How You Can Naturally Beat Depression Without Medication, According to Science

Antidepressants are a common first-line treatment for depression.

These drugs work well for some people, but they can cause unpleasant side effects, including nausea and fatigue.

Moreover, medication doesn’t always address the underlying cause of depression.

Although drugs can improve your mood, they are no substitute for a healthy lifestyle and problem-solving skills.

If you’d like to try a more natural approach to tackling depression, try these tips:

1. Take a close look at your diet

According to Harvard Medical School, eating a healthy diet is key to maintaining mental health. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, fish, olive oil, whole grains, and low-fat dairy.

Minimize your intake of other animal products, red meat, refined carbohydrates, and sugary foods.

2. Improve your sleep patterns

Some people with depression find it hard to fall asleep, whereas others sleep an excessive amount.

If you aren’t sleeping enough, you’ll feel fatigued, which will lower your mood and make your depression worse.

Practice good sleep hygiene by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, turning your electronic devices off an hour before bed, and making sure your room is completely dark.

3. Go outside every day

Spending time in natural spaces on a regular basis has significant physiological and psychological benefits.

You don’t have to go on a trek through the forest.

A walk around your local park is enough to lift your mood.

You’ll also get some exposure to natural sunlight, which can promote a feeling of wellbeing.

4. Work out

Exercise prompts your body to release endorphins, also known as “feel good chemicals.”

Try to get at least 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise every day. 

5. Defend your boundaries

Toxic relationships and friendships can worsen depression.

For instance, if you feel obliged to run endless errands for your partner or listen to your workmate complain all day at the office, your mental state will suffer.

Learn the basics of assertive communication, and master the art of saying “No” when appropriate.

6. Try gratitude journaling

Research shows that appreciating the good things in your life can improve your mood.

Every day, write down at least three things you are grateful for.

They don’t have to be extraordinary; noting that you are grateful for a bed to sleep in is a great start.

7. Learn how to meditate and practice mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness exercises can teach you how to spot destructive thought patterns as they arise.

They teach you how to let go of unhealthy, negative thoughts and live in the moment instead.

Research has shown that therapy based on mindfulness principles can be more effective than antidepressants.

8. Schedule a therapy appointment

If self-help methods aren’t working for you, consider working with a professional counselor.

Make sure they are registered with a reputable body, such as the American Counseling Association.

A therapist can help you learn to cope with your emotions, make positive lifestyle changes, and give you tools to improve your relationships.

9. Set some constructive goals

When you are in the midst of a depressive episode, everything feels pointless.

You have little or no motivation to do anything.

This starts a vicious cycle – you don’t do anything, feel worse about yourself because you aren’t being productive, which makes you more depressed, and so on.

To break this cycle, set small but meaningful goals.

For instance, if you are having trouble finding the energy to exercise, aim for just 5 minutes at first.

After a few days, increase your goal to 10 minutes, and so on.

10. Take an inventory of your personal problems, and work out how you can address them

Unless you resolve ongoing issues in your life, such as problematic relationships or an unfulfilling career, your depression is liable to return in the future.

You don’t have to resolve all your troubles overnight.

Simply acknowledging that your life needs to change is empowering. You can then put together a step by step plan that will take you in a healthier direction.

Warning – don’t suddenly stop taking your medication

If you’d like to try a drug-free approach to treating your depression, check in with your doctor before coming off your medication.

You might need to withdraw slowly to avoid side-effects.

Your doctor may also be able to give you useful advice on managing your condition without drugs, and schedule a follow-up appointment to evaluate how your self-help strategies are working.

Whatever approach you take in treating your depression, the good news is that most people do recover.

With a little perseverance and patience, you can regain your mental health.