It is an unfortunate fact that millions of people around the world get into some kind of depression at least once a year, an increasingly common problem for the developing world. How do you know if what you feel might be symptoms of depression?
Here are some of them:
- Lack of energy.
- Feelings of sadness.
- Loss of general interest.
- Eating disorders like lack of appetite or overeating.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Sleep disorder like oversleeping or insomnia.
- Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness or helplessness.
- Thoughts of death or suicidal.
Many go to their specialist and fear they will end up being addict to the medication doctors provide or just dread the side effects and stop returning for therapy altogether but that is not totally true. The good news is that some natural remedies can actually help you with this problem, or even complement to your regular prescription medication, in any way, you should go talk to your doctor before trying any kind of treatment or supplement, here are some of the best remedies to get rid of depression naturally experts have found to be real and useful:
Have you noticed how exercise tends to show as a useful aid on several kind of problems? well, this is another example. I know, I’ve also been there and really, exercising feels like the 10000th thing you want to do on your list to fight depression, feels odd and you don’t really feel motivated but believe me it is one of the things you do need to try due to these benefits:
- Exercise helps your brain release endorphins and serotonin, chemicals that makes it easier for your body to regulate your mood.
- It helps bring your body to a comfort-level temperature.
- Tricks you into thinking more about other things like your training goals rather than the issue that is causing you stress or anxiety.
- The recommended amount of exercise is at least three 20 to 30 minutes sessions throughout your week, the more the better.
Talk About It
Seek for the support of your close friends and family members. Not everybody might understand you and that’s normal, emotional support is important and you should acknowledge that there is people who care for you. The worst thing you can do when feeling down and depressed is to isolate yourself, most of us need to get things out of our chest and expose them to our confidants.
Besides it does gives you benefits like:
- They can provide you with useful advice.
- Talking about it helps you put issues into perspective.
- Eases the feeling of loneliness or isolation.
You can also talk to your doctor or counselor if you feel your problem has affected you in a more significant way, professionals have the best tools available to help with serious issues, don’t let it sink you deeper.
Eat Well and Healthy
Sometimes one can tend to resource to food as relief of depression and generally speaking, eating badly will just lead you to feel even worse. Without the proper nutrients your brain won’t be able to work properly either, so take this tips into consideration:
- Eat a healthy amount and avoid bloating.
- Don’t skip any meal.
- Avoid fast junk foods and highly sugared options.
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco.
- If you need a snack make it a healthy one.
How would you feel if you also gained or lost some weight (in a bad way) on top of the problem that’s already causing you to feel down? I guess it wouldn’t help.
Get Enough Rest
The quality of your sleep has a deep impact on the way you feel throughout the day, besides, more often than not, insomnia accompanies depression as a side effect, so you should begin addressing it accordingly. You can boost your energy and better your mood just by getting a sound night of good rest, so here are some recommendations you can follow to get it:
- Make a routine for your bedtime, research has shown this as being one of most effective ways to fight insomnia and help your depression.
- Avoid heavy meals before bedtime.
- Get comfortable and relaxed.
- Avoid light exposure while trying to sleep.
I understand that stress affects your sleep cycle, lying in bed over-thinking about your problems will certainly not help, try to avoid that vicious cycle by not oversleeping the next day, stick to a routine and your body alone will tend to correct its own natural cycle.
Get a Routine
Since depression can cause havoc on your day-to-day structure, sticking to a routine can help you recover faster by bringing back a meaningful schedule. Malan Darras wrote an interesting article in his blog where he states that you need a couple of important things to book in your daily schedule to fight your depression:
- A goal for the future.
- And a routine to get it.
If you think about it, it’s about getting purpose, something to look for and believing in your own ability to get it, easing the feeling of depression by achieving goals and accomplishments.
Don’t Give Up on Your Responsibilities
And that’s a natural feeling when you are depressed, you just would like somebody else to take care of your responsibilities for you. Truth is, taking care of your own responsibilities even if unmotivated is a natural and effective treatment for depression since they give you a goal to get (big or small), and when you’re done with them, a sense of accomplishment, like doing the laundry or finishing painting of your house.
Or as a long term example, getting your job done at work or business and hence being able to pay for your children needs or the college tuition for them, find purpose on what you already have. Just try to be careful not to immerse yourself in an endless to-do list or get lost in your office cubicle trying to drown your feelings down in more and more work, that is a common misconception and a myth, it doesn’t really work that way.
Nutritional and Dietary Supplements
There are commonly used natural remedies in the form of dietary or nutritional supplements that may help you fight depression, just remember to consult your doctor before taking any of them. Biochemical and nutritional imbalances in your body could be the root cause of your depression but you can fight it with the consumption of several products like:
- Fish oil: As a source of Omega 3 fatty acids, known to smooth mood changes, you can get it as a supplement.
