How to Help Depression Naturally – 5 Steps to Happiness

You may think at first glance that the title of what this post promises seems too simplistic, especially if you’re already in that dark place where you feel there is no hope. But learning how to help depression naturally and then applying these simple changes to your life, will slowly but surely bring about changes in how you think and feel.

There are of course other tried and proven methods of treating this (and other mental illnesses) that help and many people have had much success with, but I am merely offering another perspective, and maybe some more natural ways of dealing with depression that you can incorporate into your current treatment.

Suffering from true clinical depression (also known as major depression) can only be experienced and not adequately put into words, but for those who understand this statement then I am aiming this post at you. You may not believe it now, but there is in fact a beautiful bright light at the end of the tunnel if you start to put into action these 5 main cornerstones of a depression free life.

What is depression?

depressed girl

Depression is a debilitating mental illness that is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Yes, it’s a real thing and you can’t just snap out of it at will as some people still believe. There are many forms of this illness including, clinical, bipolar, post-partum, atypical, premenstrual, psychotic, and situational depression. I’m not an expert on all of these, and some of them will most definitely need expert treatment and drugs so you should always consult with your doctor first, but what I do know is that they can ALL be helped through these positive lifestyle changes.

How do I know if I am suffering from depression?

Depression is a strange beast, and can rear its head in many forms. In this post I will be talking mainly about the most common kind which is major depressive disorder (MDD) that affects over 300 million people worldwide. That’s a lot of sad people out there in the world – people who may have lost hope and need guidance, but due to the stigma still associated with mental illness don’t ever receive the help they desperately need.

Symptoms of major depressive disorder are, but not limited to:-

  • Low mood
  • Loss of interest in activities you may have previously loved
  • Insomnia
  • Weight loss
  • Weight gain
  • Feeling unworthy
  • Feeling guilty
  • Ruminating on the past and feeling guilty
  • Constant feelings of dread
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Bad temper
  • Restlessness
  • Hopelessness
  • Anger
  • Thoughts of suicide

As you can see, it’s a pretty bleak list, and if you suffer from more than a few of these on a regular basis then you probably need to do something about it NOW before things escalate.

My own severe depression stole years from me, but I can see in hind-sight that it was part of my own learning experience that had such a profound and lasting effect on me that it completely changed the course of my life – for the better. I don’t want it to take you many years of learning how to cope as it did me; I want you to benefit from my first hand experience on how to beat this SOB so you can start living again.

My Own Experience with Depression

sign post

Twenty years ago I was in the pits of this illness and believed that my soul was damned forever and there would be no escape no matter what I did (sounds so dramatic I know, but that’s how it can make you feel). I used to be ashamed; too ashamed to ever tell anybody in fact, and I muddled through three long term relationships with guys who didn’t have a clue about my hidden torment, and that’s the point, nobody knew, and people can hide it well.

This is so often the case with this type of illness – you became the master of deception in your desperation not to be judged or seen as weak. On the outside I was this happy-go-lucky girl who didn’t seem to have a care in the world, on the inside I felt like dying.

As nobody spoke of such things back then, I decided to take matters into my own hands and researched everything I could on the subject of depression. That’s when I stumbled across an article in a magazine (yes, there was no Google either then) related to depression and nutrition, and I had a literally light bulb moment as it all started to make sense to me.

Cutting out the JUNK helped…Quickly!

woman eating cake

The next day, desperate and having nothing to lose I started on my quest to do the basic things I had been told to do in this magazine. I cut out junk foods, ate whole grain carbohydrates and exercised. They were my first steps and I literally felt better within a matter of days just by doing these 3 things, which then gave me the impetus to research and find out everything thing I could about the power of food.

I was absolutely amazed and inspired by these findings and couldn’t believe something so simple had been right under my nose the whole time. That was 20 years ago, and I have built on and refined my knowledge to a point where I now know depression will NEVER have its way with me again.

5 Depression Busting Tips:-

1. MAKE THE DECISION TO HELP YOURSELF

Making the decision to help yourself is empowering. Only you can do what needs to be done, and taking the first step when you are at your lowest point is brave. Real depression can take away your will to want to do anything at all, but you must summon all your power to over ride this feeling of helplessness and make the first move.

