Depression is one of the most common mental health illnesses in Canada. According to the Ministry for Health and Long-Term Care, an estimated 1 in 4 Canadians will experience a degree of depression serious enough to require treatment at some time in their life.
Depression can take many forms, and it’s important to make the distinction between clinical depression and situational depression. Clinical depression is a medical diagnosis of acute depression often caused by a chemical imbalance. Treatment requires regular therapy with a certified professional and in most cases prescription intervention. Situational depression is caused by our reaction to external stress factors. Symptoms are mild or moderate compared to clinical depression and can usually be managed with talk therapy and natural treatment methods.
For those living with mild to moderate depression, changing your behaviour, your physical activity, your lifestyle, and even your way of thinking, are all effective natural treatment methods.
If you’re struggling with depression, try these 7 alternative depression remedies to help lift your mood and restore your positive outlook on life.
1. Exercise Regularly
For immediate relief from situational depression, get active. Not only does exercise help prevent and improve numerous physical health problems by building a strong body and a healthy immune system, exercise also has considerable psychological benefits.
Daily exercise releases endorphins or “happiness” hormones, which act like natural antidepressants; and exercise increases your levels of serotonin helping to improve mood, lower stress, and regulate sleep patterns.
Try incorporating 30 minutes of aerobic exercise into your day, three to five times a week, for best results.
2. Set Goals and Try New Things
When you’re depressed you can feel like you’re stuck in a rut, that you can’t accomplish anything, and that your life has no meaning. Trying to change your attitude or pattern of behaviour can seem impossible, but action is the only way to move forward.
Push yourself to set goals. Start small with a walk or a bike ride, make a special dinner, or practice showing gratitude to your loved ones. Having goals makes the path to recovery easier.
Take on new responsibilities at home and at work. Responsibilities like a new family pet, or a new work project will help ground you, give you a sense of accomplishment, and a boost of self-confidence.
Try new things. Learn a new language, try a new hobby, take a trip, or volunteer. Experiencing something new broadens our minds and gives us a new perspective on our capabilities.
3. Practice Meditation
The effects of meditation on depression are well documented. Putting aside 20-30 minutes of quiet private time each day to clear your mind and observe your thoughts without judgment, have been proven to prevent and manage depression.
To achieve the state of deep peace that meditation provides, you must be committed to daily practice. For beginners, a guided meditation can help you stay focused and as you progress, managing your thoughts will become easier which is key to building a more positive attitude.
4. Eat Well
Good nutrition is one of the basic foundations of good health, including mental health. Eating healthy natural foods that are unprocessed and free of additives and chemicals maximizes the essential nutrients your body needs for energy, normal growth and development, healthy body function, and well-being.
Choosing serotonin-enhancing foods like wild salmon and anchovies rich in omega-3 fatty acids; healthy fats like coconut oil and avocado; and high protein foods like eggs, turkey and chicken, can also help ease depression. Caffeine, which reduces serotonin levels and stimulates the central nervous system, should be avoided.
5. Try Natural Supplements
Mood-enhancing herbal remedies have been used for centuries to treat depression and anxiety, but little was known about their true effectiveness. Today, well documented research has proved that serotonin-boosting supplements like St. John’s wort, SAMe, 5-HTP, and L-tryptophan have positive results in the treatment and management of mild to moderate depression symptoms. Other natural supplements like folic acid, omega-3, vitamin D, and vitamins B6 and B12, have also shown promise in the fight against depression but scientific evidence is limited.
Although natural supplements are available over-the-counter, always check with your doctor before using supplements. Some herbal remedies can interact with prescription medications and aggravate preexisting health conditions.
6. Get More Sunshine
If laughter is the best medicine, sunshine is a close second. The sun’s rays have a positive effect on mood and sleep and are critical for producing vitamin D in our bodies. Vitamin D helps us make serotonin, a “feel-good” hormone that regulates mood, anxiety, and fear, to create a sense of calm and well-being.
In climates with limited sunlight during winter months, some individuals can experience a type of depression called seasonal affective disorder. Investing in a therapeutic light box has been shown to help alleviate these symptoms.
7. Seek Professional Help
Talk with a psychotherapist, or a mental health professional who can help you explore the factors contributing to your depression and identify ways to manage your symptoms.
Join a peer support group. Depression can make individuals feel isolated. Support groups provide a safe and caring environment for people to share and support each other through common experiences. In the company of peers, you will learn you’re not alone.
Depression is a serious mental health disorder. If you or a loved one is struggling with depression seek a professional diagnosis.
For more information about Depression, visit The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s website www.camh.com.