Natural Remedies For Depression

Updated December 22, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

In the 1960s, research demonstrated a link between an imbalance of certain neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) and depression. As a result, psychotropic drugs became a popular treatment for depression.

While they were effective, many people needed increasing dosage of these medications to achieve the same efficacy for treating depression symptoms. Also, the side effects and drug interactions make them difficult for some to tolerate. 

While medications for depression have improved greatly in effectively treating depression since the 1960s, they still have some of the same undesirable side effects. For those looking to circumvent therapeutic medications for a natural alternative for treating depression, recent breakthroughs in natural depression treatment have made depression management within reach.

Depression Can Be Treated Using Natural Remedies

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is a national institute funded by the government to explore natural alternatives to traditional methods of treatment for a wide variety of mental health conditions, including depression. From acupuncture to yoga to herbs and supplements, alternative methods to mental health treatments are growing in research and esteem.

Here are a few of the most common methods recommended by therapists to help treat symptoms of depression:

Creative Projects

Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard understood that creativity, anxiety, and depressive symptoms are closely linked. He believed that anxiety and depressive symptoms result from an endless supply of creativity. If you do not channel that creativity into a project or work assignment, you may become anxious and depressed.

Channeling your creativity into an art or writing project can ease this depression because it allows you to use the right hemisphere of your brain instead of the logical left hemisphere. Your left hemisphere may have beaten your problems to a pulp and decided that there are no good solutions, but your right hemisphere has a different perspective.

Allowing your right hemisphere to express itself through creative projects is a natural way to fight depression. Engaging in an art project promotes mindfulness, relieves tension, and more. A counselor trained in methods of complementary and integrative health can help you determine ways to effectively incorporate creativity into your daily routine as a natural depression remedy.

Mindfulness

Often, people with anxiety and depressive symptoms ruminate over the past and worry about the future, becoming mired down in a cycle of depressive thoughts and anxiety. Practicing mindfulness techniques can help quell the rumination, uncover anxious and depressive thoughts, and allow you to move past them in a cognitive way. 

Going for a mindfulness walk, in which you activate your five senses to fully immerse yourself in your surroundings, is a good way to begin cultivating mindfulness. Ideally, mindfulness will become a habit, and rumination will no longer be the default by which you experience thoughts and emotions. 

Meditation

Meditation and mindfulness often go together. During a meditative practice, you bring your attention to your breath while shutting out distractions. If the mind wanders to anxious rumination, the goal is to gently redirect your thoughts back to the sensations of the present moment. Researchers have discovered that meditation can also provide benefits for your physical health, such as lowering bodily inflammation, thereby lowering the risk of mental and physical disease.

Exercise

According to medical experts, 20 minutes of exercise per day can naturally reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. While aerobic exercise is beneficial for heart health, exercise with the goal of reducing anxiety and depression does not have to be heart-pounding and strenuous. In fact, tai chi, a low-impact series of movements that help energy flow more freely through the body, is shown to decrease symptoms of depression. Consult a doctor if you have other health conditions before starting an exercise routine.

Yoga And Acupuncture

These two painless therapeutic modalities naturally treat depression by helping energy flow more freely throughout the body. Preliminary studies have shown that yoga and acupuncture both calm the mind and nervous system, promoting a feeling of relaxation. A person with a relaxed mind is less likely to be depressed than a person with an anxious mind. In fact, yoga and acupuncture may both result in decreased symptoms of depression.

Nutrition

While Western medicine has been premised on the dualist belief that the mind and body are separate, doctors are now beginning to realize that the health of the body influences the mind and vice versa. Recently researchers have discovered that depression often coincides with an imbalance of bacteria in the intestinal microbiome.

This is why good nutrition may be a great way to treat depression naturally. A diet full of whole, unprocessed foods feeds the good bacteria in your intestines, strengthening them and promoting overall physical and mental well-being.

In addition to cultivating a healthy microbiome in the gut, certain foods can directly promote the synthesis of serotonin (the "feel good" chemical) in the brain. Carbs eaten without protein are particularly effective, as are turmeric, dark chocolate, green tea, fermented foods, cold water fish, folic acid, and fish oil. It is important to consult a professional for more research before making significant diet changes.

Herbs and Dietary Supplements

Strategic consumption of herbs and dietary supplements is another natural treatment for depression.

Natural herbal supplements for depression include St. John's Wort, lavender, chamomile, lemon balm, and saffron. While St. John’s Wort is helpful for some, and some doctors recommend it as an alternative treatment for anxiety and depression, it has not been proven to be effective in clinical trials. Because it can have drug interactions, you should always consult your physician before taking it. 

Natural dietary supplements for depression also include SAM-e (a synthetic mood-boosting agent), folate, zinc, theanine, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin B. Most of these, such as omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid, and several other active ingredients, are best acquired by eating foods in a healthy and well-rounded diet.

Be sure to talk to your healthcare professional for more research about any possible interactions between these herbs and supplements and your pharmaceutical medication. If taken under the care of a doctor, herbs and supplements are great natural remedies for depression and anxiety as alternative medicine for complementary and integrative health.

Mental Health Resources In The App Store

Another natural treatment for anxiety is technology. There are now many phone applications available to track your mood, send helpful relaxation tips, and help fight cognitive distortions. Depression CBT, Health through Breath, and MoodKit are just a few examples.

While some people believe that technology has contributed to feelings of depression and loneliness in higher doses because it limits face-to-face interactions, it can also be an active ingredient in the fight against depression for complementary and integrative health.

Self-Help Books About Mindset

Books about mindset for the general public are increasing in popularity as people discover that the written word has power over how we think.

In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dr. Carol Dweck teaches readers the difference between a growth and a fixed mindset. Dweck believes that developing a growth mindset, or the understanding that achievements and skills are never fixed is an important way to avoid depression.

In contrast, a person with a fixed mindset is likely to think that achievements and skills are set in stone. This mindset can lead to a feeling of inadequacy and depression. Cultivating a growth mindset and reading other books about the mind are powerful natural treatments for depression.

Depression Can Be Treated Using Natural Remedies

Takeaway

Many things may influence how our mind and body interact to produce symptoms of or alleviate disorders like depression. For instance, getting enough sleep, the active ingredients in the food that you eat, or the medications you’re currently taking. With so many factors influencing mental health, it can be important to find a therapist to determine which natural treatments are right for you. 

With the rise in online therapy through platforms like BetterHelp, it’s become easier to find affordable therapy on your schedule. And studies suggest that online therapy is as effective as in-person therapy for treating disorders like depression and anxiety. With BetterHelp, you can speak with a therapist any time via text, phone, online messaging, and video chat- all without the need to commute to a therapist’s office.

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