Have you ever known a friend or family member to struggle with sadness they couldn’t seem to shake? Maybe you’ve struggled that way and wondered if what you were feeling was just sadness or if you were wrestling with depression symptoms.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, depression affected nearly 5% of the US adult population in 2019 (the latest available statistics). While that may seem like a small percentage, it still represents nearly 16 million adults.
And while depression does involve feelings of sadness, it goes beyond that. In this post, we’ll explore what depression is and how you can help depression holistically.
The National Institute of Mental Health explains, “Depression (also known as major depression, major depressive disorder, or clinical depression) is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how a person feels, thinks, and handles daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working.”
We’ve already seen that it affects millions of people in the US alone. Mayo Clinic lists some of the symptoms of severe depression:
- Sad, empty, or hopeless feelings that are ongoing
- Lack of interest in once-enjoyable activities
- Difficulty with concentrating and with making decisions
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Being unusually irritable or frustrated
- Thinking about or attempting suicide
- Physical problems that seem unexplainable
In Psychology Today, Dr. Guy Winch explains the difference between sadness that’s just sadness and sadness that’s tied to depression: “Sadness is usually triggered by a difficult event, whereas depression is an abnormal emotional state. When a person is depressed, they feel sad about everything. It does not require a trigger.”
Holistic Help for Depression
While conventional treatments, such as medication and talk therapy, can be effective for managing symptoms of depression, other alternative depression treatments are also available today. One alternative is a holistic approach which is a broad term that includes a number of therapies.
What’s beneficial about holistic treatment for depression is that, in the process of developing a comprehensive treatment plan, it takes into account the whole person — including physical, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being. This approach can address the root causes of depression and provide a more sustainable path to recovery.
While a number of natural treatments for depression exist, we’ll look more closely at just four holistic therapies:
“Mind-body therapies are a group of healing techniques that enhance the mind’s interactions with bodily function, to induce relaxation and to improve overall health and well-being,” explains Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Some of the most common mind-body therapies are:
- Meditation – A calming experience where you focus on one positive thought, an object, a meaningful passage, or other central idea.
- Yoga – An ancient method of stretching the whole body that has gained worldwide popularity in the past few decades, yoga also emphasizes breathing techniques and meditation. Those who practice consistently gain strength and flexibility while also improving mental clarity.
- Acupuncture – A traditional practice of Chinese medicine, acupuncture helps to stimulate the body’s natural healing processes — both physically and emotionally. With needles inserted into specific places on the patient’s body, an acupuncturist works to restore balance and release blockages in energy.
Focused on giving those with depression all the vitamins they need for improved mental health, nutritional therapies include a modified diet and supplements.
“Nutritional deficiencies can make depression worse. So, focus on eating a variety of foods, including whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products. Consider meeting with a nutritionist who can create simple, balanced meal plans for you.”WebMD
The University of Minnesota’s Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality and Healing lists some of the most important supplements for those suffering from mood disorders such as depression:
- A multivitamin that includes B6 and minerals
- Vitamin D-3
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Medical News Today also suggests that several herbal supplements for depression — such as St. John’s wort, ginseng, and saffron — may benefit those who want to get help for depression. Before supplementing with these herbs for depression, however, be sure to speak with a healthcare professional about whether they’re safe and effective for you.
Moving our bodies is another holistic treatment that can help people with depression. Routine exercise can do wonders for physical and mental health. And that doesn’t mean you have to bench press hundreds of pounds at the gym. It simply means moving.
Maybe that’s taking a walk over to the neighbor’s house, around the block, or at the park down the street. Maybe it’s joining a water aerobics class where the exercises are gentle and easy to enjoy. The key is to exercise, whatever that looks like for you.
And again, just like with supplementation, be sure to speak with a healthcare professional before starting a new exercise program, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve exercised. A professional can let you know of any modifications you should incorporate based on your personal history.
Other holistic depression treatments include use of creative arts, which benefit our brains uniquely and complement conventional treatments for depression well.
- Art therapy – Using artistic forms of expression, participants draw, sketch, create collages, work with clay, and more in an effort to portray their emotions through their art. The process helps participants express what they’re feeling even when they’ve not been able to find the words to say it.
- Music therapy – Who of us doesn’t like music? Music therapy takes advantage of our connections with music. Participants can simply listen to songs or create their own music with instruments. The goal is reducing anxiety and improving overall mood and well-being.
- Dance therapy – Psychology Today says, “Dance therapy, sometimes referred to as dance/movement therapy or DMT, is a mental health treatment that uses dance and other forms of physical movement to improve someone’s emotional and psychological functioning… Because dance is a form of exercise, the therapy may also result in physical benefits such as improved sleep and increased energy, in addition to its cognitive/emotional effects.”
- Writing therapy – Journaling is a creative way to process life events and the emotions that come with them. Sometimes it’s difficult to express what we’re feeling, so writing it all out can help.
All of these creative therapies can be used alone or combined with other approaches for treating depression.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, reach out to Best Day’s professional counselors, and we can help you determine the best path for treatment.