Alternative, complementary, and integrative are a few interchangeable terms you may notice being used on this subject. Maybe you’ve tried medication and psychotherapy but aren’t seeing the results you’d hoped and prayed for. Or maybe you’re the type of person who simply jives more with natural or eastern practices. Or maybe you’re just simply seeking that extra boost in your recovery from depression. Wherever you are on your journey, alternative therapies as treatments for depression have the ability to play an integral role in your healing if you let them.
As someone who’s experienced their own bouts with depression and also explores and studies these practices, I can undoubtedly say that they do work. One of the first imperative steps is having faith in their efficacy. And then committing. Committing to putting in the work. No matter how insignificant or daunting it may feel.
Alternative Treatments for Depression
What are Alternative Therapies?
Alternative therapies can be defined as treatments that are not classified as standard Western practices, such as medication and psychotherapy. These alternative disciplines range from diet to physical activities, mental conditioning to lifestyle practices. Some examples of alternative treatments for depression include herbal supplements, acupuncture, reflexology, exercise, meditation/breathwork, reiki, massage, guided imagery, and yoga. No alternative treatment claims to fully cure depression, but neither do Western medicines. Sometimes it’s about finding that perfect combination for your specific brain structure and physiology. And this may require some experimenting.
Herbal supplements have grown in popularity over the years. Many are opting for these remedies as treatments for depression instead of antidepressants. Curcumin, St. John’s Wort, saffron, SAM-e, and ginkgo biloba are among the most common products used. A small study comparing saffron to Prozac found they produced similar improvements. St. John’s Wort is effective in treating people with depression who have very mild cases. However, it comes with some unpleasant side effects. Ginkgo Biloba, on the other hand, has shown promise in improving memory and other brain functions. And finally, SAM-e may be just as effective as tricyclic antidepressants, research shows.
Acupuncture & Energy Healing
Acupuncture, an ancient Chinese practice, involves the insertion of fine needles into certain energy points of the body. Many believe that the human body is full of an invisible life-giving force called qi. If qi (pronounced chee) is blocked or deficient, it may cause imbalances in one’s physical or mental health. If you have an aversion to needles, this may not appeal to you in the slightest. However, I can assure you it’s essentially painless. The needles are so thin and hardly penetrate the skin. Find a practitioner with vast and adequate training, and I promise you will be in great hands.
Many individuals report a release of repressed emotions during the treatment. In fact, this is what makes acupuncture one of the best alternative treatments for depression. Reiki is another eastern practice with a similar philosophy. It is a Japanese energy healing technique that uses the hands to naturally activate the healing processes of the body. While these practices haven’t been proven to cure depression, using them as a complementary treatment option may be quite beneficial in your journey.
Diet & Exercise
Without daily physical activity and proper nutrition, you may not be giving yourself a fighting chance in the battle with depression. Exercise can help reduce depressive symptoms by naturally increasing serotonin. In fact, it can help lower stress, increase relaxation, and normalize sleep. The gut and brain are intrinsically linked, making diet an important key in maintaining good mental health. Eating a whole, healthy, and balanced diet may contribute to a reduction in depressive symptoms.
Meditation & Yoga
Meditation, yoga, and deep breathing have been life-changing practices for many who partake in them. Reducing stress and regulating the nervous system will undoubtedly have some impact on the brain and how it functions. A study on hatha yoga found that it does in fact alleviate depression symptoms and for the long term. Incorporating the physical benefits along with the intentional and mindful breathing of yoga can have profound effects. The breath anchors and connects you to the present moment. It dissolves the illusion that the mind, body, and soul are separate.
You are able to perform meditation in various ways. It leads to a deeper awareness. As you practice more regularly, the easier and more satisfactory the practice becomes. And the more time spent on the mat or meditation pillow, the better life becomes off of it.
So whether it’s trusting a practitioner to delicately place small needles in your skin, dusting off the spider webs on your running shoes, YouTubing a guided breathwork video, making an appointment for your weekly massage, or testing out certain supplements, alternative therapies can have their place in many people’s journeys. What if both sides of the world are correct and the secret lies somewhere in joining the two? If we keep an open mind, perhaps integrating one or maybe all of these practices may just be the nail in the coffin in the journey out of depression.
TMS Institute of Great Plains Mental Health
Paula Whittle, PMHNP, and Dr. James Sorrell believe that mental health should be considered as a primary driver for one’s overall wellbeing, both physically and mentally. At TMS Institute of GPMH, we want to make sure your connection to the world you live in is addressed – to change the order to … SPIRIT, MIND, and BODY. As a result, we believe when people are treated in this order they feel better, more at peace, and much stronger to face life’s challenges. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS therapy), the most advanced form of depression treatment, offers us the ability to enhance our patient outcomes following our philosophy of a holistic approach to treating mental health conditions.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation.