First of all, I would like to be very clear about the following: I have absolutely nothing against anti-depressant medications. In fact, I take one daily for my own anxiety. It helps a great deal, and I am very thankful to have it.
However, as most people who struggle with depression and anxiety are aware, medication alone does not constitute a complete treatment plan.
These disorders are powerful, and we need to be using every tool at our disposal. While medication is a useful one, it is by no means the only answer.
Some people choose to forgo medication, using more holistic methods as a substitute. Others, like myself, choose to benefit from both approaches. How you treat your anxiety or depression is a very personal choice, and an effective treatment plan will rarely look the same for two people.
Even if you choose the holistic way, ALWAYS talk to a professional first, your mental and physical health should not be taken lightly.
Here are six non-medical options to consider as you treat your anxiety, depression or other mood disorder:
1. Connect with nature.
One of the most powerful tools in maintaining our mental health is all around us – and it’s free. Choosing to spend time outdoors has been scientifically proven to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Swim in a lake. Hike through the woods. Nurture a garden on your windowsill. Paint the sunset. Find a way to embrace the outdoors that feels healing to you.
2. Get in touch with your spiritual side.
Many people are able to find meaning, purpose, and a strong sense of community in their church home. However, spirituality is different for everyone. If organized religion is not for you, there are many other ways to engage with your spirituality. Astronomy, meditation, philosophy, prayer, and mindfulness can all be useful tools in building this connection. The point is to find something bigger than yourself that you believe in.
3. Make physical health a priority.
This is truly difficult to do in the midst of depression. However, if you can manage even small steps, you will find the results to be well worth it. Many vitamin deficiencies are associated with depression, as well as other conditions that can add to the misery. Exercise has also been proven to boost our mental health tremendously. Don’t worry, you don’t need to turn into Jillian Michaels. Eating an apple and taking a short walk can help more than you would think.
4. Get creative.
Journaling has been proven to be a powerful tool in creating and maintaining good mental health. However, not everyone feels natural expressing themselves verbally. Find a method that speaks to you. Write a song. Paint a picture. Keep an art journal. Creative projects help your brain to process difficult emotions in a healthy way. Often, in doing this, you will discover layers to your feelings you didn’t know existed.
5. Figure out who is driving your life.
Are you chasing your own dreams, or are you living your life to please others? Examine your career, your lifestyle, and your personal choices. Are they truly your own? Or do they belong to your parents? Your spouse? Society in general? Taking ownership of your own life requires a lot of courage. You may disappoint some people you care for deeply – but they have their own lives to live. Yours belongs exclusively to you.
6. Unplug yourself.
Most of us spend far too much time hooked into our computers. Excessive computer use – and social media in particular – has been scientifically proven to destroy our mental health. Using these websites can decrease our self-esteem, weaken our real-life social connections, and even lead to social media addiction. Try engaging in a digital detox – even just for a day – and see how much better you feel.
“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them — every day begin the task anew,” wrote Saint Francis de Sales.