You may think at first glance the title of what this post promises seems too simplistic, especially if you are already in that dark place where you feel there is no hope. But learning how to treat depression naturally and 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 people have had much success with. I am merely offering another perspective and more natural ways of of dealing with depression that you can incorporate into your treatment.
Suffering from true clinical (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, what I believe to be, the 5 main cornerstones of a depression-free life.
What is depression?
Depression is a debilitating mental illness that is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. It’s a real thing, and you can’t just snap out of it at will as some people believe. There are many forms of this illness including, clinical, bipolar, post-partum, atypical, premenstrual, psychotic, and situational depression. I’m no expert on all of these, and some of them may very well 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 major depressive disorder (MDD) as it 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 receive the help they need.
Symptoms of major depressive disorder are, but not limited to:-
- Low mood
- Loss of interest in activities you may have previously loved
- Weight loss
- Weight gain
- Feeling unworthy
- Feeling guilty
- Ruminating on the past and feeling guilty
- Constant feelings of dread
- Bad temper
- 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 depression stole years from me, but alas it was all part of my own learning experience and had such a profound and lasting effect on me that it completely changed the course of my life… definitely for the better. I don’t want it to take you many years of learning how to cope, no, 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:-
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, 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.
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.
How to Treat Depression Naturally – 3 Steps to Happiness
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 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 is; but once you take that first step towards healing it will take a thousand steps towards you. This part cannot be emphasised enough: I don’t know how it works, it just does, and I guess 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 have never been addressed before. 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
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 or 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.
Do all you can to cut drastically down, or ideally cut out completely, all of these 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 already in place, for instance, all temptations out of the way and 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.
3. ADD IN DEPRESSION BUSTING FOODS
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 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 powders are an excellent and easy way to get an intense hit of nutrients fat. 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 will make you feel worse if you suffer from depression.
- 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 awesome for depression as they contain selenium, and when your selenium stores are low this too can trigger depression.
- Other low GI foods such as lentils, pulses, and beans. Please check out this low GI foods list 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, this is 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 fight depression.
4. TAKE OMEGA 3 FISH OIL
Oh man, I had to give this one a section of its own as fish oils just play such an integral role in fighting depression, and the sad thing 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 probably still won’t get the high amounts of omega 3 you need to really make a difference to true depressive illness.
I know omega 3 oils work, 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 and take out my fish oil supplements 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 isn’t the same:
There was a time when I thought I would switch to flaxseed omega 3; it was cheaper and obviously 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 1000 mg capsules, so I presumed they would work exactly the same: I was 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 omega 3 fish oil in depression and why it is so vital. You will also need it at pretty high doses: I take 3000 mg per day, but can get away with alternating 2000 mg one day and 3000 mg the next – but you’re level may be different. You should probably start out at 3000 mg every day until you start to feel better.
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 they are derived from the plankton that the fish used in the fish oil feed from. These are supposed to have the same effect on depression, but I have not had the chance to try these yet and they are also still very expensive. However, being a plant based eater and hoping to become fully vegan I will get around to it soon and update you on the results.
This is another biggy for blasting depression into kingdom come – wherever that is. Make sure you do some 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, again contributing 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. 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.
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; effort at a time when you least feel like it but it is 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.