7 Ways To Fix Depression Without Drugs

I have a solution for your depression that does not involve drugs. When I normally tell people I have a solution for their hopelessness, lack of motivation, laziness, lethargy, fear, and loneliness…. that doesn’t involve drugs, they listen but they don’t often follow through on these 6 steps. Why? Because they are depressed! 

When I was depressed I literally wanted to do nothing but stare out the window or get on my phone all day. Yet, you must fight this indifference and laziness for a better-feeling tomorrow! These 7 steps, on how to fix depression without drugs, will surely be the saving grace of hope that you needed to feel...simply...happy, again.

Step 1: Heal Your Sleep 

Sleep is critical to feeling good (and sane). Lack of sleep creates all kinds of problems. I once heard that Chinese secret forces torture their victims with sleeplessness. I now understand why. 

A study on the Consequences of Sleep Deprivation found that lack of sleep can lead to lower capabilities and efficiency of task performance, increased number of errors, poor memorizing, schematic thinking, emotional disturbances, deteriorated interpersonal responses, increased aggressiveness, brain tissue hypometabolism, speech performance becomes monotonous and unclear, sensitivity to pain is higher. changes in the immune response, changes in the pattern of hormonal secretion (of the growth hormone in particular), increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease increases (1). In other words, lack of sleep can make you (and your body) go insane. I think you get the point. 

Sunlight is really the key to fixing your sleep (while also being a piece of the serotonin puzzle). Serotonin actually creates the chemical feelings you feel of happiness and other positive emotions that PREVENT feeling depressed. Multiple studies have found a link between serotonin and sunlight.

A study done on the Effect of Sunlight and Season on Serotonin Turnover in the Brain summarized, “We showed that turnover of serotonin by the brain was lowest in winter...the rate of production of serotonin by the brain was directly related to the prevailing duration of bright sunlight and rose rapidly with increased luminosity” (2). This is why some people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) in the winter, where there is a lack of sunshine for long periods of time.

Another study found, “Sun exposure and behavioral activation may be an effective approach to improving [vitamin d] status and alleviating depressive symptoms” (3). This means that the less sunlight you get the less serotonin you get which causes depression. Thus, more sunlight = more serotonin. More serotonin = more happiness.

So, what connection does sunlight have on sleep? When you wake up and get morning sunlight this activates your serotonin AND cortisol, which causes a nightly increase in melatonin your circadian rhythm in place resulting in feeling sleepy earlier, thus, getting to bed earlier and starting the cycle over and over again. When your cortisol and serotonin are in place guess what naturally falls in place as a result? Melatonin! Melatonin makes you feel sleepy at night, thus a deep RESTFUL sleep. Lack of sleep can result in TONS of serious consequences as I mentioned earlier.

I should mention, just because you get to sleep does not mean your brain is fully recovering. There are many people who sleep but never feel rested. This is mainly to do with working late and the blue light that gets produced by electronics. These light frequencies mimic the sun, causing an increase in wakefulness. This can prevent going into your deep REM sleep cycle if it is night time. 

In order to prevent this, you want to make sure you get a pair of blue-blocking glasses that block the alerting and wakefully inducing BLUE light.  How many people still hold candles before going to bed? Not many! We evolved to sleep well under moonlight and fires (hence the AMBER REDDISH lens of the blue-blocking glasses). Here is a link to the pairs I have, they are by True Dark. The red ones (Twilights) I use approximately 2 hours before bed. I know they are expensive, but can you really put a price on sleep? Nice deep restful sleep is priceless. 

Action Items:

The key here is SUNLIGHT. Wake up whenever the sun rises and IMMEDIATELY get 20 minutes of morning sunlight on your eyes. If you wear glasses take them off periodically for a few minutes and have the light shine on your eyes without looking directly at the sun (unless you are a Pagan sun gazer). Wear your blue blockers 30 minutes to 2 hours before you want to go to sleep and watch the magic happen.

