8 Lifestyle Interventions for Major Depression

A recent research synthesis reviews the data on how various lifestyle interventions affect depression, with recommendations for how to best integrate them into treatment.

Grant H Brenner
7 min readJan 30



  • Lifestyle-related modifications can contribute to clinical depression, both making depression work or helping to prevent or alleviate symptoms.
  • There is a lot of advice regarding lifestyle factors, but the evidence-base is surprisingly limited, making decision-making challenging.
  • Some factors have stronger data, including physical activity/exercise, work-related factors, sleep, mindfulness-based/relaxation, among others.
  • At the end of the day, current lifestyle planning for depression is evidence-informed and personalized due to low overall causal research.

By Grant H. Brenner

We know that lifestyle changes are key to ensuring long-term health and well-being, positively impacting mental and physical health and the synergy between them when included in a comprehensive, individualized treatment plan. It can be hard to separate the signal from the noise when it comes to focusing time and energy on lifestyle-based changes given the explosion of variably-reliable information on the web.

Assessing the Evidence for Lifestyle Investment

Researchers Marx et al., in The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry (2023), compiled the relevant literature on lifestyle and MDD. They reviewed thousands of articles and grading the evidence into Strong (“Should”), Limited (“Could”), Low (“May”) and No evidence. Eight core lifestyle factors associated with potential MDD relief were identified. Notably, none had a “Strong” evidence-base, making “Limited” best-in-class.

Source: Marx et al., 2023, Open Access

1. Physical activity and exercise interventions (Limited)



Grant H Brenner

Psychiatrist, Psychoanalyst, Entrepreneur, Writer, Speaker, Disaster Responder, Advocate, Photographer