First, I’d like to say that I am not a doctor and I do not play one on the internet. You should always consult your doctor about any medical issues you may be having or any treatments you are considering trying. Depression is no joke and can be a very crippling condition that oftentimes needs counseling or drugs for treatment, or a combination of the two. That being said, if you feel that you are struggling with a more mild case and/or are just feeling a little more down than usual, trying out some of the ways to brighten your mood below might be a great way to start treating mild depression naturally. Some of these natural remedies may be just enough to help get you back on track and avoid medication.
Treating Mild Depression Naturally
Exercise is probably the last thing anyone who is depressed feels like doing, but studies show that it is one of the best ways to combat mild depression. Exercise can help to release “feel-good” chemicals in your brain (endorphins, endocannabinoids and neurotransmitters). Exercise will also raise your body temperature, which can make you feel more calm, and help to reduce the immune system chemicals in your body that worsen depression. The endorphin rush that habitual exercisers talk about is actually for real. (Check out my post: The Easiest Way to Make Yourself Exercise: Portable Exercise Equipment for the way I get myself up and moving – most days anyway.)
Most everyone feels better when they are out in the sun for a few minutes, but research has shown that it does actually improve your mood – and it only takes 15 minutes. Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD) usually strikes people in the gloomy winter months when there is not enough sunlight. Sunlight helps to boost serotonin in your brain, which is the mood-boosting chemical that antidepressants work on. If it is less than beautiful outside, also consider a light box that you put on for 15 minutes in the morning while you are getting ready. Look for one that provides exposure to 10,000 lux of light and emits as little UV light as possible.
Two good options:
Fish Oil Supplements
Many of us have diets high in omega-6 fatty acids, the bad kind, that are linked to processed foods and trans fats. To counter act that, the body needs a certain amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Wild caught sources of fatty fish (think salmon, tuna and sardines) are great sources of this. If you palate is not really that into fish, you may want to consider taking omega-3 fish oil supplements. You will want to find a supplement that is pharmaceutical grade so it is completely free of mercury and has good amounts of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). There are most studies that need to be done, but there is a lot of promise in fish oil being able to help treat mild depression.
A great one to try (and what I take): Vitacost Mega EFA Omega-3 EPA & DHA Fish Oil
Research is beginning to show that the gut is more involved in the body’s functions than anyone thought. Good gut health = good health all around. Probiotics help the “good bugs” in your gut keep things humming along. As far as depression goes, probiotics are anti-inflammatory and seem to affect the gut positively by decreasing stress and signaling the body to increase serotonin (the feel good brain chemical) in the brain. Try to eat probiotic rich foods such as yogurt, kefir and kimchi that contain the active cultures, lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus casei, and bifidobacterium bifidum. If those foods aren’t really something you get daily doses of, consider a high quality supplement instead.
A great one to try (and what I take): Vitacost Probiotic 15-35 – 35 billion CFU
Meditation has also been shown to help many people with everything from panic attacks and stress to weight loss and quitting smoking. (Check out my post: Meditation and Weight Loss | 3 Ways a 5-Minute Meditation Can Help You Keep the Weight Off for more information.) Even a few minutes a day of quiet meditation can help to reduce stress and improve your focus, which can help to treat and prevent relapses of mild depression.
Never underestimate the power of just getting all your thoughts out on paper. Most of us spend time ruminating, or thinking about something continuously, without even realizing how detrimental it can be. By simply getting everything out of your head and down on paper it can take you out of the situation to look at things a little more clearly. It also takes the stress of trying to remember something away. By journaling, you are releasing your true feelings and can hopefully start to understand them and yourself a little better, which can be freeing.
Treating mild depression can sometimes feel overwhelming, but by starting with these tactics you can hopefully start to help yourself feel a little better each and every day.
Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links. I recommend these products because they are products that I personally use or companies that I have found trustworthy.