Step 2: Fix Your Food

Avoiding inflammatory foods is the first piece of this step. Inflammatory foods include foods you are allergic or intolerant to, Genetically Modified Foods (which are a FOOD & PESTICIDE ALL IN ONE), and processed sugar, wheat (bread, crackers, baked goods), corn, soy, pasteurized dairy (raw dairy is ok if you can tolerate it), seed oils, and vegetable oils. When your gut is inflamed then so is your brain. An inflamed brain is an unhappy one. Understand yet?

Remember when I said sunlight is a piece to the serotonin puzzle? The second piece is in your gut. Medical News Today said, “scientists estimate 90% of serotonin is made in the gut” (4). We probably want to consider the importance of taking care of our gut if we are feeling depressed. 

With all the GMO food, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, pollutants, prescription drugs, and toxic compounds in the world most people don’t have a balance of lots of healthy beneficial bacteria in their gut. This is remedied by populating with good bacteria to help your gut produce serotonin with the use of probiotics. It takes a few months to repopulate but it is well worth how it feels after prolonger use of probiotics. 

A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials on the Effect of Probiotics on Depression concluded, “that probiotics were associated with a significant reduction in depression” (5). In addition to taking probiotics, you also need high tryptophan-containing foods which are high protein foods, being mainly meats, seeds, beans, and nuts. Tryptophan is needed for the conversion of serotonin. 

Lastly, if your body (and brain) do not get what they need in order to function properly then depression is an inevitable result. If you are depressed, then my guess is that you are not eating enough (or any) vegetables…be honest I wrong? Is it a coincidence that most depressed people have horrible diets? I think not!

Add some more variety into your life. If you take away the white boring foods like rice, bread, white potatoes, and pasta then what would you eat with your meat? Now you are forced to see the infinite variety of tubers (like yuca, taro, and many different sweet potatoes), non-starchy vegetables (like asparagus, mushrooms, and radishes), and so many more delicious foods you probably never knew existed (like breadfruit, golden beets, parsnips, turnips, etc). 

Action Items:

Avoid inflammatory foods and eat more variety of vegetables instead of sticking to your boring old potatoes, corn, rice, and wheat. Take some probiotics. Make sure to get 50 billion IU+ and to make sure they are in the fridge when you find them and keep them in the fridge). Eat foods high in tryptophan, mainly meats, beans, seeds, and nuts.

Step 3: Move More

Movement is absolutely essential to overcoming depression. A synonym of the word depress is repress. The act of physically repressing is the opposite of physically expressing which is MOVEMENT! 

A study on the Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Depression concluded, “presented evidence suggests that exercise and physical activity have beneficial effects on depression symptoms that are comparable to those of antidepressant treatments” (6). It makes sense that exercise can fight depression because exercise produces endorphins which are feel-good hormones.

A meta-analysis looking at several studies on the Effects of Exercise on Anxiety, Depression, and Mood “confirm the acute effect of exercise i.e. the reductions in anxiety and depression after single sessions of exercise. The changes in anxiety, depression, and mood states after exercise are explained most frequently by the endorphin and monoamine hypotheses” (7). So, even science shows that exercise can help relieve depression. 

In addition, to the movement of the body, we have movement of the blood and lymph which helps to detoxify the body. Holding onto toxic substances from polluted food and water is just as bad as holding onto toxic emotions. The simple way to get the most lymph flowing is by utilizing cold exposure. “Exposure to cold temperatures raises adiponectin, a protein that combats inflammation” (8). Less inflammation of the body equals less inflammation of the brain. Thus, less depression, and other brain and mood problems.

Action Items:

Despite being less than sought after by those feeling hopeless and depressed - it would greatly benefit you to go out for a hike or bike ride 2 - 3 times per week. 

Step 4: Express Your Emotions

Emotional repression is even more powerful because the act of holding in painful emotions can eat at the soul. Anyone who has been abused knows that. I would know because after holding in my anger of being beaten unconscious by my dad and several bullies, I one day exploded emotionally and scared those around me. 

Thus, holding things in and never expressing yourself is not good news for your brain or your body.