- Folic acid: It has been found that it has better effect on women than men, however treating a folic acid deficiency has known to ease the symptoms.
- Saffron: A spice derived from a flower, demonstrated to be highly effective against mild to moderate depression.
- S-adenosylmethionine, or SAMe : A supplement effective even with treatment-resistant sufferers with little to no side effects
- St. John’s wort : A supplement made from a herb known to be of aid in mild cases of depression, can be found in capsules or as tea.
- B-12 vitamins : Related to correct mood regulation in the brain, can be taken as a supplement or in lean meat, eggs, fish and milk among others.
Just remember that complementing your nutrition to help fight for depression is one thing but lacking of the essential vitamins, minerals or general nutrition needs for other reasons needs to be addressed by a professional and to make sure there is no other underlying reasons.
A lack of magnesium in your body can be related to a nutritional deficit but also to the exposure to constant stress. Magnesium helps regulate your correct brain function and neural activity and can be used effectively to fight depression. You can find it as a supplement but it is already abundant this readily sources:
- Nuts and seeds like pumpkin seeds, almonds and sunflower seeds.
- Dark leafy greens like baby spinach, kale, Swiss chard.
- Fish like mackerel, salmon, halibut, tuna.
- Beans and lentils like soybeans, black beans, black-eyed peas.
- Dark chocolate.
It is important to note that an excess of calcium together with a lack of magnesium and/or constant stress may increase the problem (not surprisingly), even deepening the feeling of anxiety and confusion.
Reduce the Intake of Caffeine
There seems to be no clear evidence that caffeine intake might or not affect directly depression levels. There are mixed opinions all around the web on the topic but non-concluding tests results whatsoever, other than the indirect results of its intake, so consider:
- If you are already used to drink it and suddenly stop for whatever reason, that alone could cause the worsening of the problem (headaches, irritability).
- Caffeine might cause problems to fall asleep and that could do take a toll on depression, you know, bad mood and anxiety getting worse.
- To address this problem you can try to reduce the amount you drink every day without stopping abruptly and see if that helps.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition conducted a study of the benefits of green tea to fight against depression and found significant results in adults compared to people who didn’t drink it or who drank too little (less than a cup a day). L-Theanine is an aminoacid present in green tea, the element believed to have the soothing and relaxing benefits for those who drink it, in the experiment people took up to 3 or 4 cups throughout the day. Experts say Japanese green tea contains higher quantities of this aminoacid in comparison to the american varieties so it could be a good idea to go looking for that kind first.
A United Kingdom’s University of Nottingham Medical School study found that chamomile relaxed blood vessels and muscle fibers, effectively soothing and relaxing the patients to whom the treatment was applied. To get things better, the intake of chamomile has no known side effects but measurable long-term benefits and you can keep drinking it as long as you want or as you feel you need it.
Do Something for the Fun of It
Yes just like that!, when you are depressed nothing seems to brighten you up, so that’s a clear sign you need it more now than ever. It will feel awkward at the beginning but more often than not you’ll end up hooked up and involved in the joy of the moment. Like when you don’t really want to hang out with your friends but you go anyway, you might feel like you just want to leave as soon as you get there, however you see them goofing around and playing and you end up getting kind of involved, sooner than you think you, you start playing and enjoying with them, then by end the night you feel a little more cheerful and thankful for having “forced” yourself to go there in the first place. How about trying this? Say yes to all invitations, parties, dinners, walks out in the park…
Do Something Different
Feeling sunk and stuck while in depression can be fought by pushing yourself to new experiences, like taking on a new sport you haven’t tried, reading a book on a park bench you haven’t been on before, or pick one from the list below:
- Reunite with old friends and family you haven’t seen in a while.
- Run like a kid in the park, play… see that sprinkler over there? when was the last time you ran through one?
- Make a trip to where you have always wanted to go, a different country, a new museum.
- Go to a restaurant and tell the waiter to surprise you.
- Take the challenge, these new experiences can alter your levels of dopamine, which is the brain chemical related to joy, triggering learning and pleasure too.
Seek the Light
Some people experience what is called the “seasonal affective disorder”, you know, like when winter hits hard and days are a little darker than usual, then you get depressed? Happens to me sometimes, here are some remedies:
Well if for some reason the place you are actually in is a little dark, like inside of your house or building, you could just walk to a near park or a more shiny place to brighten you up, remain there for a good 30 minutes to 1 hour.
If it is generally dark like during winter or rainy seasons, experts advice to get a “ dawn simulator “, a device connected to your bedside lamp which turns it on slowly from its lesser brightness to its fullest somewhere near a 45 minutes span while you are still sleep, designed to wake you up. There is also the “ light box ” therapy, this is a device which also simulates or mimics outdoor light, stimulating your brain and its chemical changes to ease symptoms and boost your mood.
