When you have clinical depression, you can feel exhausted, worthless, and hopelessly negative or flat. Some people almost certainly need medication, therapy, or some combination of the two in order to overcome clinical depression. However, it is also well worth trying the following nine natural treatments.
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1. Meditation and mindfulness
Mindfulness is one of the most popular alternative solutions to mental health struggles, and with good reason. Try spending 5-10 minutes in relaxed silence, focusing on your breathing and letting stray thoughts drift past. Studies show that even such basic forms of meditation are linked to lower anxiety levels, healthier blood pressure, and increased activity in the part of the brain that is associated with positive emotions.
You can also try creating a “safe place” in your mind, building up the details of a real or imaginary location where you can retreat when you’re feeling low. This exercise can be a powerful way of connecting with feelings of peace and security. Over time, meditation actually changes your brain in ways that increase your ability to cope with stress.
2. Improve your digestive health
As unlikely as it may sound, poor gut health is actually connected to a higher likelihood of developing clinical depression symptoms. It turns out that inflammation in the digestive system influences the brain, and that probiotic yogurts (or drinks) may be able to help. At present, products containing bifidobacteria infants is have received the most empirical support. However, you can also make your gut happier by ensuring your diet is high in B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. Some of the best sources of the former include bread, whole cereals, and vegetables, while the latter is found in flaxseed and oily fish.
3. Spend more time outdoors
Although you might sometimes feel like going outside is the last thing you want to do, there are excellent reasons to spend time appreciating nature. Intriguingly, a study of mood fluctuations conducted over a five year period found that participants experienced improvements in happiness levels if they relocated to a greener area. In addition, being in the sun gives you much-need vitamin D (which is typically low in people suffering from clinical depression), and exposure to the phytoncide compounds released by plants is known to reduce anxiety levels.
4. Create a gratitude journal
You can fight the urge to constantly focus on the bad and difficult aspects of life by making a conscious effort to document the good experiences you have. Dedicate a notebook to feelings of gratitude you experience, and commit to writing in it at least once a day. You don’t need to look for major developments—little things like seeing a beautiful sunset, having a tasty meal, or hearing from an old friend are all worthy additions. Don’t forget to include gratitude relating to your own traits and achievements, too! This process may help to retrain your mind to cultivate a more balanced view of the world (rather than seeing it—and yourself—as all bad).
5. Practice yoga
As well as enhancing flexibility, yoga is famous for promoting feelings of peace. This reputation is supported by studies that show a correlation between practicing yoga and enjoying increased serotonin levels. This boost in serotonin can make you feel more optimistic and content.
6. Consider taking supplements
A range of supplements appears to help some of the major symptoms of clinical depression. Some of the most promising include folic acid, fish oil, and SAMe. However, just because a treatment is natural doesn’t mean that it won’t interact with any other medications you’re taking (or any of your pre-existing health conditions). For that reason, it’s always smart to review your depression treatment options with your doctor, carefully looking at how a new supplement might influence your overall health.
7. Seek social support
Many people who are struggling with clinical depression try to cope with their symptoms alone. However, research on resilience shows that those who rely on loved ones for support have lower levels of cortisol (a key stress hormone) and have lifespans that are more than 20% longer. There is plenty of evidence that a strong support network also enhances self-esteem, so don’t be afraid to reach out to friends or family when you’re feeling low.
8. Practice self- care
It’s easy to become apathetic about caring for your mind and body when you’re melancholy, but being kind to yourself is a vital weapon in the fight against clinical depression. Regularly indulge in relaxing activities (like reading or taking a hot bubble bath) that involve treating yourself as valuable and worthwhile, and hold strong boundaries to guard against toxic relationships draining your resources.
9. Exercise more often
Finally, exercise promotes the release of endorphins, “feel good” chemicals that instantly energize you and make the world seem more positive. However, you don’t have to run a marathon to get the benefits of exercise. Whether you like swimming, riding horses, cycling, or dancing, even light exercise gets the heart pumping and can go some way towards helping you reduce feelings of clinical depression.