Depression is a serious condition that affects your physical and mental health which can last for long periods of time without any apparent reason.
Being depressed can make us feel helpless. We’re not! As well as therapy and sometimes medication, there’s a lot we can do on our own to fight back. Changing our behaviour, our physical activity, lifestyle and even our way of thinking – are all natural depression treatments.
Here are some tried and tested methods that can help you feel better.
GET INTO A ROUTINE
A lot of us take to our bed for days on end when we’re depressed. Setting a gentle daily schedule can help us get back on track, even if that’s just getting out of bed, washed and ready before 10 am, so that the days don’t become an endless blur of nothingness.
Getting the right amount of sleep can help improve our mood and increase energy levels. Don’t fall asleep on the couch in front of the TV. Try to go to bed each night around the same time. Put on some soft music or a soothing hypnosis recording and drift off to sleep.
Set the alarm to wake-up at the same time each day, but don’t just wake up, get out of bed, open the curtains and windows, and let some light into your home.
Breakfast like a king! Cereals, fruit, yoghurt, toast and muffins….make breakfast something worth getting out of bed for!
Try having a healthy lunch and dinner as well.
It’s easy to forget about hygiene, but small things like taking a shower and getting fully dressed whether or not we’re going out of the house, can make a big difference to how we feel.
House work isn’t fun, but it’s necessary to keep our environment clean and healthy. Set a day for washing, another day for ironing, and try washing the dishes daily.
- Pencil in some downtime – Dedicate 20 minutes a day to REST. It will work miracles on your mood.
- Switch off social media – Aim for a social media-free day at least once a week. It’s life changing, trust me!
- Reduce your alcohol intake – Notice how drinking makes people giddy/sad/violent? All mood disorders.
- Drink more water! – Dehydration can cause fatigue and agitation.
- Cleanse your gut and liver – Serotonin, the “feel-good” hormone, is made in the gut. By giving your body a break, you reduce your toxic load.
Once you get settled into a routine, you can gradually start adding activities. Start small, with one or two a week, then you can add more as you begin to feel better.
Make a list of all the activities, people and places that make you happy or feel good, and try to find ways to bring these things into your daily / weekly routine.
Do something new. When you’re depressed, you’re in a rut. Push yourself to do something different. Challenging yourself will boost your self-confidence, and the improvement in your mood will be worth the effort.
Exercise temporarily boosts feel-good chemicals called endorphins, and regular exercise seems to encourage the brain to rewire itself in positive ways. You don’t need to run a marathon – a walk to the local shops and back is a good first step. Cycling, yoga, swimming and gardening, are all things that can be done alone or as part of a group. Go on-line or visit a nearby library or resource centre to find out what’s available in your area.
Meditation helps many people control how they react to the stress and anxiety that leads to depression. There are many on-line tutorials that can teach you the basics of meditation, or you could join a class locally.
CONNECT WITH OTHER PEOPLE
Think omega-3s, which are found in oily fish, walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds and dark leafy greens.
If you don’t feel up to seeing people in person, or talking, send a text or email to keep in touch with friends and family. If you’re struggling with difficult feelings, and you can’t talk to someone you know, there may be local or national helplines you can contact who have trained staff who are ready to listen and help you feel more able to cope with your situation.
TAKE ON RESPONSIBILITIES
When you’re depressed, you may want to pull back from life and give up your responsibilities at home and work. Don’t. Staying involved and having daily responsibilities can help you maintain a lifestyle that can help counter depression. They ground you and give you a sense of accomplishment. If you’re not up to full-time school or work, that’s fine. Think about part-time. If that seems like too much, consider volunteer work.
Learning new skills can give you a sense of achievement and a new confidence. So why not sign up for a baking or DIY course, or learn to play a musical instrument?
A trial carried out in Australia and published in January 2017, was the first intervention study to examine whether a change to a healthy diet can improve depression. They recruited adults with major depressive disorder and randomly assigned them to receive either social support (which is known to be helpful for people with depression), or support from a clinical dietitian, over a three-month period. The dietary group received information and assistance to improve the quality of their current diets.
Increase the consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, legumes, olive oil and nuts.
Reducing their consumption of unhealthy ‘extra’ foods, such as sweets, refined cereals, fried food, fast food, processed meats and sugary drinks.
By the end of the trial, 32% of those in the dietary support group, compared to 8% of those in the social support group, met the criteria for remission of major depression.
- Ginkgo biloba. If you’re looking to take the natural approach to treating mild depression, you may want to give ginkgo biloba supplements a try.
- 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) This molecule increases levels of the mood-boosting brain chemical serotonin.
- B vitamins.
- S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe)
People who are obese are more likely to become depressed, and people who are depressed are more likely to become obese. Fortunately, a nutritious diet including the foods above will help you get to and stay at a healthy weight. If you’re having a hard time, talk with your doctor.
Many people who are depressed also have problems with alcohol or drugs. Not only can they interfere with your mood, sleep, and motivation, they can also reduce the effectiveness of your depression medications. Seek help from your doctor or a specialist substance abuse counselor.
Drinks and foods with caffeine can trigger anxiety and make it difficult to sleep at night, so cutting back or stopping caffeine after noon each day may help you get a better night’s sleep.
GIVE TO OTHERS
Even the smallest act can count, whether it’s a smile, a thank you or a kind word. Larger acts, such as volunteering at your local community centre, can improve your mental well-being and help you build new social networks.
Be more aware of the present moment, including your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you. Some people call this awareness ‘mindfulness’. It can positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges.
Thank you for reading this blog post. If you have any tips on managing depression that you’d like to share, or ideas for future posts, please do let me know. I would love to hear from you.