In this article we are going to discuss ways you can naturally reduce depression symptoms. But before we begin I want to start with a bit of a warning:
If you have had recent thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please do not try to do this alone. Even if you choose more natural methods of approaching your depression symptoms, consultation with a medical professional (ie. a doctor) is still advised.
I am not in any way advocating for or against medication. I know this is a particularly hot topic when it comes to mental health and honestly, is a choice everyone needs to make for themselves, in consultation with a doctor. For some, medication is the only form of relief. It is not fair to stigmatize any person who chooses to take the medication path. This article only means to outline some natural ways to reduce depression symptoms that can be used regardless of where you stand on medication.
And with all that out of the way…!
Ways You Can Naturally Reduce Depression Symptoms
Create a Routine
In our article on Creating a Wellness Routine, we outlined the benefits of having a routine as well as how to implement a routine. To recap, routines help us to make good behaviors such as healthy eating, exercise, and mindfulness, a habit. Something you do without thought. Studies continually show a positive link between healthy eating, exercise, and mental health. When you take care of your body and it’s needs, your body takes care of you. In more than one way. Like the oil you put in a car, you too need to have the right nutrients to run at optimum levels. Because of all these benefits, creating a wellness routine that works for you is one of the best ways you can naturally reduce depression symptoms.
Go Outside for a Walk
We all know by now from my previous article on Exercises for Mental Health, that walking is one of the easiest exercises and one we can all do. Even if you’re someone in a wheelchair, the act of getting outside has benefits too. Our bodies make vitamin D from the sun which our brains then use to turn into serotonin and other “feel good” hormones which in turn make us happier! In addition to vitamin D, exercise (at aerobic levels) helps us to burn off excess cortisol which also helps in the treatment of anxiety. Whether it’s a few minutes or a few miles, walking outside is one of the easiest ways you can naturally reduce depression symptoms.
Using Daily Affirmations
Affirmations are sayings or mantras about ourselves. The purpose of these mantras is to remind our subconscious of the good in us. Part of the symptoms of depression include our brains lying to us by telling us we aren’t important, we are worthless, and so on. Affirmations are like your sword to cut through the toxins being spread by the depression.
How do you do affirmations? Easy! Sit down either alone or with someone who loves you and list out your best qualities. I recommend having someone else there as we often have a limited view of ourselves. From these qualities, write out 5-10 to recite every day. The ones that “hit home” the most. “I am strong.”, “I am brave.”, “I will be successful in my work.”, “I will do all that’s required of me to get that promotion.”, “I am very loved by those around me.”
Recite them at different times in your day but particularly before you go to bed and when you’re just waking up. Why? Wouldn’t life be better overall if every morning you reminded yourself of your goodness and it was the last thing you thought of before bed? Train yourself to love yourself.
Along the lines of affirmations is mindfulness and meditation. Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment. Meditation is similar to mindfulness in that your objective is to clear your mind from all thoughts other than the ones in the meditation. Both have been shown to be effective in reducing the symptoms of both anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression symptoms are routed in the mind not being in the present. Often with anxiety, one is anxious about something upcoming or potentially happening. Depression usually revolves around mistakes made in the past. Both of which rob us from the chance of being happy and appreciating the moments we have today.
To start on your mindfulness journey, simply put on some relaxing music and focus on your breathing. Start learning to control your breathing by counting to 4, then 6, then 8. Holding in your breath for the count of 4. Letting it out for the count of 4. Repeat until comfortable. Breathing in and then out in counts of 6. When you are focused on your breathing and the counting in your head, it is very hard to think of other things. If you do find your mind wandering, simply acknowledge that it wandered and get back to counting. Mindfulness/meditation is not something to be mastered overnight. It will take time and practice to get the full effects.
Humans are social creatures. We, for much of our history, have lived in colonies, towns, cities, and in homes with other people. Depression can rob us of those basic relationships with the lies it tells us. Challenge those thoughts with facts. Spend time with your loved ones. If you feel you truly don’t have anyone in your life, reach out and make new friends. There are tons of local and online communities dedicated to helping those with depression find their place in the world. Having someone who is empathetic to your concerns and supportive of you is invaluable. Don’t discount the benefits of social interactions.
Meaningful activities are those activities we do that fill our souls. It’s artists who paint and musicians that love to play. The home gardener who takes pride in their achievements. Or the stay at home Mum who teaches Yoga twice a week. Meaningful activities are an essential part of what makes us, us! Some people may confuse meaningful activities with hobbies, which are other activities we enjoy. But meaningful activities are just a bit more. If you could never knit a blanket again would you feel like you lost a part of yourself? Only you can answer that. Do more of the things you can’t live without and less of the things that are meaningless time distractions.
Go to Therapy
I can’t do an article on ways to naturally reduce depression without mentioning the power of counselling. Counselling helps you to get down to the root of the issue and untangle the destructive thoughts that have led you into this hole in the first place. Humans process information through their 5 senses- touch, smell, taste, feel and hearing. If you are ruminating about a problem, you are only trying to tackle the situation, oftentimes, in your head. Saying the problem out loud to a neutral third party can help your ears hear the problem, thus processing the information in another way. Your counsellor may ask you to do writing assignments, again meant to help you process the situation in a different way.
Now, I can hear some of you saying now that “counselling isn’t for me”, and “I’ve tried it before and I didn’t like it.”. What didn’t you like? Was it the process? Or maybe the counsellor? Were you challenged and it made you uncomfortable? It’s true that not every counsellor is for every individual but with as many counsellors as there are in the world, there is bound to be one whose style matches your needs.
Can’t afford counselling? I hear this often too. For over 15 years of my career I have worked in community public health settings in which free counselling was offered to the community at large. There are programs out there, all over the world, with the aim to help those struggling. If you don’t know where to go and are truly stuck, reach out to me via my Contact Me page and I will see what I can find to help.
Although I haven’t mentioned every way you can naturally reduce depression symptoms, I have covered the major concepts. Getting started with the ideas listed above will help get you on the path to recovery. Depression is an awful disease, but there are many ways to treat it. Stay strong. Do what you can. Be reasonable with yourself. And above all, be kind.