Healing won’t come to you, you have to step out of your comfort zone and go to it first, that’s just how it works I’m afraid. But once you take that first step towards healing it will take a thousand steps towards you, and this part cannot be emphasised enough: I don’t know how it works, I just know does, and I guess in some ways you could call it the law of attraction.

Prepare for it to be Tough, but SO Worth it!

Your journey out of depression will be painful for sure, and you will be faced with emotions and feelings that may have never before been addressed. There will be days when you feel like you’re back to square one, but it is only temporary and you must remember this: do not give up, carry on forward no matter how painful and you WILL have a breakthrough.

Thinking of the longer-term goal will help remind you of why you are doing it all in the first place, and thinking about the alternative of a life battling depression will give you the strength you need to push through.

2. TAKE OUT DEPRESSION TRIGGERS

ring donut

This may seem like an obvious one, but you are probably inadvertently contributing to your depression by using certain tactics to numb yourself out such as eating sugary junk foods, refined carbohydrates, smoking, drinking too much alcohol, gambling, finding yourself in bad relationships, abusing drugs etc. These are short term pleasures and distractions that will destroy your life in one way or another, and will ultimately make you feel worse.

Get Prepared

Do all you can to cut drastically down (or ideally cut out completely) all of the above and you will be half way there. I know how hard it can be to just go cold turkey on your vices, but this will feel so much easier once you are also applying the other two steps at the same time.

The key is to get yourself prepared with a plan of action first and have everything ready in place – for instance, get all temptations out of the way, or buy a new gym kit to do your exercises in. Trust me, cutting out destructive vices will give you POWER, and you will be in charge of things.

3. ADD IN DEPRESSION BUSTING FOODS

colourful vegetables

This part you may have to force at first (especially if you’re not used to healthy eating), but you will definitely need to overhaul your diet if you are to achieve results. These are  some of the things you should be eating as much as possible:-

  • At least 7-10 portions of fruits and vegetables a day for antioxidants, and to help keep your system detoxified – which is also a good thing for the brain and mood.
  • Green superfood shots are an excellent and easy way to get an intense hit of nutrients fast. You feel them working and ‘picking you up’ within 20 minutes.
  • Raw fruit and vegetables for cleansing and detoxifying the system.
  • Wholegrains such as oatcakes, brown pasta, brown rice, quinoa, millet, and pearl barley. It is VERY important to have wholegrains at least twice a day, as your body needs these types of carbs to produce serotonin (your body’s happy hormone). If you are a fan of the low carb or keto diet then this, unfortunately, could make you feel worse if you suffer from depression – it did me.
  • Two tablespoons of healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, hemp oil, flax oil, OR a large handful of nuts and seeds. Walnuts and Brazil nuts are amazing for depression as they contain selenium, and when your selenium stores are low this too can trigger low mood. In fact, I would say that if you are in the middle of an episode then you should be eating a bog handful of walnuts and Brazils daily.
  • Other low GI foods such as lentils, pulses, and beans. Check out here these low GI foods and add as many as possible to your diet.

The Plant Based Diet

Since eating a diet high in plant based foods I have seen yet more improvement in my mood, which is probably due to the fact that plant foods are highly alkaline and animal products are more acidic. Too many acidic foods can contribute to chronic inflammation in your body – including the brain, which in turn can also contribute to depression. Eating more alkaline plant foods will help negate this, and is yet another weapon in you arsenal to help fight depression.

4. TAKE OMEGA 3 FISH OIL

krill oil capsules

Oh man, I had to give this one a section of its own as fish oils just played such an integral role in fighting my own depression, and the sad part is most people have no idea about this vital supplement. The thing is this, you will need to use the high dose supplements it if you suffer clinical depression, as you can eat all the oily fish in the world (which is great too – keep doing it) but you still may not get the high amounts of omega 3 you need to really make a difference to true depressive illness unless you take the supplements.

I know omega 3 oils help, it’s that simple. I have tested the theory over and over, not just with myself but with others whom I have given the same advice to. Even if I do all of the above things but take out my fish oil supplements, then I can feel my depression rearing its ugly head again and that scares me. It may be low grade as I can keep it at bay through diet and exercise, but it’s there and enough to remind me to get back on my omega 3’s.

