5 Natural Ways to Fight Depression
Winter always makes me long for the beach.
I hear the crash of the waves on the shore, the cry of the gull in the sky, and the laughter of my children on the sand. I feel the warmth of the sun on my skin, I smell the scent of sunscreen on the breeze and taste the salt in the air.
When I open my eyes, however, it’s winter. And cold. And dreary.
For some, it’s the perfect recipe for a bout of depression.
Some people struggle with depression as a diagnosis – an ongoing issue that needs medication to help manage the chemical imbalance. For others, depression can be based on dealing with specific situations that crop up in daily life that cause stress.
Here are a few ideas as to how you can help manage depression, whether it is an ongoing issue or a short term situational problem. Anyone can benefit from keeping their lifestyle and body systems in check so that they can attain better mood and/or maximize the effect of medications or skills they already use.
(And here comes my all-important “I’m not a doctor” disclaimer)…As always, this information should not replace the advice of a physician nor does it constitute medical advice. Please seek the direction of your psychiatrist or physician before taking any medication, vitamin or supplement to ensure that it will be appropriate for your needs.
- Assess your diet. For some people, depression can lead to overeating, especially unhealthy foods. For others, eating is the last thing on their minds. Regardless, be aware of the foods that you are putting in your body. While fatty or sugary foods may feel comforting at the moment, the ongoing effects these substances have on your health can actually make your depression worse. Your body craves to have boosts in the neurotransmitter dopamine and gets quick (and short-lived) boosts when you eat. That’s why trigger foods (you know, the ones that you crave when emotion get out of control) seem to make you feel better when you eat them – they increase the levels of dopamine in your brain, giving you the feeling of relaxation and relief. Instead, seek out healthier dopamine-boosting foods to increase that “feel good” chemical. For a list of good alternatives, check here.
- Let the sunshine in. Now, I’m not telling you to become a sun worshiper. I’m saying that a little bit of time in the sun every day is a good thing for your mood. Research suggests that vitamin D, like what we get from the sun, increases our mood and energy level. The exposure actually increases the endorphins (the chemical that’s released after you exercise) in your body, helping you to feel good! The general rule is to spend about 20 minutes twice a day in direct sunlight (protect you skin) to reap the benefits of vitamin D and boost your mood. Not able to get that much sunlight in your day? Check out these lamps that offer vitamin D producing light! Perfect for your home or office.
- Consider supplements. While the best way to get vitamins and nutrients to boost your mood are directly from food sources, chances are you aren’t eating enough of the food that provide the essentials to keep depression away. Certain vitamins and nutrients can be taken to supplement food nutrition when needed. As always, check with your doctor before supplementing with any of these to avoid potential interactions with your existing medications. – B vitamins, including B6, B12 and folic acid, contribute to how effectively anti-depressants work. When B vitamin levels are optimal, especially folic acid, these medications have been found to work their best. Your doctor can have lab work completed for you to check levels of B vitamins in your body to ensure that you have enough or to determine if your levels are too high or low.
– St. John’s Wort is an ancient herbal remedy that is said to work similarly to prescription anti-depressant SSRI’s in appropriate doses. There are several types of medications that should not be taken at the same time as this supplement, including prescription anti-depressants and certain birth control pills, so please speak with a physician prior to including this medication in your wellness plan –SAMe is a supplement that works similarly to St. John’s Wort and should also be treated with care. The effectiveness of this medicine can be felt much sooner than St. John’s Wort; however, the potential complications with other medications are similar.
– Fish Oil has been suggested as helping to keep mental status regulated due to the Omega 3 fatty acids involved. The DHA in fish oil aids in nerve and brain health, thus leading to the belief that it can aid in mental wellness and clarity
- Check your hormones. The thyroid is often overlooked as a potential cause of depression symptoms. Many times, a person can be having symptoms of hypothyroidism and end up being treated only for symptoms of depression. The symptoms can be strikingly similar: fatigue, sluggish, sleeping all the time or trouble concentrating. Without getting to the root of the problem, the depression can’t be fully resolved. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the throat that controls energy, your body temperature and your weight among other things. When these hormones are not balanced, the symptoms can mimic depression.
- Talk it out. Get connected with your friends, your spouse, a therapist. Whatever you do, don’t disconnect or isolate. Sometimes the last thing you want to do is talk to anyone, but it’s actually the best thing to do. Depression feels worse when you give yourself too much time alone. You need distraction to keep you going. Talking to a therapist can be beneficial to help you learn skills to manage your symptoms. Additionally, you may need to consider the addition of medication if your symptoms are severe.
The bottom line is that depression can be serious, but it is manageable.
Be patient with yourself. Any options that you choose to try will take time. Remember that there is no one option that works for everyone. Some days are going to be harder than others, but on the good days, take time to note what is working, and save those skills for the times things are not going as well.
And maybe next time you open your eyes, your day will be a little sunnier. I’ll meet you at the beach.
What are some ways that you manage symptoms of depression? Do you have some tips or tricks you can offer others? Share in the comments below!