Managing Depression without Medication

‘Managing Depression without Medication’ gives an introduction of a few modalities that can help manage depression.

In a comprehensive study on depression and anxiety conducted recently by the researchers at the University of Queensland, it has been found that 1 in every 21 persons will have major depression at some point of time. This data points to the growing peril of depression looming over the world. Depression doesn’t happen in a day, so there are no quick fixes to overcome it.

The road to wellness in depression isn’t an easy one, but that doesn’t mean it is unattainable. You have to start from the scratch and re-build your lost happiness brick-by-brick.

The key point in recovering from depression is to make yourself feel better.

However hard it may sound initially, you need to pursue it persistently to reach your goal. Start small with whatever resources you have and then take it forward. In the beginning, you may not have the energy to engage in long-term plans. So, keep them short-term and track your progress as and when you reach your aim.


1. Stay connected and get Social support.

One tends to withdraw or isolate even from close friends and family members, when depressed. Strong Social network reduce isolation, a major risk factor for depression.

  • Consider volunteering as it a wonderful way to get social support while helping others and yourself too.
  • Build new friendships. Having an active social life can boost your immune system and help reduce depression.
  • Give priority to face-time. Social media, chatting and phone calls are great ways of communication but they can’t beat good in-person time.
  • Care for a pet. While pets can’t replace importance of human connection, howbeit they can bring joy and companionship in your life.
  • Talk your feelings out. Talk to one person about your feelings as talking can get you outside of yourself.


2. Exercise helps beat Stress.

Exercise often seems like the last thing you want to do with Depression. But once you get motivated, exercise may prove as one of the most important tool in your recovery arsenal.

Research shows that regular exercise can be as effective as pharmacological treatments for relieving depression symptoms. It also helps prevent relapse once you are out of it.

Exercise is recommended for three to five times a week for about 20-30 minutes. “Aerobic exercise such as brisk walking is the best, but any expanse of exercise is better than none,” says P. Murali Doraiswamy, MD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University School of Medicine.

A 2005 study found that brisk walking for about 35 minutes a day five times a week can significantly influence mild to moderate depression symptoms. (These exercise parameters were calculated for someone who weighs about 150 pounds. If you weigh more, increase the time of exercising, while the opposite is true if you weigh less than 150 pounds.)

How does exercise relieve depression?
  • Exercise is a powerful depression fighter: exercise can appease depression by altering the mood-regulating neurotransmitters-norepinephrine and serotonin.
  • It also releases the endorphins responsible for the “runner’s high” which some encounter.
  • It reduces pro-inflammatory cytokines that can worsen depression.
  • It increases body temperature, which can have calming effects.
  • It has many psychological benefits too like boosting self-confidence and will power.


3. Yoga is recommended for Stress and Depression.

Yoga is an effective and natural treatment for depression. Studies have shown that yoga related exercise routine is superior to other forms of exercise because of its positive effect on mood upliftment.

  • Yoga plays an active role in healing; it reduces mental disturbances through breath work.
  • It facilitates self-acceptance and helps us to be more grounded and quieter.
  • It calms nervous system by stimulating rest and digest system(parasympathetic) of our body.
  • Yoga eliminates all emotional blocks that prevent us from leading a healthy and balanced life.
  • It rebalances hormonal function in our body.
  • It improves cognitive and executive function of depressed people (Indian journal of physiology and pharmacology 2006).
  • Studies have proved yoga’s significant effect of brain neurotransmitter-gamma -aminobutyric acid, indicating its usefulness in treating depression. (Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2007).


4. Healthy Diet is a Mood Booster.

Never skip a meal as fluctuating blood sugar can worsen depression symptoms…

  • Include serotonin-enhancing foods like food rich in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, herring), healthy oils (coconut oil) and high protein diet (especially high in tryptophan like turkey).
  • Avoid caffeine, as it reduces serotonin production.
  • Minimize sugar and refined carbs: depressed people may crave for sugary foods but these “feel-good” foods can quickly crash your mood and energy.
  • Boost your vitamin-B complex especially folic acid and vitamin B-12 To get more, eat more citrus fruits, green leafy veggies, beans, chicken, and eggs.


5. Meditation helps overcome Depression.

Meditation deactivates the depression center (amygdala) of the brain: most of the depressed people have hyperactive amygdala: the region known as the anxiety and fear center of the brain. Meditation by deactivating amygdala optimizes the brain for restoring happiness.

  • Meditation produces the same brainwaves as used for depression treatment. Neuroscience has built a mountain of evidence confirming that meditation produces alpha and theta brainwaves in the brain; which are the same brainwaves produced in the brain during meditation and biofeedback therapy for treating depression.
  • Meditation boosts two highly important neurotransmitters Serotonin and Epinephrine; lower levels of which is associated with depression.
  • Meditation increases hippocampus density; the area of the brain responsible of memory and orientation and is highly underdeveloped in depressed people.
  • Meditation is the antithesis of depression. Depressed people have underdeveloped “happy” left prefrontal cortexes: the region of the brain best known to control executive function. Whereas meditation by increasing thickness of prefrontal cortex re-wires your brain for happiness


6. Conscious Breathing techniques help.

Conscious Breathing can help cure depression, by improving autonomic & hormonal function, emotional processing and social bonding.

A type of controlled breathing called Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) yoga shows promise in providing relief for depression. This program involves several types of cyclical breathing patterns, ranging from slow and calming to rapid and stimulating.

