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How to Use Physical Exercise and Acupressure to Address Chronic Depression

Don't Overlook the Importance of Being Physically Active

If you do a search through the archive of published studies at the National Library of Medicine, you'll find numerous studies that indicate that getting regular physical exercise is more effective than taking medication when looking to address chronic depression.

The best type of exercise for addressing depression appears to be aerobic exercise, where you increase your heart and breathing rates for 20 or more minutes at a time. Breaking a sweat is a good indication of having exercised enough to positively affect your mood-regulating hormones.

I encourage you to find a sport or form of exercise that you can have a lot of fun with. Try a variety of activities like tennis, baseball, soccer, ping pong, basketball, and volleyball, and don't give up until you find at least one sport that you really like. Once you find your sport, it should be a cinch to exercise regularly.

Acupressure Points for Addressing Chronic Depression

Upon receiving approval from your primary health care provider, consider applying manual pressure to the following acupuncture points that I have found to be especially effective for people suffering with chronic depression:

  1. Kidney 27 (KI-27)

    KI-27 is located just off the edge of the top of your sternum, in the slight indentation that exists between the lower border of your collarbone and your first rib. A diagram that shows how to apply pressure to KI-27 can be found on page 79 of Acupressure's Potent Points: a Guide to Self-Care for Common Ailments, a book that I highly recommend for people interested in optimal self health care.

    For those with knowledge of human anatomy: application of pressure to KI-27 results in stimulation of branches of the facial nerve, first intercostal nerve, medial supraclavicular nerves, lateral and medial pectoral nerves, and the subclavian nerve. Branches of the internal thoracic artery and tributaries of the internal thoracic vein are also in the vicinity of KI-27.

  2. Lung 1 (LU-1)

    LU-1 is located in the upper and outer corner of your chest, about four finger widths up from the front of your armpit crease and about one finger width inward from your armpit crease. A diagram that shows how to apply pressure to LU-1 can be found on page 79 of Acupressure's Potent Points

    For those with knowledge of human anatomy: application of pressure to LU-1 results in stimulation of branches of the first intercostal nerve and supraclavicular nerves, medial and lateral pectoral nerves, cephalic vein, branches of the thoracoacromial artery, the axillary artery, and companion veins.

  3. Gall Bladder 20 (GB-20):

    GB-20 is located behind your head, in the first major depression that you can feel below the base of your skull, about two finger widths away from the midline of your neck. A diagram that shows how to apply pressure to GB-20 can be found on page 62 of Acupressure's Potent Points

    For those with knowledge of human anatomy: This point is at the junction of the occipital and nuchal regions, in a depression that lies between the origins of the sternocleidomastoid and trapezius muscles. It is approximately at the level of the lower margin of the external occipital protuberance.

    Application of pressure to GB-20 results in stimulation of the greater occipital nerve, the lesser occipital nerve, the suboccipital nerve (C1), and motor fibers from dorsal rami of upper cervical nerves. Branches of the occipital artery and companion vein are also in the vicinity.

  4. Conception Vessel 17 (CV-17)

    CV-17 is located in the center of your sternum, about three finger widths up from the bottom edge of your sternum. A diagram that shows how to apply pressure to CV-17 can be found on page 80 of Acupressure's Potent Points, although I generally recommend applying pressure to CV-17 while you are lying down as opposed to sitting, as the lady is in the referenced diagram.

    For those with knowledge of human anatomy: Application of pressure to CV-17 results in stimulation of branches of the fourth intercostal nerve, perforating branches of the internal thoracic artery, and perforating tributaries of the internal thoracic vein.

Once you have received permission from your primary care provider, you can use your fingers and/or thumbs to massage the points listed above on one or both sides of your body for a few minutes, up to two times a day. For optimal results, massage these points on both sides of your body during each session.

When you correctly locate these points, you should feel some tenderness when you apply pressure to them. Apply enough pressure/massage to create a mild, dull, and possibly achy sensation.

Please note: you should never receive acupressure or acupuncture treatments while pregnant. Certain points, including SP-6 can cause uterine contractions. In fact, massaging SP-6 is a natural method of inducing labor when desired.

Also, acupressure should never be applied to legs that have varicose veins. Applying pressure or massage to varicose veins can potentially lead to a pulmonary embolism.


