Depression is a serious mental health condition that affects an estimated 21 million adults in the US. Characterized by low mood, fatigue, physical pain, and lack of motivation, depression can have a significant impact on an individual’s life. Treatment for the condition typically comprises medication and therapy, two forms of care that are proven to improve depressive symptoms. Many people, though, look for ways of supplementing their treatment or using alternative approaches to managing a depressive disorder.
In this article, we’re going to cover several different natural techniques for coping with depression and how they can benefit you.
Conventional Treatment For Depression
In the 1960s, research demonstrated a link between an imbalance of certain neurotransmitters and depression. As a result, psychotropic drugs became a first-line treatment for depression. Psychotherapy is another approach that is widely utilized when treating depression. Mental health professionals can help participants navigate the mental, physical, and emotional effects of depressive disorders through various therapeutic modalities.
Natural Approaches To Depression Treatment
There are several reasons an individual may choose to pursue alternative treatments for depression. Some people experience adverse effects (e.g., gastrointestinal distress, headaches, fatigue) from antidepressants. Others may want to find coping strategies that can complement their current treatment. Additionally, as a result of the treatment gap that is thought to exist in mental health care, many people do not have the therapeutic resources. Regardless of the reason for an individual pursuing alternative treatments for depression, natural remedies can provide relief from many symptoms of this complex disorder.
It's important to note that you should always consult with a healthcare provider before starting or stopping a treatment plan for depression. A mental health or medical professional can help you determine whether an alternative approach to depression treatment is necessary and how it can be best implemented.
There are a variety of natural methods of treatment for depression. These holistic strategies range from supplements to physical activities to creative endeavors. Depending on your symptoms, lifestyle, and other factors, some of the following natural remedies for depression may work better than others.
Often, people with depression ruminate over the past and worry about the future, which can cause them to become stuck in a cycle of depressive thoughts. Practicing mindfulness techniques can help these individuals recognize such thought patterns, limit rumination, and reduce stress that may exacerbate symptoms of depression.
Mindfulness refers to an increased awareness of the present through enhanced focus on one’s thoughts, feelings, and surroundings. Studies show that mindfulness can lead to improvements in depressive symptoms and can specifically reduce rumination in individuals with depression. The increased attentiveness that mindfulness fosters can help individuals identify thoughts that may worsen depression symptoms.
To practice mindfulness, consider going for a mindfulness walk, in which you activate your five senses to fully immerse yourself in your surroundings. Take note of how you feel, both physically and emotionally, while also drawing your attention to your environment. If your mind begins ruminating, gently redirect your thoughts back to the sensations of the present moment.
There is evidence of a link between deep breathing and reduced depressive symptoms. Stress is often a major contributing factor to depression. Breathing exercises are an effective and convenient way of reducing the physical effects of stress—physical tension, rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, etc.—which can help you control your emotions and relax.
A common breathing exercise is box breathing. To start, take a deep breath in for a four count, hold your breath for a four count, breathe out for a four count, and then hold again for a four count. Repeat this process three to four times. Breathing exercises can be utilized almost anywhere, so they may be particularly helpful when you’re experiencing depression.
There is a substantial body of research pointing to exercise as an effective strategy for managing depression. Physical activity can boost your mood, reduce stress, and improve symptoms of physical health conditions that may partially contribute to depression. Exercise with the goal of reducing depression does not have to be strenuous. Low-impact exercises like tai chi have been shown to decrease symptoms of depression.
Acupuncture, which arose out of traditional Chinese medicine, has been connected to improvements in depressive symptoms. This practice involves sticking thin needles in one’s skin in efforts to promote the flow of energy in the body. Thought to promote emotional control, acupuncture can help an individual address the low mood that often accompanies depression. It can also help with physical pain, another common depressive symptom. Consulting with a healthcare provider may be particularly important prior to acupuncture as it is not recommended for people who are pregnant, have certain skin conditions, or may otherwise experience adverse effects.
Given the strength of the mind-body connection—the proven association between mental and physical health—ensuring you’re providing your body with important nutrients can be key to your ability to navigate depression. There is an abundance of evidence linking diet to depression; and recently, researchers discovered that depression often coincides with an imbalance of bacteria in the gut. Additionally, diet can contribute to certain diseases that may lead to depression.
To take advantage of the benefits of a balanced diet, consider cutting back on red meat, refined sugar (and other processed foods), and high-fat dairy products. The Mediterranean diet—which centers around the consumption of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, nuts, legumes, and lean meats—can help lower the odds of experiencing depression.
Herbal And Dietary Supplements
The results of numerous studies show that certain herbal treatments may improve depression symptoms. Again, always consult with a healthcare professional prior to using herbal supplements. Natural herbal supplements for depression include St. John's wort, lavender, chamomile, lemon balm, saffron, and a variety of other naturally occurring substances.
Natural dietary supplements for depression include folate, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids. Some of these, such as omega-3 fatty acids, may be best acquired by eating foods in a healthy and well-rounded diet. If taken under the care of a doctor, herbs and other supplements can be effective and safe natural remedies for depression.
Studies show that creative pursuits can improve depressive symptoms. There are even therapeutic modalities, such as art therapy, that take advantage of these benefits. Creativity can help you express feelings of sadness or loneliness in a healthy and unique way. Additionally, the satisfaction associated with completing a creative project may prompt increased production of dopamine, which can lead to feelings of well-being and contentment. Whether you’re interested in writing, painting, sculpting, playing music, cooking, or crafting, you can likely find a creative outlet as you work through depressive symptoms.
