For many people living with depression, prescription drugs can be life-saving drugs. Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac (fluoxetine) and Zoloft (sertraline), are among the most widely prescribed medications for depression, and while they are often effective, they can have side effects and can be expensive depending on your health. insurance coverage.
There are many ways to combat some of the symptoms of depression that don’t involve prescription medications. If you have depression, you may want to try managing it naturally without medication or supplementing your antidepressant with another option. If so, check out these natural alternatives and then talk to your doctor about those that might make sense as part of your medication regimen.
This article discusses some natural treatments that can help fight depression including lifestyle changes and supplements. It also includes other strategies you might try such as practicing mindfulness or improving your home environment.
Get More Sleep
Sleep and mood go hand in hand. Get too little of the former and the latter will definitely be affected whether you are depressed or not. To support your emotional well-being, make sure you have what sleep experts call “good sleep hygiene.”
This means you maintain consistent bedtime and wake times, your bedroom is set up for deep sleep (dark, quiet, and tidy), you have a relaxing bedtime routine that doesn’t involve sitting in front of a screen, and so on. on.
Whether you can’t seem to sleep or can’t seem to stop sleeping, there are steps you can take to try to improve the quality of your sleep:
- Give yourself time to relax before bed; do something relaxing and avoid stressful tasks or thoughts.
- Go to bed at the same time every night, and set an alarm to wake you up at the same time every morning.
- Have a consistent bedtime routine.
- Turn off your device and try reading a book for a few minutes.
Also, try to spend a little time outside each day, even on days when you’re tempted to draw shadows and hide indoors. Light plays an important role in regulating sleep cycles and circadian rhythms, so a lack of sunlight can make it harder to sleep at night.
Coffee, tea, soda, and even chocolate are rich in caffeine. Consuming a reasonable amount of caffeine in the morning if you enjoy it is fine, but avoid it after the afternoon so as not to disturb sleep.
If you do tend to depend on caffeine, try cutting back gradually to avoid unpleasant caffeine withdrawal symptoms. When you’re craving a soda or a cup of coffee, try taking a short walk around the block.
Get More Vitamin D
There is some evidence that vitamin D deficiency may play a role in depression. If you’re not getting enough vitamin D through your diet and lifestyle (such as sun exposure), ask your doctor if you should try taking supplements.
Certain nutritional deficiencies can play a role in depressive symptoms. If you have trouble spending enough time outdoors or if overcast weather conditions make it difficult to get sunlight, supplements may be useful.
Try Natural Remedies
Some research suggests that there are natural antidepressants that can help reduce symptoms of depression. To treat mild to moderate depression, dietary supplements such as St. John’s Wort, S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e), and 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) might be worth a try.
Research has shown that St. John’s wort was more effective than placebo in relieving symptoms in those with mild to moderate depression.
Omega-3 fatty acids have also been investigated for their potential effects on depression. One 2015 study found that taking omega-3 supplements could help reduce symptoms of depression in both adults and children, although researchers aren’t entirely sure how or why.
While natural remedies can be good options for treating depression, you should always consult your healthcare provider before taking them. Just because they’re available without a prescription and touted as natural doesn’t mean they’re always safe.
In addition, research on some of these natural antidepressants remains inconclusive and some may cause unwanted side effects or drug interactions. For example, mixing St. John’s wort with SSRIs such as Prozac can cause a complication called serotonin syndrome. Also, SAM-e carries the risk of hypomania/mania in bipolar disorder.
Some herbs and other supplements can work as natural antidepressants, but that doesn’t mean that they’re safe and suitable for everyone or come without side effects. The effectiveness of these natural remedies is also not always clear, so always talk to your doctor first.
Tap Your Spirituality
Religion can be an impactful source of support for many people dealing with depression, but you don’t have to join a church, synagogue, or mosque unless you want to. Simple daily exercises such as meditation or adding to a list of things you are grateful for can help improve your mood and overall well-being.
Meditation can have various beneficial effects such as lowering stress levels and helping people become more aware of their thoughts and reactions.
Research shows that an intervention called mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), which combines elements of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with mindfulness meditation, can be helpful in treating depression and preventing future recurrence of symptoms.
Studies also show that different types of mindfulness meditation practices can also be effective in the treatment of depression.
