16 Science-backed Ways to Help Overcome Depression Naturally

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Depression is a serious condition that demands a doctor’s treatment. But the following lifestyle changes may give you a boost if you’re feeling low.

Spend time with friends

If you’re depressed, you generally need a doctor’s help and treatment may include psychotherapy, medication, or both. However, if you are in a low mood, there are natural remedies or lifestyle changes that may help. Regular social contact with a close friend may boost self-confidence and encourage you to make other positive changes that will help fight depression, such as starting an exercise program.

Play with a dog

Pet your neighbor’s dog for a few minutes a day, volunteer at an animal shelter, or stop by your local pet store for some furry one-on-one therapy. The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMH) points to earlier studies showing many the benefits pets provide. Owning a dog, the alliance notes, can help wipe away stress, anxiety, and depression. Dog owners also tend to have lower blood pressure. However, just playing with a dog may increase your body’s levels of feel-good chemicals. “For someone living with depression, there is so much to gain from having a dog,” NAMH states.

Get a massage

Whether you pay a professional or ask a spouse or friend to rub your back, the result is the same: a natural mood boost. In fact, the Mayo Clinic lists massage therapy as one of many ways to help manage depression. That’s because it’s a soothing mind-body connection benefit. Other mind-body techniques include acupuncture, meditation, and art therapy.

Drink one to two cups of coffee or tea each morning

Regular, modest caffeine intake decreases the risk of depression by more than 50 percent, says Edward J. Cumella, PhD, a professor of graduate psychology with Purdue University Global in the Phoenix, AZ area. Research backs this up. For example, information published in a 2015 issue of the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research notes that coffee may have a “protective effect” on the risk of depression.

Eat mood-boosting foods

Walnuts, kiwi, bananas, sour cherries, pineapple, tomatoes, and plums are all naturally high in serotonin. If you’re a fruit fan, you’ll enjoy learning about these surprising health benefits of kiwi. Therefore, they’re the ideal grocery list items for overcoming depression. You can also eat foods high in tryptophan, an essential amino acid that your body converts to serotonin, a natural mood booster. Tryptophan is commonly found in proteins such as turkey, fish, chicken, cottage cheese, nuts, cheese, eggs, and beans.

Get more omega-3s

You may want to stock up on your salmon and other fish. They contain omega-3 fatty acids, which is associated with fighting depression. According to Harvard Medical School, there are two omega-3 fatty acids believed be the most helpful for individuals with mood disorders like depression. Those two are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). In addition to cold-water fish like salmon and mackerel, other omega-3 foods include kidney beans, flaxseeds, and walnuts.

Take your vitamins

Boost your mood by taking the right vitamins. According to the Mayo Clinic, that means taking B-12 and folate. “Low levels of B-12 and other B vitamins such as vitamin B-6 and folate may be linked to depression,” experts there note. These vitamins are associated with improved brain function. However, they make it clear that vitamins alone aren’t the one and only way to alleviate depression. Overcoming depression may also require antidepressants and psychological counseling.

Force your lips into a smile

“Research shows that the physiology of smiling actually makes you feel happy,” Cumella says. Laughter helps stimulate production of the feel-good hormone serotonin, so if you’re feeling down force your lips into a smile. Better yet, try watching a funny movie or stand-up routine.

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