Flax seed omega 3 just isn’t the same

brown whole flax seeds

There was a time when I thought I would switch to flax seed omega 3 – it was cheaper and vegan, so it sounded great – at the time. I thought nothing of this, as the flax oils I bought where the same strength in omega 3 as my usual fish oils and came in the same 1000mg dosage too, so I presumed they would work exactly the same. I was very wrong.

After a couple of weeks on the flax I started to feel weird in a way that I hadn’t felt for a long time, and could sense some underlying panic and anxiety welling up. I was shocked by this as I hadn’t experienced those feelings for years and I worried why it was happening, until it finally dawned on me that I had started using flax instead of fish oil, and I knew instantly that that was the problem.

On further investigation into this I discovered that these two omega 3’s ARE actually totally different when it comes to fighting depression, and so of course I swapped back as soon as I could and all was restored to order again.

I’m telling you this because I want you to understand the importance of fish oil and depression, and why they are just so vital (and still are) to my recovery. You will also need it at pretty high doses to be really effective: I take 3-5000 mg per day, but can get away with alternating higher and lower depending on my mood. You will probably find your own level, which may be different depending on your size and other factors; and if you’re exercising hard you may need more.

You should probably start out at 3-5000 mg every day until you start to feel better, but do not go above 5,000 as they can have a detrimental blood thinning effect.

Vegan Versions of Fish Oil

There are now some vegan versions of this oil that contain both the came active EPA and DHA that is so good for depression and anxiety, and these are derived from the plankton that the fish used in the fish oils feed from. These are supposed to have the same effect on depression, but I have not had the chance to try these yet as they are also very expensive.

5. EXERCISE

running in the park

This is another biggy for helping to blast depression into kingdom come, wherever that is. Make sure you do some sweat inducing physical exercise at least 3 times a week, preferably doing one of these sessions in the fresh air for these two reasons: 1. Daylight helps to trigger the production of serotonin. 2. Sunlight helps your body produce vitamin D (also a vital nutrient for depression), so a power walk or run on the beach will do you the power of good. Just be sure to get a sweat up to help release those deep seated toxins that can clog up your system and also contribute to depressive illness.

Weight Bearing Exercise

Try and get some weight bearing exercise into you life as this is another MAJOR PLAYER in beating depression; you can check out this review of the studies that support this, The cascade of feel good endorphins that flood through your body after you have put tension onto your muscles helps blasts depression right out of your system – or so it feels like. This is because strength training burns up the stress hormone cortisol from your bloodstream, helping to make you feel serene and calm afterwards.

Weight bearing exercises include gym work, HITT training, hiking, tennis and dancing.

TO CONCLUDE:

I hope you can see that there is light at the end of the tunnel for all depression sufferers. It just takes a bit of effort to get started, and this can often mean effort at a time when you least feel like it, but it’s a journey you will never regret.

You may always be susceptible to depression as I know I am, hence the reason why I will probably need to stick to these 5 rules for life. But I now see this as a good thing, and am actually thankful for it all because I am forced to keep my body and mind fit and healthy, and that in turn has blessed my life in so so many other ways.

WARNING:

This content is not aimed at treating mental illness of any kind without the help and support of your doctor or medical professionals. Always consult with your doctor about any changes in mood you may experience, and keep them informed of any measures you are taking to help yourself, such as those suggested in this post. The above processes can be used alongside medication (if need be) to enhance well-being further.

Thankyou for reading! Questions and comments are always welcome, and if you’d like to share you own experiences about mental illness then please feel free to drop a line in the comments section below.

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Stefanie Taylor
Plant based eating is set to EXPLODE in 2019; not just for health reasons, but also to help keep our beautiful planet thriving. I have lived this healthful lifestyle for over 2 years, which is the reason why zestforever was born to share my experiences, trials and errors, how I overcame them, and how to turn to this lifestyle in such a way that you will thrive too.

