3 ways to manage depression without medication.

by rodney on April 29, 2013

Depression is a very common condition these days, especially with men. The sad reality is that many men go through their lives with depression. Very few admit to having depression let alone talk about or seek help to overcome it. Of the few I talk to who do seek help, what I often hear is “I don’t want to take medication for the rest of my life”.

I understand that. I too don’t like the idea of taking a bunch of pills forever. That said, medication can be an effective way of managing depression and you don’t have to take it forever. It can be a short term solution until you are able to manage your situation before coming off. In cases of extreme depression, I recommend medication as part of your management plan.

However, there are many ways to help manage your depression that don’t include medication.  It can be as simple as paying attention to other lifestyle factors and making some changes.  3 of the simplest areas to focus on are health related notably diet, exercise and sleep.

Diet

Diet is the all important first step to managing depression. I’m not talking about going on “a diet” what I’m talking about is paying attention the foods you eat and eating more of the foods that will help you to manage depression symptoms.  Drinking more water is fantastic. It cleanses your body of the harmful toxins that we consume that add to depressive symptoms. Also eating foods high in Omega 3 acids such as salmon, mackerel, canola oil and walnuts.  Research suggests that omega 3 helps to alleviate symptoms. Foods high in vitamin B12 and folate are believed to help break down the amino acid homocysteine, which researchers believe has links to depression.  Good sources of vitamin B12 and folate include spinach, citrus fruits, beans, almonds, dairy products, and fortified breakfast cereals. Protein also is believed to help with depression as it has tryptophan, an amino acid which can help to improve the mood of some people. Good sources of protein are lean meats, fish, poultry, and low-fat dairy products. Also, dark chocolate can also help with depression as it contains antioxidants and releases endorphins. Just 2 small pieces a day can have noticeable benefits. Making changes to your diet will help to give you more energy.

Exercise

Exercise can bring about immediate relief from depressive symptoms. Firstly, it reduces natural chemicals which combat depressive symptoms (some research has shown it works better than Zoloft). It also helps you to get rid of stress and anxiety, increases self-esteem, increases energy, gives you a sense of accomplishment and provides a distraction from negative issues in your life. If you’re not used to exercising regularly, you need to gradually fit it in to your routine. Many people go right in and attempt gruelling gym sessions which only lasts a short while before they give up. Start with a commitment to exercise 5 mins a day for 1 week, and then increase it the next week to 10 minutes and so on. Also, if you have trouble finding blocks in your day for exercise, find several smaller blocks. Maybe several 5 minutes sessions throughout the day. When you do incorporate regular exercise into your routine, you’ll find that you’ll then be able to sleep better.

 

Sleep

Many sleep related disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnoea have had links with depression. Commonly, people with depressive symptoms often have trouble getting to sleep, sleeping through the night or sleeping only a few hours.  Sleep is important to us as it gives us a chance to rest and gives our bodies a chance to heal. Some ways to help improve your sleep patterns include having a regular sleep schedule-i.e. have a regular bedtime and a regular waking time, increasing your exposure to light during the day by going outside more in daylight and letting light come into your home and creating the right environment at bed time. Make the room dark and comfortable, turning off electronic devices and avoiding backlit technology. Also, as we’ve discussed, diet and exercise.

So you can see how these 3 simple changes to lifestyle not only have immediate results in managing depression but also have a domino effect and work with each other. Like anything else, to be able to manage depression you need to firstly make a commitment to change and then gradually make small changes in in your life. You may not be able to do this on your own, that’s ok. If you need help or if you experience extreme depression, seek help from either a GP or a professional counsellor.

 

 

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