According to the World Health Organization (WHO), some 350 million people suffer from depression all over the world, making it a problem of truly global proportions. Depression comes with an array of difficult signs and symptoms, including feelings of hopelessness or despair, physical pain, fatigue, problems with eating and sleeping and sometimes even thoughts or attempts at suicide.
The good news is, however, that along with medication and counselling, there are a lot of natural lifestyle choices you can make to help support your journey back to good mental health. Most of them are so simple that they might surprise you!
This can be a difficult lifestyle choice to make because of the fatigue that depression can bring with it, but if you can manage it, regular and gentle exercise can support your emotional health. This is because physical activity release endorphins, natural “feel good” hormones that can help raise your mood levels naturally. Regular exercise can also combat stress, with frequently goes along with depression.
Stress — and in the inability to cope with stress — is often an underlying cause of depression or can at least make the problem worse.
So taking up a stress-busting exercise like yoga or tai chi or learning how to meditate can help to deal with these feelings of anxiety and make them easier to cope with in healthy ways.
Many people with depression will tend to either over- or under-eat, leading to problems with weight.
However, a healthy, balanced diet with good portions of foods throughout the day can help you cope with depression by keeping your blood sugars balanced and your energy level steady; it will also help you to get the vitamins and minerals you need to keep your nervous system (including your brain) healthy.
There are also plenty of herbs and supplements out there that can also help you conquer your depression. One of them is fish oil supplements; it has been found that the omega-3 fatty acids in the oil support the health and balance of the nervous system. Another one is St. John’s Wort, which is thought to help depression by increasing levels of serotonin, a “feel good” hormone in the brain. However, you should talk to your doctor before beginning any supplement to make sure it will not react with medications you are already taking.
One of the hardest parts of depression is how lonely and isolated it can make you feel. So even if you don’t always feel like it, get out and socialize and allow the support and love of your friends and family to get you through the tough times. Support groups, friends, people from your church or other place of worship can all play a role in giving you the emotional strength you need as you work to get well.
If you are fighting a battle with depression, the importance of getting a good night’s sleep (ideally between 7 and 8 hours a night) cannot be over-emphasized. Sleep deprivation can make feelings of depression — as well as stress and anxiety — much worse and can put a strain on your nervous system and brain. However, make sure not to oversleep, which can be a struggle for some people who suffer from depression.
The takeaway here is that if you are battling depression, you are not alone — and you can also be empowered to make the lifestyle changes that will help you overcome with problem.
A healthy, balanced diet, sleep, stress management, supplements and the support of friends and loved ones can all combine to make your journey more successful and to complement your medications and counselling.