Millions of Americans suffer from clinical depression each year, many undiagnosed or too embarrassed to take positive action. A report from the World Health Organization shows an 18% increase in worldwide depression rates between 2005 and 2015, with the prediction that this number would continue to rise. Yet, most people with depression seek treatment from their health care providers or GPs first, which generally results in being treated with drug therapy alone.
What many health providers fail to realize is that there is a range of ways in which you can naturally boost your mood and help to prevent and overcome depression; many of which are just as effective as the drugs given, but are much safer and without side-effects. Here are 13 ways to get you started:
1. Take Vitamin B-3
Niacin is vitamin B-3, one of the water-soluble B-complex vitamins. Niacin's feature is its ability to greatly reduce anxiety and depression. Dr. Andrew Saul uses it on his patients and calls the effect the ‘niacin flush’. Read more here, including dosage amounts.
Your body is exposed to hundreds, if not thousands of chemicals each day. You can imagine then how many unwanted chemicals are lurking in your body on a daily basis - many of which have trouble getting out of your system. Sherry Rogers M.D. says "There are 12 common chemicals often trapped inside the average person's body - all that have been found to cause depression or damage the nervous system, in addition to causing many other problems." Find out what they are here and how to start the detox process. We've created a beautiful 3-day detox program if you're not sure where to start, and are looking for something to ease into the world of detoxification - no starvation and no extreme measures. Click here to find out more.
3. Enjoy a Digital Detox
Smartphones can be incredibly useful and we don’t think you should, or expect you to, give them up completely. However, maintaining a healthy relationship with technology can help you live with more peace and less anxiety. Studies demonstrate how classic addiction symptomology is intrinsically linked to smartphone overuse, which includes loss of control (e.g. distortion of time spent on the phone), preoccupation with the smartphone, and withdrawal symptoms. These addictive tendencies can wreak havoc on our productivity, brain function, wellbeing, work-life balance, and even our personal lives, with quantifiable evidence suggesting social anxiety and loneliness is also intrinsically linked to smartphone use. Learn how you can take control of your smartphone addiction, here.
4. Eat Bananas
Tryptophan is the key ingredient in making serotonin (the happy hormone); without it, serotonin won't be produced and therefore, leads to a lowered mood. Because the body can't make its own tryptophan, it must be taken in as part of the diet. That is why tryptophan is known as an "essential" amino acid. Without an adequate amount from our diet, our body is unable to produce enough of this happy hormone. The highest sources of tryptophan are from animal products including turkey and chicken, but bananas also contain a significant amount. Among other functions, serotonin promotes feelings of calm, relaxation, and sleepiness. Many of today's powerful antidepressant drugs actually work to increase the level of available serotonin in the brain.
5. Enjoy A Handful Of Nuts And Seeds Regularly
Tryptophan can also be found as a supplement and in other foods, particularly in nuts and seeds. Just like banana, nuts and seeds are chock full of tryptophan, so simply by eating them regularly you can help your brain produce more serotonin. For best results and health benefits, however, nuts and seeds should be raw, unprocessed and activated minimising their acidity and improving digestibility. See more here.
6. Up Your Omega-3 Intake
People with diets high in omega-3 essential fatty acids have lower rates of depression. Eat salmon, trout, herring, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, flaxseed, and walnuts. Unfortunately, vegan sources of omega-3 are in ALA form, which our body struggles to convert to the powerful EHA and DHA required for healthy brain function. So in order to get enough to improve your mental health, it may be time to up your intake of seafood to at least 2-3 servings a week. Many doctors also recommend high-quality fish oil supplements.
7. Supplement With St. John's Wort
In a study published by the Cochrane Library, the researchers compiled the results of 29 prior trials, involving a total of 5,489 participants who were randomly assigned either St. John's wort, a placebo, tricylclic antidepressants, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to treat mild to moderately severe depression. St. John's wort was found to be more effective than a placebo and at least as effective as both tricylics and SSRIs, but with fewer side effects.
