10 Tips for Dealing with Depression Naturally

[F]or some of us depression can be seasonal (SAD), or associated with the weather, loss, or sad memories of major life events. For others, it may have nothing to do with anything, you just know that out-of-control, spiraling feeling is coming on and there appears to be nothing you can do to stop it.

Would you agree that in our modern society, depression seems to be occurring at epidemic proportions? Even young children, teenagers and college-aged adults are finding themselves diagnosed as clinically depressed.

In fact, depression is the leading cause of disability among nonfatal medical conditions in the United States. Some stats even show a rate of 1 in 4 Americans suffering from the disease.

What’s the answer?

I don’t think anyone’s 100% sure on anything! Although, I do know that I’ve never been one to promote pharmaceutics; on the other hand, I realize this is a sensitive issue and antidepressant drugs are generally the remedy of choice given by mainstream medical professionals upon a diagnosis of depression.

Yet, in 2002, a contributor to the Washington Post, Shankar Vedantam, wrote a piece entitled “Against Depression, a Sugar Pill Is Hard to Beat,” where he indicates that “in 52% of FDA trials, the effects of antidepressants could not be distinguished from those of placebo.”

What’s more, his research also indicated that “increased severity of depression was associated with greater change in depressive symptoms in those treated with antidepressants, with the reverse effect observed in those in the pill placebo condition.”

The bottom line is…drugs are not a long-term solution. Note: In no way am I suggesting that one stops taking prescribed medication. That’s something you need to work out with your physician.

10 Tips for Dealing with Depression Naturally:

Instead of pharaceutical drug therapy, perhaps it would be beneficial to begin looking toward natural remedies for depression.

  1. Prevention is key. If you know your depressive triggers, do all that you can to avoid them. Reduce anxiety, maintain a healthy diet, and participate in an exercise program, all easier said than done I know, yet they are the most effective preventative measures. 
  2. Exercise. If you aren’t exercising on a regular basis I highly recommend it. There are so many different forms of exercise (i.e. yoga, aerobics, weight lifting, running, etc.) Begin slowly building up to at least ½ hour a day – it can be even more beneficial for treating/preventing depression if you can do it outside — this alone will help the blood start flowing to all parts of your body and you’ll begin to feel better almost instantly. The most important element to any exercise program is to find one that is the most suitable for you. 
  3. Diet. Your diet should be high in calcium and B vitamins, cut out the refined carbs, and avoid sugar like the plague. Coincidence that the rate of refined carbohydrates and sugar in our American diet is increasing at an alarming rate and so is the rate of depression? I don’t think so. Eat local, fresh, and sustainable, and use supplements when necessary. 
  4. Herbal supplements. Herbs contain many medicinal powers and can heal a variety of ailments. St. John’s wort is one of the most promising herbs for the treatment of depression. It has been used for centuries by people and cultures all over the world. A few of the other beneficial herbs include passionflower, lavender, lemon balm, Valerian, oat leafy tops, and nettles. Begin researching the benefits of herbs on depression and anxiety while you seek out the council of a certified herbalist, naturopath, or other holistic health care practitioner.  
  5. Get enough sleep. Once in a depressed state, one of two things can happen…you sleep to much or you can’t sleep at all. An excellent way to ward off sleep irregularities is to create a bedtime routine and stick to it every single day. Take a soothing bath (using Epsom salts), drink an herbal tea to help naturally induce restful sleep, reduce stimulants…do whatever works into your lifestyle, but guard your sleep!
  6. Pay nature a visit. Prioritize your time in nature by spending at least 30 minutes a day outdoors. It is essential for us to connect with nature, especially during times of depression. Chop wood, mess around in the garden, walk the dog, take a hike, ride a bike, go canoeing, go skiing…whatever you choose to do, do it outside for at least ½ hour — longer if you can. The exposure to sunlight alone can do wonders.
  7. Use your hands to create something. Revive your God-given gifts — ’cause we all got ‘em — and use them to make something beautiful. I have discovered that the times in which I’ve been the most depressed I have not listened to a longing deep inside of myself…you know, the one that calls me to do something outside of myself. Whether it be making your home, cooking meals for your family, working on your car, leaning to crochet, baking, writing, taking pictures, painting  pictures…stop resisting, follow your heart, and do what you love.
  8. Do something for someone else. When depressed, our thoughts tend to turn inward. We often begin re-living our hurts and sometimes helping other people who are hurting, helps us. It’s theraputic to be able to find meaning in doing good.
  9. Talk it out intellectually. Depression is not the cause of hopelessness and extreme sadness — it is a symptom. If there is a specific problem you are having that is causing these feeling…hit it head on. Research solutions, meet with a therapist or counselor, set goals, and come up with a plan. Do not allow your problems to go unanswered. Hope can be found in moving, step by step toward addressing our issues. 
  10. Call a friend. It could be that we are afraid of becoming a burden to those that love us, but we must remember we are relational beings — specially designed to live in community with others. Resist the temptation to isolate yourself and call a friend! 

