By Marc Courtiol
Everyone feels a little blue from time to time, but if you have experienced persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or personal emptiness that have lasted for months or years, then it is time to do something about it. Contrary to popular belief, depression is not a single illness that is easy to identify and formulaic in its treatment. Depression in its various forms affects each individually differently, so each sufferer needs to evaluate which treatment options are best for them.
There is no denying that prescription antidepressants work for some people, but there are just as many people who find these treatments to be underwhelming or so fraught with side effects that they are not worth the benefits. Plus, to get one of these pharmaceutical antidepressants, it is necessary to see a doctor and get a prescription, which does not sit well for anyone who believes in self-treatment for mental health issues.
The good news is that there are alternatives. And in fact, if you are committed to treating your depression, the so-called “alternative” treatments can be better than the mainstream ones.
Natural supplements for depression
As with prescription antidepressants, natural remedies for depression vary from person to person. If you try one and it does not work for you, do not be discouraged. Some people have to try several different things over a period of months before they finally find relief. If you are not sure where to get started, here are a few ideas:
- St. John’s Wort: The research pertaining to the effectiveness of St. John’s Wort has been mixed, but the anecdotal evidence proves that at least some people have had positive results with this medicine. If you want to give it a try, be sure to take your St. John’s Wort supplements for at least a month before giving up.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Studies have linked depression to a low intake of omega-3 fatty acids, the good fats needed for healthy cell functioning. There are plenty of natural food sources for these acids-especially fish such as salmon and sardines-but taking supplements is a good way to make sure you get your recommended daily value.
- DLPA: DL-Phenylalanine (DLPA) is an amino acid that has been found to have antidepressant effects by encouraging the synthesis of brain chemicals associated with feelings of happiness and well-being. DLPA is not as widely recognized as some of the other antidepressant supplements, but it has gained ground in recent years.
Lifestyle habits that promote happiness
In today’s increasingly sedentary world, too many people do not get the exercise they need, and this can create all sorts of problems. Lack of exercise leads to declining health, which can lower one’s energy and self-esteem, both of which are crucial for a good mood. Plus, aerobic exercise releases chemicals that elevate mood, and it decreases the hormones that worsen feelings of stress.
Meanwhile, healthy dietary habits can have a hugely beneficial effect on one’s mood. Eating a balanced diet full of nutrients increases energy, improves sleep, and helps balance brain chemistry, all of which are crucial for good mental health It is okay to have things like sweets, caffeine and alcohol in moderation, but in excess they can lead to elevated blood sugar, sleep problems and mood swings.
If you have tried all these things and still cannot seem to improve your mood, you might also want to try complementary activities such as yoga, acupuncture, meditation, and massage therapy. Each of these techniques can have mixed results when it comes to treating depression, but they have worked wonders for many people. Meditation and massage therapy can greatly reduce stress, and yoga can be both relaxing and strengthening to the body.