dr-walsh-250x155A UC Irvine study has found that lifestyle changes, such as volunteering or enjoying nature, can be as effective as drugs or counseling in treating depression and anxiety.
The findings of  Dr. Roger Walsh, a psychiatrist and professor of religious studies, pictured at right, were online in American Psychologist. His findings include:

  • Exercise can improve cognitive function in adults and reduce age-related memory loss
  • Relaxation and stress management can treat anxiety, insomnia and panic disorders
  • Meditation can enhance emotional stability and decrease stress
  • Spirituality that focuses on love and forgiveness can promote well-being and reduce anxiety, depression and substance abuse. Service and altruism can foster joy and generosity

Walsh calls the behaviors “therapeutic lifestyle changes” or TLCs.

“I found that lifestyle changes can offer significant advantages for patients, therapists and societies, yet they’re insufficiently appreciated, taught or utilized,” Walsh said in a statement. “TLCs can be effective, inexpensive and enjoyable, with fewer side effects and complications than medications. In the 21st century, therapeutic lifestyles may need to be a central focus of mental, medical and public health.”

Maggie Baumann, a Newport Beach therapist, said she encourages her clients to pursue healthy behaviors, but said medication may also be necessary.

“As a therapist, those lifestyle tools without drugs would be wonderful if that’s all that was needed to overcome these mental health issues in my clients,” Baumann said via e-mail. “However, life is not that simple. People come from all different backgrounds, family histories and traumas that are integral parts to the development of some depression and anxiety conditions.”

“For example a client who is experiencing severe depression and has suicidal thoughts, he may not even have the energy to get himself out of bed to take a walk or be motivated to do meditation until his level of functioning has increased and more of the depressive symptoms are reduced. So in some instances drugs prescribed by an experienced psychiatrist is indicated before these drug-free lifestyle changes can be more fully utilized.”

Read full article here: Source – Orange County Register