11 Ways to Beat Depression Naturally (Without Drugs!)

The other day I saw a report that said that one in 10 Americans over the age of 12 take antidepressants. That seems so sad to me. But what was truly shocking was that less than a third of the people taking these drugs have seen a mental health professional in the last year—and most people who take these drugs don’t need them. Antidepressants are taken mostly by white women, and their use has increased 400 percent since the early 1990s. It could be that these pharmaceuticals are just the new version of “mother’s little helper.” But it also could be that too many women (and girls!) are suffering and medicating their problems rather than solving them at the source.

I am not a doctor, but I have had periodic bouts of deep depression in my life…tell me, who HASN’T?!? Feeling depressed is a common feeling, and it’s usually a sign that something is wrong in your life. At least, that’s what I’ve found. It could be something as little as not exercising enough and working too hard or as large as not being happy in a job or a relationship. Depression is a tool for discovering the truth, if you are brave enough to face it rather than try to wish it away.  So here are my 11 tips for beating depression naturally that are both life-learned and based on medical evidence:

1. First, see a counselor. Don’t be afraid or ashamed! A counselor will be able to tell you if you need more serious medical help. It’s amazing how quickly talking about your depression with someone else (a professional counselor, not just a friend) can uncover things that afterwards might seem obvious but in the moment of darkness are impossible to see. I guess that is why depression feels so dark…it’s hard to see things!

2. Go for a long walk outside. In Europe, doctors prescribe exercise for their depression patients. I think the best is a combination of exercise and getting out in nature…along with giving your body and mind enough time of mindless walking to let the true feelings and thoughts rise to the surface. You will also see that nature has cycles too—there are times of joy and times of hibernation. Allow your body and soul to sync with nature and you’ll automatically feel better.

3. Let the sun warm your skin. A few years ago, vitamin D supplements were being touted as super-pills that could protect you from depression and other ailments. Well, it turns out that’s not really true. The truth is that people who spend time outside and eat plenty of fatty fish, such as wild salmon, have higher vitamin D levels and less depression. Is it the vitamin D or the lifestyle? I say, skip the pills and go outside and get your sun on!

4. Read a book. I recommend the Mind-Body Mood Solution, by Dr. Jeffrey Rossman, because he has helped me many times with my depressive bouts. As the behavioral health specialist at Canyon Ranch, he has taught me how to get to the real issue quickly and change my perspective on my problems. It really works!

5. Eat right. Eating crap, or overeating anything, literally feeds the depression cycle. Every time you eat crap, you feel bad, and then it just gets that much harder to pull yourself out of the dive. A few foods that are renowned for improving your mood are wild-caught salmon, walnuts, and dark chocolate.

6. Stop drinking and drugging yourself. Trust me on this: While drinking might make you feel better momentarily, all you are doing is swallowing your problems, where they eat away at you in even deeper darkness inside your soul. If you are using alcohol or drugs to anesthetize yourself against your problems, please stop. Get help if you need it!

7. Fall in love. With yourself, first! Treat yourself as you would a precious lover whom you adore, flaws and all. Pamper yourself with baths, naps, flowers, massages. Write love letters to yourself. Tell the voice in your head that says you are not good enough or pretty enough or smart enough to shut the f*ck up and hit the road, Jack, and don’t come back no more, no more, no more, no more.

8. Laugh. Studies have shown that laughter does really make you feel better. Watch some silly comedies! Or old I Love Lucy episodes. Go ahead, watch America’s Funniest Home Videos—at the very least, you’ll be thankful that you are not the one getting whacked in the groin, bonking your head on something stupid, or falling ridiculously from doing something no person in their right mind should really do.

9. Create. Write down your thoughts and secrets. Paint or draw pictures about how you feel. Build something. Garden! Actually, studies have shown that there is stuff in garden soil that works better than antidepressants. So get out there, and don’t wear gloves. Get dirty, get creative, and don’t worry about whether it’s good enough—if you made it, it’s AWESOME! And while you are doing all this, listen to music because that helps, too.

