Beating Back the Darkness (Natural ways to lessen depression symptoms)

dscn1562Unfortunately, depression is a far too frequent part of the human experience. Weather it’s a case of the winter blues, a bad case of overwhelming life stressors getting you down, or a chemically generated funk, depression symptoms hit all of us at some point in our lives. Luckily there are plenty of natural ways to lift our spirits and help alleviate depression symptoms.

Before we dive in to that though, repeat after me.
“You are special and important.”
Now, when you read that, did the voice in your head affirm, or did the b**ch disagree and put you down with a nasty negative comment? If you are part of the latter group, do me and you a huge favor. Call a friend for a coffee date, make an appointment with your therapist, get a therapist, or call one of the outreach numbers at the end of this post and talk about it. I promise, you are not alone. There is someone out there who cares for your future. Don’t go it alone. Ignoring depression is dangerous. Don’t do it.

Herbs
There are several different herbs that are traditionally used for treatment of depression. The most widely used is Saint John’s Wort. Commonly found as a supplement and also available in tea form, Saint John’s Wort has been shown to increase serotonin levels and alleviate mild to moderate depression symptoms. Rhodiola and Ashwagandha are both traditionally used to treat mild to moderate depression symptoms in Ayurvedic medicine. Both herbs are available as supplements. Saffron has also been shown to help alleviate depression symptoms, though its cost prevents it from being a realistic treatment option for most.

Fish Oil
Low presence of fatty acids in the body has been linked to mood swings and depression. Taking a fish oil supplement everyday helps increase the fatty acids in your body and may help to alleviate depression symptoms.

Vitamins and minerals
B vitamins, zinc, and folic acid have all been shown to be important in regulating mood and mental function. Eating foods that are rich in these vitamins and minerals and taking supplements can help ensure that your body is getting enough of these vital nutrients.

Exercise
It is widely accepted and understood that exercising causes the release of endorphins. Endorphins are the feel good chemicals released by our brains. Taking a walk or jog daily can help alleviate mild depression symptoms. Yoga is also a wonderful way to both encourage the release of endorphins and contribute to a sense of relaxation and well-being.

Meditation
Meditation has long been used to promote a sense of well-being and as a form of relaxation. Practicing daily meditation has been shown to reduce depression symptoms. Find a quiet calm space, get comfortable, close your eyes, and focus on breathing for 20 to 30 minutes a day. Thoughts will undoubtedly pop into your brain, when they do, gently remind yourself to leave those alone and focus on breathing. There are also many different types of guided meditations available online. A quick search should help you find something that appeals to you.

Light therapy
Particularly for sufferers of a type of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), getting a bit of sunshine everyday can be very helpful. For those in northern climates who can’t get enough sunlight in the winter, artificial lights have been developed that simulate natural sunlight. Spending as little as 30 minutes a day getting light can greatly reduce SAD symptoms.

Acupuncture
Some research suggests that acupuncture can be helpful for alleviating mild to moderate depression symptoms.

Write about it
It is no great secret that one of our most valuable tools for dealing with life stress is sharing what stresses us out. For some it is easier to be completely honest about what is bothering us when we write. Taking a bit of time to write down the life stressors that are contributing to your depression can help identify problems and work through solutions. Sometimes, just getting them down on paper makes them easier to deal with. One particular exercise that I often use is to write about what is bothering me and then take a piece of paper and set it ablaze! There is something extremely empowering about lighting your troubles on fire! (Please be cautious when burning down your troubles, fire is hot, it burns things!)

Essential oil
Clary Sage is believed to help relieve stress and alleviate tension, thereby helping to improve overall mental outlook. Jasmine is believed to help soothe the nerves and promote a sense of well-being. Diffusing either of these essential oils in an area you spend a lot of time in can be helpful for treating mild depression symptoms. These oils can also be used in an aromatherapy pendant worn around the neck, providing all day exposure. Jasmine can also be used in a warm relaxing bath.

Talk to someone
Hey, didn’t you already tell us that? Yes, yes I did. I was even tempted to put it in a third time. That’s how important this natural remedy is. When it comes to treating depression my number one recommendation is to seek one on one or group therapy. Talking to someone about what you’re feeling can help you gain perspective and feel better. A therapist can also help to monitor your depression symptoms and give advice as to whether or not pharmaceutical intervention might be necessary. Another wonderful resource is online or in person support groups. Generally centered around a particular issue or stressor, support groups are a great way to get the perspective and understanding of people who are dealing with similar circumstances.
Numbers to call for help
U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Kristin Brooks Hope Center Hopeline: 1-800-784-2433
United Way Helpline: 1-800-233-4357
Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255

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