You have a freedom to speak. The freedom to live. The freedom to be your true self. Do it now.
Get connected. Depression can be socially isolating but making a strong effort to socially engage is brain- and mood-boosting on many levels. Taking a dance class, attending a spiritual gathering, or volunteering helps to engage parts of the brain that are vital for brain fitness. Even Skyping with a far-away grandchild can help kick the brain into gear and offer long-lasting cheer.
Nancy Schimelpfening, MS is the administrator for the non-profit depression support group Depression Sanctuary. Nancy has a lifetime of experience with depression, experiencing firsthand how devastating this illness can be.
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For many people living with depression, prescription medications can be life-saving drugs. Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac (fluoxetine) and Zoloft (sertraline), are the most widely prescribed medication for depression, and while they are often effective, they can have side effects and be expensive depending on your health insurance coverage.
There are many ways to counter some of the symptoms of depression that don’t involve prescription medications. If you have depression, you might like to try managing it naturally without medication or supplement your antidepressant with other options. If so, check out these natural alternatives and then talk to your doctor about which might make sense as part of your treatment regimen.
This article discusses some natural treatments that may help fight depression including lifestyle changes and supplements. It also covers other strategies you might try such as practicing mindfulness or enhancing your home environment.
Some research suggests that there are natural antidepressants that may be helpful for reducing symptoms of depression. For treating mild to moderate depression, dietary supplements such as St. John’s Wort, S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e), and 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) may be worth a try.
Omega-3 fatty acids have also been investigated for their potential impact on depression. One 2015 study found that taking omega-3 supplements may help reduce symptoms of depression in both adults and children, although researchers are not entirely sure how or why.
While natural remedies can be good options for depression treatment, you should always consult your healthcare provider before taking them. Just because they’re available without a prescription and are touted as natural doesn’t mean they’re always safe.
Additionally, 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 an SSRI such as Prozac can lead to a complication called serotonin syndrome. Also, SAM-e carries a risk for hypomania/mania in bipolar disorder.
Some herbs and other supplements may work as natural antidepressants, but that does not mean that they are safe and appropriate 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.
Being depressed is painful and debilitating. An estimated 10 percent of adults in the United States suffer from symptoms of depression each year, resulting in family strife, loss of work productivity, and misery for the person affected by the condition and those around them.
While getting professional medical help for depression is always a good idea, especially if the condition is severe, there are also many non-medical solutions a person can take on their own to reduce symptoms of depression. Many therapists and doctors advise that depressed patients take steps like these, along with counseling and medication.
Many scientific studies on depression find that exercise is as useful for relieving mild to moderate depression as medication. Exercise has multiple positive benefits beyond helping with depression symptoms such as improved cardiovascular health, weight loss, and reduced risk for developing many chronic diseases.
It can be quite challenging to exercise when feeling depressed, so it is best to start small and do something enjoyable. Taking a short walk each day, doing ten minutes of calisthenics at home, or putting on some music and dancing are all suitable types of exercise for reducing depression.
When someone is depressed, they often engage in negative thinking. Thoughts such as, “I’m a failure,” “No one likes me,” or “I’ll always feel this way,” are common in a depressed person’s mind. Negative thoughts like these become an unconscious habit, reinforcing the feeling of depression.
A simple solution is challenging negative thoughts with positive thinking. For example, a challenge to the idea “I’ll always feel this way.” might be, “How do I know that?” or by thinking of a time when you did feel differently about life.
When a person is depressed, they often tend to eat poorly. Sugary, salty, and high-fat junk food can bring a temporary feeling of comfort, but ultimately these foods cause spikes in blood sugar, weight gain, and bring on bad moods.
The solution is finding wholesome foods you like, making sure you have plenty on hand, and eating these foods every day. Fresh fruit, salads, lean meats, oily fish such as salmon, and whole-grain bread are all good options, as long as you do not have a food allergy or another adverse reaction to the food.
Both depression and anxiety can contribute to insomnia, which could include difficulty falling and staying asleep. Making changes in your routine may help with getting a more restful sleep throughout the night.
When a person is depressed, they often get into a routine that reinforces the symptoms of depression. For example, a depressed person may get up, go to work, come home, watch the same shows on TV each night, and then binge on unhealthy foods before going to bed. A schedule like this can keep a person feeling bad about themselves.
Making a change in routine does not need to be complicated. For example, instead of heading straight for the TV after getting home from work, commit to taking a short walk first. Instead of having an unhealthy dinner, make a small effort to eat a more healthy meal.
Changing routines can help to rewire the pathways of dopamine in the brain, an important brain chemical linked to feelings of happiness. The changes in routine do not need to be large to have a positive effect.
For some depressed people, the problem is not having enough of a routine and structure to their day. In this case, establishing a more structured routine can be of benefit in alleviating the symptoms of depression.
Building a healthy new routine can be simple. For example, simply getting up and getting dressed in the morning rather than lounging around in pajamas is a small, but potentially significant change to daily habits.
Other ideas are calling friend each day, taking a short walk, writing in a journal, or spending half an hour listening to pleasurable music. Establishing new habits and routines also increases dopamine levels, which can reduce feelings of depression.
Laughing is another method for increasing dopamine in the brain. Sitting down and watching comedy shows or movies, reading jokes, laughing with others, or merely thinking about amusing things that result in laughter can all boost dopamine levels and help with symptoms of depression.
There is a strong tendency when we are depressed to become self-absorbed. Our problems loom large in our minds, adding to the feeling of being overwhelmed. A simple solution is to do something helpful for another person or to take care of a pet animal.
Calling a friend to ask how they are doing, volunteering at a local charity, helping a neighbor with yard work, or adopting a pet are only a few examples. When we help others, it raises our self-esteem, and we also get our minds off of our troubles. Any reprieve from depressed feelings can assist in improving positive thinking and elevating mood.