If you or someone you know is struggling with depression: know that you’re not alone. Depression is an extensive disorder that affects many parts of your life and can take on many forms, from seasonal depression to bipolar depression. For many people, the idea of taking charge of their mind and body through natural coping mechanisms and treatments is more empowering (and more appealing) than taking prescription medication. While every person is different and will inherently need different treatments,
several scientifically-backed natural depression treatments can make you feel better now and in the long-term.
This coping mechanism may come as no surprise, as regular exercise has been proven time and time again to benefit your physical and mental health. Clinical studies have even hailed exercise as an effective
treatment for depression. Enjoying moderate and even low-intensity activities most days a week has been shown to improve mood, boost energy, and improve one’s overall quality of life. Find what movement feels best for you, so you are more encouraged to stick with it day in and day out.
The foods we eat have a profound effect on our mood, energy, and cognition. In general, a diet that is well-balanced (contains proteins, healthy fats, and carbohydrates high in fiber) and rich in vitamins,
minerals, and other essential nutrients will do amazing things for your mind and body.
When it comes to what foods are best for treating depression, researchers have found that a Mediterranean diet—one that consists of fish, whole grains, olive oil, fruit, vegetables, and low-fat dairy—is associated with less risk of depression than a Western diet high in red and processed meat, refined grains, sugar, excessive dairy, and potatoes. In addition to being a well-rounded diet, the emphasis on fish in the Mediterranean diet could be why it’s associated with fewer symptoms of depression. Fish are high in omega-3s, which play an important role in the brain’s production and use of serotonin.
Good news, bad news. The good news is that drinking coffee has been associated with less risk of depression and suicide, likely due to the caffeine’s ability to modulate feel-good hormones such as dopamine and serotonin. But there is a curve. Moderate coffee drinkers (two to three cups per day) had the lowest risk of depression and suicide, while those heavy coffee drinkers (eight or more cups per day) had the highest risk.
Natural supplements are a fantastic way to ensure you are getting enough nutrients each day, plus certain ones can give your mind and body the extra boost they might need.
Prebiotics and Probiotics
More and more scientific studies are linking gut health to mental health, and this includes depression. With promising research suggesting that a more diverse gut microbiome can affect dopamine and serotonin production, decrease whole-body inflammation, and more.
Vitamin D deficiencies arise from not getting enough vitamin D through your diet or sun exposure. And it turns out, low levels of this vital nutrient have been associated with an increased risk of depression.
One of the reasons why a diet rich in healthy, fatty fish and high-quality olive oil has been linked to happiness is omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. While it’s not certain that omega-3s are a definitive treatment for depression, several studies have found that the effects of omega-3s in treating depressive symptoms were similar to the effect of antidepressants. If you are not getting enough of these fatty acids from seafood, nuts, and seeds, then taking an omega-3 supplement is worth the shot.
Getting a good night’s sleep is vital for overall health, mood, and well-being. So while the relationship between sleep and depression is complex, it is important to note that too little sleep can worsen depression. If you are having trouble getting a good night’s sleep, setting consistent, calming bedtime routines can help you get some better shut-eye by allowing your mind and body time to unwind.
More Time in Nature
Immersing yourself in nature (whatever that looks like for you), such as going for a walk or hike, trailing the beach, or looking up at the night sky, encourages you to relax, let go of stress and worry, and feel a part of something big and grand. More and more research finds that these moments in nature have profound benefits on our mental health, cognition and can even decrease depressive symptoms.
There is a strong correlation between stress and depression, from stressful, traumatic life events to minor, everyday stressors that accumulate over time. Learning how to best manage stress and keep cortisol levels
successfully managed benefits your mental, emotional, and physical health. There are countless strategies for coping with stress: breathing exercises, mindfulness, yoga, exercise, meditation, time management, and social activities as just some of the best ways to cope with stress.
Find Meaning, Set Goals
For many people with depression, feeling unmotivated is a normal response. But implementing small ways each day to find meaning and set goals can help get you out of a depressive state by finding meaning and purpose to something larger than yourself. This can be tiny bits of mindfulness each day or doing something kind for others. And though you may feel unmotivated, finding workable, realistic, measurable goals can give you something to work for and feel a sense of accomplishment that there is work being done.