Many people complain about the unpleasant side effects of prescription antidepressants, which can include increased suicidal thoughts, nausea, weight gain, loss of sexual desire or sexual stamina, insomnia, anxiety, irritability, and fatigue. However, prescription antidepressant drugs are not the only way to treat depression. There are lots of natural alternatives to prescription antidepressants as well. If you are looking for a natural alternative to antidepressants, make sure that you use natural treatments for depression in conjunction with therapy and tell your therapist and your doctor about how you plan to treat your depression naturally.
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Talk-therapy is the best natural treatment for depression, so it is important for you to find a therapist as soon as possible. A therapist can listen to you and help you to work towards feeling better. Even if you decide to try other natural treatments for depression, you should continue to meet with a therapist on a regular basis. You can find a therapist in your area by using your health insurance’s online directory.
Try combining therapy with natural treatments. Taking an herbal supplement or just getting more exercise is unlikely to treat your depression. That is why it is important to make therapy the central component of your depression treatment and use other natural treatments as compliments.
Keep in mind that a therapist can also help you to develop better habits that may improve your depression. For example, a therapist can help you develop better stress management techniques, healthier eating habits, and more positive thinking.
Talk to your doctor.
Even if you do not want to take medication for depression, your doctor is a great person to reach out to for help. Your doctor can even provide a referral for you to speak with a therapist.
Keep in mind that depression is an illness and it can become worse if left untreated. Seek help for depression as soon as possible.
Make sure that you tell your doctor about any natural treatments that you are considering to help treat your depression.
Tell a concerned family member or close friend.
If you are a bit daunted by the idea of finding a therapist or visiting your doctor on your own, then talk to someone who you can trust and ask for help. Having the support of a loved one or friend may make it easier to seek help and start treating your depression.
Keep in mind that talking to friends and family should not be a substitute for seeking help from a therapist, but it is a good way to start feeling better and get the help that you need.
Exercise does a mind and body good, and is an underutilized treatment for depression. When engaging in exercise, endorphins are released, which decrease perception of pain and increase positive feelings. Exercise can also reduce stress, increase self-esteem, and decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Any exercise can help lower symptoms of depression. Try biking, dancing, running or jogging, racquetball, or cycling. Try a group fitness class at your gym to get moving and meet other people.
Practice good sleeping habits.
Depression can affect sleeping patterns, such as sleeping too much or sleeping too little. Change your sleeping habits to ensure you get adequate, restful sleep. Set up a sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day– even on the weekends– and don’t nap during the day. And don’t put distractions in your bedroom; get rid of the tv, laptop, and phone, which can disrupt your sleep.
If you have a difficult time falling asleep, try taking a bath before bedtime to help you relax. Drink some herbal tea or read a book.
Engage in daily meditation.
Meditation can be beneficial for reducing stress, quieting the mind, and even reducing symptoms of depression. Start with practicing a mindfulness meditation, which emphasizes accepting your thoughts and feelings without judgment. You want to become more aware of yourself in this present moment. The more you practice meditation, the more effective it becomes.
When practicing mindful meditation, focus on body, breath, and mind. To meditate mindfully with the body, practice observing something with your senses (take a flower, look at it closely. Then smell it and appreciate the aroma. You can even taste it. Stay present with the flower.). To meditate with your breath, allow yourself to focus solely on your breath, inhaling and exhaling. Feel your breathing elongating, relaxing you more and more each moment.
When you find yourself caught up in thoughts (memories, plans for the day), observe the thought. “I am having a thought about what to eat for lunch today.” Don’t judge it, just observe it and move on, refocusing on the meditation.
To learn more meditation techniques specific for depression, check out How to Treat Depression With Meditation.
You may get so involved with school, home life, family, and work and never take a breather for yourself. Managing stress means not let it build up but handling it daily. Don’t allow yourself to bottle up your feelings; let them free. Write in a journal or express your concerns with family and friends when they occur, not after-the-fact. Set aside time each day for relaxation; this can include taking a walk, listening to music, playing a sport or engaging in activity, or taking a bath.
Learn how to say “no”. This may mean saying “no” to new projects at work, taking on new volunteer positions at church, or opting to stay home instead of going out on a Friday night. If someone wants to chat but you don’t have time, politely excuse yourself from the conversation and let her know you have limited time.
If you feel stressed but cannot pinpoint where it comes from, start a stress journal. Write down your daily habits, attitudes, and excuses (“I just have 1,000 things to get done today”) and the things that cause you stress on a daily basis. Observe what things or situations come up regularly. It could be work deadlines, getting the kids ready for school, or keeping up with bills.
Get into a daily routine.
Depression can knock you off any structure you have and days can easily feel like they melt into each other. Adhering to a routine can help you get back on track, accomplish things that need to be done, and push you out of your depression cocoon.
Set up your day and make sure you follow through with activities. While it may feel like you have no energy to complete activities, give it a go.
