Non-Pharmaceutical Methods to Help Depression and Anxiety

Mind and body are so connected that an impact on one necessarily impacts the other. Below are suggestions to help you  to employ non-pharmaceutical methods to improve depression and anxiety. If you are able to make two or three of these adjustments to your lifestyle, you are likely to feel better within seven days. I know you will not be able to do them all at once - in fact I don't recommend that you even try. Small changes can have big payoffs and are most likely to be continued. Pick one change from each category to start and monitor your progress. Remember to choose something that is achievable given your special circumstances.

Emotional Self-Care

  1.  Touch has been shown to decrease depression and ease anxiety. Thus, seek hugs or gentle touch from family, friends or pets one or more times per day beyond what you normally do now. Dance, handholding and massage also work. If there is no one in your life to seek touch from then seek out supportive people to spend time with or to call. You needn't discuss your problems - the goal is to increase your contact with positive people. Support groups and invitations to lunches or dinners with friends you haven't seen in a while are possible sources.
  2. Express emotions appropriately - acknowledge  and validate what you are feeling to yourself and/or others. Avoid explaining or justifying the feeling - just let it exist - even watch it float by on a cloud.
  3. Each mealtime ask yourself what emotions you are having at that moment - happy, mad, sad, glad, guilty, anxious, scared. . . Be specific.
  4.  Laugh – Belly laughs are the best

Thoughts and Actions

Try one of the following non-pharmaceutical methods for relaxation anal stress reduction:

  1.  meditation for then minutes in the morning and again in the evening
  2. Quiet time for 15 minutes one to two times per day
  3. Get more sleep - go to bed one half hour earlier or sleep one half hour longer in the Morning (best to get 7 or more hours of sleep per night if you can fit it in).
  4. Daily, STOP for 5-10 minutes and NOTICE what is around you. Change thinking habits:
  5. Whenever you do any of these suggestions, notice the difference. Consciously ask yourself, "Do I feel different after (meditating, being quiet, sleeping longer, exercising, eating differently, talking with friends.)?
  6. Before going to sleep each day list THREE positive events or occurrences during the day
  7. While driving, list THREE positive aspects about you or THREE things that you did that you are proud of.
  8.  Notice what you are saying to yourself about yourself - talk to yourself as you would talk to your best friend.  - Can be combined with the quiet time 'Emotions are happy, mad, sad, glad, scared, guilty - not what you think - but your internal sensations General recommendations:

Diet and Sunlight

  1.  Try to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables per day - fresh and unprocessed is preferred but not necessary. If this is too much of a diet change, try adding just one additional serving of a vegetable and one additional serving of a fruit to your usual diet daily. Add one more of each weekly until the five servings are reached. Then maintain more days than not.
  2. Be aware of how, much refined sugar you are taking in - less is best.
  3. Reduce or eliminate caffeine and other stimulants - but not allot once. Mix decaf with caffeinated coffee or soda, gradually increasing the proportion of decaf.
  4. Avoid tea (herbal is okay).
  5. Reduce or eliminate alcohol, marijuana or other prescribed drugs.
  6. Get at least 20-90 minutes of sunlight a day.  20 minutes if very fair-skinned, and 90 if very dark-skinned.  Vitamin D is activated in your skin through sunlight.  Vitamin D helps with a myriad of symptoms related to depression.

Body Motion

Exercise is one of the crucial Non-Pharmaceutical Methods to help depression and anxiety and improving your mood but it does not have to be a "work-out”. It is enough to get your heart beating a little faster for 20 minutes per day. Some suggestions are:

  • walking
  • swimming
  • riding (horses or motorcycles)
  • vacuuming or sweeping
  • stretching
  • yoga
  • move to music
  • exercise with an exercise video tape

Some of these non-pharmaceutical methods of reducing stress and anxiety can be done on lunch hours or breaks, if your time is limited.  By getting 20 minutes of exercise outside will also get your 20 minutes of vitamin D as well.


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