When it comes to mental health, prevention is always better than cure. Here are ten natural ways to defeat depression. Even if you don’t suffer from depression, you will improve your life by implementing these ten simple strategies.
C.S. Lewis wrote that “Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also harder to bear”. I want to share with you the following practical tips to help you and your friends who might be suffering through the mental anguish of depression.
Depression is far more common than you might think. The Better Health Channel says,
In any one year, around one million people in Australia experience depression. One in six women and one in eight men will experience depression at some time in their life. The good news is depression is treatable and effective treatments are available. The sooner a person with depression seeks support, the sooner they can recover.
Depression affects how people think, feel and act. Depression makes it more challenging to manage daily life, interfering with study, work and relationships. Many women and some men experience depression around the birth of the baby.
Postnatal depression can be very debilitating and requires concentrated attention and therapy. There are many different types of depression, from mild to very severe, but all are treatable.
Below, I will share what I believe are the top ten ways to defeat depression. All of them are natural, and in fact, all of them will help your health, whether you are depressed or not. Prevention is always better than cure.
Doctors, counsellors and psychologists are important, and of course, drugs can help too. In 90 per cent of cases, drugs can only buy you time while you put these principles into action. Don’t just rely on me: do your own research as well.
Make sure you talk to your doctor or medical professional. Though let me suggest that in many cases, your doctor will tell you to do some or possibly all of these things anyway!
When I was talking to a friend who has suffered from depression, he pointed out that these principles are all hard to do if you are depressed. His advice is to start small. Better do some than none!
I am not a doctor, but I have studied preventative medicine for over two decades. The team at Dads4Kids was able to get a National Men’s Health Policy across the line during the 2007 election, so we have some runs on the board when it comes to health and wellbeing.
The single most important thing you can do if you are depressed is to start moving your body. The endorphin and dopamine hit is a tremendous incentive. Start small and work up!
A Harvard Medical School study showed that exercising three or four times per week, for many people, is the equivalent of taking anti-depressant medication. I would argue that exercise could well be even better.
I know of a Sydney counselling clinic that will not take second appointments for depression unless people have engaged in an exercise program. Medical science backs them up.
Walking is a great start, and strength training is also very good. Aerobic exercise is critical. Anything that gets you out of breath will be of benefit. Many experts agree that swimming is the best exercise to beat depression. Whatever the case, the key is to just do it.
2. Socially Connect
Relationships are everything in life. Psychologist Carl Jung said, “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” The one thing to concentrate on is life-giving relationships.
Some relationships can drain your battery. You don’t need such relationships if you are struggling with depression. In some cases, less is more. Big groups can sometimes be a net negative. So choose wisely.
As Walter Winchell said, “A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.” Set up a weekly schedule with those people who will listen to you and love you, no matter what.
Friends bring healing. Maybe it’s time to get a pet or start to feed the birds. To quote an old Swedish proverb, “Shared joy is double joy; shared sorrow is half sorrow”.
An old Irish proverb says, “A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.” Yes, your body and your mind need rest. As Tom Rose said, “Sleep is an investment in the energy you need to be effective tomorrow.”
- A dark room
- Cold rather than hot temperatures (18-19C is ideal)
- No screens for an hour before bed
- The same bedtime each night
The Scriptures say, “Truly [God] gives sleep to those he loves”. On the other hand, don’t oversleep if you can help it. Serotonin pills can help with sleep deficiencies, as can non-addictive sleep aids.
Getting enough good sleep is critical for your good health in countless different ways.
4. Eat Well
Anthelme Brillat-Savarin said, “You are what you eat”. Thomas Edison said, “The Doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition”.
Our modern eating habits are killing us. We eat too much of the wrong foods and not enough of the right foods.
To deal with depression, you need to eat more raw vegetables and greens. Specifically, aim to eat more lettuce, fruits, berries, nuts and seeds. Research has shown that Omega-3 fatty acids are immensely beneficial.
Reduce your sugar, processed cereal and starch intake. Yes, vitamins and nutritional supplements can help, but it is better to get your needed vitamins out of your diet (although these days, that can sometimes be difficult).
Get your basics right like Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Magnesium and Zinc. Then add Vitamin B-3 and all the B vitamins: these help your brain manage its moods. NAC (N-acetylcysteine) is also good. Herbs like St Johns Wort have been proven to be efficacious.
It says in the book of Proverbs that “a merry heart does good like a medicine”. This 3,000-year-old piece of advice cannot be beaten.
6. Be Thankful
“Count Your Blessings” is an old song, and it is truer today than when it was written.
Depression is linked with your thought life. That’s why you need to change your way of thinking, as Bob Dylan sang. Each of us has so much to be thankful for.
It says in the good book, “Cast all care upon Him [God] because He cares for you”.
Prayer is verbalised thanksgiving and divine connection. On a natural level, praying works whether you believe God exists or not. So if you are an atheist, pray – because the process itself will heal you. As the saying goes, “there are no atheists in fox holes”.
Perfect stillness is very powerful for the body, mind, soul and spirit. Try it. You will not be disappointed.
8. Get Out in Nature
Go for a walk in the bush on a sunny day with a friend, and you will cover four bases in one. How exciting! I often pray as I walk, so I am getting healthy and avoiding depression in five different ways, all at the same time.
9. Retrain Your Brain
The Bible says, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things”.
As the ancient proverb goes, “As a man thinks, so is he”. Rid yourself of negative, condemning thinking, and consciously think about good, happy and positive things. Also, start doing things that make you feel good.
Another important thing is to set goals. Again, start small and work up. Develop a weekly routine. I promise you: things will get better.
Music is worth mentioning as a proven scientific therapy for healing body, soul and spirit. As Debasish Mridha said, “Music can heal the wounds which medicine cannot touch”.
Or, as music therapist Erin Siebert said, “Music is one of the longest standing self-prescribed therapies in history”. Even King Saul said, “Find me a harpist because I am too depressed”.
When all is said and done, you have to hang on to hope. Paul the Apostle said that three things remain: faith, hope and love.
Hope is the foundation for both faith and love. Lose hope, and you lose everything. That’s why you have to tend to the flame of hope in your life. As Joe Camilleri sings, “There are better days ahead”. Be assured that the best is yet to come.
Yes, please go and see your doctor and a good counsellor. But also start to put some of these ten things into action – it may even save you a lot of money.
Many women battle depression after childbirth. Some men do, too. Sadly, depression is one of the contributing factors in the male suicide crisis.
For some, depression can be a lifelong challenge, but the solutions are similar. I cannot promise you that you will be healed if you begin all ten of these steps tomorrow. But it is a great way to start the healing journey.
Even if you have not experienced depression yourself, you still need to know enough to help others.
Yours for healthy bodies, souls and spirits