With more than 264 million diagnosed cases around the world, depression is regarded as one of the most common mental disorders. Just in the United States alone, research has found that 17.3 million American adults have had at least one major depressive episode in their lives.
Although its causes aren’t exact, fortunately, we do know how to treat depression. Medication has often been hailed as the gold standard for treatment, but patients often find themselves reluctant to go that way, and understandably so. With all of the side effects of medications — such as weight gain, anxiety, and nausea — the need for alternative treatments is higher than ever.
Fortunately, treating your depression doesn’t have to require strong medications. Instead, these five alternative treatments have been shown to be highly beneficial in treating depression, allowing you to finally regain control over your own mental health.
There’s a wide variety of herbal medications that have been reported to help with depression. Research indicates that, although they’re natural, they still act on the synapsis of neurotransmitters the same way a prescription medicine would. St. John’s Wort, saffron extracts, and folic acid are some of the most famous examples.
Probiotic supplements have also been shown to help, as they provide our gut with benign microorganisms that are linked with several health benefits. In addition, CBD (cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive compound in the hemp plant) has shown a lot of potential due to its relaxing effects on our minds.
Please note, however, that not every herbal remedy is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It’s also recommended, if not necessary, to avoid unvetted sources and do ample research so you don’t end up with herbs that have been unsafely processed.
The word “exercise” may be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. For the average person, something as simple as a 15-minute jog around your neighborhood does wonders for your well-being. Physical activity is not only enjoyable, but it also has been demonstrated to improve sleep, protect you from heart diseases, and even help you on a cognitive level.
Regular exercise promotes the release of endorphins (one of the main “happy” chemicals of our brain) and hippocampus growth by reinforced cellular activity. Our hippocampus is responsible for controlling our memory and emotions and tends to decrease in size in patients with depression.
Food plays a crucial role in maintaining our mental health, as well. Fatty acids commonly found in seafood, nuts, and plant oils contribute to the production and maintenance of cell membranes. The essential micronutrients found in fruit and vegetables are responsible for preventing the effects of mental decline over time. Eggs and whole grains, rich in amino acids, also help with the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin.
Avoiding high intakes of sugar and processed fats in favor of a balanced, nutrition-rich diet, ensures that our brain has everything it needs to function and behave normally. Dietary models, such as the popular Mediterranean Diet, have underscored the importance of good nutrition to help prevent or reduce the symptoms of depression.
When things get overwhelming and when our situation seems too stressful or demanding of us, taking a little moment to breathe and rest is all that may be needed to restore our mental balance. Meditation has been a powerful tool for creating harmony in one’s mind since ancient times.
Whether you’re alone or in a group of peers, repeating phrases to yourself (or just focusing on your breathing) can be highly beneficial. There are many ways in which you can meditate, too, depending on your needs and personality. Studies show that meditation helps patients in relieving stress and anxiety, and it can even increase the size of the hippocampus if practiced consistently.
Talk therapy, also known as psychotherapy, is a process guided by a mental health professional. During this treatment, you can learn to contextualize your inner feelings and thoughts and learn to build healthy relationships with the outside world and ourselves. It provides a safe space for us to talk about everything that obscures our mind, without the fear of being criticized.
It is true that a lot of commitment is necessary for succeeding in psychotherapy, but it may be just the best alternative therapy for treating depression. The mission of your psychotherapist will be to listen, care, and teach you how to overcome certain situations, getting you out of uncertainty and remaining by your side through each step of the process.
If you’ve been struggling with depression, these treatments offer great alternative solutions to help you recover your mental health. However, it should be noted that their efficiency tends to vary between patients, and may even be improved when combined with professional help. No matter who you are or the severity of your situation, though, you’re not alone. Whether you’re looking for mental health treatment in Southern California, New York City, Miami — wherever you call home — there are options available for you right now. And the sooner you seek help, the sooner you can start your path to lasting recovery from your depression.