I have studied, tried and tested healthy foods, superfoods and diets for over 25 years, but nothing has come close to giving me the buzz of wellness that plant based eating has. To expand my knowledge further I have also studied and worked as a Sports Nutritional Advisor, Nutritional Therapist, and Clinical Weight Loss Advisor - all of which can tie in with the plant based diet.

This website is not intended to treat or diagnose any medical diseases or illnesses. It's merely meant as a way of showing you how to boost your health through the eating of more nutritious plant foods in place of junk foods.

I am grateful for your support, and I hope that the tips and guides you find here will help to guide you on your own plant based journey.

22 thoughts on “How to Help Depression Naturally – 5 Steps to Happiness”

  1. Hi Stefanie,

    Thanks for sharing this valuable information. I have known people who suffered from stress and anxiety at different levels throughout their life and have border line depression. These techniques sound so much better than having to be medicated to the hilt.

    I will be implementing some of the ideas myself because it makes perfect sense to move away from a state of depression via natural methods. I especially found the part on flax seed oil interesting and have notices major change in my life when using a good quality fish oil.

    J.

    • Hi Jorden, yes natural is SO much better! Who wants to take those nasty drugs that have a list of side effects as long as your arm. I’m glad you understand the benefit’s of fish oil and have felt them for yourself.

      It is weird how the flax doesn’t work, and I though that was an important point to get out there from first hand experience. People suffering depression are often advised to take omega 3 oil but sometimes it is not specified which type. Maybe the information is just not out there, I don’t know.

  2. Thank you for sharing your personal struggle with depression. It means alot! I’m going to try the Omega 3 fish oil. Do you recommend any specific brands?

    • Hi Barry, I am happy you have found some valuable information in my post. If you are struggling with depression then you really should get on the fish oils ASAP. To be honest, I have swapped and changed brands over the years and have found that as long as they are just the high strength omega 3’s of at least 1000 mg per capsule then they should be ok.

      However, I do always go for the mercury free fish oils for obvious reasons, and also because it is something I am doing long term so I want it to be pure.

      Please let me know how the fish oils work for you!

  3. I do really believe that exercise is a natural way of combating depression. Although I know it, sometimes I am to lazy to do physical exercises. But your information, boosts my desire to do the action for better health.

    I am excited to read more of your content.

    • Yes exercise is the best, and really boosts those natural endorphins into action. As much as it is hard to make the first move and get into it, once you do the results are so worth the effort.

      You will see lots more content from me in the future about this topic so keep a lookout!

  4. I have battled with depression too fairly recently, and you are right! It is tough, but so worth it to be back to normal. I did start a good diet, but love all your suggestions which are worth doing no matter what! I also began exercising which is a great stress reliever and probably my biggest help. Great information Stefanie!

    • I’m really sorry to hear your recent struggles with depression. Unfortunately in the environment we are now in with our food not containing the nutrients it used to, and so many electronic things buzzing in the air, coupled with the stress of so many other things, more people than ever are prone to depression and anxiety. It’s awful, but there is help.

      I hope you find that my suggestions work for you too Leahrae and I would love to know what happens with that, so please let me know.

  5. I love the natural approaches for things such as Depression. It’s real, and so many undermine those who suffer from it. It’s crazy how lifestyles changes (diet, exercise, thought patterns) can change, treat, remedy and cure so many ailments. The push for prescription/synthetic meds is a greedy one, to say the least. Thank you for sharing these options, and also for sharing your story! Cheers!

    • Hi Courtney, I wanted to share my own personal story to help convince people that antidepressant drugs are not always the answer and there are natural answers that really do work! So many people suffer needlessly from this illness and I want them to know that there is hope.

      And yes, doctors all to often do push drugs on people before trying other options. I always say that taking antidepressants is like putting a bucket under a leaky roof rather than fixing the roof – in fact, this is the case with so many of the readily handed out prescription drugs.

  6. Great post! I’ve suffered like many other people from depression. And honestly, diet is such an important part of overcoming it. I cut out sugar, increased healthy fats, and in about a few weeks, I felt so much better. I was able to think more clearly. Adding exercise is an extra step in the happiness process. I really appreciate you, and all that you share with people. Keep it up.

    • It really makes my day when people get value out of what I wrote, so that so you so much for the compliment.
      Yes, depression is awful, and if I can help others from suffering then it is worth every second of my time.

