6 Holistic Ways to Assist Depression | Escape Haven

6 Holistic Ways to Assist Depression

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If you struggle with oftentimes feeling flat, low, hopeless or mentally fragile, you’re not alone. This increasingly common mental health hurdle is a major issue for a huge segment of modern society. Last year alone there were over 4 million Australians diagnosed with depression. This is the highest rate of depression among countries in the Western Pacific Region, with New Zealand following close behind. While we all feel sad, moody or low from time to time, depression can cause these feelings to be incredibly intense, they can last for long periods of time and often they will lack any apparent reasoning. 

For some, prescription anti-depressants can be helpful for getting you back to feeling more balanced and in control. Yet these powerful medications can be over-prescribed and often look at treating the symptoms without offering a real solution for the underlying cause. 12.7% of the U.S. population over age 12 are currently on antidepressant medication. In Australia, three million people were prescribed antidepressants last year, which is one in eight people.

There are multiple causes of major depression. Factors such as genetic vulnerability, severe life stressors, substances you may take and medical conditions can affect the way your brain regulates your moods. Some people may be more at risk of depression because of their personality, particularly if they have a tendency to worry a lot, have low self-esteem, are perfectionists, are sensitive to personal criticism, or are self-critical and negative. Everyone’s different and it’s often a combination of factors that can contribute to developing depression. It’s important to remember that you can’t always identify the cause and the most important thing is to recognise the signs and symptoms and seek support.

Luckily, depression is no longer a taboo topic, and speaking about it and educating people about it is important in dealing with and addressing this wide-scale issue. As we learn more about depression, alternative medicine, therapies and treatments are also becoming more common and readily accessible. In fact, some of the most effective ways to treat or prevent depression are actually very simple and easy to introduce into your daily routines. These tips are not offered as a replacement for more traditional treatments and if you’re suffering from depression, always consult a professional. However, these tips below are certainly worth a try, especially as a way to manage any depressive tendencies long-term.

6 Natural Ways to Assist Depression

  1. Diet

There is a strong correlation between diet and mood. For anyone suffering from depression, it is important to focus on a nutrient-dense, non-inflammatory, real-food diet. Specifically, focus on lots of vegetables and leafy greens, well-sourced meat and fish, nuts and seeds, fermented foods, fruit and healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado and coconut oil. The brain is about 60 percent fat, so it makes sense that eating plenty of healthy fats (including anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids) and protein which can help heal and boost the brain. Healthy bacteria, in the form of probiotics and fermented foods, can be especially helpful for those suffering from depression due to the close link between the gut and brain. The gut is also responsible for up to 90 percent of the body’s serotonin production and also plays a role in dopamine and GABA production, or the ‘happy chemicals’ needed for healthy brain functioning. The most important culprits to cut out are sugar, refined carbohydrates, processed foods, inflammatory oils and alcohol. There are many supplements that researchers have found may effectively reduce or eliminate depression signs. These include omega-3s, vitamin D3, chai hu, ginkgo biloba, passionflower, kava root and St. John’s wort.

  1. Sleep

Sleep may just be the easiest, cheapest and most effective antidepressant on the market. Terrible sleep can contribute to and exacerbate depression. In one study of nearly 19,000 people, those with poor sleep were five times as likely to suffer from clinical depression. Researchers believe this is because when sleep is disrupted over and over, it can alter brain activity and neurochemicals that affect a person’s mood and thinking. Try to aim for eight hours of solid, uninterrupted shut-eye every night. Sleep is ridiculously important to overall health, and when you’re looking to treat or prevent depression, it becomes that much more relevant. Poor sleep has a direct impact on not only our mood but our overall cognitive functioning. Unfortunately, getting enough sleep is easier said than done for a lot of people, especially because one of the most common symptoms of depression is insomnia. Developing healthy bedtime habits can be helpful to bolster positive sleep patterns. Try avoiding technology before bed (this means all screens), reading a relaxing book, journalling, doing a brief meditation, enjoying a hot bath or cup of herbal tea – all of these can help to lull you into a good night’s sleep.

