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Depression is generally classified as a psychological disorder, but it has an overarching impact on all aspects of your well-being.
It spreads its roots and takes hold of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors if not managed properly. This hijacking of your emotional and mental processing inadvertently affects your social skills and physical health.
Thus, countering the varied ill effects of depression requires a multidimensional approach, which goes beyond the standard medication and behavioral counseling to include self-care measures, lifestyle changes, and home treatments.
Home Remedies for Depression
There is little to no scientific evidence to support the use of home remedies for relieving depression symptoms, but that does not disqualify the fact that many people have reportedly benefitted from them.
This is not to say that these anecdotal home treatments can be trusted to treat the condition entirely, but they may help reduce its severity and enhance the efficacy of other mainstream treatments.
However, further studies are needed to establish the underlying mechanism, positive effects, and safety of these remedies. Thus, you must consult your doctor before trying any such remedy to avoid any negative effects.
The following home remedies can help manage depression symptoms:
Walnuts are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid. Walnut consumption may result in a decreased frequency and occurrence of depressive symptoms.
One study found an association between the consumption of nuts, such as walnut, with a lower frequency of symptoms and lesser cases of depression in a representative sample of the US population. (1)
A clinical trial conducted in 2017 demonstrated that eating walnuts daily can help delay the cognitive impairment that typically comes with old age, a common reason for depression in the elderly. (2)
Saffron is a common spice obtained from the flowers of Crocus sativus. It is used in the treatment of major depression due to its antidepressant properties.
A clinical trial conducted in 2015 demonstrated that patients with major depressive disorder could benefit from saffron supplementation. (3)
Additionally, a randomized, double-blind study showed the benefits of saffron on homocysteine levels in patients with major depression. (4)
A meta-analysis conducted in 2019 also demonstrated that saffron is highly effective when compared to placebo and almost similar to antidepressant drugs in the treatment of depression. (5)
3. Light exposure
Seasonal affective disorder is associated with a lack of daylight. Thus, increased exposure to light can aid treatment. This may be done by spending more time outside during daylight hours, preferably taking a walk or performing some type of exercise.
A 2017 study demonstrated that light treatment has an immediate effect on individuals with depression. (6)
Additionally, a cross-sectional analysis showed that increased daylight exposure could decrease the frequency of depressive symptoms in patients with bipolar disorder. (7)
Curcumin is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and it can also be beneficial for your mental health and may be used to help fight depression.
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study demonstrated that curcumin was effective in alleviating the symptoms of major depressive disorders. (8) A meta-analysis found curcumin to be safe, efficacious, and well-tolerated for use by patients with depression. (9)
A clinical study conducted in 2014 showed that the consumption of 40 g of milk and dark chocolate for 2 weeks helped alleviate perceived stress in females. (10)
A cross-sectional survey in 2019 demonstrated that eating chocolate, especially dark chocolate, could help reduce the chances of developing clinical symptoms of depression. (11)
6. Lavender essential oil
A 2016 study demonstrated the effectiveness of inhaling lavender scent for 4 weeks in preventing depression, anxiety, and post-childbirth stress. (12)
A study conducted in 2017 also demonstrated that the safety and efficacy of lavender oil make it an ideal alternative therapy in treating anxiety disorder. (13)
Lifestyle Changes for Depression
Making certain changes in your day-to-day activities can help improve your mood and even prevent depression.
1. Exercise your mind
Pursue your hobbies or perform fun activities, such as drawing, painting, sewing, dancing, writing, and composing music, to induce positive emotions and thoughts while getting creative.
Set aside time in your daily routine for playing with a pet or friend or doing something that you enjoy. Give yourself a chance to have a good laugh by watching comedy shows.
