What Are The Natural Remedies For Depression?

Medically reviewed by April Justice
Updated February 28, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Everyone feels sad every now and again. Usually, these periods don’t last too long, but if you’re experiencing significant feelings of sadness that bring you down for more than two weeks at a time, there might be something more to it. Mental health disorders, like depression, are common but manageable mental health conditions. Although many people choose to seek treatment for depression, the way they go about it can vary. Some people prefer talk therapy, while others prefer medication, and still, others rely on natural remedies—or even a combination of two of these depression treatment methods. Here, we’ll take a closer look at depression, some depression treatment options you can try to help you cope with your symptoms, and what you can do if these natural remedies for depression just aren’t working.

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Are natural cures not improving your symptoms?

A brief overview

Major depressive disorder is a common but serious mood disorder characterized by having some of the following symptoms for most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks: 

  • Feeling anxious, sad, or empty
  • Feeling pessimistic or hopeless
  • Feeling frustrated, irritable, or restless
  • Feeling a sense of guilt, helplessness, or worthlessness
  • Losing interest in hobbies and activities that once brought pleasure
  • Having fatigue or less energy
  • Having difficulty remembering, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Having changes in sleep patterns, including oversleeping or early morning awakening
  • Having changes in appetite or unplanned weight changes
  • Experiencing health consequences like aches, pains, cramps, headaches, or digestive issues without a clear physical cause that do not ease with treatment
  • Substance use, referred to as "substance use" today (using substances, such as drugs and alcohol recreationally)
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Suicide attempts

If you have been contemplating suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling or texting 988. Someone is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to give you the support you need.

If you believe that you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, consider finding a doctor that specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions. Finding the right treatment often starts with getting an accurate diagnosis. For example, some people experiencing depression are diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

What are some natural remedies to help with depression?

Research suggests that various lifestyle modifications, like changing the foods you eat, can help manage symptoms of depression, particularly when used with more conventional therapies, like medication and therapy. If you’re interested in exploring complementary therapies, consider searching for a treatment center for complementary depression therapies in your area. Here are some of the different remedies you can try on your own that may help you cope. 

Exercise

Exercise releases endorphins, which is a type of brain chemical that can relieve the symptoms of depression and decrease stress and anxiety. Swimming, power walking, and hiking are all potential ways you can get up and get moving. You could also try something a different physical activity, like dancing, jumping on a trampoline, or playing pickleball. Any physical activity that keeps you active can be beneficial in staving off the negative effects of depression.

Avoid caffeine

Research about how caffeine affects depression has mixed findings, but if you’re particularly sensitive to caffeine, evidence suggests that caffeine may contribute to depression and anxiety symptoms. Caffeine can make it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, and if you’re experiencing sleep disruptions as a depression symptom, drinking caffeinated beverages could make these disruptions worse. If you’re having symptoms of anxiety along with your depressive symptoms, caffeine can also make anxiety symptoms worse, as it acts as a central nervous system stimulant in the body.

However, stopping cold turkey may lead to some unwanted effects and make things harder, too. Instead, try to slowly reduce the amount of caffeine in your diet to avoid withdrawal effects like irritability, fatigue, and headaches.

Go outside

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More and more research keeps coming out about how sunlight exposure does many great things for your body and brain including boosting your mood by elevating serotonin levels and improving sleep by encouraging the body to produce more melatonin at night. Getting outside can look different for everyone. You might choose to grill on the porch, sunbathe by the pool (with plenty of sunscreen), or take a walk around your neighborhood with your children. 

Get enough sleep

Sleep can be challenging part of life for people with depression, and developing a healthy sleep routine may feel impossible. Still, sleep is important, and getting enough rest may improve your mental and physical health.

Avoid using your laptop, tablet, or smartphone in the hours before bedtime. Keep light and noise out of your bedroom as much as possible, and make sure it’s a comfortable temperature. If you’re still wide awake at bedtime, try doing something relaxing, like practicing yoga or taking a warm bath. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, and avoid napping, as it can throw off your sleep cycle.

Dietary supplements

Some supplements, like St. John’s Wort, vitamin D, folic acid, omega 3 fatty acids, and fish oil, may help ease the symptoms of mild to moderate depression. These are different from antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. There is a risk that some of these may interfere with prescription medication or decrease the effectiveness of other drugs you’re taking, so it may be best to talk to a healthcare professional before taking any dietary supplements. A medical professional may be able to explain the health benefits of dietary supplements and tell you if certain supplements may interact with any medication you’re currently taking. They may also be able to answer any questions and can inform you about any potential side effects of these products.

Treatment options for you

These treatments for depression may ease symptoms for some people, but if you are experiencing moderate to severe depression and these lifestyle changes don’t seem to be enough, you might make an appointment with a mental health professional for medical advice and to get the depression care you need.

Therapy with a licensed and trained mental health professional can help you unpack your feelings and develop coping mechanisms and tools that you can use to manage your depression symptoms. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to therapy, but one popular and effective method for treating depression is cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. In this form of talk therapy, your therapist can help you reframe your thoughts and develop a positive alternative to the story you tell yourself. 

A doctor or psychiatrist may also recommend prescription drugs as another treatment option. They may explain to you the effects of major depressive disorder, treatment options, and coping mechanisms that you can use when needed. Working with a team of professionals, you can come up with a treatment plan that is effective for your needs and situation.

Online therapy

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Are natural cures not improving your symptoms?

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression and natural interventions don’t seem to be helping, you can find a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. Working with a mental health professional such as a therapist or licensed clinical social worker, can also help people cope with the symptoms of depression. Finding a therapist can feel overwhelming, but the availability of online therapy platforms has made the process of getting mental health care easier and more convenient. If you are experiencing depression symptoms and are tired, anxious, or struggling to find the motivation to get out of bed, online therapy can connect you with a therapist from the comfort of your own home. You can message your therapist at any time and book your appointments when it’s convenient for you.

Efficacy of online therapy 

Online therapy has been proven to be just as, if not more, effective than in-person therapy. One study found that a multimodal digital psychotherapy intervention effectively decreased the number of symptoms of depression those participating in the study were experiencing. In addition, participants also saw a reduction in the severity of their symptoms.  

Takeaway

Many natural treatments can help alleviate depression symptoms, including getting more exercise, establishing a healthy sleep schedule, spending more time in the sun, and participating in support groups. However, for people with moderate or severe depression, these interventions might not be enough, and that’s okay. Other treatment options are available and may work more effectively for different people. These options may include various medications for depression. If you are concerned about taking medication, you can speak with a healthcare provider about any potential side effects.
Another option is to speak with a licensed therapist. If you don’t feel well enough to leave home for therapy at this time, you might consider online therapy. With online therapy, you can be matched with a therapist who has experience providing mental health advice, diagnosis or treatment information, and support options to individuals living with depression. Take the first step toward getting help with depression and contact BetterHelp today.

Depression is treatable, and you're not alone

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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