16 Science-backed Ways to Help Overcome Depression Naturally

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Pull an all-nighter

Staying up all night for one night—and therefore depriving yourself of sleep—can lift depression. While it sounds counter-intuitive, it seems to work. After all, information published in 2016 noted that sleep deprivation, along with other natural therapies such as light therapy, were associated with mood improvements and reduced depression. Speak to your doctor before trying this though, because this kind of help may not be ideal for you.

Bang on something

Researchers speculate that drumming helps to relax your body. One study published in 2016 noted that “group drumming can reduce depression and anxiety and improve social resilience in mental health service users over a 6- and 10-week spans.” Whacking a few notes out on your desk may help, but joining a weekly drumming circle may help more, particularly since it provides camaraderie with others, which, as noted earlier, also helps with depression.

Sleep in a different bedroom

Many people with depression also have insomnia. Switching your sleep location can help, says Cumella. You can also reduce insomnia by getting up at the same time every day, never napping for more than 20 minutes, shunning caffeine after 3 p.m., and relaxing for an hour before bed.

Go easy on yourself

When something goes wrong, resist the urge to mentally beat up on yourself. When you catch yourself mentally berating yourself for some supposed failing, replace your negative thoughts with phrases like, “I am doing the best I know how to do” or “When I know a better way and can do it, I will.”

Break out of your routine today

Sometimes being stuck in a rut is just that. But if you get out of your same old routine, your mood may come along with you. Take a day off from work and go explore a town nearby. Go out to a restaurant for dinner, even on a Tuesday night. Take a different route as you drive to work, wear something that is totally “not you,” or take your camera and go on a photography hike.

Take walks, especially in the winter

Many people feel depressed during the winter months, when they travel to and from work in darkness and don’t get enough natural sunlight. Physical exercise, however, encourages the release of hormones and neurochemicals that boost mood, says Richard Brown, MD, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at New York City’s Columbia University and coauthor of Stop Depression Now. Walking outside during the day will give you a few short doses of sunlight, also shown to boost mood, particularly in the winter.

Exercise

As Dr. Brown noted, exercise can boost your mood. Find an exercise program that you enjoy doing and you’ll find it’s surprisingly easy to fit in a little exercise every day. While aerobic exercise is the most effective way to boost serotonin, calming exercises like yoga are also beneficial. Or get a day of vigorous outdoor recreation, like hiking, canoeing, or biking. Let the combination of nature and physical activity work their magic on your mood. These strategies may help but if you think you may be depressed, or if low mood is interfering with your ability to enjoy your life, you may want to seek evaluation by a therapist or physician.

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