2. Consume a healthy diet
A study conducted in 2017 showed that consuming a healthy diet, including whole grains, fruit, olive oil, vegetables, fish, and low-fat dairy, lowered the risk of depression. Conversely, a diet consisting of refined grains, red meat, high-fat dairy, and sweets was associated with a high risk of depression. (14)
3. Exercise regularly
Practicing yoga daily or performing aerobic exercises can help you relax and can uplift your mood.
Aerobic exercises can increase the levels of mood-affecting chemicals in your brain called endorphins. These exercises also help maintain fitness and improve your self-esteem.
Multiple studies have assessed the efficacy of exercising in improving the symptoms of depression. Most of these studies showed a positive effect of exercise on patients with depression. (15)
4. Learn relaxation techniques
Using relaxation techniques regularly can help ease stress, relieve depression symptoms, and promote well-being. You can try meditation, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, and deep breathing exercises.
A study supported the use of relaxation techniques in reducing anxiety and depression-related symptoms for patients hospitalized with leprosy. (16)
5. Set reminders
You may keep a diary to develop a system of cues and reminders for self-management. Additionally, engaging in social and work life and involving people close to you as you manage your illness may be beneficial.
6. Try acupuncture
Acupuncture can help stimulate your nervous system to release neurotransmitters and further create biochemical changes that influence your body’s homeostatic mechanism. As a result, you experience improvement in your emotional and physical well-being.
Also, acupuncture was found to be highly effective in treating major depressive disorders in pregnancy. (17)
7. Use behavioral strategies
Plan the activities you have scheduled for the day and set goals for the same. Invest time in enjoyable and useful activities. Moreover, break down each task into simpler steps for ease, and reward yourself for completing the goals.
8. Get adequate sleep
Sleep can largely influence your mood. Not getting adequate rest can aggravate the symptoms associated with depression, increasing irritability, sadness, moodiness, and fatigue. Therefore, it is important to get adequate sleep, between 7 and 9 hours each night.
You may try lifestyle modification programs to aid sleep. These programs usually address factors that affect your sleep quality, including poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, caffeine, and alcohol use. (18)
9. Avoid alcohol and drugs
Many people use alcohol or drugs to change their mood. However, substance use can often aggravate anxiety and depression.
Therefore, avoid overconsumption of alcohol or controlled substances to steer clear of depressive symptoms.
10. Build healthy relationships
Identify and interact with those who support and uplift you. Try to maintain healthy social interactions, as isolating yourself can increase symptoms of depression.
11. Bring change
It is important to identify any social or environmental factors that make you feel low, angry, or sad, and then take steps to change the situation.
12. Build your own support system
Seek support from your loved ones as depression can be a long and lonely struggle that should not be fought alone. Being constantly riddled with such overpowering negativity can leave you dejected and dysfunctional.
You may find it difficult to search for the good in life through the fog of depression and become cut off from the world. This isolation will further feed your depression and may give rise to self-harm or suicidal tendencies.
It is therefore incumbent upon you to stop this negative spiral by reaching out for help. Communicate your sorrows and concerns to people whom you trust, without any fear of judgment. You cannot expect others to understand what goes on inside your mind unless you tell them.
Apart from professional counseling, you need to develop your own private safe space with the support of your family and friends.
13. Sign up for a support group and community work
Joining support groups will also help you relate to and learn from the experiences of other patients with depression, thus making you feel less alone.
You can also volunteer for various causes, as the feeling of helping others adds to your self-worth and helps you move past your own helplessness.
The treatment plan for depression is customized according to the patient’s condition and needs. Some people can overcome depressive spells through lifestyle changes and home treatment alone, while others may need a more extensive strategy involving in-hospital treatment.
Whatever the case, adopting certain favorable habits, giving up on certain unfavorable ones, and trying a few home remedies can fast track you on the road to recovery and make traditional treatments fair better.
It can take time for these interventions to show positive results, but you must not give up on them midway out of frustration.
Try different methods to find which one suits you best, and then stick with it. Keep your doctor in the loop when trying any new therapy or remedy to avoid any complications.