As a psychiatrist, I specialize in pharmacotherapy. However, non-medication treatments are also an essential part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Here are seven non-medication treatments for depression and anxiety:
1)Exercise—Pick any exercise that you enjoy. Hopefully one that regularly exposes you to sunlight, fresh air, and the company of others. Consistent exercise has profoundly beneficial effects on our physical and emotional well-being. By exercising outdoors, we gain the added benefit of exposure to sunlight, which naturally elevates our mood by regulating our circadian rhythms and increasing our body’s production of Vitamin D3 and serotonin.
2)Meditation—Mediation helps to quiet our over-active and fearful thought patterns. Numerous studies have documented how meditation naturally increases levels of our feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin while also decreasing levels of harmful brain chemicals like cortisol.
3) Skip the small talk—Seven years ago researchers found a positive correlation between meaningful conversation and happiness. The happiest people in their study engaged in a third of the small talk and twice as much meaningful conversation as unhappy participants. Don’t try this with strangers, it will only feel awkward. Start by being intentional and less superficial in your communication with friends and family.
4)Eat healthy— Our brains are 60 percent fat by dry weight. Diets low in healthy omega-3 essential fatty acids and high in trans-fats are linked to depression. Healthy fats can be found in nuts, avocados, coconuts, salmon, and tuna.
5)Get a healthy night’s sleep—Sleep is essential for our well-being and functioning. Depression and anxiety can rob us of a good night’s rest. Investing in healthy sleep habits starts by avoiding naps, establishing a regular sleep schedule, avoiding reading or watching electronic devices in bed, and restricting late evening use of caffeine or alcohol.
6)Cultivate an attitude of gratitude—Gratitude and appreciation help to shift the fear based mental patterns of depression and anxiety to more hopeful and proactive mind sets. A study conducted by a University of Pennsylvania researcher revealed that writing down three positive events each day for a week resulted in higher levels of happiness for up to six months. To re-word a phrase made popular by the singer Bobby McFerrin, “Don’t worry, be grateful!”
7)Therapy—Psychotherapy is probably one of the most well-researched and proven ways to treat depression and anxiety with or without medications. Psychotherapists are available to assist you through a variety of treatment models including Cognitive Behavioral, Psychodynamic, Interpersonal, and Solution Focused Therapies. Therapy is a collaborative process that I strongly recommend to anyone experiencing anxiety and depression.
I hope that this blog has been helpful. Please feel free to provide feedback or suggestions for future blog topics. I am here to help.
Mark Cheltenham, M.D.