So how do you get better from depression? It depends on what is causing your depression and how severe it is.
In all cases, when we approach treating depression we start with these natural depression treatments:
Unstructured time is not your friend when you are struggling with depression. It’s good to have a schedule and stick to it.
Depression tends to zap motivation, so it’s easy just to drift on cruise control. Accomplishing even small simple goals will help keep you moving forward. Start small, like getting out of bed when the alarm goes off, then making your bed.
Exercise is the best research-supported homeopathic treatment for depression that we know of. Physical exercise metabolizes (breaks down) stress hormones in the body and helps wash them out through your sweat and urine. It also helps boost brain chemistry and leaves you with a sense of accomplishment. It cannot be overstated how much this one thing, exercise, will improve depression. This exercise doesn’t have to be hardcore; it just needs to be enough to get your blood pumping, muscles working, and joints activated. Working with a trainer or friend for accountability is very helpful.
Your brain is an organ. It requires fuel to function. If you are not feeding your body good foods, your brain lacks the resources it needs to function well.
Get Enough Sleep
In some countries sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture. Go long enough without sleep, and you die. God made your body to need sleep. Your brain especially needs sleep to recuperate. If you are not getting adequate sleep, and it’s not simply due to lack of self-discipline, you might need a sleep study done by a doctor or a prescription that helps you fall or stay asleep. Start though, with these practical troubleshooting steps:
- Plan to be asleep 8 hours before you need to wake.
- Shut off all media (including putting your phone on airplane mode) an hour before you need to be asleep.
- Do some light stretching to help work the stress hormones out of your muscles (muscle tension interferes with sleep). Progressive muscle relaxation can be done to accomplish this also.
- Use a note pad to do some prayer journaling, writing out all your woes before the Lord.
- Take a hot bath or shower to relax muscles.
- Drinking some soothing, caffeine free, herbal tea. Both Chamomile and Lavender have a reputation for soothing.
- Listen to instrumental music.
- Read something entertaining.
- Take an over the counter sleep aid, like Melatonin or Unisom (both are non-habit forming, unlike some prescription sleep aids).
- Get in bed and turn the lights out 15 minutes before you need to be asleep.
- Use a fan or sound machine to block out distracting noises that could interfere with the mind allowing itself to be lulled into sleep.
When you are struggling with depression the tendency is to shut-down and withdraw. You have to resist this. Stay connected with responsibilities at work and church. Force yourself to engage socially with your friends and do activities that are fun. You may have to work hard at having fun, but the effort is worth it.
Challenge Negative Thinking
All therapy for depression spends time evaluating the internal dialogue you have with yourself. Our thoughts are powerful influencers over our mood and brain chemistry. Learning to master your thought life and bring it into submission to the Truth of Scripture is a powerful component of treatment. The book by Christian author William Backus, Telling Yourself the Truth, can be a helpful tool for learning how to do this.
Chronic and/or acute stress often plays a significant role in depression. Part of good depression treatment is identifying the stressors in your life and learning how to address them in a healthy way.
Severe/Chronic Major Depression/Medication
If your depression is severe or chronic due to genetic predisposition, it’s likely the only way to get out of the depression is to help the brain chemically. While changes in diet, exercise, lifestyle, self-talk, etc. will certainly help – they likely will not change your brain chemistry sufficiently to keep you out of depression.
I hate wearing glasses and contacts. It’s super annoying. But, I like being able to see. So, I’m thankful that God has inspired the invention of these tools that make seeing, possible for me. I don’t consider it a personal weakness or a failure of character that the biology of my eyes requires outside assistance to allow me to function as intended (if it weren’t for sin in the world).
It’s not a sign of weakness, spiritual or otherwise if your brain requires assistance to keep its chemistry in healthy order. That’s a lie from the enemy used to keep people trapped.
There are no “happy pills.” Medication won’t change your circumstances or make your life problem free. It won’t even necessarily make you feel good.
What effective depression treatment using medication will do is get your brain chemistry to its normal levels, so you can make decisions and take action to improve your life. It will untie the cinder block from your arm, giving back your full capacities with which to navigate your life.