12 Natural Remedies for Depression and Low Mood
Depression and low mood can be debilitating, affecting not only your ability to perform day-to-day tasks but also your relationships with loved ones. Depression is far from a simple case of “feeling down” — it's a serious issue and potentially dangerous, resulting in a range of physical, emotional and social symptoms that can last for years and range from mild to severe.
Such symptoms might include bouts of sadness, worry, anger and frustration, low self-esteem, and anxiety. It can also present itself physically, causing panic attacks, tiredness and trouble sleeping, as well as constipation, aches and pains, and weight loss or gain.
While depression is no longer considered “taboo” — although the question of why it has long had a stigma attached to it is another matter entirely — there are still instances when an individual might not visit their GP. They may be concerned about how they will be perceived; they might not think they need to or that they can cope without it; they might not have the time, or they simply might not want to take traditionally prescribed antidepressant medicine.
Fortunately, there are several natural remedies for depression and practitioners available to support you as you fight back against low mood. In this blog post, we highlight our favourite 12 remedies.
1. Eat Happily
When we're suffering from low mood, we might be tempted to opt for junk food or quick fixes simply because we're too tired to prepare anything substantial. It may even make us feel better for the short term, but it can later cause lethargy and inflammation. Research has also found that a poor diet can lead to depression, perpetuating the cycle.
A healthy diet can help improve your mood in general, but there are a number of superfoods full of delicious nutrients that can have a mood-altering impact on the brain. Such foods help the brain produce serotonin, the so-called “happy” chemical, and which medication like Fluoxetine — one of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants in the UK — help raise the levels of by inhibiting serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
Foods including fish oil, which is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids; healthy fats, such as coconut oil; eggs; cheese; turkey, and nuts and seeds are rich in the amino acid tryptophan, making them natural serotonin enhancers.
2. Avoid Caffeine…
A lot of us start our day with a shot of caffeine for a much-needed energy boost, and many more of us continue to enjoy it throughout the day to keep ourselves going. However, we're all too familiar with the crash that comes afterwards. Too much caffeine and the withdrawal period that follows can make us jittery, dizzy and irritable and result in a severe drop in mood once the effects wear off.
While the definitive line on caffeine and its links to depression are unclear — the medical community is divided on its benefits and risks — there is evidence to suggest that a tweak to our morning rituals could benefit our mental health and help ease depression symptoms.
Caffeine is a stimulant — that's why you get a burst of energy when you drink it, but this can cause problems with sleep, especially if you're drinking coffee or tea (a silent culprit!) late into the night. Many individuals suffering from depression already experience difficulty getting some shut-eye, so drinking too much caffeine can only make this worse, causing increased moods swings and irritability.
One study has even suggested that caffeine consumption can make existing depression symptoms worse, linking the energy booster to heightened anxiety.
But what if you've come to rely on caffeine to boost your energy and mood? In this case, it's important to reduce your dosage steadily. Like any drug, caffeine can cause withdrawal symptoms. Aside from causing a drop in mood until your body adjusts, it can also cause headaches and fatigue, so try starting by cutting out your familiar afternoon coffee fix — or try an alternative, which leads us to our next point...
3. ...But Drink Green Tea
This seems counterintuitive since green tea contains caffeine, but green tea boasts something extremely important: L-theanine. L-theanine works to boost your mood without giving you the crash that often follows a caffeine fix. Another amino acid, L-theanine works by lowering the levels of chemicals in the brain that are linked to stress and anxiety, promoting a sense of calm. It does this by crossing the blood-brain barrier, providing an almost psychoactive effect. As well as lowering stress, it also increases levels of dopamine — which is linked to the pleasure centre of the brain — and serotonin, and works to promote sleep and relaxation. Why not consider making this natural remedy for depression part of your nighttime routine?
What if there were a way to reduce stress, control anxiety, improve concentration and sleep and decrease your blood pressure, and it was free and could be done anywhere? There is! Meditation boasts all these benefits and more, but it's something many people dismiss as “new age” or claim they don't have time for.
