression and maintain motivation for exercise? Read here for 3 tips to make it easier.
How to Stay Motivated When Depressed

Feeling proud of what you accomplish will help you stay motivated. When you set up goals and action plans thoughtfully it’s easier to maintain motivation for exercise because the plan has achievable steps. Each time you accomplish your goal it will give you a boost that makes it is easier to keep going.

 

Make a big deal when you achieve the goal. Take the time to pat yourself on the back and say “I took care of myself today and achieved my goal of walking for 10 minutes! Great job!”.

 

If you feel good about what you are doing it is easier to keep building on your success and stay motivated.

 

When someone is depressed, it is hard to feel positive feelings and pride. If you feel like this, I want to remind you that it is still important to say positive things to yourself. Take the time to celebrate even when you don’t feel happy inside.  This is how to overcome depression. The more you start to shift your mindset towards the positive the quicker you will begin to pull yourself out of the depths of depression.

 

Start to add more positive thoughts to your day by using mantras. Learn more about how to get started with these with 30 examples to get you going: 30 Healing Mantras for Depression



Motivation for exercise: Schedule it on your calendar

Exercise is one answer to the question of how to overcome depression. In order to be successful, it is important to figure out how to stay motivated when depressed. Wondering how to help depression and maintain motivation for exercise? Read here for 3 tips to make it easier.
How to Stay Motivated When Depressed

Plan out your exercise ahead of time. Is your goal to run 1 mile 3 times each week? Schedule it on your calendar and check it off when you are done. Make sure to keep putting it on your calendar week after week so that you stay motivated. Don’t let excuses win. Motivation is hard when you are depressed so it’s essential to plan ahead of time.

 

Don’t schedule everything else you need to do but leave out exercise if you want to stay motivated. Life gets busy and if it isn’t on the calendar it becomes an afterthought and feels optional. It will be harder to maintain motivation for exercise. Things that don’t make it to your calendar seem less important than the items that made it into the books.

 

I mentioned this organizing series in the last post too. These Bloom Calendars are perfect for someone who is depressed and trying to get motivated (or anyone trying to feel more motivated). Schedule your exercise into one of these calendars and use the motivational quotes and goal setting reminders to keep you going.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This daily planner is designed to increase productivity and happiness and includes a habit tracker and gratitude journal. The one I linked to is not dated but you can also buy these specific to the year.

How to Stay Motivated When Depressed: A friend can make it easier.

Exercise is one answer to the question of how to overcome depression. In order to be successful, it is important to figure out how to stay motivated when depressed. Wondering how to help depression and maintain motivation for exercise? Read here for 3 tips to make it easier.
How to Stay Motivated When Depressed

Enlist the help of a trusted friend or loved one to make your plan feel easier to start and maintain. There are lots of people that struggle to exercise so it is likely you have someone close to you that will benefit from the shared commitment and motivation for exercise.

 

Pick your accountability partner wisely. It’s important to enlist the help of someone that will increase the chance you will meet your goals. You don’t want your friend to provide you more excuses to skip exercise than you give yourself. The ideal support person will not be someone who stresses you out or adds to the negativity in your life.

 

Find the right person and start this journey together. You can support and help each other to stay motivated.

 

Dr. Nadia Sabray’s wrote a great post on forming new habits and the importance of accountability partners: The Secret to Forming New Habits



How to Overcome Depression: Review the steps

Exercise is one answer to the question of how to overcome depression. In order to be successful, it is important to figure out how to stay motivated when depressed. Wondering how to help depression and maintain motivation for exercise? Read here for 3 tips to make it easier.
How to Stay Motivated When Depressed

Hopefully, after reading these posts you better understand how to help depression and the importance of adding in exercise to your treatment. If you haven’t already, sit down now and write your action plan, schedule exercise on your calendar, and get started right away. Use tools to help you stay motivated when depressed. Little by little chip away at the depression until you are recovered.

 

Let’s review these 3 posts about how to start exercising and begin to recover from depression.

Exercise is one answer to the question of how to overcome depression. In order to be successful, it is important to figure out how to stay motivated when depressed. Wondering how to help depression and maintain motivation for exercise? Read here for 3 tips to make it easier.
How to Stay Motivated When Depressed

 

Exercise is one answer to the question of how to overcome depression. In order to be successful, it is important to figure out how to stay motivated when depressed. Wondering how to help depression and maintain motivation for exercise? Read here for 3 tips to make it easier.
How to stay motivated when depressed

Be gentle with yourself. Recovery from depression takes time. Remember that depression plays tricks on your brain and can convince you that it is best to stay in bed because nothing will ever get better. Don’t listen. Even if you don’t believe it’ll make a difference, take the steps that are healthy for yourself. They will pay off in the end. You are worth it so keep fighting!

