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with Jessica Loftus, Ph.D. & Jack Murray

Drive Down Depression with Dancing, Dogs and Dining

Boost your mood with natural remedies for reducing depression. Before starting on psychotropic medications, which costly and risky, try these ideas. If medications are necessary to treat your depression, these solutions may offer additional relief.


As a clinical psychologist in private practice, I see many clients who struggle with depression. Not surprisingly, many hold fears about antidepressants (some rational, some not). If my clients can function at work, take care of personal essentials, and pose minimal risk of harm, I typically urge them to try these natural remedies first.


Plenty of research supports that exercise helps to reduce depression. However, the frequent client response to this idea is, “Seriously, if I had the energy to exercise, do you think I would be coming to you for counseling?” After congratulating their wit with a hearty touche’, I gently suggest that exercise does not need to be the grueling, boring session on the treadmill or stair climber. Then I ask, when you were younger, what forms of movement did you genuinely enjoy? Often, a client tells me that s(he) liked to dance. At this point, I offer this spiel.

Dancing can minimize depression in several ways. However, getting motivated is the real trick. A good starting point is to find music that inspires you to dance. If you can’t think of anything, here’s a vintage classic-rock ditty on the benefits of dancing – Okay, I admit that I’m dating myself, but it still has popularity on YouTube. If that’s not your thing, find a song you like, preferably one that lifts your spirits with a lively beat. Just listen to the song a time or two.

On the following day, listen to the song, and try this adaptation of the time-honored CBT 5-minute rule. Then, move your feet to the beat for the length of the song (usually less than five minutes). If that seems too much, go as long as you can. On the next day, try it again with a new favorite song. Keep at it until you get into dancing. That’s how you get motivated – by doing.


One of the themes of this blog is how pets reduce stress. Of course, pets can reduce depression too. Perhaps the most powerful bad-mood busting effect of dogs is their uncanny ability to make their owners smile or laugh – even when they are naughty. If you’re not up for owning a pet, visit your local dog park and watch a little canine interaction. A trip to the local shelter to view the latest puppy litter is a natural mood enhancer. Or, start hanging out with a friend who has a dog. In no time, little Fido will have you grinning, and maybe even running to play catch. Click here to read one dog’s perspective on laughter.


Tricked you – this was my sneaky way of saying “diet”. Although there is no question that food affects your mood, how you enjoy your food can enhance it even more.

Eat the Right Stuff

All the latest buzz is about gut health and depression. Here are some helpful ideas on how to achieve optimal gut bacteria levels. Find the foods that you most like and start integrating those into your daily dining experiences.

Savor Your Food

It’s so easy to shovel those cookies and tortilla chips in your mouth without even noticing what you ate. Slow down. If you love chocolate, try this. First, grab a piece of plain dark chocolate. Then study the color, the texture, the ridges and the shape. Savor its heavenly aroma. Afterward, break the piece into a bite-sized chunk. Then, place in your mouth, and slowly allow it to melt into your mouth. Finally, note the texture as you allow yourself to indulge in this delicious, decadent flavor.

Indulge in a Fine Dining Experience

Few life pleasures rate higher than a sumptuous meal – either at home or a fine dining establishment. For those on a tight budget, you may need to save up for your dining event. First, find a worthy dining companion who can add fun to the event. If not, go it alone – it’s truly not that scary. Then, make reservations at a time when the restaurant is less busy so you will not be pressured or hurried. Inform the server that you will offer a more generous tip if s(he) allows you to dine leisurely. Finally, splurge with your favorite foods and enjoy.

Try these ideas for one month. Hopefully, you will see at least a small improvement in your mood. At the very least, you can report to your mental-health professionals that you tried these remedies.


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Drive Down Depression with Dancing, Dogs and Dining

Jessica Loftus

Jessica Loftus has worked as a licensed clinical psychologist and national certified career counselor for more than 20 years. She currently offers counseling sessions via telehealth in Illinois. Her website,, outlines steps for making a career decision. details. See her retired blog, "Pet Ways to Ease Stress,"

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APA Reference
Loftus, J. (2019). Drive Down Depression with Dancing, Dogs and Dining. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Aug 2019
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