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Alternative Ways of Treating Depression Without Drugs

written by: Wendy Finn • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 5/19/2011

When we are suffering from depression, we just want to get out of the rut we find ourselves in, and medication is the usual way out of it. However, there are alternatives to anti-depressants that could work for you - there are many ways of battling depression without medication.

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    When Is It OK To Ditch the Anti-Depressants?

    vitamins When we get a headache we reach for pain relief, even opting for cold and flu remedies when a bug strikes, so it's no wonder we get into the habit of thinking that drugs are the way to help us when we aren't quite feeling ourselves, no matter what the reason.

    When you are in the deepest depression, anti-depressants can help pull you back up to a place where you feel strong enough to make decisions that might help you out of your depression in the future. The following solutions are in no way meant to replace the need for anti-depressants if that is what your physician recommends. While there are many substitutes to the usual prescribed anti-depressants when we are trying to combat depression, it is important to bear in mind that these may not be for everyone. The alternative ways of treating depression covered here, are really only suitable for sufferers of mild to moderate depression.

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    Take a Look At Your Diet

    Whilst it's tempting to reach for chocolate, and other comforting sugary foods, a better choice of food to help your battle with depression, are those that include high levels of protein. A high protein breakfast will give you the best start to the day and provide long-lasting energy.

    You may also find that taking a supplement can help with your dietary requirements too. A study by the UW School of Nursing, found the following daily supplements helpful when dealing with depression:

    • B1 50 mg
    • B2 50 mg
    • B6 50 mg
    • Folic Acid 400 mcg
    • D 400 IU
    • Selenium 200 mcg
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    Even a Small Amount of Exercise Can Help

    Regular exercise is one of the most effective ways of combating depression, and it needn't take longer than 20 minutes a day. It's notwiifit  always easy to get motivated to exercise (even when we aren't depressed), but even 20 minutes walking a day, can be enough to make a difference. If this doesn't seem like your kind of thing, then find a form of exercise that is more appealing. Dancing, playing sport, doing an exercise DVD, or even playing an active console game like Wii fitness games, are good ways of getting exercise whilst still keeping you motivated. If you pick an exercise you enjoy, you are far more likely to keep to a regular plan.

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    Counseling Can Be a Good Plan

    Counseling may seem like an obvious alternative to medication for working out your depression, and it is definitely an option that can work for many, both on it's own or in combination with other treatments. It is not a quick-fix, but it is a long-term option that should help to get to the bottom of the problem, therefore helping to prevent reoccurrences of depression in the future.

    Sometimes an hour a week is all that is needed to examine your state of mind, and to examine your current circumstances that may be contributing to your current feelings. If you aren't able to effectively get to the bottom of the problems yourself (it is common not to know what the cause of your depression is), then counseling can be a very effective tool. A counselor may also be able to help you draw up a plan of action (see below), to help sort out your problems.

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    Ever Considered Eco Therapy?

    indoorplant A study conducted by Marcus and Barnes, concluded that more than two thirds of us naturally gravitate to a natural setting when we are stressed. The healing power of nature is a relative newcomer in therapy circles, but is nonetheless effective. Eco therapists claim this kind of therapy is especially beneficial to those with depression and other mental illnesses. It is also one of the simplest ways of battling depression without medication that you could start right now, with little effort.

    Gardening, walking, or another form of outdoor exercise is a great place to start your eco therapy, but if the weather isn't being kind today, you can make your own natural retreat indoors - creating an indoor garden, or just caring for some potted plants, will contribute to a more healing environment.

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    Try a Herbal Remedy - St. John's Wort

    St. John's Wort is a herbal remedy, that has been widely used (especially in Europe), for treating mild or moderate depression for manystjohnswort  years, and is one of the most effective ways of dealing with depression without the need for conventional drugs. It is usually sold in a capsule form, and is available from health food shops. You may know that your depression can be caused by a lowering of the serotonin levels in the brain, and St. John's Wort, has been clinically proven to raise these levels. There are also less side effects from taking this natural supplement for depression, when compared to traditional anti-depressants.

    A downside of using a St. John's Wort remedy is that it can impact the effectiveness of other drugs that you may be taking, so please check with your doctor before starting to take this supplement.

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    Draw Up a Plan of Action

    When you have depression, the good days may be few and far between, but when they do happen, try and capitalize on them by drawing up a plan of action. Think about why you may be depressed. Is it a job you are unhappy with? Is it a relationship that's not working? Is it caused by financial stress? These may seem like big issues to solve, but if you can think about steps to take to work them out, then your depression will seem much more manageable. Even the fact that you are planning to make steps, can make you feel better.

    Think about taking a course in a subject you are interested in, or would like to make your career. Talk problems over with your boss and see if there are steps your workplace can take to help you - maybe a more flexible work hours scheme for example. Make an appointment or call any of your debtors and try to draw up a more manageable payment plan. These are all small steps that could make a big difference.

    It's not always obvious to us what is the cause of our depression, but if you can take care of some little things, then you are still making a difference.

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    Light Therapy Might Help

    sadlightbox Many sufferers of winter depression (SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder) have enjoyed significant improvement in their symptoms of depression, by sitting close to a lightbox. A lightbox consists of fluorescent bulbs, installed inside a box, with a diffusing screen over the top. In clinical trials conducted by Columbia University, out of over 100 SAD patients who used this system, about 3/4 experienced major improvement of depressive symptoms. In some cases, even 15 minutes of light therapy a day was enough to make a significant difference, although some patients may require up to an hour for positive results to be seen.

    While the head and body should ideally be oriented towards the lightbox, you do not have to sit directly in front of it for it to be effective, and can go about your usual business of eating meals, or reading and writing at the same time.

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    Animal Assisted Therapy - A Lesser Known Effective Treatment

    Spending time with dogs, cats and horses, especially when grooming them, is a simple but effective way of getting over your depression that you may not have considered -- do not underestimate its power though. You can spend more time with your own pet, borrow someone else's pet for the afternoon, or even contact a therapy organization.

    Animal therapy can help boost morale, and fulfill the need for touch; all effective tools for treating depression. Canine assisted therapy is highly effective in relation to depression, although if your depression is anxiety-related, watching fish can be beneficial, as they are so relaxing. Each animal provides its own therapeutic benefits.

    Using one, or a combination of the above ideas for treating milder conditions of depression, will prove that it's not always necessary to reach for conventional medication when depression raises its ugly head.

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    Resources & Image Credits

    This article is for information purposes only and is not intended to replace considered medical advice.

    • http://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/AS/AS-563-W.pdf
    • http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/feeling-down-or-stressed-try-eco-therapy
    • http://www.columbia.edu/~mt12/blt.htm
    • http://www.counseling.mtu.edu/depression_management.html
    • http://depts.washington.edu/counsels/resources/4students/blues/blues.html
    • http://www.k-state.edu/counseling/topics/life/blues.html

    Image credits:



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