Interested in reading more about how to overcome depression?

Visit my Mental Health Bookstore for recommended books about depression and other mental health topics.

 

Books to help you overcome depression:

Exercise and Depression: How to get started when you want to stay in bed

In the last post about exercise and depression, I discussed the benefits of exercise on depression and why it is worth it to push yourself even when you have no energy. Exercise helps with overcoming depression but are you wondering how to get motivated when you are depressed? Depression can make it hard to get out of bed, brush your teeth and get dressed. Daily functioning can feel like a chore and even routine activities can feel completely overwhelming. Getting to work each day can feel monumental. And now you want me to exercise to help conquer depression?!!

 

Yes, I do! I want you to feel better!

 

Exercise helps with overcoming depression but are you wondering how to get motivated when you are depressed? Read more about exercise and depression and how to get started conquering depression even when you don't want to get out of bed. Begin to conquer depression today!
Overcoming Depression

Conquer depression: Start with a plan that helps you feel successful.

  • Can you commit to walking up and down your stairs for 5 minutes a day?
  • Walking outside for 10 minutes 3 times each week?
  • Joining a relaxing restorative yoga class once a week?
  • Can you exercise with a coworker at lunch for 15 minutes twice a week?
  • Will you park at the far end of the parking lot at work and at stores?


Exercise and Depression: Break down goals into manageable steps.

Exercise helps with overcoming depression but are you wondering how to get motivated when you are depressed? Read more about exercise and depression and how to get started conquering depression even when you don't want to get out of bed. Begin to conquer depression today!
Overcoming Depression

Define your goals thoughtfully by making specific and achievable plans. Write your goals down and plan out the necessary steps to achieve these goals.  Breaking goals into manageable steps makes them less intimidating to tackle.

Conquer depression: Make your goals specific!

The more general or vague goals are, the less likely they will be achieved. It is much more effective to say “I’m going to go walking with my friend during our lunch break 3 times per week” than set a general goal like “I am going to get in shape”.

Exercise and Depression: Don’t set yourself up for failure.

Don’t decide your goal is to both start to run and complete a marathon all in the same year. Even if you start to run (success!) you may feel discouraged if you don’t progress to marathon distance and give up running completely. This negative cycle gets internalized: “I hate running”, “Running is too hard and I’ll never be good at it”, “I’m not strong enough to run a marathon”.



Side Note on Overcoming Depression: Make achievable goals in life too!

Exercise helps with overcoming depression but are you wondering how to get motivated when you are depressed? Read more about exercise and depression and how to get started conquering depression even when you don't want to get out of bed. Begin to conquer depression today!
Overcoming Depression

Setting achievable goals is not only important for success in starting exercise but important for all of life. Try to identify ways you are setting yourself up to feel like you have failed because you have set goals that are too general or focused only on the endpoint and not the steps needed to get there.

 

Sometimes it can be as simple as shifting your mindset to relieve this burden of negativity. For example, if you make a daily to-do list (I recommend this!) celebrate what you get done instead of putting yourself down for not completing every item.

The Mindful MD Mom wrote a great post about prioritizing goals, living intentionally, being present, and stepping out of your comfort zone: 4 Steps to Live Your Best Life. She writes:

“Each day is a new opportunity to live and not just exist. Each day is a new canvas to paint the story of your life according to you. Living intentionally means making the most of your life, especially the small moments that make up each day because the choices you make today will affect your tomorrow.”

How to get motivated when you are depressed: Use organization tools

I love this daily to-do list. It includes important reminders that can be helpful when you are depressed: a daily must-do list, and places to write in meals, water, gratitude, and exercise. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To go along with the daily to-do list this is a great weekly planner complete with inspirational quotes to motivate and encourage. Having a planner that helps you feel good will make it more likely you will use it. This company has lots of beautiful planners so look around. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Importantly, make sure your daily to-do lists are actually appropriate. If they are too long, too general, and include grandiose projects that would take days to complete they will not make it easy for you to get started.

 

Break down huge projects into smaller steps. Don’t write “Clean out the closet”. Instead, try to list to-do items separately: “Hang up shirts”, “Get rid of 5 shirts I don’t wear”, “Pick up shoes and put them on the shelf”. Increase your chance to get things done by making a list that isn’t overwhelming.



Exercise and Depression: Getting Started

We have reviewed how to set yourself up for success with your plan so now it’s time to get to work writing out your goals. What is a good starting point for you?

