10 Ways to Treat Depression Besides Using Antidepressants
Can You Treat Depression Without Using Antidepressant Drugs?
Let me begin by stating that you should not under any circumstances stop taking your medication without consulting your doctor first. Also, if you suspect that you have depression, you should seek advice and counsel from a medical professional. Clinical depression is a serious illness and should always be treated as such.
Having said that, there are numerous ways to treat depression, either without antidepressant drugs or simultaneously. And the truth is that while antidepressant drugs may help in certain circumstances, they alone will never be able to cure your depression completely. A multi-pronged attack is needed, such as using some or most of the advice in this article.
In truth, depression and anxiety is also a societal problem. However, dealing with those aspects of depression is an enormous long-term goal out of the scope of this article, which focuses more on what immediate actions can be taken.
In this article, I want to present to you 10 ways to treat depression that are independent of you using antidepressant drugs and which you can apply now.
1. Taking a Little Extra Zinc in Tablets.
I place this as my first advice because it is so easy to implement for most of us, even during the deepest depression.
The element zinc is the second most abundant trace metal in humans. Over 300 enzymes which your body needs to function correctly require Zinc. It is also the only trace metal which appears in every enzyme class and can act as an anti-oxidant.
Interestingly, a lack of zinc in your blood correlates with feelings of depression and episodes of major depression. Taking a little extra zinc each day should not harm you and just might alleviate some of your depressed feelings. But, to be on the safe side, you should discuss it with your doctor before you begin.
Personally, I take a small dose of zinc each day, and I believe it has helped a bit. So if you try nothing else on this list, please at least try this.
2. Watch Your Sleep.
Getting a good nights sleep is my second advice since it is one of the most effective ways to reduce symptoms of depression. You should always aim at getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night. But keep in mind that in this case more is not better. Sleeping for 12-15 hours, however pleasant that may seem, will not help as it negatively affects other aspects of depression.
The best approach is to set yourself day/night cycle, an example would be to always get out of bed by 9:00 and always go to bed at 23:00. But remember that there is no shame if you fail to follow such a scheme, the most important part is trying.
If you have a hard time falling asleep, over-the-counter anti-histamines might help. I sometimes use an anti-histamine to help me sleep as, for some reason, a tiny dose can knock me right out. While over-the-counter antihistamines are almost always safe, there is still some chance of interaction with antidepressants or other medication you might be on. So it's better to discuss it with your doctor first and if the antihistamines don't help then maybe your doctor can recommend something else.
3. Try to Laugh at Something
During the deepest blues, it's hard to laugh at even the best of jokes. Still, you should try. I found it helpful to watch funny shows on Netflix. At first, they were just a welcome distraction, a way to phase out a bit. Later I was able to start laughing again.
But don't press yourself. If the show you are watching just makes you annoyed and angry, then stop watching and see if something else helps.
You might also benefit from watching nature documentaries, specifically those about wildlife in Africa. This is an odd one for sure, but some research has shown that looking at images of African nature and wildlife has been able to boost the mood of people suffering from depression. Why this is I cannot say, although some have suggested a link between the area where humans first evolved (Africa) to a sense of home and well-being. But I would take that with a grain of salt.
4. Try not to Isolate Yourself
While even healthy people sometimes just want to be alone, this applies triply to anyone with depression. But being alone is poison for a person that is clinically depressed. In fact, research has shown that loneliness and disconnection from other people correlate strongly with depression.
On top of that, being alone allows those dark, false thoughts to race to the top of your mind where they slowly begin taking root as truth. So, when you can, please reach out to someone you trust.
Even so, you should also be careful with whom you associate. Some people are just toxic and indeed harmful to people with depression. Do your utter best to surround yourself with people that appreciate you and make you feel like you are part of the group and welcome. In fact, feelings of belonging go a long way to help people with depression.
5. Go Outside Every Day.
Aim to go outside your home every day for no reason. Maybe just to walk a small circle in your neighborhood or to sit in your garden (if you have one). If you can take a short walk in a green park or woods that is even better. Try to spend at least 30 minutes just relaxing, looking at your surroundings and enjoy nature if you can. Research has shown that this is an effective way to treat depression symptoms up to a point.
If you are suffering from severe depression or anxiety, then try to start with small steps, maybe even just a minute. Hopefully, each day you leave your home, you will be able to go a little further and spend a little more time outside.
Still, stay safe. If you live in a dangerous neighborhood, you might need to rethink this strategy.
6. Try to Meditate and Practice Mindfulness.
Meditation and mindfulness exercises have been shown to help people that are dealing with depression and anxiety. A short 20-30 minute session where you attempt to focus on nothing but your breath has an incredibly calming effect.
It's even better if you can find someone to tutor you in meditation and mindfulness as that involves interaction with other people. In fact, becoming a part of a group of people that practice meditation is a great long-term way to treat depression.
