Topic #2: Think outside the (pill) box.
Some people with depression and anxiety prefer non-drug approaches to help them manage their symptoms. Research shows that approximately 30-40% of patients with depression have only a partial response to pharmacological and psychotherapeutic interventions. Finding the best fit for you is important.
Nikki Shields, clinical coordinator of behavioral health with Quincy Medical Group, explains: “Wellness includes emotional, physical, medical, nutritional, social, and spiritual factors. Finding the combination that works for you is the key to feeling your best.”
Below are some other options to help enhance your mood.
Daily exercise can help lower stress, increase relaxation, and decrease symptoms of depression. Exercise has the added benefit of improving balance, energy levels, and flexibility.
According to the American Psychological Association, daily exercise eases symptoms of depression by increasing levels of serotonin. It also helps normalize sleep patterns and improves outlook by returning to normal activities.1
Meditation and Yoga
By reducing perceived stress and anxiety, yoga practice can lessen stress response systems by reducing heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and easing respiration. One study on the benefits of hatha yoga versus health education found that yoga alleviates symptoms of depression and the effects were long-term.3 Hatha yoga includes physical poses, controlled breathing, and a short period of deep relaxation or meditation.
Meditation is an active training of the mind and involves 30-40 minutes per day of acceptance of feelings and thoughts without judgment and relaxation of the mind and body. Researchers at Johns Hopkins found that meditation can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.2
- American Psychological Association, “The Exercise Effect,” Volume 42, Number 11, December 2011
- L. A. Uebelacker, G. Tremont, L. T. Gillette, G. Epstein-Lubow, D. R. Strong, A. M. Abrantes, A. R. Tyrka, T. Tran, B. A. Gaudiano, I. W. Miller. Adjunctive yoga v. health education for persistent major depression: a randomized controlled trial. Psychological Medicine, 2017;
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, “St. John’s Wort and Depression: In Depth,” retrieved from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/stjohnswort/sjw-and-depression.htm.
Mood Enhancing Foods
Have you ever heard the comment, “You are what you eat?” How often do we turn to food for comfort during difficult times? What if instead of reaching for the sugary high calorie treats, as we so often do, we chose the options that could actually have a positive effect on your mood? Research on the relationship between nutrition and mental health is continuing to grow and proving to be very beneficial.
Listed below are the top-rated foods known to boost your mood:
- Fatty fish containing Omega-3 such as salmon, albacore tuna.
- Dark chocolate
- Fermented foods such as kimchi, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut
- Oats such as overnight oats, oatmeal, muesli, and granola
- Nuts and seeds
- Beans and lentils
For more information on each of these foods and their benefits, visit https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mood-food
Emotional Support Animals
There has been a lot of research that shows having an emotional support animal can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, loneliness, stress, and even pain. On the flip side, it can also bring joy, comfort, pleasure, and purpose. The U.S. Department of Housing recognizes the benefits of emotional support animals and commented, “Emotional support animals by their very nature, and without training, may relieve depression and anxiety, and/or help reduce stress-induced pain in persons with certain medical conditions affected by stress.”
Acts of Service
Did you know that making someone else feel better or doing something nice for someone else can actually be helping you feel better? Yes, that’s right! Showing kindness and performing acts of kindness can have an impact on both your mental and physical health. In an article from Psychology Today, the author mentioned, “Researcher, Barbara Fredrickson, had an interesting viewpoint—that kindness, specifically loving-kindness, moved one out of the selfish realm. Stated differently, it took one off the hedonic treadmill. Compassion and kindness also reduce stress, boost our immune systems, and help reduce negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, and depression.”
The article also mentioned that when we practice random acts of kindness:
- It releases positivity: We feel better and the recipients of our acts feel better, which then makes them more likely to be kind to other people.
- It can release neurochemicals that result in a sense of well-being, the “helper’s high,” as Allan Luks and Peggy Payne describe the healing power of doing good. In fact, the neural circuits that are involved in chemical “highs” are the same ones activated by kindness and compassion.
- It can reduce pain. Dopamine, serotonin, and endogenous opioids are released by kind behavior.
- It enhances the release of oxytocin in interactions where two or more people are engaged in kindness behavior. In turn, bonds between those who are kind to one another are strengthened.
- It enhances both physical and mental health. Many physical ailments are either precipitated by or aggravated by stress. Kindness reduces stress.
Last but not least is an “oldie but a goodie.” As many of you know counseling is one of the most highly effective and most recommended approaches to improving your mental health. More importantly, I think we need to remember that counseling is not just for when you are struggling. Counseling can be used as a preventative measure to better maintain a healthy mental health balance in your life. In the article listed below, you can see that the top four ways counseling can benefit your life are in the following areas:
- Relieving your stress
- Gaining a different perspective
- Overcoming a serious health concern such as depression, eating disorders, domestic abuse, trauma, self-esteem, and suicidal impulses.
- Finding a solution to your problems
While many complementary and alternative treatments require further study to determine the benefits over time, it might help to bring some of these options to your treatment team to help ease your symptoms.
For more information about Behavioral Health services at Quincy Medical Group, visit quincymedgroup.com or call 217-222-6550, ext. 3418 or visit https://quincymedgroup.com/medical-services/behavioral-health/.