Depression is felt in many ways. There is the feeling of hopelessness, the aches of physically not feeling well, and the lack of motivation to even get dressed some days. While depression can be serious and truly debilitating, taking antidepressants is not the answer. There are natural ways to treat your depression that can be more effective than pharmaceuticals, without the side effects.
Be Physically Active:
While you may feel more like staying in your PJ’s and hiding under the covers, this isn’t going to get you anywhere, figuratively or literally. Getting up and moving, especially when you don’t feel like it, can have positive psychological benefits. The simple act of doing one thing physical can lead to another and another. While Newton was no psychologist, he knew a body in motion stays in motion. That simple notion of physics bestows upon us the power to use our bodies and minds for whatever we choose. If you choose to stay in bed, you will. If you choose to venture outside in the sunshine and watch the birds, you will. If you choose to walk to the coffee shop and get a coffee, you will. Choose to do one thing to move your body, the mind will follow, and the body will follow, and the mind will follow, and….well you get it. We create how we live. Just keep moving in the direction you want to go.
Also as a part of being physically active, exercise can play a huge role in making us feel better both mentally and physically. Moderate exercise, especially when done outside, can create a healthier you by improving your strength, cardiovascular health, reducing cortisol, increasing dopamine and serotonin, and simply making us feel awesome because we accomplished something! The most amazing thing is that we not only give ourselves a mental boost and mental clarity through exercise, we create a stronger, smarter, more adaptable, and self-reliant us!
However, do understand you don’t have to join a gym, pull 300 lbs. on a deadlift, run 10 miles, or win your local CrossFit competition. Just know that your body is meant to move and wants to. If you feel like taking a 1-mile walk, doing 10 pushups, hula hooping, playing tag or Frisbee with the kids, or riding your bike to the local market, then do that! Exercise is not a set, unrelenting workout, a specific allotment of time, or choreographed Zumba class. It is physical activity you do consistently. So get up, move every day, in the way that YOU CHOOSE, and HAVE FUN doing it!
Get Plenty of Sleep:
If you don’t believe in magic, well you should. And sleep is that magic! You would be amazed to know what lack of sleep does to screw up every part of your physical and mental wellbeing. It dysregulates your circadian rhythm which disrupts your hormones, messes up your memory, depresses your immune system, inflames your body and brain, prohibits maintenance and repair of all your biological systems, and well, makes us feel like crap. If all that isn’t enough for you to think sleep is important, then note this fun little damaging effect of sleep deprivation: shortened lifespan. Yeah, lack of sleep will literally kill you, and make you feel awful before it does.
Make your life and living space accommodate your NEED for sleep. Reduce artificial light, make your surroundings calm and peaceful, and reduce the noise (both literally and metaphorically) around you. Claim your need for sleep. Make a routine for when to go to bed and when to get up. Honor that, and make sure others know they need to honor that too. Your overall well being depends on you getting the sleep YOU MUST HAVE, not want, but must receive in order to be healthy.
Be Positive: I didn’t say be happy every freaking second of every freaking day with some fake smile painted on your face. I said BE POSITIVE! That means knowing when it hits the fan, the world isn’t over, it’s just a setback. We have to get up, use our amazingly sharp minds and figure this mess out. And yeah, YOU CAN DO THIS! Simply repeating that statement “I can do this” is all the positivity you need. If you tell yourself over and over that life is going to be ok and you can deal with any situation, you know what, you absolutely will. I’ve heard the mantra “Improvise, Adapt and Overcome”. I’ve been told that’s a motto for some Marines, but it can be your motto too. And if you can follow these 3 simple words, you really can do anything, especially when life sucks.
Make a point to interact with others, yourself, and the natural world. Yes, I understand when you don’t feel good that last thing you want to do is see people or go outside. However, these could be some of the best things you can do.
Interact with People: I don’t just mean seeing others at the grocery store or at work; I mean go give your time and energy to others. Use the value you have, to add value to the lives of others. Volunteer in something you truly believe in. Doing good for others will do good for you. It can actually boost the feel good hormones in your body, plus involving yourself with others can help you focus on them and other things, and not just your depression.
Interact with You:
Don’t forget about yourself. Be sure to be involved with you. What exactly does that mean? It means make a point to be mindful. Take time each and every day to check in with yourself. Try meditation, journaling, and mentally listing what you are thankful for. Those three things will go a long way in helping you focus on what is important in your life and why you are important in your and other’s lives.
Interact with the Natural World: Being outside in nature has many health benefits. It can lower cortisol, improve mental clarity, helps us sleep better, and reap the benefits of the sun. Nature has a way to set us right, allowing us to focus, slow down, and regulate our circadian rhythm. Small amounts of time, even just sitting on your own porch, in the sunshine, watching butterflies flit by, can do us a world of good.
I’m not asking you to go on a diet, lose weight, or start measuring carbs and calories. What I am asking you to do is kick those foods you know are unhealthy right out the door. Get rid of the sugary, processed, and/or packaged foods and replace them with whole natural foods. Never underestimate the power of food on your mental and physical health.
Eating foods that are high in sugar and highly processed food, will disrupt your gut biome, spike your insulin, and deplete you of necessary nutrients, which in turn can lead to depression, along with a whole gamut of other problems.
Stick with fresh vegetables (especially leafy greens), fruits, grass-fed dairy and meat, pastured eggs, wild caught salmon, and fermented foods. You will be astounded what a change in diet will do for your overall mental and physical health.
You Can Do It!
There you have it.
Five things to kick depression right in the pants!
Those 5 things are all things YOU CAN DO!
And I suppose I wasn’t totally honest when I began writing this article, because there are side effects from doing these 5 things.
Side effects such as feeling great and being the best you possible!
That’s way better than the diarrhea, nausea, sweating, forgetfulness, bleeding, seizures, anxiety, mania, sleep disruption and sexual dysfunction. Yeah those sound awful, but can occur when taking medications.
I truly believe depression is an illness that oodles of people suffer from. I also truly believe it is something we don’t have to live with. We are amazing magnificent individuals and should not be ruled by the dark oppressive cloud called depression. I know depression hurts in so many ways, but the wonderful bright spot to it is that we have the ultimate power to control it, not the other way around. So be good to you. Get plenty of sleep, move your body, eat well, and know you are needed out there. You are not meant to live with depression, you are simply meant to live.
So summon up all your strength and power and create a wonderful world for yourself.
Borchard, T. 2017. Everyday Health Media, LLC. 10 Foods I Eat Every Day to Beat Depression.
Chriskresser.com. 2017. Chris Kresser. Let’s Take Back Your Health-Starting Now. Depression.