I hope that a few of these tips will help you just as they have helped me. Depression is not something to be ashamed over. No one’s life is made of roses! Depression is a problem like any other — it’s not a character flaw or moral deficiency – and there are natural methods that can help. In the end, you must take the time to get to know yourself and discover what works best for you. Unfortunately, there aren’t any quick and easy fixes…but there is hope! 

If you have struggled with depression in the past, please feel free to share your natural remedies. Who knows…your comment could be the one to provide encouragement to someone who desperately needs to read your words today.

Be sure not to miss a post, click this link to receive my free eBook and Frugally Sustainable tips by email.

DISCLAIMER: The comments made here are the opinion of the author and are by no means a substitute for professional medical prevention, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with your physician, pharmacist, or health care provider before taking any home remedies or supplements or following any treatment suggested here. Only your health care provider or personal physician can provide you with advice on what is safe and effective for your unique needs or diagnose your particular medical history.

Mountain Rose Herbs

Comments

  1. #9 has been so important to me. I went through bad depression during my pregnancy (the majority of which was during the winter). I think hit the nail on the head saying it’s not the cause, it’s a symptom – it’s often a sign that something else is out of balance in our life.

  2. Thank you for putting this out there. I work with high school students and I have been so worried about so many of them…so many, many prayers uttered for them.

  3. I have battled serious depression a few times in my life. I agree with all your tips but also have to say that identifying the source of my depression was KEY to getting resolution. You allude to the different causes in your intro but the tips don’t necessarily support those causes… at least the way I read it. One time it was very seriously physical and a naturopath was very helpful in identifying the root cause. Another time it was related to loss and some counseling sessions were of immense help. Another time it was situational and gaining control of my life step by step was necessary. There were many times that anti-depressants were recommended as a solution but I knew that I wanted the root cause addressed. So tips are helpful but seriously uncovering the root cause of your depression will keep you from a hodgepodge approach.

  4. Depression is so debilitating. I’ve struggled with it at times in my life, too and I really can’t put my finger on what’s really helped and what’s just been, as Anna put it, hodgepodge. I think focusing on my spiritual life was honestly the biggest thing for me. Sometimes depression is physical, but sometimes it’s not.

  5. Great tips! The one about getting outside in the sunshine is truly good for those with genuine SAD. Unless there is an underlying root cause other than “winter,” getting outside will often do the trick! Also helpful, for Christmas this year, I asked for one of those full spectrum sun lamps designed to emulate the sun (without the UV rays, of course … not the old sun lamps of the 60s) and I keep it on all day while I am working. It has made a huge difference this year. But then, so has our mild winter. We were able to cookout 6-7 times in December & January this year so I think that has helped too. In my case, it is just serious cabin fever, then I get frustrated … and then the depression kicks in. That said, like Anna said, you really do need to understand the root cause before you decide how best to approach it. And if it IS just SAD, get out in the sunshine! Here is a link to my new lamp and love it!

    http://www.amazon.com/Sunlight-Natural-Spectrum-Simulates-Daylight/dp/B003DRBOJ8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1329222340&sr=8-1

    • PS … just noticed the lamps are on sale at a huge discount. Regular price is $79.99 and you can pick one up now for just $29.99.

  6. Great ideas! I especially love #8. I know when I struggle with feeling blue, if I can just move my focus to someone else besides me, it is tremendously helpful!

  7. While I agree that people with depressive episodes can use these natural alternatives to fight their depression, there are some of us who were born with a chemical imbalance, and as much as we exercise, eat right, try to focus on positive aspects of our lives, we cannot remove ourselves from the root cause of our depression, which is life. Some people can fight depression naturally, and I say good on them. Others need medical intervention, and that’s okay, too.

