Battling depression without drugs
You have navigated to this website because you either know or you are suspecting you might suffer of depression. You are searching for information and means to overcome the sadness and emptiness in your life. You have come to the right place. The aim of this website is to help and support people who are feeling depressed and are unhappy with their lives.
If you feel depressed but do not want to take antidepressants below are listed some of the most effective methods that help the brain to recover from depression without using medication. If you are taking antidepressants you can use these methods simultaneously to speed up the healing process. It has been shown that the usage of these methods (especially doing exercise) aids the healing process and also significantly reduces the probability of relapsing into depression.
It has been shown that walking fast on daily basis for approximately 35 minutes five times in a week (or alternatively 60 minutes in a day three times a week) improves significantly the symptoms of moderate and mild depression. If the time of walking is reduced to 15 minutes five times a week or alternatively performing stretching exercises the positive effect was not as strong. (Obs. These times are calculated for a person who weighs 150 pounds. For heavier people, longer exercise times apply, while for lighter people less time can be sufficient).
How does exercise relieve the symptoms of depression? Exercise has been shown to release endorphins and other pleasure-related substances in the brain. Endorphins have been shown to improve immunity and reduce the perception of pain. Endorphins also improve mood. Additionally, researchers are suspecting that exercise stimulates the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which may directly improve mood.
Challenging the brain
Problem solving is an effective way to help the brain to recover from depression. It has been shown that older people who occupy themselves with crosswords and similar exercises on daily basis are less likely to become depressed. Older people are at greater risk to develop depression when compared to younger individuals. Challenging the brain has been very effective method in preventing depression in older people. Younger people who are suffering of depression can greatly benefit from this observation.
It seems that the brain is less likely to become depressed when one is engaging on daily basis in exercises that require concentration and mental input. If one is already depressed, one can help the brain to recover faster by starting to use the brain actively on daily basis. Old saying “use it or lose it” applies not only to muscles but also to the brain.
Social interaction is very challenging to the brain and hence helps the brain to fight depression. Social interaction is very complex task for the brain. Even having a relaxed conversation over a cup of coffee demands a lot from the brain. We must be constantly alert and observe the other person in order to be able to give coherent responses. This seemingly easy task requires huge amount of processing from the brain. Remember the saying “use it or lose it”. Social interaction is a great way to engage the brain in complex activity and hence help the brain to recover from depression faster.
It is known that stress increases the likelihood to develop depression. Learning to relax is very important in order to avoid stress and hence avoid depression. Short term stress (also called “acute stress”) increases the release of adrenaline that helps one to perform better on short term basis. A good example of a short term stress is when we only have a short amount of time to perform a certain important task. This is a typical situation during for example sport competitions, but also if there is a sudden unexpected deadline at work etc.
If the stress continues for a prolonged period of time it can become chronic. Chronic stress is very different condition when compared to acute stress. Chronic stress is increasing the physiological concentration of cortisol, a so-called stress hormone. Cortisol has many adverse effects on body. Cortisol has for example been shown to cause cellular atrophy (cell death) in hippocampus. Hippocampus is a structure in the brain that is very important for short term memory. It has been shown that the size of hippocampus is significantly decreased in people who are suffering of depression. It has been suggested that this is one reason why depressed people often have problems with memory.
It has also been shown that as people recover from depression, the size of hippocampus starts to increase again, and simultaneously there is an observable decrease in memory problems. In the light of these studies it can be concluded that stress reduction is essential in order to help the brain to recover from depression.
Mind controlling methods
Depressed people tend to harbor excessive amounts of negative thoughts. Negative thoughts keep the brain in a depressed state. It is important to learn to break this negative feedback cycle. It is possible to learn to control and eventually suppress the negative thoughts. It is possible to train the brain to “behave” in a new way in a certain situation, in same fashion as it is possible to teach muscles to work in a new way for example when we are learning to dance, to ride a bicycle etc.
If one is constantly thinking negative thoughts, the neuronal networks related to these thoughts will be strengthened. If one forces oneself to think positive thoughts, the neuronal networks related to positive thinking will be strengthened. It requires some time to learn to shut down negative thoughts and switch to positive thinking mode, but in a long run it is very beneficial to master this skill. It will help one to battle depression if unexpected negative events occur in life.
Sufficient amount of sleep
The brain needs sufficient amount of sleep in order to perform well. Healthy sleeping habits are essential in order to avoid depression. Depressed people often have either difficulties sleeping or alternatively they sleep excessive amounts. Neither of the two is good. It has been shown that when healthy people (who are not suffering of depression) are subjected to sleep deprivation they will develop similar symptoms as depressed people. They start to have memory problems and they report that their general mood is more depressed than usually.
There seems to be a clear link between healthy sleeping pattern and depression. In case of depressed people, disturbed sleep is usually the consequence of depression, but it also aids to maintain the depressive state. If one can fix one’s sleeping habits that will help to improve the symptoms of depression. If you tend to go to sleep very late, make it a priority to go to bed earlier. If you are having troubles falling asleep, go for a long walk (or go running) before going to sleep.
If you still are not able to sleep, consider taking a moderate amount of medication that helps you to fall asleep. It is very important that you do not start to use such sleeping aids on regular basis, otherwise you can easily become addicted. But if it is impossible for you to fall asleep for hours, taking an occasional sleeping aid (for example once or twice a week for a certain period of time) will help your body to get closer to normal sleep-awake cycle. This will help your body to battle depression. Remember always to consult your doctor before starting to take any sleeping aids.
Healthy and balanced diet
Diet is very important for the general health and mental balance. It has been shown in several studies that improving the quality of diet helps to improve the mood. Depressed people often have abnormal eating habits. Some tend to eat too much while others have hard time eating anything. Neither of these habits is good for the well-being of the brain and mind. Body needs sufficient amount of “building blocks” in order to maintain normal physiological processes. These “building blocks” are vitamins, protein, fats etc. essential substances.
Food intake is the only way for your body to receive these substances. If you are providing your body insufficient or unideal amount of nutrition, it is clear your body is not performing well. Your brain is part of your body. If you are depressed and simultaneously are not taking care of your eating habits, this will prevent your brain from recovering effectively. If you change your eating habits and make sure your diet is healthy, you are helping your brain to perform better and hence to recover faster.
Note: If you are depressed, always trust your doctor’s advise regarding whether or not you should start taking medication.