A study examined the effects of SKY in 60 alcohol-dependent depressed men who were randomly assigned to two groups: SKY program or a standard alcoholism treatment control group.

After three weeks, depression scores dropped 75% in the SKY group, as compared to 60% in the standard treatment control group. Levels of cortisol and corticotrophin (stress hormones) dropped significantly in the SKY group, but not in the control group.


7. Sleeping on time, every night, helps.

Depressed people generally don’t have sound sleep; as they cincture themselves in worry or involve themselves in some disorganized problems.

Depression is sometimes linked to insomnia. Moreover, the combination of depression and insomnia will only worsen the situation.

Hence, good sleep hygiene including measures such as following regular sleep routines, avoiding stimulants like caffeine, reading a book or listening to favorable music and management of sleep disorders like sleep apnea is important to help break this vicious circle.


8. Expose yourself to a little Sunlight every day.

Lack of sunlight and particularly vitamin D can reduce the serotonin levels and make depression worse.

According to World Health Organization, aim for at least 5- 15 minutes of sun exposure a day to boost your mood. If you are reluctant to sit in the sun or live in a place with little sunshine, try using a light therapy box.


9. Psychotherapy for Depression.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps depressed people find new ways of dealing with negative thoughts and obtrusive behaviors. Instead of probing into the past to determine where the negativity comes from, CBT helps patients to be in the present moment and enabling them to understand how their beliefs or actions are contributing to depression.

Once the so called contributors are identified, a therapist will work with the patient to swap those negative attitudes with more positive ones and use them in the real world. Research has shown that many people undergoing CBT for depression has significant improvement.

Many other types of therapies are available, namely
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy.
  • Problem-solving therapy.
  • Behavioral activation management.
  • Dynamic psychotherapy.
  • Emotion focused therapy.


10. Vitamins and supplements can help balance Depression.

If your depression symptoms are due to nutritional deficiency, you may benefit from vitamin supplements.

One of the most studied supplements for treatment of mild to moderate depression is St. John’s wort, a yellow-flowered plant that can be used in the form of tea, pills and extracts.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine reviewed 37 studies and found it may be as beneficial as certain antidepressants for treating mild depression.

But, it can diminish the effectiveness of some prescription medications, including birth control pills, antidepressants, blood thinners, and some anticancer medications. So be sure your doctor is aware of what supplement you are taking.


11. Acupuncture helps reduce Depression.

Acupuncture is increasingly becoming popular as a natural treatment for depression. One area where acupuncture has been studied widely for depression is in depression associated with pregnancy. Because of potential side effects of medicinal treatment in pregnant women, acupuncture is proved to be a valuable alternative.

In a study conducted by Stanford university school of medicine, 150 pregnant women with major depression were randomly divided into three groups: acupuncture specific for depression, control acupuncture (needles inserted into points not specific for alleviating depression) and massage group.

After eight weeks of the therapy, researchers found that women in depression-specific acupuncture group experienced higher reduction in depression than women in other groups.

In acupuncture, a practitioner inserts fine needles into the skin at points thought to correspond with specific organs. While Western researchers suggests that the needles may produce natural painkillers in the brain; the traditional Chinese practitioners believe that acupuncture alleviates depression symptoms by correcting energy blocks or imbalances in the body.


12. Light therapy helps SAD.

Light therapy is a way to treat certain types of depression like seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which occurs at a certain time each year particularly in the fall or winter.

During light therapy, the patient has to sit near a device called a light therapy box. The box gives off bright light that mimics natural sunlight.

Light therapy is thought to affect brain chemicals associated with mood, easing SAD symptoms. Using a light therapy box may also help with other types of depression like bipolar disorder and sleep disorders

A review done by researchers at the University of North Carolina, published in the American journal of psychiatry reported that Light therapy or dawn simulation produce results equal to that given by common antidepressants.


13. Music therapy helps overcome Depression.

Music therapy is one of the expressive therapies, consisting of techniques in which a music therapist uses music to improve health in several domains- cognitive function, social skill development, quality of life, emotional regulation or distraction.

A 2009 review appeared in Clinical Psychology Review, found a significant dose effect of music therapy in depressed people, with little improvement after 3 to 10 sessions and more improvement after 16 to 51 sessions of music therapy.


14. Be Hopeful; look at the bigger picture.

Once you’ve successfully managed to avoid pessimistic thoughts from affecting you, you’ve won half the battle. Being hopeful and allowing only cheerful thoughts to your mind can help to get you out of depression.

  • Spend time with positive people who can enhance the positivity in you.
  • Look at the brighter side of life.
  • Whenever negative thoughts come to your mind note them down. Review them later in a good mood and try to find out positive ways of dealing with the negative situations.


Internal Links

[1] Depression; a global physical and mental killer
[2] A few signs and symptoms of Depression
[3] Causes of Depression: Genetic, illnesses, emotional causes…
[4] Science behind Depression: Biology of a Dark Mind
[5] Managing Depression without Medication
[6] Yoga helps ease Depression

Aashish Nanda

I am not a Spiritual Guru. I am not a Healer. I am not a Coach. I am not a Transformer. After trying to define myself, with various labels, I realized that I am simply a Muser... I just pen down what appeals to me. Please consult a professional guide, in case you need any advice.

Pin It on Pinterest