Depression is insidious. You can slip into into it without noticing. But you can also climb out again. Most people have experienced at least a touch of depression at some time or other. I certainly have. In this post, I list ten things that have helped me overcome periods of depression – without taking antidepressants.
Are you depressed or just feeling low?
Depression is a word we use in everyday language to describe a number of feelings, including sadness, frustration, disappointment, and lethargy. However, I’m talking about clinical depression here. It differs from everyday lows in three significant ways:
- Clinical depression is more intense
- Clinical depression lasts longer (two weeks or more)
- Clinical depression significantly interferes with effective day to day functioning.
Most doctors prescribe antidepressants for clinical, but medication often only addresses the symptoms, and not the cause of depression. However, if you are suffering from serious depression, medication is crucial for your well-being.
I want to show you how to heal from depression using natural means. The information I offer is aimed at those with light to medium depression. If you’ve been given medication, please continue to take it. The following 10-step strategy will speed your recovery – whether you’re on medication or not.
What are the signs of depression?
Here’s a checklist which will help you see if you’re depressed. The symptom will vary from person to person and also depend on the severity of your condition.
- Do you suffer from low energy, or fatigue?
- Do you feel hopeless, negative, or pessimistic?
- Do you have persistent sad, anxious, or flat moods?
- Do you have difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decision?
- Do you suffer from recurring feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness?
- Have you lost pleasure in hobbies and activities that you once enjoyed, including sex?
- Do you suffer from sleep disturbances such as insomnia, early-morning waking, or oversleeping?
- Have your eating habits changed, resulting in weight loss or weight gain?
- Do you suffer from restlessness, or irritability?
- Do you have thoughts of self-harm?
If you answered ‘yes’ to some of the questions above, you may be suffering from depression. Depression varies in severity. It may be that you are feeling low and are just hovering on the edge of clinical depression, or that you are suffering a mild to moderate form of depression. (Note: if you have thoughts of self-harm, you need to seek immediate medical help!)
Most medical practitioners suggest antidepressant medication and counseling. Both can be beneficial. But there are also some natural ways to counter a mild to medium depression.
10 Steps to recover from depression
1. Acknowledge depression to yourself and others.
To acknowledge depression can be extremely hard, especially if you see yourself as a strong and decisive person. One of the practical difficulties of suffering from depression is that you may feel unable to continue with some commitments you’ve made. Let your colleagues or friends know that you will have to take a couple of steps back until you are feeling better. They may be able to come up with solutions that will help take the load off your shoulders.
2. Use a powerful natural remedy.
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum) is a roadside weed that has been used for centuries to treat a variety of disorders. It’s a mood-lifter and is an excellent remedy for mild to moderate depression. There has been some discussion about its efficacy. A research project comparing the effectiveness of St. Johns Wort with the antidepressant Imipramine, came to the following conclusion in the British Medical Journal:
Hypericum perforatum extract is therapeutically equivalent to imipramine in treating mild to moderate depression, but patients tolerate hypericum better.
You can get some over-the-counter preparations of St. John’s Wort at your local drugstore or pharmacy.
3. Step up your exercise.
Regular exercise releases feel-good brain chemicals (neurotransmitters and endorphins) that may ease depression. Exercise has been found to work as well as medications, but may take longer to take effect.
I recommend vigorous walking or slow running. If you have a heart rate monitor, try and stay more or less at 15% below your maximum heart rate. (Your maximum heart rate is 220 beats per minute minus your age). Translated into action, 15% below your maximum heart rate may equate to a purposeful but moderate uphill walk, or a fast walk on the flat. (Your breathing should still be easy.) Try to exercise at least every second day.
4. Use nutrition.
Are you following a diet that helps you to combat depression? There are some essential foodstuffs that can help you to recover your wellbeing:
- Omega 3′s
Research shows that foods rich in B vitamins and omega-3‘s may boost your mood. Make sure that you consume enough omega-3′s by eating two servings of seafood per week or by taking fish oil supplements. Salmon, tuna and trout are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Many people who suffer from depression are deficient in folate, a type of B vitamin. Natural food sources of folate are liver, spinach, papaya, lentils, avocados, raspberries, black eyed peas, red bell peppers, beans, broccoli, greens, and orange juice.
Lack of iron, or anemia, is said to contribute to depression. Natural food sources of iron include meat, lentils, beans and leafy green vegetables.
A 1991 study published in Biological Psychiatry suggests that lower levels of selenium in the diet correlate with anxiety, depression, and tiredness. Natural food sources of selenium include fish, Brazil nuts, beef and turkey, garlic and whole grains.
- What to avoid
It’s important to stay off alcohol if you are feeling depressed. Alcohol is a depressant and will lower your mood (even though it may feel good initially.)
5. Improve Sleep
If you are depressed, you are likely to suffer from a sleep disorder. It may be that you feel exhausted when you go to bed, but can’t get to sleep. Or that you wake up in the early hours and can’t get back to sleep again. Personally, I use a combination of three sleep strategies:
- Use a sleep hypnosis recording, created by Jon Rhodes.
- Use an eye-shade, or block out light with thick curtains.
- Use Melatonin in order to reset the body clock.
6. Enjoy a massage.
Besides being physically relaxing, massage may also cause the body to produce fewer stress hormones and may also increase the body’s production of feel-good endorphins and the mood-altering hormone serotonin.
Natural sunlight seems to work best for people who have seasonal depression, called SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. In fact, extra sunlight can help all forms of depression. Make sure you go out into the sun for a few minutes whenever it shines. If you live in a climate with little sunshine or find yourself depressed in the winter months, you may want to invest in a Solar Simulator. It’s a special lamp that simulates sunshine.
8. Unburden yourself.
If you are feeling low, talk to a good friend. Friends can often spot if there is an imbalance in your life. You might also consider consulting a counselor or psychotherapist. Deep down we know what’s bothering us and what would help us to heal. Talking to a trusted person can help you to access your own wisdom.
9. Reduce stress.
One of the main factors that can precipitate depression is stress. Take a step back and refocus your life. Think of ways you can get others lighten your load. Can you push out the looming deadline? Can someone help you with the task that’s getting you down? Can you delegate or team up with someone?
Learning to focus the mind can be beneficial when you are trying to recover from depression. Meditation helps to control negative thinking, such as thoughts spiraling into failure or worthlessness. Meditation can also work directly on your mood. In my experience, meditation can work wonders for people suffering from depression. But you need to know exactly how to use meditation to recover from depression – otherwise it can make things worse. To be on the safe side, practice walking meditation.
My next post will focus on exactly how to use meditation to recover from depression. Make sure you read it – I’m very excited about what I’ve discovered! It might be the one thing that helps you or your loved one to recover from depression.
What is your experience of depression? What helped and what didn’t?
Read my FREE Ebook Overcome Anything: Finding the Light After Darkness for more inspiration and practical help.
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