It’s not uncommon to feel sad or unmotivated on occasion. Most everyone experiences at least one short-lived episode of depression.
Daily life stressors, illness, relationship or work problems and financial worries, even bouts of overcast weather, can take a toll on a person’s perky and positive mood.
People diagnosed with depression report mental and physical symptoms, most commonly feeling sad and lethargic, losing interest in things they used to enjoy, withdrawing from others, bouts of unexplained crying and moodiness, and low energy or sleeping excessively for more than two weeks.
While there is no conclusive evidence that natural and alternative medicine is effective for severe depressive disorders, research has shown promise for milder forms of depression. This includes everything from yoga and meditation to herbal supplements, mental conditioning, cognitive behavioral therapy and light and music therapy.
Breathe in uplifting aromas: Essential oils, whether diffused, used in massage or a relaxing bath, may promote relaxation and help relieve stress, anxiety, insomnia and other mood fluctuations that often accompany depression. Some of the best essential oils for depression include:
- Bergamot – Uplifts the spirit and helps with feelings of pain, anxiety, depression, and sadness
- Lavender –This popular, cure-all helps minimize fear, anxiety, depression, and other mood and nervous disorders with its calming and relaxing effect on body and mind
- Frankincense – Helps to slow down breathing, which helps to reduce feelings of fear, nervous tension, stress, and anxiety
- Ylang ylang – Its relaxing scent balances male and female energies, restores confidence and equilibrium and can be used for insomnia, anxiety, and depression
- Clary sage – Known for its uplifting and euphoric actions, it can clear a bad mood, promote sleep, and alleviate anxiety and depression
- Basil – Uplifting, refreshing scent that works against depression, fatigue and anxiety
- Geranium – Helps to lift the spirit, release negative emotions, and ease symptoms of depression and stress
- Roman Chamomile – Calming and relaxing for body and mind, it is often recommended for depression and stress
- Rose – This delightful fragrance stimulates the nervous system and promotes a feeling of well-being
- Sandalwood – A comforting scent with sedative properties to ease tension and create inner calm
Most citrus essential oils, including lemon myrtle, lemon balm, lime, tangerine, and sweet orange, are energizing, refreshing and help to uplift the spirits. They are recommended to ease feelings of panic, anger, irritation, and nervousness. Citrus essential oils can cause skin irritation and should be diluted with a carrier oil if applied directly to the skin.
Break a sweat, blow off steam: Countless studies have shown the benefits of regular exercise to combat depression. Exercise helps increase energy, reduce stress and boost mood, perhaps by altering the mood-regulating brain chemicals norepinephrine and serotonin and releasing endorphins. It also helps you sleep better, cope with stress and generally supports every function and organ in the body. It’s great for heart health, circulation, weight management and self-esteem. Something as simple as a 20-minute walk each day is a safe, effective and easy way to improve your health and mindset.
It is thought fragrances in the oils stimulate nerves in the nose, which send impulses to areas of the brain that control memory and emotion. Depending on the type of oil, it may have a calming or stimulating effect. It is believed the oils act on hormones and enzymes to cause changes in blood pressure, pulse, mood and other body functions. There is limited scientific evidence to support claims that aromatherapy effectively prevents or cures illness, but it has been has been practiced in Europe since the early 1900s.
Renew hobbies, ask for help: Many people isolate themselves during a depressive episode. Being around people and staying active can help. Go to a movie, read a book, take a nature walk or invite a friend to event or activity that you once enjoyed. Set realistic goals and break up large tasks into smaller ones to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Tell a friend or family member about your struggles or find a trusted counselor to help restructure negative thought patterns and behaviors. Try to focus on positive thinking and avoid destructive habits, such as turning to drugs or alcohol to cope.
‘Om’ your way to a better mood: Meditation and yoga can help calm the mind and promote relaxation, which has been found to be helpful for depression. Research suggests meditation may help prevent depression relapse after initially being treated with medication.
Yoga involves physical postures, breathing and stretching to relieve stress and boost stamina, as well as balance hormones and other body systems. Progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, acupuncture and regular massage have also shown promise in reducing depression, suggesting when the body is relaxed, the mind also can relax, contributing to better health, less depression and overall well-being.
Light it up, play music, create art: Light therapy is an effective alternative for those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, especially in areas with excessive cloud coverage or during the short, dark days of winter. Art and music therapy also have been shown to be effective, non-drug approaches for people of all ages to reduce feelings of fear, anxiety, stress, or negative thoughts. Consider it a natural tranquilizer and mood stabilizer for the human spirit. Art and writing provide a creative outlet to release negative emotions. Music therapy is as simple as listening to music that matches your personal needs, mood and energy level, whether that’s sounds of ocean waves, classical music or upbeat rock. Get up and dance – even better!
Don’t forget diet, dehydration, caffeine, food intolerances and low blood sugar all can trigger mood swings, irritation and symptoms of depression. A good probiotic may be necessary for people with food intolerances and digestive issues, since the gut plays such a critical role in serotonin production. Certain foods trigger inflammation in the body, and its response can range from hives to lethargy and brain drain. Some people are sensitive to all stimulants that raise dopamine levels, including caffeine, and the coffee or soda roller coaster can cause agitation, shaking and lead to adrenal fatigue.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent disease. The FDA does not regulate dietary supplements or essential oils as treatment for any illness. Consult with your primary care physician, Ayurvedic practitioner or naturopathic doctor for medical advice and possible side effects or drug interactions.