Together, many small lifestyle changes can add up to a significant reduction in chronic pain and depression. This article describes 12 holistic changes people can make. Items 1 to 5 are available here; items 6 to 12 are listed below.
- Eat Mediterranean. Consuming a healthy diet can improve mental and physical health. While there are many variables that influence dietary outcomes, some research indicates that the Cretan Mediterranean Diet improves cognitive outcomes, including lower rates of depression, in healthy older adults. This diet consists of vegetables, fruits, olive oil, legumes, fish, whole grain cereals, nuts and seeds; moderate red wine, and low consumption of processed foods, dairy products, red meat and vegetable oils.1
- Sleep in. Getting sufficient sleep.2 Most adults need 7 to 8 hours and people who suffer from chronic pain may need a bit more. Of course, getting sufficient restorative sleep while coping with chronic pain can be challenging, making it more important to learn about, develop and maintain sleep hygiene methods.
- Find support. Spending time with loved ones.3 Regular time with supportive friends and family gives an individual something to look forward to when pain is severe or mood levels are low.
- Manage stress. Avoiding excessive stress, especially chronic stress.4 Of course, all stress cannot be avoided. Small projects that bring on temporary stress are preferable to massive undertakings that bring on long-term, chronic stress.
- Spiritual engagement. Prayer, meditation, or spiritual study seems too boost mood and sense of well-being.5,6
- Give to others. Volunteering to help others, especially regularly over time.7 Taking on a “giving” role can change self-perceptions and boost mood levels.
- Avoid negativity on TV. People who suffer from chronic arthritis pain and depression may want to steer clear of TV shows and other media with negative themes. In one study, experts interviewed many older adults who reported that watching TV shows with negative themes contributed to a deteriorated mood.8
While each of these holistic life changes may seem minor, the can make discernable differences in everyday life, especially when used together. For example, people who have active social calendars, exercise, eat healthful diets, get sufficient sleep, and are regularly engaged in something uplifting—such as bird-watching, painting, listening to music, or taking virtual tours of art galleries—will typically report less pain and depression than people who are isolated, neglect their health, and do not participate in activities that bring them joy.
In addition to making holistic life changes, people who experience chronic arthritis pain and depression are encouraged to seek medical treatments for both the pain and depression.