Over the years, I’ve had to find my own natural remedies for depression. I have been struggling with depression on and off from the beginning of my teen years until now, and it’s something that I expect to continue, unfortunately, though it has gotten better. I have never taken medication for it (and I have zero judgment on anyone who has; that just hasn’t been my path).
One word of wisdom: Some of these natural remedies for depression are things you are not going to want to do, if you are already really down. I really can empathize, and I want to give you some tough love. Just make yourself do them. You will feel better if you make yourself do some of these things, more than once. I have learned to just force myself to go through these steps when I’m deep in it because I know that they work.
Here’s my round-up of the best natural remedies for depression that have worked for me.
This one is number one for a reason. It’s probably the thing that has helped me the most when I’m feeling really out of sorts.
I always feel positive and connected to my body when I leave the gym, come back from a hike, or finish a swim.
The thing that becomes the most challenging is to get yourself to start, but once I exercise 1 or 2 times while I’ve been depressed, it becomes much easier to get myself to go because I really feel the difference. I think the mind benefits immensely from a happy, well-oxygenated body, and finishing a workout is like a shot of oxygen radiating through the body.
It also makes me feel connected to something (when I’m depressed I start feeling like I’m not connected to anything) and having a break from thinking about things. If you’re struggling to get yourself to break into it, start with a walk around your neighborhood and move up from there.
2. Eat Well.
Similarly to exercise, I think we have a lot better chance of being mentally healthy the more we are physically healthy.
Our emotions mostly spring from perceiving external stimulus (the world going on around us), but there are also a lot of things going on chemically in the body that play a role (I’m thinking hormone imbalances, properly functioning neurotransmitters, oxygen supply to all of our cells, and energy levels, just to name a few).
A lot of those things depend on our body maintaining balance and functionality, which have a lot to do with the nutrients we consume through our diet. The better we feed our body, the better it can do its job in performing its functions and regulating all the complex shit going on inside.
3. Stay Busy.
This one may sound a little like I’m saying you should run away from your problems, and I sort of am. When I start sliding downward, I try to keep myself doing something all the time and avoid having idle time that will make me feel stagnated and paralyzed if I let myself indulge in it.
I know the depressed feelings are there, but I just try to stay a little bit ahead of them so they can’t settle on me (picture a bird trying to land on your shoulder while you keep pacing around a room – you’re definitely aware of the bird, but you’ll be damned if you let him roost on you. Weird image, I know). If I do this for long enough, the depressed feelings sort of melt away, because I don’t give them a chance to impact my behavior and momentum.
4. Stay Social.
Don’t let yourself become isolated from your friends and family. For a lot of you, this may really feel like you’re going against a very strong impulse, but trust me when I say you’ve got to fight the temptation to hunker down for days and weeks.
Put yourself out there. Go meet your friends for dinner when they invite you instead of coming up with an excuse, even though all you want to do is lay in bed while your room gets dark and then order a pizza and eat the entire thing.
Make. Your. Self. Go. The longer you avoid people, the harder it is to jump back into the social scene.
Also, the longer you don’t engage socially and keep coming up with excuses for people as to why you can’t hang out, the more likely it will be that you’ll get fewer invitations.
People will take the hint, and that can be damaging for you because it gives you “proof” that people don’t really like you, you don’t have any meaningful relationships, or insert here whatever story you might tell yourself that will just make everything worse.
5. Clean the House.
This one is simple, but useful, and kills two birds with one stone (possibly 3).
Cleaning the house will keep you busy (tip #3), make it easier for you to invite friends over (tip #4), and having a clean, orderly environment will help you feel a little more at ease. It always brings me peace of mind.
I have been told before that I’m like a chameleon in terms of my ability to match the vibe of different social groups, but I think the same can be true for physical spaces. When my home and my space is clean, I match the vibe and feel serene.
6. Use Essential Oils.
For any of you who don’t know already, I’m a big fan of essential oils. I use them topically on my wrists, the nape of my neck, my chest, and the soles of my feet most often. I also diffuse them pretty constantly.
If I need a special boost, I just take a moment with one of my bottles, hold it under my nose, and just take several deep breaths.
