While living with depression is a daily battle, taking medication for mild depression can seem overkill for many patients. Whether your symptoms get diagnosed or not, there are multiple ways to improve your health and general well-being, which have the same positive effect on depression and can help you lessen its adverse symptoms.
The reason that exercise is at number one for home remedies for depression treatment is simple – it works, has been proven to work, and most importantly, it’s easy. As little as a 30-minute walk 3-4 times, a week has been shown to improve mild symptoms of depression. Some studies have shown a gradual plateau effect when participants enjoy more exercise – but if getting fit can make you happier even from a superficial point of view, then definitely go for it.
Getting the right amount of sleep improves energy and brain function and will help with a generally positive mood. However, when you have depression, this can be hard to achieve – you may be sleeping excessively or suffer from insomnia, as one of the symptoms of depression itself. Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to combat this. However, the easiest is to ensure:
- Your sleep environment is free of distractions such as laptops, phones, and television
- You try to go to sleep and wake up at the same or similar times each night. This lets your body adjust its circadian rhythms to hopefully get in line with a ‘normal’ sleep pattern.
- Avoid caffeine before bed.
- Avoid naps
It may seem like Yoga should be included under ‘exercise,’ as it can be a physically exhausting practice. However, there have been studies that have proven a correlation between positive mood and the rule of Yoga. So whether or not Yoga specifically improves the mind or it is simple enough as leaving the hour aside to relax and do something for you, it is undoubtedly worth a try.
4. Support from friends and family
It cannot be emphasized enough. Your friends and your family may not understand depression or what you’re going through. However, seeking support or simply someone to talk to will undoubtedly help you to feel less alone. In addition, asking for support ensures someone is looking out for you in case of an unforeseen event or a change in your condition.
5. Be proactive
Only you can know how you feel at any given time. However, if you have a vague understanding of what might trigger your depression or what exacerbates your symptoms, then be sure to look out for those factors.
If you don’t understand where and why depression hits, try taking a look at your lifestyle factors. Keeping a journal and trying to work out what has been happening in your life when your symptoms have intensified. This is not to say something like a looming deadline will be the root cause of your depression, however, being consciously aware of anything which makes your symptoms worse gives you the chance to act upon it.
6. General nutrition
It’s also essential to look at your diet in general terms. Try to ensure you are eating a balanced diet, which will limit the need for supplements. Also, as you try to cope with depression, it’s important not to put any extra stress on your body.
Foods to avoid:
- Anything highly processed
- Excess sugar
- Excess caffeine
- Unnatural additives (colors and flavours included)
If you limit the following in your diet, you are taking steps to limit the stress on your body of processing anything that shouldn’t already be there. This will not only improve your health and physical symptoms of depression, but it will also impact positively on your mood.
7. Limit drugs and alcohol
This is one of the most important things you can do to take care of your body and mind. Not only does putting these into your system cause stress upon your body, but the ups and downs in your mood will also worsen depression symptoms. There have been many studies proving the relationships between mental health and alcohol, particularly depression and alcohol, so for further information, check those out.
Furthermore, many illicit drugs have effects lasting far longer than the “down” after taking them. If you are already suffering depression, this can drive you further down that road, or add more unpleasant mental side effects – anxiety, paranoia, and even hallucinations can persist long after the last time you’ve taken any drugs.
8. Essential fatty acids, primarily Omega-3
There is mounting evidence to suggest that Omega-3 is one of the most critical components to have in your diet to ease the effects of mild to severe depression. Omega-3 can is present in foods such as:
- Fish, mainly salmon
- Meats (pasture-raised)
- Omega-3 enriched dairy (including milk and cheeses – check the label)
- Flax and flaxseed
The best way is to try to get Omega-3 into you through your diet, however, many supplements are rich in Omega-3. Fish oil is the most popular choice. However, there are more and more vegetarian alternatives, mainly using Flaxseed oil.
9. Vitamin D
You may notice your mood improves after a day in the sun – this is not only because of the enjoyment of whatever you’re doing outside. Vitamin D is absorbed through the skin as is often ignored as an essential vitamin to be aware of. Partly because of the increases in fear of skin cancer, vitamin D deficiencies are reaching epidemic levels.
Luckily there is an easy and pain-free way to remedy this – get outside. A five-minute burst of time in the sun, provided your limbs are uncovered by clothing or sunscreen, is enough to fulfill your body’s need for vitamin D.
However, if you live in a part of the world where this isn’t viable, many vitamin D supplements are available.
Iron deficiencies, particularly in women, are another most important reason for having depressive symptoms. There are many ways to get more iron into your diet, including but not limited to:
- Lean red meats
- Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and squash seeds
- Green leafy vegetables
The Bottom Line
There you have it – the top 10 natural ways to treat depression. Even if these ways don’t appeal to you, as long as you are active and keep symptoms in check, you are helping yourself now and in the future.
Note: Please keep in mind that this list is by no means exhaustive, so always consult your health care professional for proper diagnosis and treatment options.