Education is often an important aspect of caring for your mental health. Books can help you understand how and why depression symptoms manifest and provide information about treatment options. There are numerous titles that are dedicated to addressing depression.
Some depression books are based on established therapeutic principles; for example, Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think uses ideas from cognitive behavioral therapy to explain how our thoughts can lead to maladaptive emotions and behaviors related to depression. Others provide information on natural treatments we’ve already discussed, such as The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness. You can find books on almost any depression-related treatment method or topic so that you’re learning information that is relevant to your symptoms.
Reading can be an especially effective way of learning about depression. Most public libraries have books on a variety of mental health topics, many of which can be loaned in eBook or audiobook formats. You can also often find affordable used books online or at discount stores.
Navigating Depression With Online Therapy
An increasingly large body of evidence points to online therapy as an effective form of care for depression. For example, in one study, researchers found that online therapy led to a “significant reduction in depressive symptoms”—results that were sustained for up to a year following treatment. The study also mentions the ability of online therapy to bridge the treatment gap in mental health (mentioned above), allowing for easier hold to care.
Online therapy is a convenient and flexible method of addressing depressive symptoms. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can connect with a licensed therapist remotely, which can be helpful if depression makes leaving home difficult. Online therapy is also an affordable option—BetterHelp subscriptions start at $65 per week (billed every 4 weeks), and you can cancel anytime.
What natural things can you take for depression?
Providing your body with essential nutrients can help you navigate symptoms of depression. There is evidence that diet is linked to depression and that an imbalance of gut bacteria may contribute to depression symptoms. Eating a balanced diet that includes lean meats, nuts, healthy fats, and legumes can lower the odds of depression.
Some studies also show that some herbal remedies, including St. John's wort, lavender, chamomile, lemon balm, and saffron, may be options for natural depression treatment. Supplements like vitamin D, folate, and omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can help, too. You should always check with your doctor before taking supplements to be sure you’re using them safely and effectively, as an improper dose can have health consequences.
What is the most natural antidepressant?
Everyone experiences depression differently, so there’s no single natural antidepressant that is effective for everyone. Some natural options that may be effective include practicing mindfulness, doing breathing exercises, getting enough sleep, exercising, getting acupuncture, ensuring you’re getting balanced nutrition, engaging in creative projects, reading books about your symptoms and treatment options, and taking herbal and dietary supplements under the guidance of your health care providers.
What vitamin is a natural antidepressant?
Research shows that there are several nutrients that can contribute to preventing depressive disorders, including vitamins A, B6, B12, and C. This research also determined that the most nutrient-dense foods that contained these and other nutrients that could prevent and promote recovery from depressive symptoms include bivalves, like mussels and oysters, various seafoods, organ meats, and plant-based foods like lettuces, leafy greens, peppers, and cruciferous vegetables.
What fruits are natural antidepressants?
In a recent study that assigned antidepressant depressant food scores, the fruits identified as having higher scores were pummelo, papaya, lemon, and strawberry.
What is a good drink for depression?
There are a few drinks that may be beneficial for people experiencing depression. One study found that having three cups of tea lowers the risk of depression by 37%. Another study found that coffee and caffeine consumption were significantly associated with lower risks of depression. Finally, a 2018 study found that drinking plain water is associated with lower risks of depression in adults.
What is the best remedy to avoid depression?
Some things that may be effective in avoiding depression include exercising, practicing mindfulness, breathing exercises, eating a balanced diet, and engaging in creative projects. Avoid alcohol and drug abuse. For some people, depression may still occur despite their best efforts. If you’re experiencing depression symptoms and natural remedies don’t seem to be working, talking to a therapist can help.
What is the best root for depression?
Several roots may be effective in easing depression symptoms. Rhodiola, a plant native to northern Europe and Russia, may increase the body’s resilience against stress, which can help with depression symptoms. Research shows that it is best taken as an extract. Another root that may be beneficial is a traditional South American plant called maca root. According to research done for the journal Menopause, maca root led to significant improvements in libido, mood, and energy in the small sample of patients who participated in the study.
What vitamin is depression a lack of?
Depression can be the result of multiple factors, including genetics, brain chemical imbalances, and environment, so a vitamin deficiency may not be the only factor. Research shows that vitamin D may be linked to depression symptoms, but researchers concluded that “the evidence is not strong enough to recommend universal supplementation in depression.” More research is needed. Another study found that supplementation with B12 can delay the onset of depression and improve the effectiveness of antidepressants. A marginal B6 deficiency can lead to depression symptoms, as can a folic acid deficiency. Talk to your doctor before taking supplements, as they can guide you to ensure you’re taking the right dose. Taking a dose that’s too high can have significant effects on your health or interact with other drugs and medications, which may require admission to or follow-ups with health treatment facilities.
What vitamins are good for stress and depression?
Research shows that there are several nutrients that can contribute to preventing depressive disorders, including vitamins A, B6, B12, and C. If you feel that your depression symptoms may be due to malnutrition or a vitamin deficiency, talk to your doctor about what supplements might be good for you.
How much B12 should I take daily for depression?
According to the National Institute of Health, the average daily recommended amount of B12 for an adult is 2.4 mcg. Talk to your doctor about whether you need a B12 supplement and what dose is right for you.
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