Though anti-depressants are a certified way of treating depression in individuals, they may in fact in many cases not be completely necessary. Today, depression and other similar disorders affect roughly 1 in 4 people and it’s all too easy for a doctor to write a prescription for a happy pill the moment someone shows a few signs of it.

Instead of relying on anti-depressants, we should be encouraging individuals to make active life changes that will help them overcome their condition. This article is not meant to undermine the traditional treatment options available, but to illustrate that they are but one of many routes available to those suffering from mild-to-moderate depression.

Introspection

Though depression is often a symptom of some sort of biochemical imbalance, this is not always the case. If you’re feeling low, you should take a deep look at your life, more specifically the way you are living it and try to find some fixes of your own. Do you find your job meaningful or rewarding? Are you lacking people in your life? Are all the pressures of the modern world taking their toll? Are you overweight or unfit?

All these questions have answers and it’s only until you face the problems in your life that you can fully rectify them. You must be honest with yourself and once you’ve found the root causes for your low mood, it’s only then can you put them straight.

Exercise

There is arguably no better treatment for low mood than regular exercise. Regular exercise has shown to increase endorphins (feel good hormones) in our body. It’s about the feeling you get after completing some sort of strenuous exercise, what’s come to be known as ‘runner’s high’ that can give individuals a positive outlook on life.

Eat Well

The importance of a balanced diet with regards to both our physical and mental health can never be underestimated. You should refrain from skipping meals and equally make sure you are not overeating too.
There are also plenty of foods which can enhance serotonin levels, acting in a similar fashion to drugs like Prozac. Foods that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and other fish are a great choice. Failing that, you should eat a high protein diet, especially foods with proteins high in tryptophan (which is metabolised into serotonin) such as spinach and soy based products. Fruits are also an excellent serotonin boosting food, and the best ones are: bananas, kiwis, pineapple, plantain, plums and tomatoes.

Supplementation

Though many people remain dubious about the effects of supplements, there too is more and more evidence showing their efficacy in helping to prevent various conditions, including depression.

Fish Oil (DHA/EPA) supplementation has shown in large scale studies to improve depressive symptoms. Additionally, there’s also some evidence that suggests a correlation that countries which eat a high amount of fish are less likely to have individuals with depression.

There are also numerous natural supplements you can take that work in a similar fashion as pharmaceutical drugs like Prozac.

  • 5-HTP – This naturally occurring amino acid, otherwise known as oxitripan converts directly to serotonin after ingestion. Doses can range anywhere from 50-300mg and up to three times a day. If you’re already taking an antidepressant it’s best to avoid this one and you should always consult your physician before self-prescribing.
  • St. John’s Wort – This herbal medicine can be taken at doses ranging from 300-600mg and up to three times a day. Standardized extracts can be bought over the counter.
  • SAM-e is short for S-adenosylmethionine and is a substance that can be found naturally in human, animal and plant cells. Dosages vary from 200mg twice a day to 600mg twice daily.
  • L-Theanine – L-theanine is an amino acid found in tea leaves that has shown in numerous studies to help relieve both depression and stress. A study in the November 2009 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition highlighted that individuals who drank at least 5 cups of green tea daily suffered less from depressive symptoms including stress and low-mood.

Vitamin D

If you’re stuck in the office all day, or generally don’t get outside much, now would be the best time to. Exposing yourself to sunlight is the best way you can boost your vitamin D levels. Having a deficiency in Vitamin D has been implicated in worsening depressive symptoms and may even be a root cause of depression itself! You can really never underestimate the importance of simple things such as how much sunlight you get. You should aim for roughly 15-30 mins of natural light each day. Failing this, you could buy a therapeutic light box or start Vitamin D supplementation.

As you can see there really are a whole variety of options when combating low-mood and depression. Though some individuals may certainly require pharmaceutical medication, especially if the imbalance is primarily biochemical, this really is not the end of the world. Like most mental conditions, depression often has numerous factors that can cause or exacerbate its progress and so it is important to address these issues before starting any formal treatment.