Therapy and medication have a great effect on the treatment of depression. There are also other steps sufferers can take, and lifestyle changes they can make, that can help them manage the condition. Firstly, depressed people should try to get outside regularly. Regular exposure to sunlight, for thirty minutes a day, either outside or through a special light box, has a positive effect on the mood. A regular walk, daily or a few times a week, whether in the countryside, round the block or as far as the shops, helps work through stress, speeds up the heart rate, and releases endorphins into the system that also lift the mood.

A regular bedtime, with a good night's sleep, has a similar positive effect. Don't be tempted to stay up late at night brooding. Instead, concentrate on resting mind and body. Build up a calm bedtime routine, switching off the television and ending all work-type activities. Take a warm bath or read a good book, and always go to bed at the same time. Do not be tempted to drink alcohol, or anything containing caffeine, at bedtime. These can make rest a lot more difficult - especially alcohol, which is itself a depressant and should be avoided by depressed people as much as possible.

Depressed people need to feed their bodies and minds in a positive way. This is most obvious when it comes to the need for a balanced diet. Lack of vitamins and minerals can cause depression, so taking a multi-vitamin supplement can help. It is important not to eat too much fast food or processed food, which can actually contribute to depression if eaten regularly because of the tired and lethargic moods they create. Instead, while allowing yourself a few treats, make healthy choices: fruit, vegetables, fish, meat that is free-range if possible, and wholegrains, which can all help to lift the mood. It can be helpful to plan and cook meals for yourself, because this gives a sense of achievement. For mild to moderate depression natural remedies like St John's Wort can be helpful, but they should never be seen as an alternative to prescribed antidepressants.

But what depressed people allow into their minds is just as important. Methods like cognitive behavioural therapy help fight the classic tendency of depression to dwell on the worst memories of the past and invent the worst fears for the future on the basis of these. The thoughts and conversations of depressed people need to be as positive as possible. Aim to socialise and not to be alone too much, but be sure that the people you are meeting are optimistic and cheerful, and will make you feel positive about yourself. Make a conscious effort to read books or magazines that make you laugh, to watch comedies or comic films. Humour, too, can help us cope with depression.

Time management, meditation, massage, are all examples of methods to help control stress levels. Aim to spend time every day doing something you enjoy; if you have no such thing, take up a hobby you have wanted to try for a long time. Write down your problems to help them seem more manageable; write letters to those who have hurt or betrayed you in the past, and then destroy the letters; make lists of your best qualities, and the most important things in your life. You know your own mood: when you feel it beginning to go down, seek help either from your doctor or a relative or friend. Helplines such as the Samaritans are also there for you.

Don't allow yourself to be made to feel guilty or inadequate for being the person you are. You are as good as anyone else, and not defined in any way by depression. It is a fact of life that nobody is perfect, including self-appointed critics, and that we cannot please everyone. Depression is not a sign of weakness, but a challenge many strong and good people have to face. It is also transient: the 'black hole' you are in now is actually a tunnel, from which you will emerge able to function and feel positive again.