7. Find and Join a Group That has a Meaningful Purpose.
This advice is probably the greatest natural antidepressant you can get without a significant change in society. Studies after studies have shown a strong correlation between joining a group with a positive purpose to the reduction and even withdrawal of depression and anxiety symptoms.
What I mean by a group with a meaningful purpose is a group that has a task that you can be a part of, such as keeping a street or a park clean, planting trees and flowers, a peaceful activist group that you believe in and so forth.
Wherever you are on earth, you should be able to find a group like this close to you.
8. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT for short has been shown to be an effective treatment for depression and anxiety. Simply put, CBT is a way to train your mind to think about things differently.
In a CBT session, a trained professional will meet you either one-on-one or in a group setting where your negative and positive emotions are discussed in connection with the thoughts you had during those emotions. A link is then sought between thoughts and feelings and, if negative, an alternate way too thinking might be proposed.
At first, this may sound a bit nutty, but it can work if you can apply yourself to it. I have gone through a couple of CBT sessions, and they helped me.
9. Attempt to Eat a Healthy Diet.
When depressed the allure of fast food and grease is great, if you can eat at all. A poor diet is however terrible for the body and soul. Adjusting one's diet to a more natural one can undoubtedly help fighting depression.
What I mean by a more natural one is simply to eat more regular food and less processed food. This, of course, means more cooking which is a chore. But it can be a healthy activity, a purpose for the day.
Eating healthy also has a plethora of other positive effects, such as changes in body weight, better skin health, increase in overall stamina and stronger cognitive abilities.
10. Make Sure You Get Enough Exercise.
Yes, I know. You cousin, sibling, parent or friend has probably told you just to run it off. But don't be angry at them. Try to remember that it is impossible for someone that has never dealt with depression to understand it.
However, they are right in a manner of speaking. Exercise has been scientifically shown to reduce the symptoms of depression. Daily 30-minute workouts, where your pulse goes into your aerobic zone, does wonder for the dopamine stores of the brain. If you can't do daily 30 minutes exercise then you should aim for at least 150 minutes a week, where each session lasts for no less than 30 minutes.
But doing this is hard. On days when you need to use every ounce of willpower just to eat something, going out for a run is just not an option. And the awful thing is that the effects of exercise aren't usually expressed fully until after 4 - 5 weeks of consistent exercise.
But keep this advice in mind for the better days. When you are ready, you should read about how I managed to start exercising and thus keep my depression at bay.
Bonus Tip #1. Stand With Your Back Straight and Your Chest Out.
This is a curious thing. Apparently, the amount of serotonin in the human brain is affected by the way ones surroundings respond to us. If the surroundings are responding negatively towards us, such as through indifference or hostility, it inhibits the flow of serotonin. However, if our surroundings are reacting in a positive manner, such as with interest or affection, it increases serotonin in the brain.
One of the things that affect the way our surroundings respond to us is our posture. A good confident posture (even if we don't feel confident) will result in a more positive response from our surroundings. So adopting a strong confident posture is a way to increase serotonin and thus alleviate to some extend feelings of depression and anxiety.
Bonus Tip #2: Reduce Your Material Desires.
I have this tip last as I am not entirely sure about it. Some research has shown that people that have fewer material desires are less prone to become depressed. Now if this is due to their lack of material wants or if it is due to something else is hard to say.
It is also hard to just decide not to want stuff anymore and it can even be damaging. However, one sensible way is to try to avoid some advertisements that are bombarded on us every day, as many of them have no purpose other than instilling a longing in us for the things advertised.
Now while some forms of advertisements are justifiable, and we certainly cannot get entirely away from them, you can still try to find ways to reduce your exposure to advertising in the local area you live.
Maybe it will make you feel better, then again perhaps not.
In the End
Last I want to mention something I read from Jordan Peterson. This is perhaps not relevant while in the deepest blues, but the fact is that everyone has the capacity to improve their lives. The trick to this is to make very small changes every day. Have them as small as you need them to be and then reward yourself for doing it. But do it every day.
For example, say you have a hard time cleaning your room. Instead of trying to clean the entire room on day one, look at the room and think about what part of the room you trust yourself too clean now. Then clean it and give yourself a small reward, like a cup of coffee or a small snack or something you enjoy.
The next day, clean the same part and see if you can clean another part. If you can give yourself another reward. Then the next day, clean those two spots and see if you can add the third. Keep doing this until you have your entire room in order. Now continue to keep your room in order and understand that you have accomplished something meaningful.
You can then continue to use this method on other parts of your life. Is there something small that you can fix right now that will make your life better? Then do it, reward yourself and tomorrow, think about if there is something else you can do immediately to improve your life. Continue doing this day after day and eventually, you will find life to be much improved. I have been using this for some time and it amazingly it works for me.
I hope you found something on this list to help you out. If you did, then please share this with people you know are suffering from depression or anxiety or their loved ones.
Also, remember that no matter how dark the days may seem, there is always someone that feels you are a worthy person.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
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© 2018 Levictus Marcus Saarith