Thursday, 11 May 2017

5 ways to keep depression at bay using natural methods

5 ways to keep depression at bay using natural methods

For #mentalhealthawareness week I thought I'd share some thoughts on how I have dealt with my own experience of depression, which I've written about before.  I took anti-depressants for several years without a break, but taking them over a long period of time isn't ideal for most people, and I wanted to see what else I could do to improve my mental health.

Before making any changes to prescribed medication I recommend speaking to your GP first.   I spoke to my GP who suggested weaning myself off them slowly, and introducing the new natural methods at the same time. I did a lot of reading on the subject before taking the plunge and when I was ready I tried out different methods for preventing depressive episodes.

Listed below are some of the things that have worked for me, they're all easily achievable and can be incorporated into a busy lifestyle without too much effort.

I've been doing them for so long now that they've become habits that I don't have to think about, they're just part of my regular daily routines and I'm pretty sure it's what's prevented me having any major depressive episodes for the past 3 years.   I'm not saying they will work for everyone but I hope you find something useful here.

1.  Try herbal supplements

After being prescribed anti-depressants for years and wanting to try something else I did some research into herbal supplements, and found that St John's Wort is regularly prescribed by German GPs to patients with low levels of depression, and so I decided to give it a go.  I started off by taking one a day, and would occasionally increase the dose to two on days when I felt my mood dip or felt a bit low.  I took St. John's Wort for a couple of years without any side-effects, and they worked well for me.  

I took them for two and a half years without having any dark episodes of depression, although I didn't just take the medication - I also used some of the other natural methods listed below.   That's not to say I don't feel down occasionally, I do, but having fluctuations in mood is normal (something that's easy to overlook when you've had depression) and although I no longer feel the need to take a daily dose I keep them in the medicine cabinet for times when I'm feeling a bit down to give me little boost.

You can find more information about using St John's Wort here. They're easy to get hold of too - you can buy them in health foods shops, pharmacies and supermarkets.

2. Get out in the fresh air
This seems pretty obvious, but getting out in the fresh air is one of the best types of medicine for good mental health. Even a 15 minute walk can be enough to clear the mind and there's nothing like getting outside for a brisk walk to blow off the cobwebs.

Not only that but daylight is the best source of vitamin D which is essential for healthy bones, teeth and muscles. Our bodies create vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when we're outdoors.

As a dog lover you know I'm going to say that the ideal answer is to get a dog because they demand to be taken out at least twice a day, in all weathers.  I do my best thinking when I'm out walking my dog Alice: it's a great time to mull things over and make decisions without the background noise that we become so accustomed to in our daily lives.

You don't even need to have a dog you can borrow one, or just get outside and walk, cycle,  go for a run, do some gardening, watch the seasons change, do anything but get out in the fresh air and get that vital boost to the emotional immune system.

Getting outside for a dog walk

3. Do something for someone else

It's always good to do something for someone else, and the reward is that warm and fuzzy feeling when we've done it.  I started volunteering for my local Royal Voluntary Service befriending service last year, and I get just as much out of it as the lovely lady I visit every week.

There are always loads of volunteering opportunities (contact your local CVS for volunteering ideas) or just do the occasional random act of kindness.

You'll reap the benefits, I promise.

4. Take a break from social media

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with social media. Most of the time I love it, and have been known to spend far too much time on Twitter, Facebook and (my favourite) Instagram.  The problem is that it's not real life, and we're only seeing a carefully edited version of people's. The continual flow of images of lives that always seem so perfect can make it a little hard to take sometimes. There's always someone who is richer, happier, thinner or better looking than us on social media, but it's not always as it seems.  Or usually isn't.

Take a break from social mediaI had a chat with a blogger friend recently whose life seems to be made up of exotic travel, glamorous parties and exciting events, but even she told me things weren't as they perfect as they appear to be, and that travelling brought its own set of problems with family logistics and strains on her relationship. It's so easy to believe everything we see, but it isn't real life and for most of us it's also unattainable.

 If it feels like it's getting too much take a short break, maybe a day or two. Or make a rule to turn all social media off by, say, 7pm every night for a week.  I stepped back from Facebook six months ago, and apart from an initial Fear Of Missing Out,  I really haven't missed it much.  And as friends and family know I'm no longer on there, they send their news by text or email or, and this is very old school, they tell me in person!  I might return to FB one day, but I'll limit the amount of time I spend on there.

5. Get enough sleep

Getting enough sleep is essential for keeping everything on an even keel, and I don't know about you but I don't manage well if I'm not getting a decent night's sleep on a regular basis.  Invest in a good mattress, adopt a sleep routine, turn off the telly and tablet, put your phone away and get an early night.  A bit of relaxing reading in bed is enough to make me nod off after a few minutes, but do whatever works for you.  You deserve an early night.

If you or someone you know is depressed please take the first step and speak to someone about it. Speak to a friend or family member or see your GP.  There is more information about Mental Health Awareness Week here.

What are your recommendations for keeping depression at bay?