  8. Your tips are great! I’ve gone through what I would call real depression, not just sad times, several times in my life and sometimes working through them has worked and sometimes it hasn’t. I just recently went through a really tough time and attributed my feeling stressed to that–it made sense. When I found myself crying for hours over the loss of my favorite oatmeal bowl, I knew it was time to ask for help.

    Just one other thing I thought I’d mention…just because something is natural or herbal doesn’t mean it doesn’t have side effects or interactions with other things. So I think your point about going with a naturopath or other certified health care practitioner is really important!

    Thanks so much for your thoughtful post.

  9. Thank you so much.. your ideas are spot on .
    One thing I would add is to take Vit D 3… during the winter many of us just can’t go out side like we should. Everyone should get 30 min. of un-sun-screened Sun every day. it plays a huge part in depression (SAD).
    I love the idea from a reader of a Sun light lamp.. even tho I don’t suffer with SAD, I would love to have one.

    Also I would add. , walking , praying & singing :-) thankfully I live in the country LOL but when I really suffered with depression I would walk & sing : “This is the Day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice & be glad in it !”. I’d do my morning prayers out in God’s World :-)

    thanks again for your post.
    lisa

  10. Interesting article – as well as the comments, thank you. Depression can be so debilitating and a painful process. Another helpful aid is taking Omega 3 to support the brain (although my understanding is that it has to be very good quality fish oil) and there is good research out there that about that. As a counsellor and someone who has suffered various forms of depression, I have a strong interest in the subject. I try to take a multi-dimensional approach by looking at the context of people’s lives (interesting to note for example that depression often occurs with people who are isolated, lack support structures and so on), thought patterns and beliefs and all the above things. Recently though I have become interested in the book Listening to Depression by Lara Honos-Webb, Ph.D. She takes the approach that we can reframe depression as a ‘gift’ to transform our lives, by listening to the ‘message’ of depression. Like burn-out etc, I sometimes think we can feel so desperate to get over it (been there!), however it can also instruct us about things we need to change, let go of and so forth. While not the kind of gift that any of us would want, it certainly has some good points about the wisdom it can bring our lives. On a different note, I really appreciate your articles thank you Jo, and often refer to them!

  11. Oops, sorry – called you Jo!! My sincerest apologies Andrea, for a second there I confused you with another ‘blogger’ that also has some great articles on natural health etc

  12. Wonderful ideas! I think that any one of them would have a beneficial affect. The problem sometimes is simply taking the step … it’s hard to do when one feels bad. I think that’s when having a personal support group or someone who cares comes in handy … they can help us take the first step. Here’s another idea to add to yours … take five real deep breaths … slowly. When we are depressed we tend to breathe shallow … taking 5-10 deep breaths can change our mood. Thank you for this post … I’m sure that it will help others!

  13. My hubby is in the category that these 10 tips don’t help :( he’s had his for over 15yrs. A deep sense of sadness everyday for no apparent reason. His grandmother is the same, mother is the same, brother and sister is the same. Or similar. He has a great diet, exercises daily, support, the works. Just always a sense of burden and sadness.
    Finally got diagnosed and on prescription medication and it’s made the world of difference!! He’s so much easier to be around and live with. Although his diagnosis is chronic depression. Might be different.?!
    Would love if natural remedies worked but they just don’t in our case :(

  14. Great tips! Depression is becoming epidemic – just like obesity and diabetes. A connection between the SAD diet perhaps? Maybe. Unfortunately doctors are so quick to write a prescription for anti-depressants – they’re terrible. I do understand some people need them, but for others natural treatments can help. I’m a firm believer in eating right, exercising, and getting outside in the sunlight as much as possible.

    Found your blog through the Meet and Greet Monday. Can’t wait to read more.

    Peace. ;)

  15. Like you said, having a friend (or someone) to really listen to how you are feeling can be an enormous help. Allowing ourselves to do little nurturing things that make us feel good can help: a lovely candle, playing music that lifts us up, a little dark chocolate ;) Walking through these times are so hard but I agree that we must break the shame around anxiety, panic attacks, depression in general. Once we’ve acknowledged something in our life – told someone else about what is really going on – healing comes much more “easily”.

