Health Wellness

6 Drug-free, evidence-based treatments for depression

Depression is a serious medical condition that can greatly hurt your relationships, work and physical health. Also called major depressive disorder, it is a mood disorder that causes feelings of sadness, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, changes in appetite, trouble sleeping or oversleeping, and loss of energy, among other things.

Depression is distinct from “feeling blue.” According to the American Psychological Association, feelings of sadness that last for two weeks or more and interfere with daily activities mean that something more serious is likely going on.

Treating depression without using drugs

Depression is usually treated using antidepressants. However, these medications do not work for everyone. They can also cause side effects like anxiety, stomach problems, dizziness, sleepiness, headaches and problems in bed.

Fortunately, drug-free treatments are on the rise. Take a look at the following alternative treatments for depression and some of the studies made about them: (h/t to PsychologyToday.com)

1. Light therapy

During light therapy, you get exposed to artificial light by sitting near a lamp called a lightbox. Light therapy is commonly used to treat people with seasonal affective disorder, a form of depression that appears at a certain time of the year, usually in the fall and winter. But this therapy may also be useful for treating clinical depression.

In a review of studies assessing patients with non-seasonal depression, participants reported significant improvements in depression symptoms and very few side effects after undergoing light therapy. In another study, researchers sat care home residents near a lightbox thrice a week. After a month, the participants scored significantly lower in depression tests.

2. Exercise

Exercise is incredibly good for the brain. It has been shown to improve cognition, mood, motor function, emotional regulation and self-efficacy. A review of previous studies also shows that doing moderate, supervised cardio exercise thrice a week for nine weeks improves depression symptoms. In another study, researchers concluded that exercising is an effective intervention for depression.

3. Yoga

Speaking of exercise, here’s an amazing way of moving your muscles while boosting mental health. A mind-body technique, yoga engages not only your body but also your mind. It’s perfect for reducing stress, physical pain and depression symptoms.

In a 12-week mindfulness-based yoga intervention for women with depression, those who did yoga reported significantly lower levels of rumination (a symptom of depression) compared to those who participated in walking exercises. A study of adults with mild-to-moderate major depression also shows that participating in an eight-week hatha yoga intervention results in clinically significant improvements in depression severity. (Related: Yoga as complementary medicine: How yoga can support your mental and physical health.)

4. Mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness meditation involves consciously exerting control over your breathing and being in the present moment. It’s found to decrease heart rate, blood pressure and stress hormone levels.

Mindfulness-based approaches also show a lot of promise in studies of people with clinical depression. In one study, researchers found that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy significantly reduces the recurrence of depressive episodes.

5. Acupuncture

In acupuncture, a trained specialist uses a needle to stimulate specific points on your skin called acupoints. Stimulating your acupoints boosts the release of chemicals in your body and brain, which can help reduce physical pain and stress.

Studies on the use of acupuncture for treating depression are also promising. One study of people with depression shows that attending a 12-week acupuncture intervention significantly improves quality of life in terms of social and emotional function, mental health, physical function, physical pain, and energy, among other things.

6. Herbs and supplements

Many herbs and supplements help improve mental health. An herbal supplement called St. John’s wort, for example, has been used for centuries to treat depression, anxiety, sleep problems and more. Studies also show that St. John’s wort works as well as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression. Other herbs and supplements that can boost mental health include saffron and omega-3 fatty acids.

Treatments for depression are not confined to medications. There are several alternative treatments like the ones listed here that can boost your mental health and keep depression at bay.

Learn more about natural ways to treat depression at BeatDepression.news.

Sources include:

APA.org

PsychologyToday.com

OnlineLibrary.com

SystematicReviewsJournal.BioMedCentral.com