Depression and anxiety affect over 18 million people in the United States each year, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. If you suffer from depression or anxiety, you know how it can decrease quality of life. Depending on the severity of symptoms, medications and psychotherapy may be recommended. In addition to conventional treatment, there are several natural ways to beat depression and anxiety.
1. Get Creative
Whether you enjoy painting, writing or playing a musical instrument, participating in something creative can help improve mood. Doing something creative helps you express yourself and can help you develop positive emotions and change your mood. Participating in a creative activity can also help you focus on something else and take your mind off problems, which can ease anxiety.
Although further research may be needed to confirm scientifically acupuncture’s effectiveness in treating depression and anxiety, there does appear to be some clinical trial evidence that it can help ease symptoms of depression, as reported by the University of Maryland Medical Center. The exact way acupuncture works is not clear, but one theory is by placing needles in the skin at specific pressure points, endorphins are released into the body, which helps to decrease depression.
3. Talk Things Over
Sometimes it helps to talk about what is bringing you down. Whether you talk to a friend, a therapist or join a support group, having someone to listen to your feelings can help. In some situations, depression and anxiety can lead to isolating yourself from others. This only compounds the problems. Talking things over can help you feel less alone and give you strategies to cope with negative emotions.
Meditation may be an effective natural treatment for both depression and anxiety. There are different types of meditation including mantra, mindfulness and movement. Each type of meditation helps relax your mind and slows heart rate and breathing, which is calming. Meditation can help you clear your mind and think through problems, which can give you a new prospective and help improve mood.
Researchers believe exercise can have a positive effect on mood. When you exercise, chemicals, such as endorphins, are released in the brain. These chemicals help promote a general feeling of well-being and improve mood. Exercise can also help improve self-esteem and confidence, which may also help boost mood.
Certain herbs may help decrease depression and anxiety in some people. For instance, some research has indicated that the herb ginkgo may decrease symptoms of depression. In addition, St. Johns Wart has also been shown to reduce depression. Herbs may be a good alternative to anti-depressant medication, since they tend to cause fewer side effects than medication. Other herbs used to treat anxiety include kava kava, passionflower and valerian. Even though herbs may cause fewer side effects, it is still important to first speak with your doctor to be sure herbs will not interact with other medications being taken.
7. Light Therapy
For certain types of depression, light therapy may be an effective treatment. Although it has been used to help treat seasonal effective disorder, it is also sometimes recommended for other types of depression. Light therapy involves spending a prescribed amount of time sitting in front of a light therapy box. Although more studies are needed, the theory is exposure to light therapy may help trigger a release of certain chemicals in the brain which can improve mood.
According to the Mayo Clinic, some cases of depression have been linked to a vitamin deficiency. A lack of vitamin B-12, B-6 and folate, may especially contribute to anxiety and depression. Foods high in vitamin B-12 include leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and kale, shell fish and soy products. B-6 rich foods include bananas, poultry and fortified cereals.
9. Serotonin Enhancing Foods
Serotonin plays an essential role in mood, and if levels are too low it can contribute to depression and anxiety. Although medication can help improve levels of serotonin in the brain, there are also natural ways to increase levels, such as eating serotonin enhancing foods. According to the National Institutes of Health, serotonin rich foods include tomatoes, kiwi, pineapples and plums.
10. Guided Imagery
Guided imagery is a technique used to relax the mind and calm the body by visualizing or imagining a specific scene in your mind. With practice, guided imagery allows you to incorporate all your senses and can have physiological effects on the body. According to the Academy for Guided Imagery, conditions including anxiety, depression, addictions and panic disorder can all be treated using guided imagery. It may help to work with a certified guided imagery practitioner in order to master the technique. Certified practitioners can be found through the Academy for Guided Imagery.
Keep in mind if you experience serious symptoms of depression and anxiety, it is essential to contact your doctor or mental health professional for evaluation. Always follow your doctor’s advice regarding treatment plans. In some instances, natural depression and anxiety treatments may be enough to treat your condition. In other cases natural treatments, such as those listed above, may be added as complimentary treatments along with counseling or medication.