  1. Exercise

Studies suggest that consistent exercise might be as good as or even better than antidepressants for some people. Again, like sleep and insomnia, if you are struggling from depression, chances are you are also suffering from low motivation and low energy levels. Take the pressure off yourself to commit to any lengthy gym sessions and try to simply commit to some form of movement, for some duration, every day. One study showed that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for half an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%. These short bursts of exercise will still give you some of the antidepressant benefits while still being a realistic endeavor. When you start to feel the positive effects of exercise, you may feel inspired to take things up a notch. Beyond improved mood, there is a huge amount of research around the positive impact exercise has on brain function and depression symptoms. Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. About five minutes of aerobic exercise can already begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects. When it comes to exercise, finding something that you enjoy to do is key- whether that’s running, Pilates, a barre class, boxing—whatever works for you. If you feel like having a workout buddy may assist you to reach these goals, enlist a close friend, family member, your partner or even a group exercise class that can help you feel motivated and more accountable to meet your goals. 

  1. Stress Reduction

Stress can be a leading factor when it comes to depression. If you are living with chronic stress in your life, it may be time to take a step back and reevaluate your circumstances. Take stock and make decisions about what needs to go and what needs to change. Of course, some stress may feel non-negotiable. Quitting your job and relocating to a tropical island may not be feasible here! Even addressing your attitude towards stress and your vocabulary around stress can be an interesting place to start. Look at the relationships in your life and how they are contributing to your mood and mental health. Sometimes we end up feeling addicted to stress or caught up with the idea that in order to be successful, we need to be busy and on the go 24/7. Most importantly, once you have looked at ways to reduce stress in your life, think about things that help you find peace and practice these regularly. Meditation, practicing yoga, walking your dog, swimming in the ocean, having a quiet cup of tea in the garden, adopting breathwork practices – there are limitless ways to combat stress. 

  1. Community 

Try to ensure that your life is full of connection and positive community. Studies done on the world’s Blue Zones (areas with the highest levels of centenarians) show that the significance of community and family in these regions is not only one reason why depression levels are low, but this is also one of the leading factors attributed to their incredible longevity. If you are feeling low, make the effort to seek out and find your tribe – people who see you deeply and can hold space for you to be vulnerable while still letting you know that you belong and you’re worthy. Really prioritise the special relationships and friendships in your life and develop a support system. Spending time with family and friends is a simple and easy way to help boost your mood and help you to feel supported and loved. Depression can cause significant feelings of isolation and oftentimes people suffering from depression will withdraw from friends, family and social interactions in general. Ask good friends to keep you accountable to show up and be involved in each other’s lives. This is even more important now that we’re living in a world where technology has replaced many face-to-face interactions and altered the way we belong to communities. While technology can bring us closer together, it is not a replacement for the mental health benefits of authentic human interaction. Make plans with your friends whenever possible, create a book club, chat with a neighbor, join a recreational sports team. Whether it’s strengthening your existing social network or making a new one, having strong social connections is key to preventing and decreasing depression.

  1. Nature

Nature soothes the soul. There are no two ways about it. Just as urbanization and disconnection from nature have grown dramatically, so have mental disorders including depression. In fact, city dwellers have a 20 percent higher risk of anxiety disorders and a 40 percent higher risk of mood disorders as compared to people in rural areas. Furthermore, people living close to trees and green spaces are less likely to be obese, inactive, or dependent on anti-depressants. Overall, nature is a healer, and the positive effects of nature on our mind and spirit are well documented, more so than ever before as we shift away from this daily, constant contact with the natural world. We were not designed to be inside 24/7, to spend our days looking at screens, isolated or away from fresh air and natural sunlight. Try to get outside and be in nature daily; take your lunch breaks outside, go for a long walk after work, try exploring new places on the weekends- go hiking, swimming, riding. Being in nature combines the elements of clean fresh air, the positive effects of the sun, the grounding benefits of having your feet connect with the earth, and counteracts all of the negative effects that come from our constant contact with technology and a lifestyle that is often overrun by chemicals and toxins. Get back to basics, go where the wifi is weak as they say, appreciate the simple pleasures that the natural world offers. 

At our Bali retreat, we welcome many women who may be going through a challenging time in their life. We watch amazing transformations every single week as our guests dive into so many of these healing elements; time in beautiful nature in Bali’s tropical surroundings. Daily meditation and yoga sessions designed to lower stress. A week of delicious healthy fresh meals, free from chemicals, sugar, gluten or additives. Deep sleep and rest in private luxury air-conditioned rooms (and also plenty of relaxing and rejuvenating spa treatments!). Plenty of gentle or active movement in the form of yoga, possibly surfing or fitness, exploring around the area or swimming in the beautiful pool. Plus plenty of time in a supportive space with lovely like-minded women. A retreat really is an incredible way to boost your mood, create change in your life, and establish new healthy habits and ways of living that support your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Feel free to contact us any time to chat with our team about how a Bali retreat may just be the answer you’ve been looking for. 

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