(Peer reviewed and published in the BMJ).
Never having engaged with anti-depressant medication, electro convulsive therapy or exercise, I shall continue to recommend the Reverend Sydney Smith's advice to Lady Georgiana Morpeth dated 16 February, 1820.
To my knowledge it has never been bettered as a counter to low spirits.
Nobody has suffered more from low spirits than I have—so I feel for you. Here are my prescriptions.
1stLive as well as you dare.
2ndGo into the shower-bath with a small quantity of water at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation of cold.
4thShort views of human life—not further than dinner or tea.
5thBe as busy as you can.
6thSee as much as you can of those friends who respect and like you.
7thAnd of those acquaintances who amuse you.
8thMake no secret of low spirits to your friends, but talk of them freely—they are always worse for dignified concealment.
9thAttend to the effects tea and coffee produce upon you.
10thCompare your lot with that of other people.
11thDon't expect too much from human life—a sorry business at the best.
12thAvoid poetry, dramatic representations (except comedy), music, serious novels, melancholy sentimental people, and every thing likely to excite feeling or emotion not ending in active benevolence.
13thDo good, and endeavour to please everybody of every degree.
14thBe as much as you can in the open air without fatigue.
15thMake the room where you commonly sit, gay and pleasant.
16thStruggle by little and little against idleness.
17thDon't be too severe upon yourself, or underrate yourself, but do yourself justice.
18thKeep good blazing fires.
19thBe firm and constant in the exercise of rational religion.
20thBelieve me, dear Georgiana, your devoted servant, Sydney Smith