7 Alternative Therapies for Depression

As I discussed last month, depression is the yin to anxiety’s yang. Between these two troublemakers, they’ve got dark clouds hanging over both the past and the future, making the present moment complicated at best (and for some people unbearable). Taken as a human composite, it’s an unfortunate trade-off for being cognitively complex. As individuals, however, we naturally just want a solution. The problem is, there’s just so many confounding factors surrounding depression that it’s hard to know where to start. Your mind is an infinitely complex latticework of moving parts; one which continues to baffle and divide the scientific community. How does a practitioner prescribe suitable treatments for a problem they don’t fully comprehend? And, yet, medical science often (and perhaps inevitably) works with incomplete information.  The result is a suite of antidepressant drugs that may be effective in treating certain aspects of depression in certain people, but which also present a suite of their own often-debilitating problems. It doesn’t mean these approaches don’t have their value. I recognize that for some, these medications may be live saving or sustaining. For others, they offer support through acute or overwhelming times or, in still other cases, give a leg up while other interventions have the chance to take hold. My purpose here isn’t to suggest people give these drugs and other conventional treatments the boot. I see this post as a dialogue that offers supplementary strategies to augment any assigned treatment. It can hopefully be or contribute to a toolbox that moves beyond the scope of simple self-care into research-supported territory. And while they’re likely more effective for mild to moderate depression, I think it’s fair to say that no one should write off the therapeutic benefits of healthy lifestyle measures for their overall treatment program. In that spirit, let me offer the genuine caveat: any folks under medical care for any condition (depression or otherwise) should consult their medical professional before making any change in their treatment plan. But you knew that already. Exercise There’s definitely some dead horse flogging here, but if I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times: exercise is a must for rebalancing mental health. Last week, I discussed how the “feel good” hormone serotonin, a sworn enemy of depression, can be increased via exercise. This is achieved by motor neurons promoting the synthesis and release of serotonin, and by encouraging production of tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin. All well and good, but which exercise is best for fighting depression? Older thinking has always privileged aerobic exercise when it comes to mental health. This study, for example, notes that “BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) by aerobic exercise appears to ameliorate hippocampal atrophy, improve memory function, and reduce depression.”   But while a good bout of cardio is certainly beneficial for elevating mood, studies that examine a range of exercise forms suggest that certain types may be better. An experiment that investigated the effects of aerobics, bodybuilding, and circuit training on 45 depressed patients showed that bodybuilding was the clear winner … Continue reading 7 Alternative Therapies for Depression