Depression is a common malady that strikes many people at some point in their lives. It can rob the affected individual of enjoyment, hope, and fulfillment in relationships. Sometimes, it is an intimate relationship that is the root of the problem, other times it can be brain chemistry or a life transition that is causing the feelings of hopelessness, sadness, despair, or anxiety about the future. It may be necessary in severe cases to intervene medically with pharmaceutical medications, however in many instances, natural methods may successfully treat depression symptoms. Here are 5 natural approaches for treating depression:
1. Address your diet. Focus on a healthy, whole food diet as much as possible. This means reducing your intake of highly processed foods that contain empty calories and sugars. Lots of fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and lean protein are a good general guideline for your diet. If you struggle with appetite, carry around and make available snack foods that you can eat a mouthful at a time, here and there. Good choices are high protein snacks such as jerky and mixed nuts (almonds and cashews are preferable to peanuts). If you tend to overeat, be sure you are not eating while distracted, i.e. in front of the tv, and plan to set a time in the evening where you stop eating.
2. Try supplements. A good, food based multivitamin is an excellent start. You may also add calcium, and a fish oil supplement. Fish oil has a myriad of benefits, including anti-inflammatory, cardiovascular, skin health, and brain health. You may take 5 HTP (hydroxytryptophan), which is a percursor to serotonin. This is a good natural antidepressant and mood regulator. It may be taken in conjunction with L-Theanine, which is an excellent supplement if your depression tends to manifest with anxiety.
3. Implement an exercise program. Add in some exercise according to your doctor’s recommendations. Depending on your fitness level, you want to add in some sustained cardiovascular exercise for maximum benefit. What you are looking to do with exercise is elevate your heart rate for a period of time so that the “feel good” endorphins are released into your body. Ideally, you want to work up to 45 minutes of cardio activity 5 times per week, but any exercise is better than none at all.
4. Talk out your challenges. Find a good counselor to speak to. Having an objective, trained counselor with no vested interest in your decisions is an invaluable resource. Close friends and family can also be a wonderful support and help you gain a more accurate perspective on your struggles.
5. Try other forms of self care. Try creating a list of small but enjoyable activities you can do every day. Choose one thing you can do every day to show yourself some kindness and nurture, and do it. Cross these items off your list as they are completed, and make a new list once you have exhausted that one.