 

Sit down and write out your achievable plan. What steps will you take this week? How many times will you exercise? What can you commit to do despite not feeling like doing anything? List everything and be as specific as possible.

Conquering Depression with Exercise: What’s next?

Exercise helps with overcoming depression but are you wondering how to get motivated when you are depressed? Read more about exercise and depression and how to get started conquering depression even when you don't want to get out of bed. Begin to conquer depression today!
Overcoming Depression

After you have written out your plans it is important to get started right away. I notice people often set a goal and then pick a future date to start. Why start next week? What will be different at that time? Why not today? If you have set your goals appropriately and reasonably there is no reason to wait to get started.

 

The next post will have suggestions on how to maintain motivation while you are recovering from depression. It is important to get started but also important to keep going. I will give you 3 ways to help you maintain forward momentum.

Interested in reading more about overcoming depression?

Check out my post on Seasonal Affective Disorder and Light Therapy to learn about how to fight the winter blues. Start to shift negative thought patterns by using mantras: 30 Healing Mantras for Depression

 

Also, visit my Mental Health Bookstore for recommended books about depression and other mental health topics.

Books to help you overcome depression:

Treating Depression with Exercise

Exercise isn’t just about physical fitness. It also benefits your mental health! Research supports the link between depression and exercise. Even 1 hour of exercise per week can be effective in helping you overcome depression. Learn how to increase your chance of success by treating depression with exercise and set yourself up for brighter days ahead. Get started and work to overcome depression today!

 

I am going to break this topic into 3 posts:

 

  1. This 1st post discusses the benefits of treating depression with exercise and why it’s important even if you start an antidepressant.
  2. The 2nd post will help you set achievable goals that will increase your chance to feel positive and get started with your plan.
  3. In the 3rd post, we will discuss how to maintain your goals with 3 tips to make it easier to stay on track exercising to overcome depression.



Exercise to treat depression

Exercise isn't just about physical fitness-it also benefits your mental health! Exercise to treat depression. Research supports the link between depression and exercise. Increase your chance of success by treating depression with exercise and set yourself up for brighter days ahead. Overcome depression today!
Exercise to Treat Depression

Do you need to be convinced exercising will be worth the effort it takes to get started? When you are depressed, everything feels harder to do. Energy seems like it is in short supply and needs to be rationed. Using exercise to treat depression may feel like the complete opposite of saving your energy, but exercise will rejuvenate you and help you heal. Staying in bed depletes your energy and keeps you from feeling better.

Research Studies about Depression and Exercise:

There are many research studies supporting the benefits of, and the relation between, depression and exercise.

 

This “study involved 946 patients with mild to moderate depression who were assigned to undergo either yoga or stretching, moderate aerobic exercise, or vigorous aerobic experience. Patients were encouraged to participate in three exercise sessions a week, but most only attended about one per week, Dr. Hallgren pointed out.”

“At the end of 12 weeks, Dr. Hallgren and colleagues found that the severity of depression was significantly lower among patients who participated in any one of the exercise interventions compared to those who received usual care, and that the benefits of exercise were seen regardless of how intensely the patients exercised.”

“Furthermore, the benefits of exercise on depression were maintained 12 months after baseline assessment, despite suboptimal adherence.”

More Research About Depression and Exercise:

Reviewing a vast amount of literature this comprehensive study supports the efficacy of exercise in the treatment of depression. They discuss the potential reasons why exercise interventions are helpful.



 Preventative Effects of Exercise on Depression:

This study is a bit different from the others that look at how exercise can help people overcome depression and is about the preventative effects of exercise on depression. They followed 22,564 healthy individuals in Norway for 9-13 years and reassessed their health at the end of the study. Those who exercised 1-2 hours per week had a 44% decreased odds ratio of becoming depressed. That is a huge effect from minimal exercise! A large number of new cases of depression (the author estimated 12% of cases in this study) could be prevented if all adults exercised for 1 or more hours per week.

“Most of the protective effect of exercise is realized with relatively low levels of exercise, with no indication of any additional benefit beyond 1 hour of exercise each week,” the investigators note.

“The protective effect was seen equally across all groups, regardless of the intensity of exercise that was undertaken or the gender or age of the participants,” they add.

“The results of this study indicate that relatively modest increases in the overall amount of time spent exercising per week may be able to prevent a substantial number of new cases of depression,” they conclude.

There is a lot of overlap between depression and anxiety. Exercise can also benefit your anxiety. Read this study on anxiety and exercise if you would like to know more.

