Every person in the world knows what it's like to feel sad, but when that sadness becomes a more pervasive problem, it's easy to feel like there's nothing that will shake it.
At least eight per cent of Canadians have experienced major depression, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association, and that doesn't include the many people who are affected by minor depressive episodes. And it's this less severe condition that can be helped by some natural cures.
"If I have a client with mild depression, who's feeling down, negative, or not sleeping, there are some things they can do that can make a difference and they won't need medication," says Toronto-based psychotherapist Nicole McCance, author of 52 Ways To Beat Depression Naturally.
McCance notes many people are nervous about taking medication, whether it's due to potential side effects or a concern about long-term dependency.
She classifies depression as having five or more of the following symptoms for a period of two weeks: not sleeping, agitation, sadness (lasting all day), lack of appetite, lack of pleasure or interest, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness and guilt, a sense of restlessness, recurrent thoughts of death, and problems with memory and concentration.
While some healthcare professionals have general suggestions like getting into a routine or getting enough sleep, McCance has flagged five separate options to try to cope with these feelings, and points out these can also be used as a proactive measures for those who are at risk for depression as well.
Read on to find out what can help:
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"Mindfulness is acute awareness in the moment," says psychotherapist Nicole McCance. "The depressed mind tends to ruminate and fixate on, say, a conversation that went wrong with your boss. Being mindful is just focusing on what’s going on right now, what are you hearing, smelling, sensing. It slows the mind down and it tends to put things in perspective, like ‘right now in this moment, I’m actually OK.’"
McCance recommends literally focusing on "what colour is on the walls, where are your feet, where is your body in the chair, how do your clothes feel against your skin?"
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"Most people think they have to see a therapist or lay on the couch," says McCance. But CBT can be done on the phone or over Skype, which tends to equal a higher retention rate. "It looks at the impact of your thoughts on your mood," she explains. "People start becoming aware of 'what are my thoughts and how do my thoughts impact my emotions?' It's counteracting automatic fear-based thoughts, because a lot of our fear is actually irrational, and you can learn that with enough practice."
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"This type of therapy looks at your relationships, rather than CBT which focuses on symptom reduction," says McCance. This short-term therapy usually lasts about three months, and looks at which relationships aren't working in your life and why. "It gives the tools to help you communicate better, or put up boundaries, for example."
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You've heard this before, and you'll hear it again — exercise can lift your mood. "It also helps with fatigue," points out McCance. She notes exercise releases endorphins in addition to norepinephrine, a hormone and natural antidepressant. "Once my clients get exercising, they're generally more positive and the ability to let things go is a bit easier for them." She recommends half an hour to an hour of moderate exercises daily, and not to wait until you're "motivated" — just get your running shoes on and go, and the motivation will come.
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A lot of people don’t know that traditional Chinese medicine looks at depression very differently. "A lot of Westerners don’t know acupuncture can impact our mood — they think it can only impact our muscles," says McCance. "In acupuncture, depression is looked at as an imbalance in the body. Pins are put in at certain meridians to remove energy blockages." She admits there's not a lot of knowledge as to why exactly it works, but has found anecdotally it makes clients more calm and less anxious, gets rid of aches and pains, and helps with sleep.
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