10. Connect with your dreams. Do you remember what as a child you dreamed your life would be like? Often, I find, I get depressed when I have strayed too far from my original dreams. Yes, sometimes we need to change our dreams, but it’s amazing the power of those deep original dreams and how they can guide us.

11. Have the courage to change. Truly, I believe the only way out of depression is to listen to what the darkness is trying to tell you and change your life accordingly. I’ve been shocked sometimes by what I’ve learned and heard in those darkest moments, but as long as you trust your heart and soul and what they’re trying to tell you, you will find the brightness again. The light is right there waiting for you to turn the corner and see it. It will get better, and then you will be so grateful and happy that you had the courage to get through the darkness awake and alive.

Now, I’m really going to sound like my mother when I say this, but I’m going to say it anyway: Always remember that after the darkest storm is when the rainbows come out.

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19 Responses to 11 Ways to Beat Depression Naturally (Without Drugs!)

  1. bj October 26, 2011 at 10:15 am #

    i wrote a blog entry on this very topic. recently it has begun to deeply concern me again because of a teenager in our community who committed suicide a couple weeks ago. everybody is talking about bullying in schools and the challenges of gay youth. but i came across an article which quoted the boy as saying that he had tried 4 different types of antidepressants since january. and NOBODY is talking about the possibility that this boy could have been the victim of a SIDE EFFECT since most anti-depressants warn of possible suicidal tendencies. this boy had loving parents, was in therapy, sang in the school choir, was a champion figure skater, and was working on starting a rainbow club at school to help support other gay teens. I AM CONVINCED its the anti-depressants. but nobody is talking about that, and i’ve been afraid to bring it up….since more than half the people are on them and sensitive about it. these conversations have never ended well. but people need to start talking about THIS.
    here is my blog entry: http://askthetealady.ca/2011/teazine/freedom-from-depression-2/

  2. Deetledee October 26, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    What a great article!! Such simple solutions…I couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately big Pharma is funding the docs to prescribe meds that have side effects and perpetuate the sick cycle. (cha-ching)
    Slowing down and taking time with nature really does help clear your head.
    Love your website/blog!

  3. Laura K October 26, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

    I love what you say about depression being a tool to discover the truth!

    As one of the 10%-ers, I can tell you that I’ve done everything on this list and it all works to help heal depression.

    I can’t agree with you more about seeing a counselor. I’m adamant to the point of annoying with my friends that having a good support system including a counselor and doctor is the way to get to the root of a serious depressive illness. For some of us, the drugs are extremely beneficial. But drugs alone, I believe, can not ease depressive symptoms enough. You have to take care of your whole body and soul. Thanks.

  4. Vanessa October 26, 2011 at 3:23 pm #

    My list to battle depression:
    1. A good support system is vital, I couldn’t get through the winter without gingerbread latte chats with my friends.

    2. Yellow Hunter wellies. There is nothing more miserable than a grey English rainy day, and bright yellow wellies are my antidote.

    3. Flowers. RHS Hyde Hall is my new all-season favourite, because there is a new discovery around every corner, every season!

    4. Finding random international holidays to celebrate, which means every month has a highlight, a new food, a new drink!

  5. Maya October 26, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

    All of the above! Seeing a professional really does help. And the company of a pet works wonders and is great incentive for long walks in the sunshine.

    Also…if you can…travel. Shock your system and routine if you can (in a nice way).

  6. Holly October 26, 2011 at 8:11 pm #

    Don’t forget to open your armpits with Yoga;-)

  7. Lisa October 27, 2011 at 12:05 am #

    My antidepressants AND therapy, along with eating better, moving more, having a support system, books, favorite music, and my kitties elevates my mood and reminds me to be grateful of having many kinds of support. I have RA, too and take serious drugs to combat that. Be vigilant about what you’re taking and its side effects, minor and severe. A combo of a cortisone shot and hydrocychlor, both of which I learned (after the fact) can cause severe depression. In a matter of 10 days my mood plummeted and I was a danger to myself, the desire for suicide was so strong. You can’t rely on your doctors or the pharmacy to tell you these things–you are your best advocate.

