Natural Ways To Fight Depression And Stress

Anyone can find themselves feeling down or sad, but for some people (and certain times in life) it’s worse than others. There are many levels of depression all the way from a down day to serious condition needing medical support.

The root of depression varies just as widely. It could be the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, a serious illness, or hormone imbalance and the list goes on and on. Knowing the root cause can be helpful in eliminating the depression itself.

All too often, the root of depression is stress. These two conditions are closely tied, and can easily become a vicious cycle. Periods of extreme stress, particularly ongoing stress, can silently give rise to depression.

The depression can then increase your stress, and the increased stress brings on more depression. This is a rough cycle to find yourself in and one that you want to break quickly.

The good news is that there are a number of simple and natural ways to reduce depression. In most cases, taking these steps will also reduce stress. They may not change the cause of the stress but they can change your experience of it to reduce the negative effects on your body and soul.

Here are a few simple, natural and effective ways to reduce depression that may also reduce your stress.

Warning: Don’t look at these and think, “That’s too easy. It can’t make a difference for me.” It is amazing the big difference that small changes can make over time when applied regularly. Give these ideas a chance and see if you don’t notice improvement in how you feel about your life and situation in time. 

Spend at least one hour each week with a close friend.

In a British study, when 86 depressed women were paired with a volunteer friend, 65 percent of the women felt better. In fact, regular social contact worked as effectively as antidepressant medication and psychotherapy. Regular social contact with a close friend may boost self-confidence and encourage you to make other positive changes that will help lift depression, such as starting an exercise program.

Play with a dog a few minutes every day.

When non-pet owners played with a dog for just a few minutes a day as part of a University of Missouri study, blood levels of the brain chemicals serotonin and oxytocin—both mood elevators—rose. You don’t need to own a dog to experience these feel-good effects (although dogs are great antidotes to the kind of chronic stress that can result in depression). Pet your neighbor’s dog for a few minutes a day, volunteer at an animal shelter, or stop by your local pet store for some furry one-on-one therapy.

Get a 12-minute massage three times a week.

Whether you pay a professional or ask a spouse or friend to rub your back, the result is the same: a natural mood boost. In a study of depressed dialysis patients, participants who received a 12-minute massage three times a week were less depressed than those who didn’t get the soothing rub. Another study of 84 depressed pregnant women found those who received two 20-minute massages a week from their partners reduced their incidence of depression 70 percent. Researchers suspect massage boosts serotonin levels (which jumped 17 percent in the women who received twice-weekly massages) and reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Drink one to two cups of coffee or tea each morning.

Regular, modest caffeine intake decreases the risk of depression by more than 50 percent, says Edward J. Cumella, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and director of research and education for the Remuda Ranch Treatment Centers in Wickenburg, Arizona.
– via Reader’s Digest

More Natural Treatments For Depression

Here are several more natural ways to fight depression that Dr. Lissa Rankin shared with Psychology Today. You may be surprised at how simple changes in your diet or activity can lift your mood and improve your life!

Consider why you might feel depressed.

Sometimes depression is a symptom of something circumstantial in your life, rather than biochemical imbalances. Does your job require you to sell out your integrity every day? Have you been unable to admit that you need to end your marriage? Are you feeling spiritually disconnected or sexually restless? Are you suffering from creative blocks? Is your body failing you? Are you facing financial ruin? Be honest with yourself about what might be off-kilter in your life, and make an effort to get to the root of why you might be feeling depressed.

Move your body.

Exercise releases happy-making endorphins, which act like natural anti-depressants. Runner’s high, anyone?

Never skip a meal.

Keeping your blood sugar stable reduces mood swings.

Eat a serotonin-enhancing diet.

Many anti-depressants like Prozac act by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin by receptors in the brain, thereby increasing serotonin levels. But you can increase your brain’s serotonin levels by eating foods that boost your serotonin levels naturally.

Serotonin-enhancing foods include:

  • Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids (such as wild salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, and anchovies, which are even higher in omega-3 fatty acids than other fish)
  • Healthy fats like coconut oil
  • Eat a high protein diet, especially proteins high in tryptophan, like free range turkey

Expose yourself to sunlight, which can boost mood and increase Vitamin D levels.

If you live somewhere that gets little sun, invest in a therapeutic light box.

Get your hormones balanced.

If your thyroid, adrenal or sex hormones are out of whack, your mood can get all wonky. See a good integrative medicine doctor and ask them to order and interpret the following tests:

  • Thyroid gland tests – TSH, free T4, free T3, total T3, thyroid antibodies
  • Adrenal gland tests – cortisol, DHEA-S, pregnenolone
  • Sex hormone tests – estradiol, progesterone, free and total testosterone

– via Psychology Today

Do you find that you get depressed when you are under stress?