6 Ways to Reduce Depression Without Medication
Depression is a serious mental condition that takes a toll on your health, happiness, and quality of life. Experts recommend a combination of medication and therapy for treatment but not everyone is comfortable taking medication. If you're one who isn't, rest assured that there are a number of proven ways to ease feelings of depression without medication. Here are five of them.
Unhealthy thought patterns are often at the heart of depression. Therapy is highly effective for treating depression and anxiety. During therapy, you'll evaluate your beliefs, thoughts, attitudes, and ideas and learn how to change your way of thinking about things. You'll learn coping skills for handling symptoms and triggers and you'll work to find higher purpose and meaning in life, which can also help reduce depression.
Harvard Medical School cites a large body of research showing that 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week may help to reduce depression as effectively as anti-depressants and its effects last longer than medication. Regular exercise even helps prevent the depression from returning. Exercise increases endorphins, brain chemicals that improve immunity, and reduces the perception of pain. The neurotransmitter, norepinephrine, is also activated during exercise and directly improves your mood.
Meditation has become a mainstream therapy for treating a wide range of diseases and conditions, including depression and anxiety. Meditation has been found to actually change the structures and functions of the brain to help prevent depression from returning. You don't need to light candles and chant "ohms" to meditate. Simply sit quietly and focus all of your attention on your breathing, which should be slow and rhythmic. When thoughts enter your head, gently send them floating away like a leaf moving downstream and out of sight. It takes a little practice to sit quietly without thinking, but once you get there, it won't take long to notice the difference. Start with five minutes of practice each day and work up to 15 minutes or more a day.
The food you put in your body can have a big impact on your depression, for better or for worse. Depression medications like Prozac increase serotonin levels in the brain, but there are some foods that can boost these levels naturally. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as sardines, wild salmon, and mackerel, enhance serotonin levels, as do healthy fats including coconut oil. A diet high in protein can also help, especially if the protein is high in tryptophan, such as turkey.
Writing in a journal has been shown to be effective for helping to treat depression. One reason is that journaling requires mindfulness, and mindfulness can lead to authenticity and better feelings. Each day, write about what you're feeling, and why. Over time, you'll identify patterns in your thinking and behaviors that you can then begin to shift to help reduce negative feelings.
Ease up on the psychoactive substances
Drugs and alcohol may seem to reduce depression but they actually make it worse. Psychoactive substances cause changes in brain function and structure, changing the way brain chemicals are released and used. If you abuse drugs or alcohol, it could be a major contributor to ongoing depression. Treatment or therapy can help.