  16. Thank you so much for the tips! I occasionally suffer from a very mild form of depression & anxiety, for which my docotor prescribed very strong medication. It made me feel… well, nothing actually. One month I couldn’t afford the script and I thank God that I couldn’t. It was like I woke up out of a fog, and when I told the doctor I wasn’t going to take them anymore, he actually got angry at me. I switched doctors and finally found one I’m comfortable talking to and who understands why I won’t take those sorts of medications anymore. He’s helped me find more natural ways to deal with the problem and it’s actually worked for me. I’ve been free from panic attacks for several years now, and have found that on the rare occasion I start to feel depressed, I’m able to work through it without chemical assistance. I feel like the key for me was finding a doctor who was willing to work with me and take my thoughts/preferences into consideration.

  17. My mother was right when she said that marrying the right person determines the bulk of your happiness. Relationships used to be a source of depression for me, so I avoided them. Then I experienced the worst ever spell by dealing with life by myself. My current boyfriend has worked wonders for me. When I met him, the eating disorder that I was fighting for most of my adult life virtually vanished. My menstrual cramps that were once excruciating became nothing more than mild discomfort.
    This doesn’t mean I don’t have occasional spells, when I want to sleep all day and don’t know why I am so moody. But when that happens, my man makes me get outside for a walk and let’s me ramble. Or, he will stay in bed with me and put a funny movie on. I would have to say that having somebody is the closest thing to a cure I have ever had.

  18. Drugs. SSRI drugs. Modern miracles for millions of people. They are not evil. They are not mere chemicals. They correct brain chemistry. Some people (about 30%) will get well with natural treatments such as those above. About 1/3 will need to stay on medication, and about 1/3 may continue to struggle with depression. Been there. No nature or spiritual journeys or St. John’s wort is as reliable for a person with clinical depression as good psychopharmacology. Even “natural” cures are at their base chemicals such as St. John’s wort. Too many people lack adequate treatment due to misinformation and stigma. Not only have I been a depressed person and mother of depressed people, but I was a prevention and education director at a large community mental health center. Believe me, please, people, get good diagnosis and treatment, and don’t waste a lot of time playing “naturopath” to yourself. Blessings.

    • Colleen says:

      Thank you for a sensible response! I refuse to apologize or feel like I’m doing anything wrong by taking SSRI drugs. They work for me and for many many others!

  19. Three things really helped me through a depression. 1. My closest friends were there& were supportive. 2. I have been taking something called Super B& C complex it’s vitamins& really helps. 3. I made a list of everything im good at or have succeeded in doing &reviewing it every day.

  20. I’m like quite a few on here, have the clinical depression where the chemicals just aren’t right in the brain and mine is a family (genetic) thing too.l I’ve struggled with it since my early 20′s and am now mid-50′s and even on medication, I’m finding myself fighting an episode right now. I envy the ones who can treat it with the natural methods but I still try and incorporate as many of your tips as I can.

    I just finished reading a GREAT book on depression called “Rebuild from Depression – A Nutrient Guide.” It’s written by Amanda Rose, PhD and it covers her own struggles and even goes into depression during pregnancy and post-partum depression. She points out nutrients and why they’re needed (and what they do) and she also lays out whole eating as a big part of the nutrition. I can’t say enough good things about the book. She has a website http://www.rebuild-from-depression.com and she & her mother have a website that deals with whole food cooking. For the ones who struggle from this debilitating condition, I encourage you to check out this book.

    Mary

  21. When I was in high school, I began to have anxiety attacks and huge problems with depression. In fact, my doctor prescribed me a couple meds that helped for a week or so, but after that caused me to have suicidal thoughts and much worse depression. Instead of removing the medication, I was given more and more, eventually taking almost ten pills daily. This went on for a year, and I ruined several friendships through my horrible uncontrollable behavior at the time. I finally found a doctor who took me off the meds carefully, and I have never felt better!

    I still occasionally struggle with depression, but instead of using prescription drugs, I can vouch for St. Johns Wort being an excellent help. Also sunlight and getting outdoors. But the number one thing I found that helped me the most is to do something for yourself! Do something that makes you feel good.

  22. I too found D-3 very helpful, also zinc lozenges. What I have found from doing some research it is often caused from excessive cortisol caused by stress. All things natural for me. In most every case that I have dealt with depression it has been from an imbalance of physical or emotional or spiritual health the key is to find out where the imbalance is unfortunately too often by the time we realize there is a problem the feelings of hopelessness prevent us from thinking clearly enough to do these things that we know work. I also require supplementing whey protein

  23. I don’t have “gifts”, so I can’t do #7. Don’t have friends, can’t do #10. Working 10-12 hours a day, so exercise is difficult to fit in. Supporting the family on minimum wage so I can’t afford to buy supplements. Living in apartment with heavy student debt. Can’t raise chickens, grow vegetables, etc. Any other ideas?