You may even want to put basic items on your list, like getting out of bed, taking a shower, or eating breakfast. Once you get in the groove of accomplishing tasks (even small ones), it can spur you on to keep completing items.
Reward yourself when you complete all items on the list. You can reward yourself with a bubble bath, dessert, or tv time.
Challenge negative thoughts.
What gets many people stuck in depression is the negative thought loop of “I’m not good enough”, “nobody likes me”, “my life is meaningless” or “nothing I do is worth anything.” When you’re depressed, it’s easy to jump to the worst conclusions. To combat these negative thoughts (which lead to negative feelings), use logic and decide whether these statements are true of you. Does nobody like you, or are you feeling lonely in this moment? Perhaps you have friends and family that you have been avoiding. When jumping to the worst conclusion, ask yourself what evidence supports that thought.
Think about the things that give your life meaning. Often these are the simple things, not the big job promotion or the nice car or house, but the dog that lovingly greets you every day, the charity work you did in South America, or the artwork you do that touches people’s’ souls.
Try something new.
Depression puts you into a rut, where it feels like nothing will change and you will always feel awful. Instead of giving into these feelings, go out and try something new. When you try a new activity, it chemically changes your brain and increases dopamine, which is associated with enjoyment and learning.
Learn a new language, volunteer at an animal shelter, or take a painting class. Do something a little out of the usual that you think you may enjoy.
Surround yourself with friends.
While you may want to seclude yourself into a cave of sadness, commit to spending time with the people you care about and that care about you. You may come up with plenty of ideas to talk yourself out of it (“I don’t want to get out of bed”, “I’m so sad I’ll just bring them down”, “nobody wants to spend time with me”, or “they’re better off without me”) but call up a friend, make plans, and don’t bail. Spending time with others will help you not feel so isolated. Being with friends can help you feel more ‘normal’, and being with people you care about will help you feel connected and care for.
Even if you feel tired, say “yes” when a friend calls to hang out.
Make an effort to spend with your family.
Throughout history, herbs have been used as ancient remedies to treat disease and illness, including depression. If you prefer to bypass traditional treatment (such as antidepressant drugs) herbs offer an alternative remedy for depression and stress.
The most commonly used herb used for depression treatment is St. John’s Wort.
Saffron is another herb used to treat depression. It is taken as an extract.
Consult your physician prior to use, as herbs can influence the effectiveness of other medications.
Depression supplements typically consist of a combination of herbs, natural chemicals, or vitamins that treat depression. Some examples of supplements to treat depression include:
Omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in flaxseed oil and can be taken orally.
SAMe, a naturally occurring chemical in the body, mostly used in Europe to treat depression.
5-HTP, which affects serotonin levels and is available over-the-counter.
DHEA, a hormone which the body makes, that when unstable, can cause havoc on mood.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary supplements for depression so take care to locate a safe and effective product.
Acupuncture is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine that works with the energy flow of your body. The premise of acupuncture is releasing energy blockages and restoring optimal flow in your body by using specifically placed, very small needles on specific points. Acupuncture can also help with aches and pains as well as sleeping problems.
Call your insurance company and see if acupuncture is covered. Many insurance providers will cover some of the costs of acupuncture.
Eat a healthy diet.
One of the best things you can do for your body is to nourish it well. While diet alone will not cure depression, it can certainly boost your mood and provide much needed energy to fuel your motivation. Additionally, don’t skip meals to ensure that your blood sugar is steady, which can reduce mood swings.
Eat healthy fats like coconut oil, which boost serotonin levels.
Avoid fast food and other ‘junk foods’ low in nutrients.
Avoid alcohol, which is a depressant. Remember that any relief you experience from drinking is short lived and does not solve any of your problems.
For more information on how to eat healthy balanced meals, check out How to Eat Healthy.
Treatment by hypnosis can teach you to mentally counter and refute negative, pessimistic thoughts that often fuel your depression. Using deep breathing combined with imagery and suggestion, hypnosis can help you dig deeply into the roots of depression and help imprint new coping skills directly into your subconscious, which could be too overpowering to do in a conscious state. All of this leads to conditioning yourself mentally to reject negative and depressing thoughts and install new empowering thoughts.
Some insurance companies will cover hypnosis as a way to treat depression.
Hypnotherapy can be very effective in treating depression especially when combined with other depression treatments.
Check out light therapy.
If your depression is related to the season, then light therapy may be helpful. Light therapy (also called phototherapy) consists of exposure to daylight or to specific or very bright, full-spectrum light, for a prescribed amount of time (usually 20 minutes). If you live in a sunny area, make sure you get sun exposure every day for adequate absorption of vitamin D, best absorbed through the skin. If you live in a dark location or it is dreary in the winter, invest in a full-spectrum light box. Light boxes can mimic outdoor light and target the brain to release chemicals which lift your mood.
You can purchase a light box online or over-the-counter, or receive a recommendation from your physician.
Light therapy is especially effective for seasonal affective disorder, which is also known as the ‘Winter Blues’.