Meditation has no barrier to entry, and just five minutes a day can significantly help boost your mood and emotional health over the long term. It can be difficult at first — in today's fast-paced world, sitting down and just focusing on your breath can feel out of the ordinary. Try setting a timer for five minutes and sitting somewhere comfortable, either in bed or on a comfortable chair with your back straight. Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breathing. You could even count as you inhale and exhale if you're having trouble with thoughts creeping in — and they will creep in! The key is to not get frustrated with yourself when this happens; simply acknowledge the thought and dismiss it, bringing your attention back to your breath. Don't be surprised when five minutes fly by! Then, the key is to make it a consistent habit — why not try dedicating a small block of time to it in the evening before you sleep, putting it on your to-do list, or just squeezing it in whenever you have a minute or two spare?
5. Practice Yoga
Yoga is often touted as one of the most holistic approaches to exercise — not only can it help you lose weight and tone up, but there are also considerable benefits to your mental health. Many yogis claim that yoga helps them be more mindful and present, and several recent studies have supported the idea that it can reduce stress, ease depression and anxiety, manage pain and improve energy.
Combining stretching into various poses with meditation and controlled breathing, the mere act of moving from one pose into another helps strengthen the connection between mind and body and lowers your blood pressure, reduces your resting heart rate and increases your tolerance for pain. But yoga isn't reserved for those with superhuman flexibility and contortionist skills — anyone can do it. While headstands and handstands may be out of the realm of possibility for now, sitting cross-legged (or Sukhasana) or doing the extended puppy pose is well within reach.
If you're tempted to give yoga a go, you'll be spoiled for choice when it comes to finding a yoga practitioner. You can benefit from one-on-one support and group classes or, thanks to its widespread popularity, enjoy a taught class from the comfort of your home via the many YouTube tutorials available online.
6. Give Acupuncture a Go
Acupuncture is an ancient practice dating back over 5,000 years. It works on the principle that our bodies require a constant flow of energy to ensure we remain balanced and, by extension, happy and healthy. When this energy flow becomes blocked or depleted, it can cause all manner of nasty ailments, including depression. The idea of having needles poked into your body might make you squirm, but it's painless and looks far worse than it is — in fact, the rush of endorphins (your body's natural painkiller) around your body, which make you feel calm and happy, can actually be quite relaxing!
If this type of treatment sounds right for you, there are many acupuncture therapists in London and beyond. Many clients even nod off during their treatments, and the soothing effects often last long beyond your session.
7. Drink Chamomile
If you enjoy drinking a relaxing cup of tea but you're taking our advice of cutting down your caffeine intake, we have another option for you — chamomile tea. Chamomile, which contains magnesium and calcium, is a natural stress-buster and muscle relaxant — it's an ideal natural remedy for depression and easing the physical symptoms, including panic attacks.
To prepare, simply add two teaspoons to hot water and steep for 10 minutes, then add a bit of honey or milk to sweeten. For an extra relaxing boost before bed, tuck a little lavender under your pillow or indulge in some aromatherapy oils with a sweet scent.
8. Increase Your Vitamin B Intake
Vitamin B plays an important role in generating those all-important happiness-boosting chemicals, including serotonin and dopamine. Some adults, such as those who don't eat meat or are intolerant to gluten, may struggle to get the B vitamins crucial to holistic health, and it can have a significant impact on mood.
Fortunately, vitamin B is plentiful in many foods and also comes in supplement form. If you're looking to introduce more vitamin B into your diet, try eating fish, such as mackerel, and cheese or, if you're vegetarian or vegan, spinach and bell peppers.
9. Get More Magnesium
Magnesium is a crucial mineral that has many functions. Without it, we can't produce energy and stabilise the chemicals being released by the brain. It's no surprise, then, that a lack of magnesium can significantly contribute to tiredness and low mood and make depression symptoms worse.
