Depression is a serious condition that affects the body, mind and thinking ability. This condition may interfere with a person daily life, making it difficult to function on a daily basis.
According the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting about 121 million people. Untreated depression can lead to suicide, and the WHO estimates that 850,000 people worldwide commit suicide every year.
Although depression is extremely common, it is also treatable, and for those who are dealing with a less severe case, natural treatments may be enough to resolve depression symptoms and reduce their occurrence.
If you suffer from mild to moderate depression, here are 9 natural ways that can help you treat or manage the symptoms without medication.
Exercise is an excellent way to cope with depression because it stimulates the production of endorphins which are responsible for the feelings of well-being and pleasure. Exercise can also reduce stress and increase self-esteem, which in turn decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Any exercise can be helpful. Whether that’s taking a walk, going for a run, swimming, cycling, practicing yoga or other form of fitness – just get moving. The key is that it’s something that you can engage in regularly.
2. Eat healthy
While there is no magic diet to cure depression, but it will provide you with the energy you need to face each day and keep you healthy.
Preliminary research suggests that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids could possibly ease the symptoms of depression. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel), flaxseed, and walnuts.
Moreover, don’t skip meals to ensure that your blood sugar is steady, which can reduce mood swings.
3. Get enough sleep
Sleep has a big impact on our mental health. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases more of the stress hormone cortisol. This may results in increasing irritability, worsening mood, and feelings of depression. So, make sure you’re getting enough sleep each night.
If you have trouble falling asleep, try to set up a sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day — even on the weekends. Also, don’t put distractions in your bedroom by getting rid of the TV, laptop, and phone, which can disrupt your sleep. Learn more about tips for a good night’s sleep.
Meditation can be beneficial for reducing stress, relaxing mind, and even reducing symptoms of depression. That’s because this method can trigger the release of serotonin, the hormone linked to mood regulation.
Meditation also can help prepare the brain for stressful situations. For example, meditating for a few moments before a doctor’s appointment or social situation can help shift the brain and body out of the stress response and into a state of relative calm.
5. Consider bright light therapy
If your depression is related to the season, then bright light therapy may be helpful. It can be used to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD), major depressive disorder (MDD), and bipolar disorder.
If you live in a sunny area, make sure you get sun exposure every day for 10-15 minutes. If you live in an area with reduced sunlight in the winter time, you can consider buying a light therapy lamp which can mimic outdoor light and target the brain to release chemicals that enhance your mood.
This therapy involves sitting in front of a light box for at least 20-30 minutes daily. It is safe to use by both adults and children.
6. Try something new
Depression puts you into a rut, where it feels like nothing will change and you will always feel bad. Instead of giving in to these feelings, go out and try something new. When you try a new activity,
there are chemical changes in the brain and the levels of dopamine are enhanced. Higher levels of dopamine are associated with elated mood and increased motivation.
Try learn a new language, volunteer at an animal shelter, read a different type of book, or do anything that you think you may enjoy.
7. Set goals
Many people with depression have the feeling that there is nothing to look forward to. Often, they feel like they can’t successfully accomplish anything.
To combat this, experts recommend setting some basic goals that are achievable. Start out small, like doing the dishes every day, and then advance to more complex, difficult goals.
Step by step, you may start to feel better by reaching each of these small, daily goals. Eventually, you’ll be completely ready to add new, more challenging goals for yourself.
8. Try St. John’s Wort
St. John’s Wort is a medicinal herb that has been used for centuries to treat mild or moderate depression. Its active ingredients, hypericin and hyperforin, are known to have antidepressant effects. These chemicals act on messengers in the nervous system that regulates mood.
A 2016 systematic review found that St. John’s wort was more effective than a placebo for the treatment of depression. The review also found that St. John’s wort was associated with fewer side effects than antidepressant medications.
It’s important to note that St. John’s Wort can negatively interact with prescription medications so it’s crucial that patients speak to their doctor before using this herb.
9. Get social support
Social isolation is one of the risk factors for depression. If you are feeling stuck or depressed, don’t hesitate to talk to your family members or friends, or join a social group. Volunteering is a great way to get social support and help others while also helping yourself.
You may also consider seeking help from a therapist who specializes in that area. A therapist can listen to you and help you to work towards feeling better. He or she can also help you to develop better eating habits and strategies for managing depression.