If you struggle with feelings of depression or anxiety, there are many natural remedies to help yourself heal. Often depression is a signal that something in your life is out of balance (it could be physical, emotional, spiritual, or a combination of all three). Depression and anxiety affect so many of us, and are certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Instead, consider this your intuition at work, offering you an opportunity to get to know yourself better, and prioritize your well being.
Top Natural Remedies for Depression & Anxiety
Of course, plenty of sleep, exercise and a healthy, whole-foods diet have a direct impact on your mental state. But there is so much more you can do to bring yourself comfort and deep healing. Here are the best natural remedies for depression & anxiety. They work beautifully on their own for mild cases, and offer the perfect complement traditional treatments. These approaches empower you to heal your life as a whole, so give yourself permission to explore them all.
Meditation made the list as the first natural remedy for depression because of its life changing benefits. Have you ever felt a wave of depression or anxiety come over you out of nowhere? When these feelings steal your joy, it can be difficult to recover. That’s where meditation comes in.
Meditation is the practice of strengthening your mind by stopping your thoughts. When you’re first starting out, it can be difficult to keep a clear mind for more than a few seconds. But this is a skill that can gets easier with practice, just like strengthening a muscle. As you learn to master your own mind, you’ll more easily be able to redirect your thoughts down a healthier path in moments when you need it most. Studies by Harvard Health and Compare Camp show that meditating regularly helps:
- lower anxiety and stress levels
- improve sleep
- reduce symptoms of post traumatic stress
- increase attention span
- boost mindfulness
- improve memory
If you’re just getting started, you may prefer a guided meditation like this 5 minute body scan. Or, you can stare at a candle flame, or just close your eyes and focus on your breath. Anywhere from five to fifteen minutes per day is plenty!
Emotional Freedom Tecnique (EFT)
EFT, or tapping, is the process of gently tapping pressure points of your body with your fingertips, while focusing on the topic that’s creating stress in your life. This process releases negative emotions, by helping stuck energy move through your meridians (energy pathways in the subtle body).
Tapping is all about acknowledging a problem and accepting yourself anyway.
A study by the National Library of Medicine found tapping to be highly effective for treating PTSD in war veterans. Plus, participants experienced a significant decrease in symptoms of depression and anxiety as well. If you’re brand new to tapping, you may want to work with a certified professional to start. Tapping can help ease:
- emotional trauma
Tapping is a great alternative to acupuncture if needles make you uncomfortable.
Supplements and Herbal Remedies
Vitamins for Mental Wellness
Sometimes a simple vitamin deficiency can put your emotions out of whack, especially in regions that get limited sunshine. A simple blood test will tell you if you’re deficient in any of the following, so don’t be afraid to ask your doctor. Here are some supplements for you to explore:
- Vitamin C is directly associated to mood. Studies show that as your consumption of this micronutrient goes up, depression levels go down. Did you know the onset of scurvy (a disease caused by Vitamin C deficiency) starts with feelings of depression? Work more fruits and veggies into your diet, or add a non-gmo Vitamin C supplement to your daily routine.
- Vitamin D deficiency is often found in people with depression. This study examined a sample of military service members exposed to similar stressors. They found that of those experiencing depression, over 20% of them were deficient in Vitamin D (often those stationed up north where there’s less sun). If you’re not getting sufficient levels of Vitamin D, try a supplement. This one is an organic chewable.
- Vitamin B12 is another essential vitamin for mental health. This study showed around 22% of depression victims suffered from B12 deficiency. B12 is often found in multivitamins, or you can grab some in liquid form.
Herbal Supplements for Mood Support
Herbal supplements have been used for ages to bring harmony to mind, body and spirit. Scientific studies, unfortunately, tend to focus on prescription drugs, since that’s a highly profitable industry. As a result, formal research is limited when it comes to herbal medicine. So give yourself permission to experiment with these (under the guidance of a holistic doctor or therapist as you see fit). I encourage you to only introduce one change at a time, and to journal your results so you know exactly what works best for your body.
- St John’s Wort is a European plant that produces beautiful yellow flowers. It’s been used throughout history as a natural anti-depressant. It has shown to improve mild to moderate cases of depression after about 8 weeks of use. It comes in capsule form and doesn’t require a prescription. This natural helper does a wonderful job of moving you out of stress mode, into relaxation response.
- Ginseng helps regulate your hormones in times of stress. So adding this supplement to your wellness routine can help your body better respond to situations that affect your mood. This study shows that ginseng actually suppresses stress hormone, which is a major cause of depression. Try it in powder form as a tea, or sprinkle it into smoothies.
- CBD, which is short for cannabidoil, comes from the stems, leaves, and flowers of the hemp plant (not from marijuana). CBD really shines when it comes to easing anxiety. According to Health Europe, receptors in your body recognize CBD and can leverage it to regulate your mood, appetite, memory, and pain levels. While I don’t have personal experience with this one, several of my clients have had success with Charlotte’s Web brand. CBD is not intoxicating and is even safe for children in appropriate doses.
