There’s no denying that prescription drugs play a vital role in the treatment and prevention of the various diseases that plague mankind. However, new information that questions the therapeutic benefits of the class of drugs known as antidepressants has caused many health care providers to reevaluate the role of drug therapy in treating depression. In turn, more and more patients are looking for ways to combat depression without the undesirable side effects that often accompany drugs. With that goal in mind, here’s a look at three natural ways to fight depression without prescription medications.
The notion that exercise is a great way to ward off disease and maintain strong healthy bodies is not new to any of us. However, the role that regular exercise plays in keeping our minds healthy and reducing the symptoms of depression is most likely not as well known. However, clinical studies are coming to light that strongly suggests that depressed patients who adopt a program of regular aerobic exercise, the experience just as much symptomatic relief as patients who take prescription antidepressants and refrain from exercise. The problem is that getting up and exercising is the last thing that most people who suffer from depression feel like doing.
And many assume that they will have to join a gym to exercise effectively. Fortunately, the key to exercising effectively is to find something you enjoy doing—such as taking walks with a pet or a friend, swimming, biking, or even putting on some music and dancing—and to start doing it regularly. What you’re looking for is movement, which gets your metabolism going, increases circulation, and helps to boost the levels of key brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine that are associated with elevated mood and well-being.
Exercise also helps to alleviate the anxiety that often accompanies depression by reducing stress and making even brief periods of sleep more restful and rejuvenating. Exercising your creativity through painting, drawing, quilting, gardening, or whatever outlet you enjoy is also important for stress reduction and mood elevation.
Eat healthily. We’ve all heard it before. But as new information on the critical role nutrition plays in very specific areas of our health, including mental health, there has been a shift from “healthy eating” as a mantra to “eating for health” as a way of life. You wouldn’t knowingly ingest a drug that you knew was going to harm you. So why should your attitude towards the foods you eat be any different? Do you really want to eat refined sugars that can send blood glucose, serotonin, and your mood on a roller coaster ride of ups and downs?
Of course, you don’t. So look for ways to remove refined sugars from your diet. Along with eating the proper foods that constitute a well-balanced diet, such as fruits, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates, there are specific nutrients that appear to be beneficial in combating the symptoms of depression. A few of these worth looking into are Vitamin D, Omega-3 Fatty acids, and vitamin C. Try getting sufficient amounts of specific nutrients from natural sources as much as possible before taking supplements. The bottom line in combating depression with nutrition is to eat the right kinds of foods in the right combinations at the right time of day. Although this may sound complicated it is mostly a matter of common sense.
Establish Social Connections
Feelings of isolation that frequently accompany depression can often lead to social withdrawal from friends and family members. Texts, emails, and social media—although popular forms of interaction—can also potentially create further social isolation and disconnectedness. Although the thought of carrying on social activities as you did in your pre-depression past may be overwhelming, the key is to find simple and meaningful ways to reach out to others.
Start with real phone conversations and simple invitations to lunch, walk, or shop. If you have certain hobbies or interests, seek out others who share those same interests in clubs or community groups. Volunteering at a local homeless shelter or assisted living facility to help those who are less fortunate than you is also a great way to forget about your own worries and reinforce feelings of self-esteem.