7 Things to Try Before Resorting to Antidepressants
The use of medication to treat depression has skyrocketed in the United States. But as the dangerous side effects of depression medication continue to make headlines, we have to wonder: Is resorting to medication the best way to treat this health problem?
One in 10 Americans now reports taking an antidepressant — up 400% from from 1988. And if this statistic weren’t, well, depressing enough, one in four women in their 40s and 50s relies on this class of mood altering drugs. If you are among the millions of people suffering from depression, consider some of these methods that have been known to boost mood and lift depression naturally.
1. Release Feel-Good Hormones
More and more evidence is mounting that exercise may be one of the best methods of treating depression. In fact, one study even found that a regular exercise regimen can be just as, if not more, effective than conventional medications.
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Exercise releases positive chemicals known as endorphins, and may even help to rewire the brain in helpful ways. Everything from sports, to weight lifting, to swimming, to jogging, to walking can help, and you don’t have to become a fitness champion to benefit. Even by adding small amounts of light exercise to your daily routine, you may help to alleviate depression. Outdoor exercise may be particularly helpful, given the added benefits of fresh air and vitamin D-boosting sunlight.
2. Ditch Foods That Promote Mood Swings
A study out of the University of Eastern Finland found that some foods had a tendency to promote depressive symptoms. The researchers studied 2,000 men over the course of 13 years and found that processed meats, processed convenience foods and sugary desserts, to name a few, increased depression.
Another likely culprit? Sugary drinks.
According to research presented at a meeting for the American Academy of Neurology, scientists found that regular consumption of sweetened beverages may increase the risk for depression — but it wasn’t limited to just sugar. Both high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners resulted in greater risk for depression. Study participants who consumed diet soda had a 31 percent higher likelihood of depression than those who did not drink soda, while participants who drank regular soda had a 22 percent higher risk of depression than those who totally abstained. Participants who drank diet fruit punch had a 51 percent higher likelihood of depression compared to those who did not drink fruit punch at all.
3. Consider Trying Sceletium Tortuosum
Considered one of the most effective all-natural anti-anxiety solutions available, this fast-acting, take-it-when-you-need-it supplement can calm the mind and lift the spirits in a similar manner to many anti-anxiety medications, but without having to permit time for it to “build up” in your system. You may have seen this South African succulent herb offered under the name of its most popular patented anti-anxiety ingredient called Zembrin, which is thus far the most researched and respected extract of Sceletium tortuosum in the world. The San Bushmen of South Africa have used sceletium for centuries to enhance mood, relieve stress and anxiety and combat fatigue. If you frequently find yourself stressed, irritable or moody, this is the supplement you want to have on hand.
4. Entertain the Idea of Meditation
In a recent paper for BMC Psychiatry, psychology experts explored the need for a new approach to depression treatment; one that consider “Lifestyle Medicine.” (Side note: If you ever read a paper we recommend, make this the one.) The researchers provide data which prove that mindful meditation practices produce notable changes in gray matter morphology, cortical thickness and serotonin levels.
Adjusting your thought processes and outlooks have been known to produce powerful change, and meditation is a fantastic way to enact such change. Through meditation you may be able to give your mind a break from the stresses and concerns of daily life, allowing you to focus on simpler things. Giving your mind a break and time to relax helps you to keep things in perspective, and may help to keep you refreshed and ready to take on life’s challenges.
5. Check in on Your Levels of Depression-Curbing Nutrients
It has been well established that certain nutrient deficiencies can greatly contribute to bluesy moods. One underestimated depression fighter is folate. A Finnish population-based study found that participants with low intakes of folate had a greater chance of being diagnosed with melancholic depression.
6. Get Restful Sleep on a Regular Basis
It should come as no surprise that insomniacs are four times more likely to suffer from depression than normal sleepers. Sleep loss and depression sometimes go hand-in-hand and can present a challenging twofold problem. However, if you are able to get regular, deeper nights of sleep, you are very likely to feel better and reduce levels of depression. If you have trouble sleeping, try to establish a regular sleep schedule, avoid naps, remove distractions from your bedroom such as TV and allow your mind to relax. Here are a few other tips that may help.
7. Consider Trying Yoga
Yoga combines several of the benefits of the items listed above. By incorporating the aspects of exercise, meditation, and helping to relax the body and mind to promote better sleep, yoga can be a powerful remedy for depression. While it tends to be a little more difficult to fund a study on the benefits of yoga over Big Pharma-backed medications, a few have surfaced with promising results. One study found that practicing yoga for one hour twice a week for five weeks resulted in “significant decreases” in depression.
Consider giving yoga a try, and attempt to clear your mind and focus on the task at hand while you are performing it.
Don’t Forget to Stay Positive!
Remember that even if you have a lengthy history of depression, that does not mean that you will continue to feel depressed in the future. Remind yourself to maintain a positive attitude, and realize that you truly can take productive steps forward to reduce and perhaps ultimately eliminate depression altogether. Before turning to the uncertainty of medication to treat depression, be sure to thoroughly exhaust all of these natural options.
Derek is a technical writer and editor with 10 years of experience in the health care field, having first earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Delaware. He is a contributing author on a number of textbooks in the medical field, ran a nuclear cardiology licensing course, and has written a variety of other pieces from online training courses to medical software manuals. Derek pursues his personal interest in health and wellness by playing multiple sports and running marathons. An insatiable traveler, he spent 16 months working and living abroad while traveling through South America, Europe, and Southeast Asia.