  8. Laura K October 27, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    Wait – Holly, open your armpits? I’m intrigued!

  9. jackie juniper December 23, 2011 at 12:28 pm #

    Yoga, Meditation & Aromatherapy keeps me happy:) Smelling Lavender, Roses, Citrus, Peppermint, Cinnamon, Rosemary & Basil lift my mood, too

  10. george May 24, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

    oh my GOD what a simple solution,i will implement your suggestion to my lifestyle and i hope it will work.One thing i share with you that omega 3 fatty acid intake can really help you with your brain chemistry.

  11. Ara July 11, 2012 at 11:46 pm #

    I smile at people when I am sad, so they would smile back at me then I’ll be happy too… It’s so silly, but this is what I’ve been doing since childhood.

  12. Mark February 24, 2013 at 3:17 am #

    I read in your write up that dark chocolate helps with depression… In my case I have always had nightmares and trouble sleeping. I can’t even have a chocolate chip after 5 & expect to fall asleep b4 2am. I did a report on caffeine back in high school and know that there are many forms of caffeine and each one effects me different. My question is why do you think my body reacts this way to chocolate and why the horrid depression?


  13. John Yannelli March 12, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    You all are so full of s___. You have no idea how debilitating depression is, it is not, “I had it once and I …..”, it is a freaking illness that no one understands, friemnds you think ae friends find ways to ignore you. Stop posting crap like this and look into the root causes. I get so disgusted when I look for something real, something to help me, and I read nonsense like this.

  14. michelle August 24, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

    I love this im going to try it and menchen ir to my friends

  15. Soli December 8, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    Dr Oz had interview with very well known Drs about depression. It is a serious problem. Drs are too quick to get the prescription pad out for the antidepressant, Insurance Co make it hard to get a referral to see a Psychiatrist ( only Dr truly qualified to make a diagnosis, we get “labeled” once we are on them, …. It is a sad situation. I have suffered of it since childhood. Bad pregnancy, Narcissist mother, no naps allowed, neglect, I am still struggling, now unemployed, uninsured, asking God for guidance. Thank God for friends.

  16. Matt February 28, 2015 at 9:47 pm #

    I workout 5-7 days a week, eat very healthy and I’m in very good physical shape. Although the gym/fitness is kind of my escape and therapy it doesn’t answer my depression. I don’t drink, smoke, or do any drugs either. I’m totally against taking any kind of medication because I see how it is forced on everyone in this country. I wish there was some good advice other than what I’m already doing. Honestly feels like some people don’t see how messed up people and the world around them are. Or, they just don’t care and let it bother them. But how can you not let things get to you when you see them everyday?

  17. Alexandra May 3, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

    To Soli and Matt,
    You both summed up my own thoughts on the matter. Though I’ve never been diagnosed with depression, reading comments here affirms what I’ve suspected is the cause of my recurring sadness, reclusion and irritability with common people. I completely agree that perhaps most people simply don’t allow annoying things and people to bother them or to get them down.

  18. Steven Swift May 15, 2015 at 1:12 pm #

    More than eleven million people in the United States suffer from depression each year. This medical condition that affects the mind can have lasting effects such as a feeling of hopelessness, lack of ambition and an inability to focus. Depression can affect all age groups and genders, but is more prevalent in women. Consulting a mental help professional such as a psychiatrist is beneficial to obtain proper diagnosis and treatment. This condition can adversely affect school, home life and employment. I’ve suffered from depression for the past eight years. I was on pills for depression and anxiety and I wanted to find some natural treatments for depression. If you allow me I would suggest you to read one very useful review at http://bestsuggestion.net/end-your-depression.html
    It helped me a lot. Thank you !

  19. Mary April 21, 2016 at 4:07 pm #

    Good tips on beating depression naturally. These things are key. I’ve also found that spirituality plays a crucial role as well. You may enjoy the post I wrote about it: http://simplynatureplusnurture.com/2015/11/19/bible-verses-for-depression/

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