Uplifting Essential Oils
Essential Oils like lavender, cedarwood, and bergamot uplift mood and can ease symptoms of depression. Just make sure you’re using organic, therapeutic grade oils (otherwise they have no healing properties). Add them to a diffuser or add a few drops to your bath for quick relief. You can also try this Stress & Anxiety nasal inhaler for quick, calming relief.
Floatation-REST (Reduced Environmental Stimulation Therapy) is quickly growing in popularity due to its physical and emotional benefits. Float tank facilities offer either open tubs or ‘tanks’ (kind of like a tanning bed) filled with warm water and Epsom Salts. There’s such a high volume of salt in the water that you’ll effortlessly float on your back. This allows you to totally let go and release all tension in your muscles. The room will be dark and quiet, to reduce sensory input to your nervous system. This womb-like environment promotes relaxation, reduces stress, and decreases physical pain.
If you’ve never visited a float center, and you’re a water person, give floating a try.
Reiki is a relaxation technique that reduces stress by balancing your energy. I’ve been offering reiki professionally since 2016, and have seen the transformation in my clients with regular sessions. Reiki offers a safe and quiet space to rest, reflect, and focus on yourself. It does a remarkable job of shifting your body from flight-flight-freeze into rest-response mode.
If you’ve never had a reiki session before, read the Reiki FAQs to learn what to expect. But in a nutshell, you’ll be in a space very similar to where you’d receive a massage. You’ll lie face up, fully clothed, on a massage table while your practitioner channels healing energy toward you (with little to no direct physical contact). Reiki focuses on balancing your seven chakras, which correspond to specific areas of your life.
Reiki benefits include:
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Heightened emotional awareness
- Reduced aches & pains
- Mind-body-spirit connection
- Clarity of spiritual path
Isn’t it a wonderful feeling to be warm? Infrared saunas can boost your immune system, uplift your mood and soothe anxiety. Infrared saunas are different from traditional saunas because they use light waves to penetrate your core and warm you from the inside out. This results in a deeper detox and greater healthy benefits, and lower temperatures. Health benefits of infrared sauna include:
- improved immunity
- weight loss
- boosts cardiovascular health
- stress reduction
- post-workout recovery
I decided by purchase an infrared sauna for my home and am so glad that I did! It’s become a soothing oasis from the stress of the world. Mine is the Maxxus, sized for two people and costs around $1500 including delivery (1-person saunas are less). With two people, it was a snap to setup. Having my own infrared sauna makes it so much easier to use it regularly, as opposed to going to a gym or spa – especially during COVID. Most of them come with lights and MP3 hookup so you can listen to relaxing music while you sweat.
Halotherapy, or salt therapy, involves spending 30-60 minutes in a ‘salt cave’ environment. These are man made structures, often in spas or float centers. Sometimes this is a large room for multiple people, other times you go into a one-person booth. Usually you’re surrounded by pink, Himalayan sea salt (the same substances used to make salt lamps). But the real benefits come from the tiny salt particles that are pumped into the air. When when you breath them in, they eliminate toxins and irritants from your respiratory system. Benefits of halotherapy include:
- skin healing
- reduced inflammation
- easier breathing
- uplifted mood
- allergy relief
- increased serotonin (feel-good hormone)
I wasn’t convinced this was going to provide any relaxation benefits when I tried it, but I ended up falling asleep about 10 minutes into my session! Does your salt lamp bring you a calming feeling? Imagine being a room made of salt – it’s effective. Google ‘salt therapy near me’ and see what you find.
Acupuncture is a form of Chinese medicine that works by moving stuck energy through your meridians (or energy pathways). A doctor gently taps needles into various acupressure points on your body, then you rest for 30-45 minutes once they’re all in place. Similar to reiki and tapping, the driving principle behind acupuncture is to balance your energy. Benefits of acupuncture are boundless, and can be used as a complementary treatment for:
- thyroid imbalance
- weakened immunity
- fertility issues
One study showed acupuncture offered significant relief to women suffering from major depressive disorder after pregnancy. Acupuncture is often covered by health insurance as a ‘specialist visit’. If needles don’t bother you, try a few sessions. Keep in mind that natural remedies need time to work, so commit yourself to multiple appointments, based on your practitioner’s recommendations.
Talking to a trusted professional can go a long way when it comes to relieving depression. When seeking a therapist, consider someone who takes a holistic approach to your wellness. It’s becoming increasingly common to find certified professionals working in yoga studios and other holistic wellness centers. Look for someone who can guide you toward wellness practices that will enrich your life, in addition to one-on-one therapy work. Check your local listings and follow your intuition while selecting your healing space
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