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Natural Ways to Treat Depression

By Diana Rodriguez ; Updated May 08, 2018

Sharing your life with a depressive disorder can be debilitating. At times, it may even seem like there's nothing you can do to minimize the feelings of apathy, sadness and hopelessness.

But depression can do more than make you feel sad. It can also make it difficult for you to take care of your family, your responsibilities at work and even just get out of bed.

The good news is, even though the symptoms of depression can feel overwhelming and permanent, depression is treatable.

In addition to antidepressant medication, there are more natural forms of treatment available to people who struggle with depression. Some of these methods can be used on their own, while others work best when combined to create a comprehensive treatment plan.

If you're looking for options that don't involve medication, here are a few natural alternatives you may want to consider. Just remember, it's always best to consult with your doctor about any treatment plan for depression.

1. Psychotherapy

Otherwise known as “talk therapy,” psychotherapy can help you understand your diagnosis and how it impacts your life. Your therapist will also work with you to develop strategies that decrease the severity of the symptoms.

One psychotherapy technique that has been proven successful in treating depression is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This form of therapy emphasizes the important role of thinking in how we feel and what we do.

Therapy can help you get to the bottom of what's causing your depression, and figure out how to resolve those problems. You may also find it beneficial to participate in group therapy sessions.

2. Proper Nutrition

What you eat is just as important for your mood as it is for your waistline. Taking steps to include foods that boost your mood and minimizing those that can make your symptoms worse, is key to treating depression.

That's why it's important to eat a diet that includes lean sources of protein, healthy fats rich in Omega-3's, whole grains and legumes and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Research has shown that a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean Diet, is associated with a significantly lower risk of developing depressive symptoms.

Steer clear of greasy, heavy and fried foods laden with salt, fat and sugar. This includes minimizing animal fats and processed meats. And since sugar has been linked to an increase in symptoms related to depression and anxiety, use it sparingly.

You'll feel better both mentally and physically with lighter, healthier fare. It's also important to avoid alcohol, tobacco and drugs while you're dealing with depression, as they can affect your mood.

3. Physical Activity

Exercise does more than help shed pounds and keep you fit, it also boosts your mood. In fact, several studies have shown that physical activity is an effective treatment for depression.

Not only have researchers found that active people are less likely to be depressed, they've also discovered that exercise is beneficial in reducing depression in people who are experiencing symptoms.

The best part: it appears that even modest levels of exercise are associated with improvements in depression. Take a daily walk, jog or bike ride, take a yoga class or grab a friend for a game of tennis or golf. Just get moving to start improving mood and make exercise a consistent part of your daily routine.

4. Sunlight

It's not uncommon for people to get depressed during the dark, dreary months of winter. If severe enough, this may lead to a diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a is a type of depressive disorder. SAD occurs when you develop symptoms of depression such as sadness, low energy, irritability, daytime tiredness, and decreased activity during particular seasons of the year.

While SAD has specific criteria for treatment, anyone who struggles with depression can benefit from exposure to sunlight. If daily sunlight is not an option, you may want to ask your doctor about light therapy. Daily use of a special light box or sunlamp can help boost your mood and ease winter depression.

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