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How do I Treat Depression Without Medication?

By Bethany Keene
Updated May 17, 2024
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Mild and moderate depression can often be treated without medication, with some lifestyle changes and persistence. If depression seems to worsen or does not seem to be improving, it is important to visit a doctor for treatment, who may then be able to prescribe antidepressants or offer other treatment methods such as therapy. Treating depression without medication, though, is often possible with a focused exercise and eating plan designed to stabilize the mood and release endorphins into the brain on a regular basis.

Aerobic exercise has been shown to be one of the most effective ways of treating depression without medication. It can be difficult for people who are depressed to get the motivation to go outside and exercise, but even a 30 minute walk every day can make a difference. Other beneficial exercises include things like running, swimming, or biking; any activity that gets the heart rate up can also help to release mood-boosting endorphins in the brain, which can help to relieve depression symptoms.

Sunlight and vitamin D can also help to treat depression with medication. In the winter, taking a vitamin D supplement can be beneficial; other times of year, just spending ten minutes in the sun per day can help to improve depression as well. Exercise and sunlight can also help you to get enough sleep at night. Being sure to get enough sleep every night is another one of the more effective ways to treat depression without medication; it is best to get at least eight hours, and to try to get up at the same time every day.

The foods you eat can also be a way to treat depression without medication. Some people find that refined sugars and caffeine, for instance, contribute greatly to feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. Switch instead to whole foods such as vegetables and fruits, and be sure to get enough protein and whole grains in the diet every day. A multivitamin can also help to fill in any nutritional gaps in the diet.

Aside from diet and exercise, some relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or journalling can often help to treat depression without medication. Spending time with friends and family may also help with depression. Be patient while treating depression, but again, if the depression does not improve, seek professional help. There is no shame in visiting a doctor, psychologist, or psychiatrist for treatment; often, depression can have an underlying medical cause such as a thyroid condition, and no amount of healthy eating and willpower would have made it go away on its own.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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