That brings us to the end of this five-part series on understanding and overcoming chronic depression. If you know someone who can make use of this series, I encourage you to pass it on via e-mail or in print form. Please remember: depression is normal and helpful to our lives. Chronic depression is not.

If you find this site to be helpful and would like to support the effort that it takes to produce and share articles like this one, please visit: How to Support This Site

Part 1: Understanding and Overcoming Chronic Depression
Part 2: How Do You Know That You Are Depressed?
Part 3: Nutritional Considerations for Chronic Depression
Part 4: Mind-Body Exercises to Help You Transcend Chronic Depression
Part 5: How to Use Physical Exercise and Acupressure to Address Chronic Depression


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I was happy to see that you chose to address the question of depression. I was highly disappointed, however, to see that you don’t differentiate between depressions that are caused by circumstances and clinical depressions that may have no relationship to life events.

I have bipolar disorder and suffer regularly with incapacitating episodes of depression. Before I was diagnosed, I also assumed that my depression must be due to external circumstances. I thought if I could affect a change, the depression would go away. This was not the case. The more I tried to “fix” things the worse they got. I actually created problems where there were none. As time went on, my depressions became intolerable. I was so often suicidal that it is nothing short of a miracle that I am still alive. It was only when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder (manic depression) that I began to understand the nature of the beast. Although the stress of “having a fight with a loved one, not having a loved one, losing a loved one, losing a large amount of money, hating the way you look, not getting a job that you really want, feeling like you are useless, or any other painful experience that is common to the human experience”, as you put it, can indeed trigger a depressive episode, often my mood comes out of nowhere. I can actually be depressed when everything is going great. I go to bed feeling just fine, and wake up in the morning wondering why I should go on living. It was only when I received properly adjusted medication and cognitive therapy that things began to improve. Now, with medical treatment, my depressions come less frequently, don’t last as long and are not as severe as before. Through the years I have tried many alternative treatments, including many of the ones you suggested. While they may be helpful and for mild depression, they were not able to significantly improve my situation. Please, please tell your readers that if they are chronically depressed, they should see a doctor and/or therapist immediately to determine the nature of their depression and get the treatment they need.

Donna's post is an important one, as I have met others through my work who strongly feel that their depressive episodes come "out of nowhere."

While I am happy for anyone, including Donna, who can benefit from receiving cognitive behavioral therapy, other "conventional" treatments for depression, and being diagnosed with labels like bipolar disorder, I continue to encourage everyone who suffers with chronic depression to consider all of the suggestions in this series, and to never stop striving to search for root causes of their depressive episodes.

While I am fully aware that depressive episodes can <strong>seemingly</strong> come out of nowhere, I think it is self-limiting and incorrect thinking to believe that there are no root causes of such episodes.

To attribute depressive episodes to mere words that humans have invented, namely diagnoses like "bipolar disorder," rather than to attribute them to thoughts, feelings, foods, chemicals, and other potential causes of significant emotional/nervous system disruption is not the right path to one's best health, in my opinion.

I have to agree with both Donna and Dr. Kim.

My experience is almost like Donna's. I have been helped by medication. I'm not an expert but, I believe bipolar is caused by severe traumatic experience or stress, which splits the mind in two, so, forever more, a person slips back and forth, back and forth, on the tightrope. It can strike anytime and ruin any life experience. I don't know how to bring the mind back together except medication.

Yes, I have been helped by learning to look at things a different way. Counseling helps. Diet is most important for me. I really feel unable to cope if I eat things like sugary sweets and white flour. I am going to try some of Dr. Kim's ideas.

I have many fears about my future with this. One thought that helps me is: "If I feel that bad - something is wrong with the way I am thinking."

I agree completely with Dr Kim. It is impossible for depression to come out of no where. There simply has to be a cause and it is worth making a concerted effort to find this cause and eliminate it.

Hi Dr Kim

I often appreciate your style of writing and the honesty with which you come across.

When I first saw a 5-part series in depression I was wondering how much you were going to charge for this. And wow you very graciously offered this for free - I am guessing because there is important information that you would like to get across.

So thank you for your generosity and for all that you offer in your newsletters and other.

All the best with your family!


