Natural Remedies for Depression
A holistic approach to supporting mood
In the first part of our depression series, we delved into the reasons why antidepressants don’t work and the severe side effects associated with these commonly prescribed medications.
In the second part of our series, we explore how dietary choices, lifestyle adjustments, and natural remedies are essential in promoting a positive mood and embracing a holistic approach to effectively managing depression. Learn how simple changes in your daily life and the right nutrition can contribute to your overall well-being.
Depression and nutrition
Nutrition plays a significant role in mental health. A balanced diet rich in essential nutrients can help alleviate the symptoms of depression and improve overall well-being. Proper nutrition not only fuels your body but also nourishes your mind.
Consuming a balanced diet rich in organic, whole foods including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats can stabilise mood and energy levels. Avoid caffeine and high-sugar foods which can lead to energy crashes and mood swings. Focusing on the principles of a naturopathic diet can help address any nutritional imbalances that may be contributing to mood disorders.
The following nutrients are key for brain health and emotional well-being:
Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), found in algae and seaweed, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds and edamame beans have shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of depression. These healthy fats, especially DHA, support brain function, reduce inflammation and promote healthy neurotransmitter function which can contribute to mood regulation.
B vitamins, especially B6 (found in dark leafy greens, avocado, bananas, beans, sunflower seeds), B9 (spinach, kale, broccoli, asparagus, lentils, oranges), and B12 (chlorella, nori, eggs, nutritional yeast, meat, eggs), support the natural processes of neurotransmitter synthesis in the brain. Adequate levels of B vitamins are essential for maintaining brain function, emotional regulation and a healthy mood.
Antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium, play a crucial role in reducing the risk of depression by helping protect the brain against oxidative stress. These powerful compounds neutralise harmful free radicals and prevent damage to brain cells. In particular, vitamin C acts as an essential cofactor for the synthesis of various neurotransmitters associated with mood regulation
Vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin, aids mood regulation and overall well-being. It is a fat-soluble vitamin produced by the skin when exposed to sunlight. Seasonal changes, particularly in regions with limited sunlight, can lead to a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is characterised by symptoms of depression during the winter months when sunlight exposure is reduced. The primary source of vitamin D is sunlight so spending time outdoors, especially in the morning, can help your body produce enough vitamin D. However, when sun exposure is limited, dietary sources and supplements become crucial. Foods rich in vitamin D include fatty fish like mackerel, and sardines, egg yolks and mushrooms.
Magnesium deficiency is common among those with depression. It a calming mineral and aids in enhancing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) production, a protein crucial for nerve cell maintenance and growth. Magnesium also helps improve sleep quality, reduce anxiety and support the body’s stress response by reducing stress hormone production. Magnesium food sources include leafy greens, bananas, figs, avocado, almonds, cashews, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, chickpeas, lentils and beans.
Lifestyle changes for a brighter mood
Small lifestyle changes can make a big difference when it comes to managing depression.
Regular exercise: Physical activity releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. Incorporating regular exercise into your routine can reduce depressive symptoms. Whether it’s a brisk walk, a calming yoga session, or a more intense workout, staying active can significantly contribute to improved mood and mental well-being.
Sleep hygiene: Quality sleep is essential for emotional well-being. Poor sleep patterns and insomnia can exacerbate depression. Practicing good sleep hygiene, such as sticking to a regular sleep schedule and creating a relaxing bedtime routine, can significantly improve your sleep quality.
Stress management: Managing stress is paramount when dealing with depression as high-stress levels often lead to an increase in negative emotions and can even trigger depressive episodes. Learning to effectively cope with stress through techniques like mindfulness, deep breathing exercises and visualisation can help manage stress and promote emotional resilience. Acupuncture is also highly effective for stress management as it helps alleviate tension, reduce anxiety and improve overall well-being. By targeting specific pressure points in the body, acupuncture promotes relaxation and the release of endorphins.
