Ways to Treat Depression without Medication – Continued

Get More Exercise

You don’t have to join a marathon, but it does mean putting out half an hour or so of low-intensity activity each day, which has been found to be effective in improving mood and quality of life. Take it outdoors to make it more effective. Fresh air and sunshine are especially healing for people dealing with depression. While research has shown that regular physical activity can be effective in both the prevention and treatment of depression, it can be hard to start an exercise habit when you are depressed. Lack of energy and low mood may mean that you simply feel too fatigued to get up and get active.

Some things that you can try to help you stick to your habit:
• Enlist a Friend: Ask a loved one to walk with you or do another form of exercise at least a few times a week. Having the support of a friend can help get you into a routine and it can also help you maintain those social connections when you are feeling down.
• Remind yourself of the benefits: Getting started is tough, but doing it is something that will help you feel better in the long term.
• Start small: Try walking for just a few minutes each day, then work on gradually increasing the distance of your walks.

Avoid Alcohol

Alcohol in itself is a depressant. Drinking can interfere with sleep, and quality of sleep is a key to battling the blues. While alcohol may seem like a quick fix to escape what you are feeling, it can actually make many of the symptoms of depression feel much worse. Not only that, it can decrease inhibitions and potentially lead to risky behaviours and bad decisions that can have long-term consequences.

If you have been misusing alcohol or other substances and need help quitting, talk to Laurian Ward as you may have alcohol or substance use disorder as well. Withdrawal symptoms may temporarily worsen symptoms of depression, so you may need extra assistance as you go through this process.

Eat “Good Mood” Food

What you eat can have a direct effect on how you think and feel. Make sure you eat a well-balanced diet, one that is rich in nutrients and low in saturated fat. A dietician can help you analyse your eating habits and pinpoint potential nutrient deficiencies that could contribute to depression. Some foods that may be beneficial when you have depression:
• Fish: Research has found that people eating a diet high in fish were less likely to have symptoms of depression. Fish is high in omega-3 fats, which play a role in helping neurotransmitters such as serotonin work in the brain.
• Nuts: They are also good in omega-3 fats and one study indicated that people who ate walnuts were 26% less likely to have symptoms of depression.
• Probiotics: Research is increasingly pointing to a connection between gut and brain health. Foods high in probiotics include yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and kombucha.

Change Your Thoughts

Thinking good thoughts can help you feel good. Your thoughts do have a direct bearing on your mind. If you are struggling with negativity, consider seeing a therapist help you learn ways to counter it. Learn to recognize negative thinking. These thoughts can be obvious, such as times when you berate or criticize yourself. Other times it can be more subtle. You might find yourself engaging in things like catastrophizing or all-or-nothing thinking. Catastrophizing involves always anticipating negative outcomes. All-or-nothing means that you think of things as either successes or failures. Once you get better at recognizing these patterns, you can start working on some healthier replacements.

When you find yourself having negative thoughts, consciously reframe it in a positive way. For example, you might replace something like “this will never work” with something more positive such as “here are a few things that I can try that will help me get started”. Shifting your focus to your strengths and abilities can help you maintain a more positive mindset.

Get a Handle on Stress

Stress can drive up levels of a brain chemical called cortisol, which has been found to be higher in folks with depression. There are lots of strategies for coping with stress, such as time management and meditation.

Some stress-relieving activities that you might want to incorporate into your daily life include:
• Deep breathing: A few minutes to slow your breathing and focus your attention on your body at the moment can help you get a better handle on your worries
• Exercise: Regular physical activity is a great way to blow off steam
• Progressive muscle relaxation: This process involves intentionally tightening muscles throughout the body, holding that tension for several counts, and then releasing that tension until the muscles are completely lax. With regular practice, you may be able to learn how to intentionally relax your body fairly quickly whenever you are feeling tense.

Learning to manage your stress takes time and practice. Talk to Laurian Ward about other strategies you might be able to use to try and minimize the stress and your response to it.

Tend to your Social Life

When you are depressed, there is no reason to go it alone and all sorts of reasons to reach out to friends and family. Make plans with loved ones and keep those dates. Join a club or sign up for group activity. Other things you might try:
• Join a support group: Talking to other people who are facing the same experiences and challenges can be informative and helpful
• Schedule Activities: Having routines can be helpful when you are going through depression. Create a daily schedule that includes spending time with others. You are more likely to stick to it if it’s a scheduled event.
• Volunteer: Joining a cause that you care about is a great way to meet new people and expand your social circle.

The problem is that depression often causes people to withdraw, which only exacerbates feelings of isolation and loneliness. Even when you don’t feel like going out or being social, try reaching out in whatever way is most comfortable for you. Enlist a few of your closest loved ones who understand what you are experiencing. Doing the things you used to do might not bring you quite the same enjoyment, but getting out of the house and spending time with people who care about you can help you feel better.