  24. I never supported medications, not unless they are for the extreme cases. However, when it s seasonal, like mine, or due to mood swings, doing other activities, such as the one this blog a mentioned, is very helpful. With medication, people tend to be too dependent on the drugs themselves or the placebo effect they believe works. If there are more natural ways to cure, or avoid, depression, then it is both safer and easier to handle. Cures such as going smelling flowers, petting puppy, or watching a sunset is much easier to achieve and much cheaper to do. Great blog!

  25. Hi, Andrea! First, thank you for all of the work you put into this site! I subscribe and search through your archives… a lot :)

    My question for you is – can you recommend an herbal “happy recipe” of sorts? Then, what would be the best way to administer these herbs when someone’s feeling a bit blue? Should I make a tincture to keep on hand? Or store herbs dry and take them in a tea?? Do you also have a recommended dose?

    Thanks again!
    Laura

  26. Hi Andrea,

    I really appreciate your tips on how to deal with depression naturally. Exercise is one the best cure by simply walking at least 15 – 30 minutes has a great effect on our brain together with healthy diet which can help you reduced the symptoms of depression. Also with this kind of mental condition needs someone you can talk with to help you feel at ease.

  27. prescribed drugs made my depression worse, they made me feel suicidal. diet and exercise and connecting with nature were key in getting me back on track. also take time to appreciate the things you have in life, my lovely children, a laugh with friends, my cat, a good book. because after all this is as good as it gets, we can’t expect anything more. make the most of things. i always remind myself that if i have such lovely friends and kids i can’t be such a bad person myself

  28. Hello to every body, it’s my first pay a quick visit of this website; this blog carries amazing and truly fine stuff in favor of readers.

  29. Calling a friend didn’t help me at all. It helped during the talking with them, but my friends have learned to avoid me and abandon me because I seem to bring everyone down. Now I’m alone in the world.

  30. You should be a part of a contest for one of
    the best sites on the internet. I’m going to highly recommend this site!

  31. Depression is indeed very common and it is very unfortunate to note that several people just could not handle it. These tips you have posted are very useful. May this help several individuals get through this stage of their life. Thank you for sharing.

  32. hello friends and thanx to the person who started this great stupendous work of sharing,i learned alot friends truly say all things which you share helped me and now helping me from depression like medication helps me alot but walk ,outdoor,sharing with a good friend ,spirituality are helping me other things which i got i wil try thanx……………..

  33. As far as herbal supplements go, St Johns Wort is well known, but there a few more I’ve noticed to be more effective. A combination of all or simply alone each of these are amazing: Rhodiola Rosea, Circumin(turmeric extract), gotu kola, ginkgo biloba.
    Rhodiola is a one isomer type antidepressant(maoi-a), while curcumin is the opposite isomer(maoi-b), covering all parts of the brain associated with depression. Gotu kola is sort of similar to the first two, but is a literal brain food; brain function increases as well it repairs the neurotransmitter receptors associated with depression. Lastly ginkgo biloba is a strong brain vasodilator, opening the brains vessels allowing all parts of the brain to be better utilized and nourished

    Exercise, diet, good sleep habits and commune with nature have always been important to me, but these aforementioned herbs are my saving grace and I would urge anyone struggling to try one or all of these(of course if you have a physical condition check interactions first)

    Best luck!

  34. I went to the hospital today and the doctor said it seemed like I was depressed or had an anxiety disorder. I went in with symptoms like headache, dizziness, a hollow feeling stomach, I can’t eat, all I do is sleep. Is this normal if I am depressed? Any input would be great on the symptoms from real people who have lived it. I am new at this. Everything I have read was helpful so far in controlling it, but I am a little ashamed to grip on to it being depression. I have never felt like this before. It all seems so unreal, I just feel sick. Thank you guys for being cool.

  35. it is interesting & effective articles

  36. Anytime I call a friend, I get stuck listening to them, their problems or their delights. How does calling a friend really help? I know my friends do not do this because they are not good people or good friends. It’s just the way it is and I’d like to know how listening to people is part of a solution, when all it does is make me want to recoil.

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