Address the underlying causes of stress and factors that contribute to your distress. To tackle problems and enhance your problem-solving skills, begin by making a comprehensive list of issues related to health, lifestyle, relationships or work. Avoid excessive worrying and shift your focus to taking productive actions, addressing one task at a time. Start with smaller issues before moving to larger ones and consider the necessary actions to resolve each problem. Using affirmative, positive language makes a real difference to your overall outlook and mental well-being. When you approach challenges with an optimistic mindset, you empower yourself to overcome obstacles. Seeking advice from experts or confiding in friends can be invaluable, with Health Coaches being especially helpful due to their expertise in overcoming challenges.
Spending time in nature: Nature has a calming effect on the mind. Studies have shown that interacting with nature and spending time outdoors, even for just 20 minutes, can significantly lower cortisol levels, boost your mood and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. Nature walks, outdoor activities, or simply sitting in a park can be highly beneficial.
Social connections and emotional support from friends and family can significantly improve your mood and uplift your spirits. Try to participate in social activities and connect with loved ones, even when you may not feel like it. Engaging with your social network can provide a sense of belonging and reduce feelings of isolation, which are common in individuals dealing with depression.
Creative outlets: Engaging in creative activities, whether it’s art, music or writing, can be therapeutic and provide an emotional release. It allows you to express yourself and find joy in the creative process. Having hobbies and pursuing your interests outside of work can add enjoyment and meaning to your life, reducing feelings of depression or anxiety.
Goal setting: Setting and achieving small, realistic goals can give you a sense of accomplishment and increase your self-esteem. If there is an area of your life that is making you unhappy, what steps can you take to change the situation? Start by identifying specific aspects that you’d like to improve. Then, break these broader goals into smaller, manageable steps. This approach allows you to track your progress and celebrate each achievement along the way. Taking action to make positive changes can have a profound impact on your mood and overall well-being.
Limit screen time: Excessive screen time, particularly on social media, can lead to feelings of inadequacy and negatively impact your mood. Reducing screen time and focusing on real-life interactions can be beneficial for those with low mood and depression.
Natural remedies to improve mood
John’s Wort is a herb renowned for its benefits in managing depression. Although the precise mechanisms of its action are not fully understood, it is believed to interact with various neurochemical pathways and receptors in the brain, which contribute to its antidepressant effects. By modulating these pathways, St. John’s Wort can help improve mood and alleviate depressive symptoms. It’s important to consult with a qualified herbalist before using this herb, as it may interact with certain medications such as the oral contraceptive pill.
Lavender, when prepared as a tea or tincture, can help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety due to its soothing and mood-stabilising effects. It acts as a mild sedative, promoting relaxation and reducing stress, which are particularly helpful when you’re experiencing emotional turmoil.
Saffron, known for its yellow hue, is a potent herb (available in tincture form or as a tea) that has shown to be effective in alleviating symptoms of depression. The active compounds in saffron are believed to influence various neurochemical processes, promoting a positive impact on mood.
Essential oils like lavender, chamomile and rosemary have a calming effect on the nervous system. By inhaling these soothing scents or using them in massages and baths, you can effectively manage stress and create a more tranquil environment for yourself. These stress-relieving essential oils are a natural and holistic way to alleviate the pressures of modern life and achieve a greater sense of peace and well-being.
Bach flower remedies offer a holistic approach to managing emotional states, including depression. These remedies are derived from various flowers and plants, each thought to target specific emotional imbalances. Popular remedies for managing depressive symptoms include:
- Mustard – to address sudden and unexplainable bouts of sadness.
- Agrimony – to alleviate inner torment and mental anguish.
- Gentian – for those who feel discouraged, easily disheartened and often suffer from pessimism.
- Sweet Chestnut – for feelings of extreme despair and hopelessness, often experienced in the darkest moments of depression.
- Gorse – for those who have given up on finding a solution to their problems and feel a sense of defeat.
- White Chestnut – for persistent, unwanted and distressing thoughts which can contribute to depressive feelings.
Natural solutions for mood
While depression is a complex condition that often requires a multifaceted approach, natural remedies can play a significant role in alleviating symptoms and promoting emotional well-being. A nutrient-rich diet, healthy lifestyle and essential vitamins and minerals all contribute to a holistic approach to combatting depression.
Here are some resources and courses you may find useful: