I should mention as an introduction, that despite the book’s title, Stephen is not advocating that you drop your medication as soon as you begin implementing this program, as “discontinuing an antidepressant without medical supervision can be dangerous. Also, depression can be triggered by many common medical conditions– diabetes, sleep apnea, thyroid disorder, heart disease”, to name a few– so, as always, there are possibilities to consider. With that said, here’s a brief rehash of the first chapter to those who may find this helpful.
I’m starting to read this book and so far I am enjoying the introduction quite a bit. So much so, that I will summarize it here for anyone it may benefit. Stephen’s hypothesis is that the rate of depression in the United States has increased, meaning people are more vulnerable to depression now, largely because of lifestyle. Did you know only one group of Americans haven’t been hit by the depression epidemic? That is the Amish, the ones still clinging to their eighteenth-century way of life. He also cites how in third-world countries, the rate of depression is “often a fraction of that observed in the West” but that the “prevalence of depression has begun to go up in those countries where people are shifting from more traditional to more Americanized lifestyles”. Also, he mentions that the “risk of depression has increased relentlessly in recent years across the industrialized world” and in contrast, “modern-day hunter-gatherer bands–such as the Kaluli people of the New Guinea highlands . . . despite living very hard lives . . . [are] largely immune to the plague of depressive illness.” Stephen Ilardi’s basic thesis is that “the human body was never designed for the modern post-industrial environment”. He asks the question, “How are hunter-gatherers able to weather life’s storms so effectively?” He suspects that they are more likely than we are to experience “tragic events like the death of a child . . . — events that can serve as powerful triggers of depression”, but even with this, they remain resilient. What has emerged from his study is this, “the hunter-gatherer lifestyle is profoundly antidepressant”, that is they “naturally wind up doing may things that keep them from getting depressed. They do things that “change the brain more powerfully than any medication”. Essentially, Stephen’s “six major protective lifestyle elements” are these:
– Dietary omega-3 fatty acids
– Engaging activity
– Physical exercise
– Sunlight exposure
– Social support
He calls his treatment program “TLC”, short for Therapeutic Lifestyle Change. Sounds good to me. That’s it for the introduction!