Five Drug-Free Ways to Defeat Depression

For the past 30 years whenever someone seems depressed, the answer has been an antidepressant. Most people get this prescription from their doctor after a 15 minute assessment.
But is that really the best approach? Antidepressants often have unwanted side effects, are expensive and may even contribute to a life-long cycle of depression. (See studies from the book, Anatomy of an Epidemic by Robert Whitaker for more information.) So, what to do instead? Here are five alternative strategies for easing depression.

1. Exercise. In double blind studies, patients who exercised regularly and took a placebo were compared to those who didn’t exercise and were given an antidepressant. Surprise! Those who exercised improved their mood significantly more than those taking the drug.

2. Take supplements. Many people are Vitamin D deficient. This can cause or worsen depression. Get a little (15 minutes is enough) sunlight on your skin a day, or take a supplement.
Omega 3 fatty acids (the kind found in fish oil) has been shown to effectively treat depression. Read about it in this study, or in the book The Omega 3 Connection, by Andrew Stoll.

3. Write. One study found that people who wrote about their troubles every day for three days felt better and had shifted to a more positive perspective on their lives and their problems.

4. Change your thinking. We are taught that circumstances dictate mood. But the truth is, how we think about our situation is more important than the situation itself. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl describes how even in a concentration camp, the way we think about our circumstances matters. He said, “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms—to choose one’s own attitude in any given set of circumstances—to choose one’s own way.”

5. Service. When we help others, our own problems fade into the background. Service offers meaning and purpose as well as validation and connection.  There are many opportunities to help.  Volunteer for a organization you believe in or help your neighbor.  Making a difference in someone’s life can be the most powerful antidepressant of all.


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  • About The Author

    Lois Schlegel

    Lois Schlegel, MFA, MS, mental health therapist at Life in Bloom Counseling in Medford and Ashland, has 20 years of experience providing services to individuals and families. She has taught parent education and life skills classes to adults and ... Full Profile
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