By: Allison Petro, LMHC

Depression is an epidemic here in the United States, and it affects more than 16.1 million adults in a given year according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America.  Chances are that you or someone you know has suffered from clinical depression. Clinical depression is more than just feeling down for a few days.  It can be debilitating and long-lasting, but the good news is that it is treatable!

If you have been diagnosed with clinical depression, you can treat it a number of different ways including taking anti-depressant medication and participating in psychotherapy.  In addition, someone suffering from clinical depression can treat it naturally. In my practice, I have met many people who do not wish to take a psychotropic medication and desire to treat their depression from a more holistic and natural perspective.  

Research out of the University of Kansas by Dr. Stephen Ilardi and his team points to these 6 methods for treating depression holistically and without medication.  As a therapist, I teach my clients to use these methods for strong mental health:

Practice Anti-Rumination Strategies

Rumination is dwelling on negative thoughts and feelings, and individuals who are depressed often find themselves ruminating.  We often ruminate without even realizing it, but it will make depression symptoms worse. If you find yourself ruminating, it is key to distract and snap yourself out of it. Try exercising, calling a family member or friend, or do another pleasurable activity like reading or a favorite hobby. Psychotherapy is a great place to start to learn how to recognize rumination and strategies to overcome it.

Actively Seek Social Support

Depression often leads to withdrawing from family and friends and isolating ourselves, but what our brain really needs is the opposite of that.  I recommend going out and doing something social at least once per week. Humans are social beings, and we need love and support from fellow humans.  I encourage you to share your struggles with someone that you trust so that he/she can support and lift you up.

Regularly Get Aerobic Exercise

Do you tire of hearing this advice?!  It comes up everywhere, doesn’t it? The thing is, exercise is crucial for our physical health as well as our mental health.  I believe that if they could bottle the benefits of exercise into a pill form, it would be the most popular medication on the market!  Our bodies were designed to MOVE. Research suggests participating in aerobic exercise (heart rate elevated to about 120-160 beats per minute) for 35-40 minutes at least 3 times per week to decrease depression symptoms. Go for a walk or run with a friend or sign up for a local basketball league and get the added social support while also exercising.

Get Daily Light Exposure

Research recommends getting at least 30 minutes of bright light exposure per day and at the same time each day to treat depression symptoms. Light exposure can either be sunlight or a special light box (10,000 lux).  This tip is especially helpful to those that notice a seasonal component to their depression. When I moved from sunny Florida to New York, I noticed that I felt especially blue during the colder months. If you live in a cold climate, I recommend buying a light box.  They are very affordable!

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

Sleep is crucial to our health, but many of us are walking around like zombies.  We chug energy drinks and caffeine throughout the day to try and stay alert. Many people are sleep deprived and this affects both our physical and mental health.  To create a healthy sleep pattern, try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. Prepare yourself for bed by having a bedtime ritual. Turn off all devices, dim the lights, put on comfy pajamas, and do a quiet activity such as reading or meditation.  The average person needs 8 hours of sleep per night.

Take Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements Daily

The research supports that taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements has been shown to have antidepressant and anti-inflammatory properties.  Studies indicate that they help serotonin and dopamine circuits in our brains function more efficiently while boosting mood. The recommendation is to take at least 1000 mg of EPA and 500 mg of DHA (read the label) to improve mood and treat depression.  Of course, before taking any supplement, consult with your doctor.

If you are struggling with depression and need additional assistance, call today at 407-622-1770 or click here to book an appointment or make a complimentary 15-minute consultation with Allison!

About Allison: In addition to utilizing talk therapy, Allison uses creative arts therapies (art, music, play therapy, etc.), TF-CBT (Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) with children/adolescents and EFT (Emotion Focused Therapy) to help her clients explore their feelings, behaviors and inner dialogue. Her goal for each client is to help him/her develop coping skills and a plan to move through pain and experience healing. Click here for Allison’s full bio.