Treating Depression With Exercise: Important even if you are starting medication

Exercise isn't just about physical fitness-it also benefits your mental health! Exercise to treat depression. Research supports the link between depression and exercise. Increase your chance of success by treating depression with exercise and set yourself up for brighter days ahead. Overcome depression today!
Exercise to Treat Depression

Medication is often a necessary treatment for depression. It is (unfortunately) common for a person with depression to respond to medication with a partial recovery. This means that symptoms have improved but are not completely gone. The goal is to have a complete recovery. Often medication cannot do it alone and needs augmentation with other interventions.

 

Medications also take time to help. Antidepressants can take 3-5 weeks before they start to kick in. Anything that you can do to keep yourself busy while adding positive, healthy, and nurturing things to your life will help you get through this period of time.

 

Treating Depression: Additional coping mechanisms

Exercise is one important tool to help you fully conquer depression and stay on a more positive path. There are other essential self-care tools to help you recover from depression:

 

  • Eat properly and nourish your body with healthy food
  • Avoid alcohol or drugs. Remember, alcohol is a DEPRESSANT! It will make depression worse and make it harder to recover. If you are taking an antidepressant and drinking a depressant (alcohol) the antidepressant may be less effective.
  • Get adequate rest. Give your body time to restore itself.
  • Take care of yourself by getting out of pajamas, brushing teeth and hair, and getting out of the house every day.

 

Therapy can be extremely important, and for some people even more important than taking medication. Therapy will help to address thinking patterns that can get you stuck. Without addressing these negative cognitive patterns it may be more difficult to completely recover.

 

Start to shift negative thinking patterns by using mantras. Read this post to get started: 30 Healing Mantras for Depression

 

Add as many healthy coping tools to your life as you can to help you recover fully. These tools can decrease the chances that you will fall back into a depression and will help you get out of the current episode quicker.



If you are having trouble sleeping (common with depression) I have written some other posts you may find helpful. It is extremely important to address insomnia as you recover from your depression.

 

 

Treating Depression: The see-saw of lifeExercise isn't just about physical fitness-it also benefits your mental health! Exercise to treat depression. Research supports the link between depression and exercise. Increase your chance of success by treating depression with exercise and set yourself up for brighter days ahead. Overcome depression today!

Think of the effects of depression on life like a playground see-saw that is stuck down from the heavy load. Extra effort has to be put into adding positive weight to the other side to bring you back up. Little by little, each piece of self-care added will inch the see-saw back to a more balanced and neutral position. Exercise is one important tool that will help you bring back balance and fight off the negative pull of depression.

Exercise isn't just about physical fitness-it also benefits your mental health! Exercise to treat depression. Research supports the link between depression and exercise. Increase your chance of success by treating depression with exercise and set yourself up for brighter days ahead. Overcome depression today!

Now that you understand why treating depression with exercise is important, make sure to read the next 2 posts to learn more about how to get started on the path to recovery and how to maintain motivation.

Exercise and Depression: How to get started when you want to stay in bed

3 Tips for Exercise: How to stay motivated when depressed

Interested in reading more about how to overcome depression?

Visit my Mental Health Bookstore for recommended books about depression and other mental health topics.

 

Books to help you overcome depression:

 

Seasonal Affective Disorder? Light therapy can help!

Seasonal Affective Disorder typically occurs in the fall and winter with a remission in spring and summer. People with Seasonal Affective Disorder have symptoms of depression that follow a seasonal pattern. The depression can be significantly impairing even if it doesn’t last all year long. Light therapy can be very helpful. There are various options for different lights for Seasonal Affective Disorder treatment.

 

About 5% of the US population experiences Seasonal Affective Disorder with symptoms that last approximately 40% of the year. It is more common in females than males (4:1) and often happens in women of childbearing age.

 

If you are struggling with seasonal affective disorder lights may help! 




Seasonal affective disorder can present with:

  • lack of enjoyment and pleasure,
  • poor concentration,
  • sleep changes,
  • decreased energy,
  • increased carbohydrate cravings
  • excessive eating resulting in weight gain.

Lights for Seasonal Affective Disorder can be as helpful as an antidepressant!

Light therapy has been shown to be an effective for Seasonal Affective Disorder treatment. It can be as helpful as an antidepressant or cognitive behavioral therapy.

 

Generally, it takes 1-3 weeks of daily exposure to light to have improvement in symptoms. Because of this, it is best to start treatment at least 2 weeks prior to the time of year you typically experience symptoms of seasonal depression.

 

According to Dr. Michael Craig Miller, at Harvard Health Publishing:

“If lack of sunlight causes or contributes to seasonal affective disorder, then getting more light may reverse it. Bright light works by stimulating cells in the retina that connect to the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that helps control circadian rhythms. Activating the hypothalamus at a certain time every day can restore a normal circadian rhythm and thus banish seasonal symptoms.”