I am so pleased to see someone in the medical establishment reject the label of "bipolar disorder." After 20 some years of taking every pill that ever came down the pike, I told my psychiatrist that none of them were working and that to continue taking them was pointless. It was only after those medications cleared rom my system that I was able to face and to deal with the root causes of my moods, which is an ongoing process.

The fact is that we create our own reality. Now, while one does not and cannot have control over every aspect of life, one can have control over one's REACTIONS to circumstances. My focus lately has been to stop rejecting my own state of Bliss simply because my life is somehow imperfect, or because things are not "as they should be." The idea that I am powerless to retain my Bliss because any number of things may happen which are external to me is false. I HAVE the power.

Furthermore, the idea that "mania" is an emotion that is harmful and should be avoided is false. I am convinced that the euphoric joy I felt that was labled "mania" was actually a glimpse of the way we are designed to feel, every moment of every day. I am working toward recreating this feeling of Bliss in my every day life. Our job is to follow our passion, and to do that which brings us joy and happiness! The blissful state I experienced in "mania" is no longer something I fear or avoid, and look forward to it and experience it regularly.

Thank you Dr. Kim for having the courage to speak out against mainstream thought on this topic.

Just wanted to add my own experience in case it helps someone. I am 28 and had depression for about 6 years along with an anxiety disorder and panic attacks. I still suffer from a type of social anxiety but am incredibly free from the general anxiety and depression. One big lesson has been that everything is connected -- spiritual, mental, physical etc. I discovered I had to work on each aspect for healing, although physical health was by far the greatest factor. My depression left me at the same time that I underwent my first ever major cleanse four years ago. It was for a candida condition. In conjunction with the new candida diet, I also excercised regularly. I had previously NOT been overweight, but appeared healthy and active. I also ate exceptionally well, by most appearances but only I knew the overload of sugary food I ate in addition to the healthy salads others saw me eat for lunch etc. As the social anxiety problem remains I am slowing eroding it away with CBT and my spiritual development in my Christianity. Although I have lapsed from an ideal diet since, I don't have the build up that was in my system and don't eat as badly as I did before the cleanse. I also periodically cleanse by very basic and short fasts helped by a great detox tea in the mornings

I'm twenty-seven. I've been dealing with "depression" for 15 years now. I didn't have health insurance growing up, and my parents paid several thousand dollars out-of-pocket to take me to specialists who (suprise!) didn't prescribe me any meds. But they just brushed me off and thought I was a moody teenager. I'm sorry, but normal moody teenagers don't weigh 100 pounds at 5 foot 7 stature and sleep all the time. Nor do they try mutilate themselves or try to kill themselves.

I barely lived throughout jr. high and high school. I was dead in many ways. I barely graduated high school. I had no plans, intentions or cares about the future. Didn't apply to college, didn't have a job, didn't even have a driver's license, and didn't care. I feel like a HUGE part of my life was taken from me that I will never be able to get back.

Was I depressed? Was it circumstantial? Why did it persist so severely and so long? Was it my fault?

When I was eighteen and done with high school my parents, fed up with me, told me I had to leave the house. (Not move, just get OUT.) I had to get a license. I had to get a full time job. The first place my mom took me to get me going was a regular primary doctor. Then the "Prozac Nation" phenomenon occurred: a five-minute interview followed by an Rx for Paxil.

It changed my life.

I loved my family again; my family loved me again! I loved myself again! I could function. I could get up out of bed and live. I got a full time job, I got my driver's license, and I even got something more incredible: solid continuing friendships that weren't disrupted or destroyed by the mental and physical bottoming-out that used to routinely occur.

I have been on antidepressants ever since. Different strengths and brands, for fifteen years now. When I was twenty-four I even pursued by my own choice intense psychotherapy twice a week for two years with periodic hypnotherapy. I have wanted, so badly, to be able to live without medication. I am embarrassed and ashamed I rely on it. I have tried several times to go ever so very slowly and carefully off these drugs but the longest successful span of time without falling into that dark place in my mind again was 5 months.

That's why when I came to this article I was so hopeful and at the same time so heartbroken.

My sympathy is with you. I was also suffering from depression. But with the help of my family and friends i overcame it. Now i am totally fine.