There are many types of meditation, but you can start with a simple meditation practice with these steps:
- Sit comfortably.
- Close your eyes.
- Breathe naturally.
- Focus on how your body feels when you breathe.
- As your mind wanders, direct your attention back to your breathing.
Get More Practice
Exercising more doesn’t necessarily mean training for a marathon, but it does mean doing half an hour or more of low-intensity activity each day, which has been shown to be effective in improving mood and quality of life. Better yet, take it outdoors. Fresh air and sunshine are very healing for people who are dealing with a special form of depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
While studies have shown that regular physical activity can be effective in both the prevention and treatment of depression, it can be difficult to start an exercise habit when you are depressed. Lack of energy and a low mood may mean you feel too tired to get up and move.
Some things you can try to stick to your habit:
- Ask a friend. Ask your loved one to go for a walk with you or do some other form of exercise at least a few times a week. Having the support of a friend can not only help you get into a routine, but it can also help you maintain those social connections when you’re feeling down.
- Remind yourself of the benefits. Getting started is hard, but doing it is something that will help you feel better in the long run.
- Start small. Try walking for just a few minutes each day, then gradually increase your walking.
Alcohol itself is a depressant. Drinking can interfere with sleep, and quality sleep is key to fighting sadness. While alcohol may seem like a quick solution to how you feel, it can actually make many symptoms of depression feel a lot worse.
Not only that, but it can reduce barriers and potentially lead to risky behavior and bad decisions that can have long-term consequences.
If you are taking any antidepressants, you should not take them at all. Alcohol does not interact well with drugs.
If you have been abusing alcohol or other substances and need help quitting, talk to your doctor. You may also have an alcohol or substance use disorder. Withdrawal symptoms can temporarily worsen depression symptoms, so you may need extra help as you recover.
Eat ‘Good Mood’ Foods
What you eat can have a direct effect on how you think and feel. Make sure to eat a balanced diet rich in nutrients. A dietitian or dietitian can help you analyze your eating habits and pinpoint potential nutritional deficiencies that could lead to depression.
Some foods that may be especially beneficial when you are depressed include:
- Fish: Studies have found that people who eat a diet high in fish are less likely to have symptoms of depression. Fish is rich in omega-3 fats, which play a role in helping neurotransmitters such as serotonin work in the brain.
- Nuts: Nuts are also a good source of omega-3 fats and one study showed that people who ate walnuts were 26% less likely to develop symptoms of depression.
- Probiotics: Research is increasingly showing a link between gut and brain health. Foods high in probiotics include yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and kombucha.
Change Your Mind
Pollyanna-ish as it sounds, thinking good thoughts can help you feel good. Your thoughts actually have a direct influence on your mood. If you’re struggling with negativity, consider seeing a therapist to help you learn how to deal with it.
One of the most popular and effective treatments used in the treatment of depression is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This form of psychotherapy focuses on identifying negative thought patterns and then replacing them with more positive ones. There are different ways you can practice some of these ideas yourself.
Learn to Recognize Negative Thoughts
Sometimes these thoughts can be obvious, such as when you berate or criticize yourself. Other times, they can be more subtle. You may find yourself involved in things like disasters or all-or-nothing thinking.
Catastrophizing involves always anticipating a negative outcome. All-or-nothing thinking means that you think of things as success or failure with nothing in between. Once you get better at recognizing these cognitive patterns, you can start working on some healthier substitutes.
Reframing Your Mind
When you find yourself having negative thoughts, consciously reframe them in a positive way. For example, you could replace something like “This will never work” with something more positive like, “Here are some things I can try that will help me get started.” Shifting your focus to your strengths and abilities can help you maintain a more positive mindset.
CBT is an effective treatment for depression that focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns that contribute to feelings of depression. You can try this strategy yourself by becoming more aware of negative thoughts and turning them into more realistic and positive ones.
Coping with Stress
Stress can increase levels of a brain chemical called cortisol, which was found to be higher in people with depression. There are many strategies for dealing with stress, such as time management, meditation, and biofeedback training.
Some stress-relieving activities you may want to incorporate into your daily life include:
- Breathe deeply: A few minutes to slow your breathing and focus your attention on your body in the moment can help you deal with your worries better.
- Exercise: Regular physical activity is a great way to release energy.
