In contrast to historical brackets, our high-speed generation has made exponential progress in record time. While these advancements in civilization have been phenomenal and exciting to witness, they have unfortunately ushered in an era of heightened anxiety and debilitating depression.
According to the W.H.O an average of 800,000 individuals commit suicide each year, while another 264 million have reported to live with mild to severe symptoms of depression.
The complexity of human nature makes it difficult - and in most cases impossible - to prescribe treatment that everyone will appropriately respond to. With that being said, the use of antidepressants made a 400% jump between 2005-2008, taking an astronomical leap to our now 20.5 million individuals dependent on antidepressants - spiking another 23% during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Antidepressants are helpful - and in extreme cases - even necessary for equalizing the cognitive hormones that stabilize one’s emotional state. Unfortunately however, they are often over-prescribed and without appropriate consultation on behavioural and lifestyle changes that will further enhance one’s ability to live and thrive within their mental condition. The habits recommended should be applied to everyone as a natural preventative and way to continually infuse life with joy, inner peace and purpose. Some individuals may find the practices listed below are powerful enough to counteract their depressive feelings and wean themselves off dependency on antidepressants. Others might find they function at their best through a combination of measures - including conscious daily habits that promote joy while maintaining their chemical balance through the continued use of antidepressants. Perhaps some of you have yet to be prescribed antidepressants and would like to explore all avenues of bettering your mental state before committing to medication. Regardless of where you are, remember this : change isn’t immediate, but it is possible. Even antidepressants can take up to a month before their effects are noticed. Happiness is built from a routine of powerful habits, not a single transformational moment. Happiness is a pattern of daily practices, not a singular event. To see any shift patience will be required - but patience will be repaid.
Here are 5 alternatives (or additives) to taking antidepressants :
The benefits of exercise have long been known to boost one’s mood and increase performance in all areas of life - both mental and physical. Even Havard has made multiple publications on how exercise can combat depression. The hardest part about incorporating daily movement into your life is simply starting. Why? Because depression manifests itself physically just as powerfully as it does mentally. Breaking out of the sluggish cycle can feel enormous to start, but trust the momentum that comes from a little daily effort. Be graceful to yourself and start with a small but sustainable goal. Movement looks different for everyone so find something that gets you excited. Some enjoy the gym culture, while others prefer working out at home (made possible with affordable equipment like these home sets here). A great way to stay engaged in the practice is to journal how you feel after every session. Focusing on the sense of accomplishment received after a workout will help initiate future ones.
2. Eat Well
If a healthy diet can energize and fuel you, so can an unhealthy diet make you sluggish, inflamed and uncomfortable. Heavy carbs and sugary foods might seem appealing because they give you a jumpstart; but unfortunately this is always followed by a significant crash in both mood and energy. Additionally, ensuring you’re eating every meal, getting enough minerals and vitamins (especially Vitamin B12 and Omega-3 Fatty Acids) will help stabilize you both mentally and physically. Consulting with a nutritionist - especially those with a holistic, lifestyle approach like A New View - could help you develop a depression-slaying diet that will naturally boost your mood!
3. Stay Connected
Regardless of whether you’re a flaming extrovert or a wall-flower introvert, connecting with people is a necessity embedded in our DNA. Isolating ourselves from meaningful and intimate human connection can drive us further into a depressive state. We were never designed to be alone, and if you’re prone to feeling this way, take it as a signal to associate with a more uplifting, inclusive crowd and seek out individuals that feed this primitive need we all have. It is not a sign of weakness to want connection, it is a sign of humanness.
4. Prioritize Sleep
Depression preys on feelings of exhaustion, inadequacy, confusion and an overall fog - all sensations we experience when we haven’t slept an adequate amount. Expecting to function at our optimal state and achieve our ambitions while fighting fatigue is unrealistic and further propels us into a state of frustration and eventual depression. Prioritizing sleep can be difficult - especially if you struggle with a running brain that doesn’t like turning off (even if you’re tired). Some ways to improve your sleep include :
Shut off screens 30 minutes before bed
Don’t snack within 90 minutes of sleep
Make a list of things to remember for tomorrow
Reduce light and noise 30 minutes before bed
Meditate before falling asleep
5. Get Outside
You don’t have to be David Attenborough to appreciate the benefits of Mother Nature. In fact, the less time you’ve spent outside the quicker you’ll be to see the unbelievable influence it has over your mood and energy levels. Being outside (especially in quiet, natural spaces) can help you widen your tunnel focus and thus reduce stress in significant amounts. Away from noise and city pollution, clarity and peace can be gained, while rich clean oxygen can be inhaled, nourishing both mind and body. Feeling like your time might be limited in incorporating all these elements of health into your life? Exercise outdoors to kill two birds with one stone! You can find all the inspiration you’ll need to get starting right here.
Remember, change is a process. While these strategies have been a source of positive influence for many, it is the sustained application that leads to the best results. Recruit friends and family to accompany you on this journey and be kind and gentle with yourself as you evolve into the best you can be.
Written By Savannah Holmes.