My favorites for depression specifically are citrus oils, like wild orange, lemon, and lemongrass. I also love Elevation, which is a doTERRA blend (I ONLY use doTERRA oils because they are the highest quality oils on the market and I know I can trust them – I have several family members that work for them on their sourcing).
7. Get Dressed and Make Your Bed.
These may seem trivial, but for me they make a huge difference.
When I am depressed, if I don’t get dressed by 9am, there’s an 85% chance I won’t get dressed at all that day, which usually means I will not have left the house and I will not have gotten anything done, and I will likely not have left my bed.
So you see, it all starts with acting as if I’m planning on doing something with my day by getting dressed that is crucial.
Another crucial factor – making my bed so I can’t get back in it and lie there all day long. I will do that. I have done it. For days. It just makes things worse.
If I make the bed, I may feel the urge to crawl back into it, but the neat covers remind me that I had other intentions for myself and my day, and makes it a little easier to give myself a little momentum.
8. Make Sure You Leave the House.
I have REALLY noticed that my mental health suffers when I go the whole day (or several days) without leaving my apartment. Come up with a reason, any reason, to go out if you haven’t been out all day.
Sometimes it’s just a quick trip to the store to get one item, but it’s worth the trip because it keeps me from holing up too much and feeling disconnected from the world.
Sometimes I don’t even have one solitary errand that needs running, and in that case I take a walk around my neighborhood. This is doubly good because you get some fresh air and your body gets a little exercise. As I mentioned in tip #1, walking is also an excellent way to work yourself up to some other more vigorous exercises.
A change of scenery will remind you of everything that’s out there in the world that’s worthwhile. It’s far too easy to start feeling like there ‘aint much worth anything if you haven’t had any human interaction for days and all you’ve been looking at are the four walls of your room.
9. Go For A Day Drive.
Once you’ve mastered a trip to the store, it’s time to expand and level up.
The next time you’re able, take a drive somewhere that’s close enough to get to and from comfortably in a day, but far enough away that you don’t go there often (or maybe you’ve never been there before) to feel like you’ve removed yourself from your day-to-day life.
Not only will you get a change of scenery and enjoy being reminded of all of the exciting and beautiful things in life, but you may also have some social interaction as well as get a reprieve from the sameness of your life, which for me really contributes to feeling stagnated.
10. Make A Mind List.
Make what I used to call a “mind list” in middle school. I would take a sheet of loose leaf lined paper, write “Mind List” at the top in messy ink (I always wrote these in pen), and jot down every little thing that was swimming around up there in the old noggin and vexing me.
Making a list allows for shorthand, and is therefore less daunting than journaling (you can just list an issue you’re having with someone, for example, without delving into all the nitty gritty – YOU know what you mean).
I always did these in pen because they would end up looking a hot mess, with things scribbled out and written hastily in my horrible handwriting, but I wanted it that way because when I looked at it, I felt it was an accurate representation of the hot mess inside.
In my experience, it has been just as cathartic to make these mind lists as it has been when I have journaled about things – maybe even more so because journaling requires you to dwell on things just for the reason that it’s more time consuming.
Lists also allow you to include the serious stuff (interpersonal issues) as well as the not so serious stuff (that package you STILL haven’t mailed) but nevertheless has a deleterious impact on your happiness. Most people wouldn’t put the less serious stuff in their journals.
Trust me, it feels good to get all of that stuff out – the struggles and the errands. And I have kept my mind lists in the past and looked back at them, sometimes finding them years later, and they become a time capsule of sorts.
11. Yep. I’m making a bonus tip.
This natural remedy for depression is sort of along the lines of tip #4 (staying busy), but it was useful and effective enough that I felt it deserved to be on its own: Start a project!
Having a goal to work toward and having to learn how to do things is an awesome way to keep the blues at bay. Pinterest is a GREAT place for that, as is Instructables.
Find something that makes you excited and try it out. Those feelings are the ones you want to uncover, and working on something consistently could give you something to look forward to and a way to feel excited consistently.
That’s my round-up for my go-to remedies in my own, ongoing struggle with depression. Please leave a comment or send me a message with YOUR go-to remedies or ways of combating depression and keeping your spirits up!
Until next time,
P.S. You may also like my post about essential oil diffuser blends you can make for any mood.