Different options for Seasonal Affective Disorder lights:

There are many different options for light therapy products including light visors, standard light boxes, and dawn simulators. Your choice of a lamp will be based on where you want to use it (home or office) and convenience factors (can you sit still for treatment?).

 

Some of the lights are rather large but that can be advantageous. With smaller lights, you will have to take more care to keep your eyes in the therapeutic range of the light as small head movements can affect this.



Seasonal Affective Disorder lamp: Light therapy boxes

What are the recommended features?

The light should provide 10,000 lux units of illumination at a comfortable sitting distance. Make sure it is UV-filtered as UV rays are harmful to the eyes. Look for a light with white light (shown to be more effective) rather than a colored light. There is no therapeutic advantage shown to “full spectrum” or bluish lamps.

 

I recommend the following light therapy boxes:

Dawn simulators:  

Dawn simulators are used while you are sleeping. They turn on automatically during the final period of sleep and simulate the light of springtime dawn. This light has been shown to affect the body’s biological clock, suppress melatonin secretion, and to have an antidepressant effect.

 

Because it’s administered during sleep it is a convenient treatment option to try. The light intensity is around 300 lux so is much dimmer than a standard light box. Although there is less research on dawn stimulators, results have shown an increased ease of awakening, more alertness and energy, and an antidepressant effect.

 

I recommend the following dawn simulator: 

Light Visors:

If you are unable to sit still for even 15 minutes then getting a light visor may be the only option for you to get treatment. This visor will allow you to get in your treatment time while still cooking breakfast or chasing a toddler around.

 

I recommend the following light visor:

How to use Seasonal Affective Disorder lights:seasonal affective disorder

  • If you are using a light box sit 12-18 inches away from the light source but face it. Use it for 20-60 minutes each day.
  • The light should be projected downward towards the eyes to minimize any glare and to maximize peripheral retinal stimulation which is required for treatment effect,
  • Your eyes must remain open,
  • You don’t need to look directly at the light. You can read, eat, use a laptop or a cell phone.
  • Different people benefit from using light at different times of the day. Take this quiz to determine your circadian rhythm type. This will tell you the optimal time of day for you to use light therapy.

Potential side effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder treatment:

Side effects are usually minor, infrequent, and stop after a few days. To minimize side effects start with 10-15 minutes and gradually work up to 30-60 minutes depending on how much time you need for treatment effect.

 

  • Sleep disturbances are generally related to the timing of light exposure. Some people do not tolerate exposure at night and do best with morning exposure.
  • Eye irritability or strain. This may be alleviated by sitting a little further back or using a humidifier.
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Headache
  • Hypomania or mania can happen in bipolar patients so care must be taken in using light therapy if you have this disorder.

Conditions and medications to watch out for:

Please check with your doctor before using light therapy if you have:

  • Bipolar disorder,
  • Personal history of macular degeneration,
  • A family history of macular degeneration,
  • Diabetes (which can affect the retina),
  • Retinal dystrophies,
  • Porphyria,
  • Lupus,
  • Chronic actinic dermatitis,
  • Solar urticaria.

 

Certain medications can cause light sensitivity and a lightbox should not be used if you are on these medications. Ask your doctor if you are on a medication that may cause sensitivity.

 

For further discussion of the risks of light therapy click here.

How long to continue using a seasonal affective disorder lamp?

To avoid a relapse of depression, seasonal affective disorder treatment should continue thru the end of the winter season until the time when you usually spontaneously feel better. If the light therapy is discontinued too soon your depression may return within 1-2 weeks.

Other uses for light therapy:

In addition to seasonal affective disorder, light therapy can be helpful for non-seasonal depression. Light can be used as an adjunct or alternative to antidepressant medications. Light therapy can also treat certain sleep disorders related to alterations in circadian rhythm patterns such as happens in advanced sleep phase syndrome (fall asleep early and wake early in the morning) and delayed sleep phase syndrome (fall asleep late and difficulty waking during the day). Bright light therapy can help reset the “sleep clock” and allow sleep patterns to become more normalized.

 

Lights for Seasonal Affective Disorder is a great option for people who experience seasonal dips in their mood. Many people would like to avoid antidepressants and this is a great alternative to try.

 

One key is to remember to start it at the right time each year. It takes 1-3 weeks for an effect so pick a date prior to when your depression usually starts. Put a reminder on your calendar or pick a holiday like Labor Day as your yearly start date so you don’t forget.

Seasonal affective disorder