Unfortunately, your body can't produce magnesium, so it must be supplemented through your diet. To get a healthy boost of mood and energy-boosting magnesium, try eating cashew nuts, cooked black beans or bananas. To introduce this natural remedy to your body via liquids, opt for a cup of soy milk or drink chamomile tea. As magnesium is one of chamomile's most potent nutrients, this is an easy way to enjoy a host of benefits that can ease your depression symptoms.
10. Get Some Exercise
Exercise, like meditation, is another one of those great free natural remedies for depression. But if the thought of jogging for 30 minutes every day or slogging it to the gym in the cold, dark winter makes you break out in a sweat, don't worry. You don't need to go out and buy a whole home gym setup to get some exercise — simply moving around more will give you all the benefits.
When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which make us feel good. Many of us are familiar with the post-workout high — even if the actual activity itself wasn't all that enjoyable.
When you're suffering from low mood or depression, sometimes, you might wake up and not want to face the world. You might stay under the covers all day, barely eating, barely talking to anyone and staring off into space. In these cases, the last thing you want to do is get out of bed and force yourself to sweat. It's important to take baby steps. Just standing up and walking around for five minutes every hour will get your body moving — and it's a major achievement you should be proud of yourself for accomplishing. If you have a dog, take a 15-minute walk around the neighbourhood. Exercise can be enjoyable — you just need to find what works for you. Like dancing? Consider joining a class or, if you'd rather stay at home, put on some music that reminds you of happy times and dance and jump around your living room — nobody's watching.
11. Let the Light in with Light Therapy
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects millions of people around the globe. Far from a case of “feeling a bit sad” because the weather's gloomy, this type of depression — often called “winter depression” or the “winter blues” — can make even the thought of going out and making conversation unbearable.
Light therapy is particularly beneficial for those suffering from SAD, but it's equally as effective for those suffering from other forms of depression. It revolves around letting more light into your space — crucial when sunshine is in short supply.
Evidence proves that exposure to sunlight isn't always a bad thing — sunlight (and, on the opposite side of the coin, darkness) triggers the release of hormones in our brains that have a significant impact on our moods. Sunlight encourages the body to release our friend serotonin, while darkness releases melatonin, the chemical that helps us sleep. It's easy to see, then, that a lack of serotonin from low sunlight exposure can cause us to feel down, while dark and gloomy days can lead us to feel tired and sluggish.
Light therapy boxes shine a bright light that mimics the sun so that when you're sitting and working, you're being exposed to steady levels of light. Not only can this boost your mood, but it can also regulate your sleep cycle by realigning your circadian rhythm, which means you'll feel awake and ready to face the day first thing and be ready for a deep, relaxing sleep once nighttime sets in.
You don't need to invest in light therapy boxes to get the full benefit, however. Simply introducing more light into your home — such as by having a lamp on your desk or next to your favourite chair — can help. And when summer is in full swing and the sun's shining bright, try to get out in it — even if it's just sitting in your garden for five minutes for a healthy dose of feel-good serotonin.
12. Boost Your Natural Happiness Levels with a 5-HTP Supplement
5-HTP, or L5-hydroxytryptophan, is a natural amino acid produced by the body and a natural precursor to producing serotonin. As such, it's been linked to improving depression symptoms. Unlike tryptophan, which, going back to point one, is found in cheese, turkey, nuts, seeds and more, 5-HTP is not present in food, but it can be taken in supplement form.
5-HTP plays a vital role, however, as one of the chemicals that supports the body to transform tryptophan into serotonin. If your body's running a little low on its 5-HTP supplies and you're feeling depressed and lethargic, a 5-HTP supplement is a natural remedy to synthesise the production of both serotonin and melatonin in your body to elevate feels of numbness and boost your mood.
It's important to note that if you're taking medically prescribed antidepressants, you should avoid 5-HTP supplements, as it can interfere with your medication.
Low mood and depression can be incredibly life-limiting, but these natural remedies for depression can not only make life bearable but enjoyable too.
Check out the Holistic Guide's full range of holistic practitioners, whether you're looking to enjoy some relaxing aromatherapy and acupuncture or you want to get on the mat and develop your yoga practice.