Write a Diary
Honestly most people think writing is hard work, and even worse to write about feelings, let alone doing it while depressed. However, although sometimes a painful self-help therapy, writing things down help you materialize thoughts and feelings, making you able to analyze them and even diminish the power they got over you by eliminating the mystery they keep while inside your head. A good idea is to be completely honest about yourself and what you feel, and to help with that goal, keep the diary for yourself only.
I once read a great idea: Make two diaries, one with all your thoughts and feelings to later analyze them as described above, and make another with all the great things that have happened to you, personally, professionally, write about the people who have created a greater impact in your life and the reasons you are thankful for it. Whenever you feel you don’t have any good reason to be happy or grateful, read the good-vibe diary.
Meditation has a lot of benefits, and one of them is the ease of the depression symptoms, research has found that it might even rival the results obtained via medication for mild to moderate strength issues. Mindful meditation is a lot more than just sitting there doing nothing, is about rising your inner awareness and achieving a deep relaxation for your whole body. It is a great idea to start learning these techniques as soon as a mild depression feeling starts to arise and not to wait until it is a major problem, follow these steps:
- Get to a quiet place.
- Sit in a comfortable position.
- Close your eyes or stare to a neutral place in the room.
- Concentrate on and regulate your breathing, inhale and exhale.
Once you feel relaxed you can try to move your focus to the rest of your body, like trying to feel your heartbeat, later focus on your feelings and emotions without judgement, accept them, embrace them and let them go.
Yoga practice has been increasing in the last years and its benefits are being felt by more and more people around the globe, one of such benefits is the ease of the stress and anxiety related symptoms. There are several classes of yoga and people choice vary from ability to personal preference, however you can get real benefits to help fight against depression that include:
- The reduce of your heart rate.
- The lowering of your blood pressure.
- The easing of your respiration.
- Increased day-long energy.
- Lowered feeling of fatigue.
- General well-being.
And many more including the strengthening of your body and the increase of flexibility, it even boosts the production of serotonin and it is actually a really safe-to-practice exercise.
In this traditional Chinese medicine technique, a practitioner insert needles in your skin on points that correspond to certain body organs. Western medicine believes this technique helps your brain release certain chemicals like dopamine, serotonin and natural pain killers, effectively aiding with depression problems plus other benefits like:
- It’s safe if performed correctly.
- Can be combined with other treatments.
- Very few side effects.
There’s even a research by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, where electroacupuncture (an electric current applied through the needles) shows similar easing results as the medicine fluxoetine. So if you are interested, this is also a great alternative to the treatment of physical pain, a common issue related to the suffering of depression.
Reach for Support Groups
Just as you can find support with your family members and close friends, you can also reach for the support of a group, these groups have people who have or have had the same problem and they can provide you with:
- Suggestions to deal with the problem.
- Encouragement to keep going.
This is also a great option since they provide room for you to vent out your frustrations and share ideas, they understand what you might be dealing with at the moment since most or all of them have gone through similar situations. The fact that this is a free option (or sometimes with a minimum fee) is another plus and a good reason to try it, they are typically supported by hospitals, religious and non-profit organizations.
Get Help from a Professional
Don’t be afraid to look for a professional to address your depression problem, sometimes you need to acknowledge you can’t do it all by yourself and there is nothing wrong about it, besides, if there is a specialist for it, it means the issue is more common than you might think.Understand that you are not alone and you don’t need to be ashamed about your health, physical and mental, find a specialist like a psychiatrist, a therapist or a psychologist (or a mix), your best bet is to go to your regular doctor and ask for a recommendation, this have some advantages:
- A doctor can prescribe the needed medicine for your case. They can keep a track record of what have worked or not for you and derive you to another specialist.
- Specialists can try different approaches and keep a close supervision on your improvements. They can dissipate your doubts in respect to the intake of supplements and alternative treatments.
Also as this is totally your decision you are free to choose the specialist you feel comfortable with, sometimes the style of one doctor doesn’t work with you and you can and have the right keep looking, ask all the questions you need to make an informed decision.
There are many approaches to the depression problem, ranging from all natural to all medical, you can try some for yourself but you are better off by asking your doctor which could fit best your needs, sometimes even natural remedies have medical contraindications you should be aware of. Keep in mind that many times people might not understand the fact that you could be suffering this issue and will tell you to just “shake it off”, you don’t need to explain everybody out there how real the problem is because it is, keep close to yourself the people who really cares about you and understand that not everybody sympathizes. Also you should know that not because your family tree has a track record of this suffering you will get it too, I mean, you might be a little more prone to have it because of that reason but now that you are informed you can take positive actions to confront it the best way.