Depression is one of the most misunderstood, misdiagnosed mental illnesses in America. It affects nearly 19 million adults every year.
But the harsh reality is many people suffering from depression never seek treatment.
Those who do seek help often turn to antidepressants to feel better. While medication is often very effective (and sometimes life saving) there are also natural ways to boost your mood.
Here are 10 natural approaches to overcoming depression and getting on the path to happiness.
1) Talk with Your Doctor
Many people go to their doctor seeking anti-depressants to help with overcoming depression. While these medications certainly help many people, they do carry unwanted side effects. Depression may be a symptom of an underlying issue, just like high blood pressure or joint pain. Here are a few topics to discuss with your doctor at your next visit.
Check for Vitamin Deficiencies
Ask About Natural Therapies
You should also talk with your doctor about natural supplements to treat depression. Most of these supplements boost serotonin levels. Therapies currently showing promise include SAMe, folic acid, B12, fish oil, 5-HTP, St. John’s Wort, Saffron and L-Theanine.
Blood Sugar and Diet
The healthier your diet, the healthier your head. Try to eat fresh, whole foods and avoid eating out of a box or fast-food bag. Diet modification is very effective at treating depression.
Poorly regulated blood sugar levels can also contribute to mood swings. Eat a diet that will stabilize your blood sugar and avoid energy crashes. In fact, managing my blood sugar was the final strategy I employed to completely cure my depressive episodes!
Check for Hormonal Imbalances
Hormones can play havoc with our moods, energy, and happiness. Postpartum depression is just one example of how swings in hormones bring about the baby blues.
Depression can be a symptom of underlying medical issues. Talk with your doctor about checking thyroid levels (such as TSH, free T4, free T3, total T3, and thyroid antibodies), adrenal hormones (cortisol, DHEA-S and pregnenolone) and sex hormones (estradiol, progesterone, free and total testosterone).
2) Get Your Daily Dose of Sunshine
If you’re depressed, you may be tempted to hide away in a dark room and watch Netflix all day. Don’t do it! There is a strong correlation between low Vitamin D levels and depression. In 2006, the CDC reported that one fourth of the American population was deficient in vitamin D. While you may also need supplementation, the best way to get your sunshine vitamin is to get outside!
Greeting the sun in the morning can also help regulate your circadian rhythm, which maintains your internal clock and facilitates better sleep, which will definitely make a difference while overcoming depression.
3) Try New Things, Socialize, and Have Fun!
While it may seem like the last thing that you want to do, going through the motions of having fun can bring about actual fun. It’s a classic “fake it till you make it” strategy. Embrace new activities and laugh with friends. You’ll be surprised how good you feel!
Researcher, William Fleeson, found that those who’d acted “talkative” and “assertive” throughout their day – even if they were introverts – were more likely to report feeling positive emotions such as excitement and enthusiasm, which can help when overcoming depression. However, it’s important to note, if you are an introvert, you should focus on balancing socializing with other fulfilling solo activities like reading or enjoying one of your hobbies.
4) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Support Groups
Sometimes it helps to talk to someone who can put depression into better perspective. Find a professional proficient in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). They can help you understand how thoughts trigger feelings and how to challenge negative ideas with positive, logical ones as you work on overcoming depression.
Depression magnifies negativity to such a level that positive facts get out of focus. Try to keep a mood diary to write down all of the good things in your life to put things back into a healthy perspective.
When patients learn to be more self-aware, they can then change destructive patterns. Participating in support groups can also aid in recovery, because you realize that you aren’t alone with your struggles and can learn from others.
Adding mindfulness exercises to your CBT (called mindfulness-based cognitive therapy) can also help to prevent relapses after overcoming depression.
5) Pursue Goals and Responsibilities
“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” –Tony Robbins
While it may be tempting to pull away from everything while battling depression, setting small daily goals and taking on responsibilities can help you find purpose in life. You can also volunteer and help others, which moves your focus to people instead of your own inner turmoil.
Part of the deception of depression is that life has no purpose and you have no value. When you find yourself doing something productive, you can combat destructive thinking by seeing that your efforts do make a difference which will help to overcome depression.
Learn from these 50 Personal Development Bloggers for inspiration and how-to’s.
6) Take a Deep Breath and Do Yoga!
Deep breathing has proven effective for many people in overcoming depression and anxiety. Deep-breathing exercises stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for activities when the body is at rest.
Yoga is a great activity to combine with deep breathing, as it puts the body into relaxing poses. Among its many health benefits, enhanced moods and a relaxed mentality are especially helpful for depressed people.
When you’re depressed, exercise is often the last thing that you want to do. However, several studies suggest that exercise can perform at least as well as pharmaceutical medications in reducing symptoms and helping to prevent a relapse.
Exercise releases feel-good brain chemicals like neurotransmitters, endorphins and endocannabinoids and increases your body temperature, which can have a calming effect. Exercise also helps you stop focusing inward, facilitates engagement in social interaction, and helps you feel better about yourself, which will all assist in overcoming depression.
8) Pet Therapy
Did you know that a pet can help you treat depression? Pets provide unconditional love, touch, companionship and give their owners purpose. Pets get you outside and moving. Petting furry animals increases oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that can combat depression.
Improved mental health from pets is well documented; which is why many hospitals and nursing homes promote pet therapy for their patients. Visit your local animal shelter or online pet finder to learn more about bringing a new fur kid into your home.
Aquariums also help reduce anxiety and depression. The sound of running water is soothing, and watching fish swim promotes tranquility. Why do you think so many dentists and doctors set up fish tanks in waiting rooms?
9) Work Hard and Sleep Well
It is very important to follow a healthy routine as much as possible, at least throughout your work week. This keeps you busy doing productive things and not dwelling on negativity.
Also, try to create a regular sleep schedule and stick to it. Unfortunately, depression often brings on insomnia as a side effect. When you’re exhausted, everything seems worse. Protect your sleep, stop bad habits that contribute to sleeping disorders, and find natural ways to combat insomnia.
10) MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT
Obesity is a state of chronic inflammation, which fuels depression and anxiety. On top of the physiological effects of inflammation, the emotional burden that many overweight and obese people feel further exacerbates their depression and anxiety.
While overcoming depression can sometimes seem overwhelming, there are many natural treatments available to help you lead a happy, healthy life. Remember, while depression may feel like it will last forever, it is often only for a small season of your life. Depression doesn’t have to become your identity. Keep seeking answers until you find the treatment that enables you to find your inner joy again.