8. Use Lavender And Bergamot Essential Oils
One essential oil that stands out for depression is bergamot (Citrus aurantium (L.) var. bergamia). Many citruses are acknowledged for their uplifting effects, but bergamot is particularly powerful. Rub some bergamont or lavender essential oil on your temples, neck, and wrists for a boost to your mood and a reduction in stress/anxiety. Other great ways to benefit is to have a warm bath with a few drops of lavender and bergamot oil, or spritz the blend on your pillow. Placing a small, fragrant lavender plant on a windowsill you walk by regularly will also give you a gorgeous, calming scent that travels with the breeze. Opt for natural bergamot or citrus scented house cleaners too, to keep benefitting from the mood and energy boosting effects.
9. Supplement With L-Theanine
L-Theanine is a water-soluble amino acid. It’s found mainly in green tea and black tea and is also available as a supplement. Studies have found that it acts directly on the brain, helping to reduce stress and anxiety—without causing drowsiness. Dosage: A typical cup of black tea contains only about 25 mg of l-theanine and green tea only about 8 mg. While a cup of tea may be calming, if you want more potent effects, try a supplement, about 200 mg a day.
10. Enjoy Lemon Balm Tea
Research published in 2004, for instance, gave participants a single dose of lemon balm extract (300 mg or 600 mg) or a placebo, then measured their mood after one hour. The higher dose resulted in reduced stress and improved calmness and alertness. Even the lower dose helped participants do math problems more quickly. Dosage: Use in aromatherapy, try 300-500 mg of dried lemon balm three times daily, 60 drops daily, or 1/4 to 1 teaspoon of dried lemon balm herb in hot water for a tea four times daily.
11. Exercise Regularly
Moderate exercise can actually prevent episodes of depression in the long term. Data regarding the positive mood effects of exercise involvement, independent of fitness gains, suggest that the focus should be on the frequency of exercise rather than duration or intensity until the behavior has been well established. Even low levels of physical activity (walking and gardening for 20-30 minutes a day) can ward off depression in people of all age groups. It’s fascinatingly powerful stuff!
12. Spend More Time Outdoors With Friends
When you seem stressed or down, many people tend to suggest you: Take a breath of fresh air. Walk it off. Get out and see people. Turns out all those things combined may, in fact, make you feel better—a lot better—a new large-scale study suggests. Group nature walks are linked with significantly lower depression, less perceived stress, and enhanced mental health and well-being, according to the study conducted by the University of Michigan, with partners from De Montfort University, James Hutton Institute, and Edge Hill University in the United Kingdom.
But you don’t always need to be outdoors with others. In another study, participants who walked in a natural area for 90 minutes showed less activity in a brain region associated with depression than those who walked through a city or other urban area.
Just by being outside you're helping to reduce your risk of vitamin D deficiency, which is also linked to depression. Low serum levels of vitamin D are associated with clinically significant symptoms of depression in otherwise healthy individuals, so if you need to relax, unwind, and boost your mood - exercise or simply enjoy being outdoors more regularly. An average adult only needs 10 minutes a day of sun exposure to help maintain healthy vitamin D levels. If your schedule doesn't allow for being outdoors in the daylight, there are also vitamin D supplements available.
13. Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Vitamin B12
Low levels of B12 can be a risk factor for depression, and it’s common in vegans and alcoholics. There are very few vegan-friendly foods that contain B12, so if you suspect you’re low, make sure to supplement with high-quality B12 to boost your levels. Signs include fatigue, shortness of breath, tingling and numbness in the extremities, headache, dementia, disorientation, and loss of concentration and memory.
Also, watch how much you drink. Alcohol naturally reduces your levels of B12 as it damages the cells in your stomach lining, reducing absorption of the B12 you ingest. So if you enjoy a regular glass of wine or beer, but you’re feeling flat, you may want to reduce how often you’re drinking. The daily recommended intake of vitamin B12 for healthy adults is 2.4 micrograms. Good sources of B12 are often animal-based foods and include snapper, prawns, algaes, sea plants, and miso. However, you can also get B12 from vegan nutritional yeast or a good quality supplement.
Depression and anxiety affect so many of us, yet it still remains such a taboo topic. Despite what the medical profession may say, you don’t need to jump straight to medication with a range of nasty side effects (some even include depression as a side effect!). Instead, try these 13 tips to help manage depression naturally, and seek the help of a health professional who is willing to work with you with a holistic view.
For more on niacin supplementation, click here.