top of page

Dr. Stephen Ilardi's 6-Part Therapeutic Lifestyle Plan to Treat Depression Naturally

As a researcher, clinical psychologist, and neuroscientist, Dr. Stephen Ilardi's career focuses on the etiology and treatment of depression. Along with his clinical research team in Ireland, he developed the Therapeutic Lifestyle Change (TLC) over a decade ago. To date, it has proven more effective than antidepressants.

While not the only cause of anxiety, depression, and other psychological dysregulation, our modern lifestyle is a big contributor and is something you can start paying attention to right away.

Here are the six elements of the Ilardi Therapeutic Lifestyle and why they matter for psychological health and general well-being.

1. Healthy Sleeping Habits

Poor sleep can be a trigger for depression and can lead to negative consequences, such as feeling cranky all the time, pessimistic, and worn out. There are quite a few things that may be affecting your sleep, including these:

  • Your sleep environment: Ideally, your bedroom should be quiet, and dark with no LED flashing lights, and have a temperature of between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Food and beverage: What you eat during the day and just before bed can affect your sleep quality and ability to fall asleep. Caffeine consumed late in the day, and alcohol too close to bed are two common sleep disruptors.

  • Lack of exercise: People who exercise regularly have fewer sleep issues because physical activity helps to release endorphins in the body which lowers cortisol and other stress hormones.

  • Irregular sleep schedule: Because we're part of nature and nature loves cycles and routines, one of the best sleep habits you can follow to get better sleep is to follow a regular sleep schedule.

2. Exercise and Physical Activity

Physical exercise has significant antidepressant effects and affects other areas of our lives such as motivation, concentration, and as mentioned above, sleep quality.

Ilardi's Depression Cure points out that today's sedentary lifestyle is a significant departure from how our ancestors lived, and how the Kaluli people (an indigenous tribe living in Papua New Guinea with a depression rate of less than 1%) live today.

Adding some form of exercise and physical activity is one of the main things we can do to better manage and eventually treat many psychological conditions. And it is one of the key habits that we track in the Vurb Wellness Program for Emotional Health and Growth. Here are some physical activities to consider:

  • Aerobic activities including running, walking, and biking

  • Water sports including swimming and kayaking

  • Martial arts including kickboxing and Tai Chi

  • Low-impact and core work such as Pilates and yoga

3. Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Today, our consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids is at the lowest levels they've ever been, and this decline puts us at risk for depression and other mental illnesses. While Ilardi's work specifies Omega-3's, a more useful approach to your own dietary changes would be to follow an Anti-Inflammatory diet.

Foods that create inflammation in the body and brain such as processed foods, sugar, refined carbs, and Omega-6 should be minimized in favor of these anti-inflammatory alternatives:

  • Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines

  • Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards

  • Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and tomatoes

4. Adequate Sunlight Exposure

Spending just 30 minutes in natural sunlight can help reset your body's clock and improve synchronization, which has a positive effect on mood. Keep in mind that although you may not see the sun at 7:00 am or 8:00 pm (for those of you trying to avoid the sun), these count toward your sunlight exposure. In the winter and when you cannot get outside, consider the following alternatives:

  • Using a light box

  • Taking Vitamin D supplements

  • Eating foods rich in Vitamin D such as mushrooms and certain fishes

5. Social Support

Not getting out enough and avoiding social interactions might seem like a good way to cope with mood swings and low energy, but it's shown to increase the risk of depression and makes it harder to recover.

Modern life, with its increasingly demanding work schedules and technology, can contribute to social isolation, even if you did want to socialize. While technology provides convenience, our reliance on it for connection can actually exacerbate feelings of loneliness, especially for individuals with depression. Take steps like these to prevent social isolation.

  • Join industry groups where you can network and connect at the same time.

  • Get a mentor

  • Volunteer

  • Get active at church and in alumni groups

  • Find local groups that share your interest on apps such as Meetup and Nextdoor

6. Anti-Rumination Strategies

Rumination, a toxic thought cycle, is closely linked to depression. It involves dwelling on negative thoughts and memories. Excessive or chronic rumination is known to worsen depression as it feeds anger, bitterness, and feelings of powerlessness.

In the Vurb Wellness Program for Emotional Health and Growth, we encourage pursuing hobbies and teach several techniques or provide services to counter rumination, including these.

  • Self-hypnosis

  • Positive Neuroplasticity (recalling good memories for 10 minutes)

  • Mindfulness Meditation

  • Positive Distraction (call a friend or do your other go-to activities)

Here's where you can get either the book or audiobook of The Depression Cure.

You can find more information about the Vurb Wellness Program for Emotional Health and Growth by navigating this website or visiting or jumping right in and trying a 2-week trial of the program.

43 views0 comments


bottom of page