Many people suffer from depression at some time in their lives. For some, this may be a transient problem that emerges in response to a traumatic life event. Others must cope with extended periods of depressed mood for no apparent reason throughout their lives. As treatment for symptoms, many people are prescribed conventional medications and therapy; others find that changes in lifestyle provide the relief that they need. Here is a guide to some of the most common conventional and natural treatments for depressed mood.
Therapy sessions with a trained counselor is often one of the first avenues taken by depressed individuals in search of treatment. Methods used in these sessions may vary, but they all can give patients better insight into what is causing their melancholy and how they can tackle it.
Drugs prescribed to depressed patients basically work by increasing levels of mood neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, in the brain. Over time, these drugs can reset a depressed patient's mood to allow him or her to get out of this rut. Unfortunately, these medications do not work for about half of the patients who try them. For those who do find relief, it may be short-lived. Because of this, many people turn to natural methods, such as diet and exercise, that provide longer-lasting benefits.
Studies performed in the 1970s and 1980s showed that people who exercised were less likely to be depressed or to experience depressed mood in the future. In a 1999 study, Duke University scientists showed that depressed patients who engaged in regular aerobic exercise experienced symptomatic improvements equal to those seen in patients who had taken a prescription antidepressant.
Studies have found that milder forms of exercise, such as walking, work just as well as more strenuous forms of exercise to reduce patients' symptoms. Just 30 minutes of walking each day is enough to drive the blues away and reduce melancholy in the future. Some researchers say that part of how exercise fights depressed mood is that it gives patients feelings of self-ownership and control as they do something positive for their bodies and minds.
Strength training is another excellent form of exercise for treating depressed mood. Harvard researchers discovered that just ten weeks of regular strength training improved depressed patients' symptoms more than counseling. This form of exercise increases endorphins to enhance pleasure, norepinephrine to give excitation and serotonin to support contentment. Patients who want to improve their moods with strength training should allow time for muscles to recover between workouts. This can vary for each individual, but in general, the same muscle should never be trained more than once a week.
Balanced Diet for Treating Depressed Mood
Individuals who are depressed should take care to get plenty of protein, which contains amino acids that support mood. Low-fat diets are huge contributors to low mood, so patients should be sure to get plenty of healthy fats in their diets. Omega-3 fatty acids, present in large amounts in salmon and other fatty fish, have been shown to successfully treat depressed mood in several studies. Finally, depressed patients should not avoid carbohydrates, which are required for the body to make relaxation-inducing serotonin.
Although everyone needs carbohydrates, depressed patients may want to avoid refined carbohydrates and white sugar. These foods spike blood sugar and cause it to fall later, resulting in low mood, anxiety and irritability. Over time, the cyclical problems caused by regular consumption of refined carbohydrates can easily mimic clinical depression.
Along with getting plenty of exercise and eating a balanced diet, depressed individuals may want to take a look at their lifestyles to see what other improvements can be made to help them feel better. It can be easy to fall into a rut over time and become dependent on medications and expensive treatments to feel better. Finally, if natural treatments fail to resolve symptoms, there is no shame in taking medications if they successfully resolve one's symptoms.
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