      My aim is to try and hammer it home to people just how important diet and exercise is in the fight against this disease. So many times people are just sent away from the doctors with a prescription for drugs, without being told about any other more natural methods first. It’s true that some do need the initial effects of an antidepressant and I would never say otherwise, but there are other options. I’m living proof of that!

  7. Hey Stefanie,
    I’m going through kind of a depression myself right now.
    I do have a lot of these symptoms but at least I recognize them.
    I am seeing a therapist and it really helps me.
    But I am also following a plant based diet and eating the right foods.
    One of the biggest things to deal with is stress and I’m working on that too.
    I also was slacking off when it came to exercise but now I’m back to walking and bike riding every day.
    You’ve offered some great advice and I thank you!

    • Hi Rob, I’m sorry to hear you have been suffering depression. At least you’re dealing with it before it escalate though which is the main thing.

      Eating a healthy plant based diet really helps, but be sure to get enough healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, and olive oil. All good omega 3’s; especially try the fish oil, that’s one I just can’t live without. I know it’s not plant based but I do have to allow myself this one concession.

      Good Luck with it all!

  8. Hi, these are great suggestions that seem so simple, yet when you have any sort of depression, they are really hard to get motivated to do. It’s much easier to say, “give me a pill and just make it go away”. But anything natural is preferable in my opinion, at least to try first. I end up with pretty bad seasonal depression (I live in the Northeast) and the lack of sunshine really affects me. I take vitamin D3 and that does help me.

    • Hi Andrea, yes SAD is tough and probably requires a different kind of treatment. If D3 isn’t helping then you probably need to do more, or something different. I would definitely say to exercise and and omega 3’s as I believe both those things will help. Also, taking 5htp supplements alongside your omega 3’s works like a dream too, but you cannot take 5htp if you are already on antidepressants as you could end up with serotonin syndrome. Maybe you should also get a light box if you don’t already have one.

      Keeping your body as healthy as possible by eating good food will always help to minimise effects of depression.
      I agree, natural is best. Antidepressants don’t cure depression they just cover it up which means that you need to stay on them for a long time whilst finding other ways to cope such as CBT and such things. If you can do it naturally (and I fully believe that’s possible) then you don’t have to suffer any if the hidious long lust of side effects from drugs.

      Hope that helps, and thanks for your comment.

  9. That was a great article. Thank you for sharing.
    I actually didnt know that omega3 would help. I will defo try that.

  10. I’m a sufferer of depression and can confirm confidently ALL of these points are 100% accurate! Finding the triggers and being able to either prevent them occurring so much or having methods to deal with them is key! I also cleaned up my diet, and now it’s not a diet to me, it’s a lifestyle! Exercise in the mornings is what I’ve found the more effective though, a wonderful way to start the day positively! Great article, it will definitely be useful for those who are learning about depression!

    • Wow, sounds like you have your depression well and truly under control and I can see why considering you are doing all those great things! You are so right, exercising is a perfect start to the day and gets all those endorphins flowing for the day ahead. I do some form of exercise every day too, be it running, power walking, swimming, gym, or yoga. I like to keep it mixed up to cover all bases.

      Diet, as you know, is also super important and the two go hand in hand in blasting out depression. One without the other just doesn’t work as effectively.

  11. What an amazing article about getting rid of depression so easily and naturally. Depression has become very common now a days and increasing day by day which is a bad news but articles like this will help all the people who have depression to overcome form this and learn to stay happy and healthy naturally. I love your work as you always share natural solutions of all health related problems. Thank you.

    • Yes, depression is worse than ever these days and even kids are getting it very young. We have even seen a huge rise in childhood depression in recent years and I think this is probably down to a mix of too much computer time, nutrient deficiency, and environmental toxins. The system being hit with all these variables can lead to breakdown. Sad but true!

      Of course, I’m not just talking about kids here as it’s hitting people of all ages and backgrounds and seems to be indiscriminate. The purpose of this article is to make people see that beating depression is indeed possible without drugs, I have done it myself and I was once at a point where I never could of imagined that I would be where I’m at now. If this post helps just one person to see the light then it will be worth it!

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