- Progressive muscle relaxation: This process involves deliberately tightening muscles throughout the body, holding the tension for a count, and then releasing the tension until the muscles are completely relaxed. With regular practice, you may be able to learn how to purposefully relax your body fairly quickly whenever you feel tense.
Learning to manage your stress takes time and practice. Talk to your doctor or therapist about other strategies you might try to minimize stress and your response to it.
Add Greenery to Your Home or Office
You may also find it helpful to add indoor plants to your home or office environment. Natural regulation is associated with improved mental well-being, so it makes sense that “bringing in the great outdoors” could help elevate your mood.
Research has shown that adding indoor plants to your home or office can help in a number of ways, including:
- Improve the workplace: Research has shown that office space equipped with indoor plants increases worker concentration and workplace satisfaction.
- Reducing stress levels: Another study found that actively interacting with indoor plans by caring for them can reduce physiological and psychological stress.
- Reduce depression and anxiety: Research has found that students who spend most of their time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic have better mental health if they are exposed to more greenery. While about a third of the participants reported moderate depressive symptoms, those exposed to more greenery had lower rates of depression and anxiety.
Selecting certain plants can provide additional benefits. For example, research shows that the scent of lavender can help people feel calmer and more relaxed. No matter what type of plant you choose, greenery can be a great way to beautify your surroundings and potentially improve your mood.
Take Care of Your Social Life
When you’re depressed, there’s no reason to do it alone, and there are plenty of reasons to reach out to friends and family. Make plans with loved ones and stick to the date. Join a club or sign up for a group activity such as a local dodgeball league or French class.
Other things you might try:
- Join a support group. Talking to other people going through similar experiences and challenges can be informative and helpful.
- Schedule of activities. Having a routine can help when you are depressed. Create a daily schedule that includes spending time with other people. You’re more likely to stick with it if it’s a scheduled event.
- Volunteer. Joining a cause you care about is a great way to meet new people and expand your social circle.
The problem is that depression often causes people to withdraw, which only exacerbates feelings of isolation and loneliness. Even when you don’t feel like going out or socializing, try to reach out in whatever way is most convenient for you. Ask some of your closest loved ones who understand what you are going through.
Doing the things you normally do may not provide the same amount of pleasure when you’re depressed, but getting out of the house and spending time with people who care about you can help you feel better.
Try New Things
Depression often takes away your interest and motivation to explore new things. You may find it helpful to develop a list of things you might want to try, then work on them one at a time. You may have to force yourself to give it a try, and you may find that you don’t necessarily have the motivation to pursue new things beyond your initial efforts.
But over time, you may find something that sparks your interest or helps you feel more motivated. It’s not always easy, but consider making it a goal to try at least one new thing every week. This can help you fight boredom and give you something to look forward to.
Have a Daily Routine
The symptoms of depression can also make it difficult to stick to a schedule, but research shows that having a routine can be very important for mental health. Maintaining a routine can also help you maintain a sense of normalcy and stability when you are dealing with feelings of depression, stress, or anxiety.
On the other hand, not having a daily routine can increase feelings of stress and leave you feeling overwhelmed and unable to focus. So make a schedule that includes the basic things you need to get done as well as lots of self-care.
Listen Upbeat Music
There’s no doubt that music can affect how you feel, so choosing the right music when you’re feeling down may be an effective way to lift your mood.
Research has found people who are depressed may have a tendency to choose music that intensifies rumination, sadness, and emotion-focused coping. So, while you may be tempted to turn to sad tears when you’re feeling down, consider listening to more upbeat songs to lift your mood and inspire positive feelings.
Depression is a serious condition that can get worse over time if left untreated. There are a number of natural ways to combat feelings of depression if you don’t want to take prescription antidepressants. These strategies can also be helpful when used to complement treatments that may include psychotherapy and medication.
You should talk to your doctor or therapist to find the best approach to treating your depression. Many lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep can help improve your symptoms. Always talk to your healthcare provider before taking any supplements to treat depression, as these may have their own side effects or may interfere with or interact with other medications you may be taking.
A Word From The VigorTip
Always take the symptoms of depression seriously because depression doesn’t go away on its own. While there are many things you can do to support your mental health, don’t try to just treat your symptoms on your own. Talk to your doctor and discuss some self-help strategies that can support your treatment.