Many people do not know that I have clinical depression. I was on Buproprion for many years, and it worked well, but I decided that there must be a better way than taking a pill everyday to feel normal. I knew that serotonin played a key part in mood, so I decided to try and find ways to combat my depression naturally.
Since then, a number of people have asked me how I manage my depression without medication. Rather than answer each one individually, I created this article. Below, I will outline the strategy that I have been using for about five years now, to remain both depression and prescription free:
1. Sunlight is a great way to combat depression naturally. Get at least 15 minutes of sunlight a day. Sunlight is instrumental in the synthesis of vitamin D in the body. Vitamin D has been linked to keeping serotonin levels elevated in the brain. In addition, the pineal gland is extremely sensitive to light and through this mechanism, regulates both serotonin and melatonin production. Stimulated by sunlight, serotonin levels are what you want to keep elevated during the day to keep depression at bay.
2. Regular exercise is a great way to combat depression naturally - Exercise plays an important role in regulating mood and sleep quality. And conversely, getting quality sleep is important for your mood and overall well-being. There is so much evidence supporting the beneficial effects of regular exercise that I'm only going to summarize briefly: During and after exercise the body releases chemicals that are associated with "feeling good" and this effect carries over throughout the day into your sleep cycle. The important thing is to pick an activity that you enjoy and do it regularly. Even on days when you don't feel you can go "all out" just make sure to do your workout. It's the pattern and the habit that will carry you through in the long-term and that is really what your goal is here.
3. Eating dark chocolate is a great way to combat depression naturally. Besides containing healthful anti-oxidants, chocolate is a known mood and serotonin elevator. However, most people only think about consuming it in candy form. It is much better to get dark, unsweetened, chocolate powder and then add it to various foods. I like to mix one teaspoon into my daily coffee. You can also make a mole sauce with it, or dip fruit into it before eating it. This way, you can get your daily chocolate without all the unhealthy amounts of sugar and unnecessary calories.
4. Eating dairy is a great way to combat depression naturally. At latitudes further away from the equator, the sun is not as intense and sunlight alone may not be enough to meet your vitamin D requirements. Here, dairy plays a key role in supplementing them. Dairy also contains whey protein which contains tryptophan which the body makes into serotonin. It has an added benefit of keeping you feeling satisfied longer. I eat all natural fat-free yogurt daily. I love it!
5. Eating carbohydrates which rank low on the glycemic index is a great way to combat depression naturally. Foods that rank lower on the glycemic index take longer to reach the bloodstream in sugar form and therefore keep you from getting hungry longer. This also helps avoid energy crashes by giving you a steady supply of energy rather than the spikes and crashes caused by eating foods that hit the blood stream quickly. Keeping my energy level steady throughout the day definitely helps me keep my mood in check.
6. Don't forget music is a great way to combat depression naturally. We all have a few songs that get our blood pumping, our minds racing, or simply remind us to look at the bigger picture. Even before that first chorus hits, we feel that we can take on the world! Music has such a powerful influence on our mood that simply playing one of these songs can pull you out of a slump and put you on top of your game as if by magic. Keep your playlist of these songs close by and don't forget to explore new music, you never know when you'll find that next bit of "uplifting awesome" to add to your collection!
As you can see, I don't go overboard in any one area; I use the sum of many small steps in order to combat depression naturally, and I hope that you will find some of these tips will work for you.