The 10 best natural ways to treat depression

Affecting more than 340 million people in the world, depression is one of the most well-known mental disorders.

Similar in ways to the symptoms that indicate a general anxiety disorder, the symptoms of depression can be slower to detect, but can have easy remedies.

Below, we take an exclusive look at the best naturalways you can treat depression. Of course, it's imperative to consult your physician if you notice an abrupt change in your mood, feelings, or sense of well-being — but it's good to know that some slight life changes could make you feel better.

We understand that situational depression is triggered commonly by external events and that clinical depression is triggered from within, and very often need medical attention.

But we hope that step by step, these natural exercises below can help renew a sense of purpose and reinvigorate attitudes toward certain areas of your life.

Scroll further to see what steps you or your family and friends can take to help symptoms of depression. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

1. Meditate

LittleThings/Maya Borenstein

Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital, suggests that "mindfulness meditation" can effectively treat anxiety and other mood disorders.

People who experience low moods and a decreased sense of well-being have "a problem dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power," she explained to the Harvard Health Blog. "They can't distinguish between a problem-solving thought and a nagging worry that has no benefit."

To ease the stress of everyday life, carve out 30 minutes to an hour each day and seek a quiet place. Turn off your phone and computer, and close your eyes. Regulate your breathing, and don't focus on not thinking. If a thought comes up, acknowledge it, and let it go. You can also focus on one word or thought, or imagine yourself in a peaceful place.

2. Eat More Foods With Vitamin B

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Vitamin B-12 and other B vitamins help produce chemicals in the brain that greatly affect mood: serotonin, epinephrine, and dopamine. Low levels of B vitamins have been repeatedly linked to depression.

According to research done by the Mayo Clinic, vegetarians, older adults, and those with digestive disorders like celiac disease may find it tougher to get enough vitamin B-12.

You can take supplements, but a healthy alternative is to up your intake of vitamin-B-rich foods. Fish like mackerel and salmon are high in the vitamin, as are Swiss cheese, spinach, bell peppers, shellfish, lean meat, eggs, and low-fat milk.

3. Set Goals For Yourself

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People with depression can feel a range of emotions and sensations. Everyone has different thoughts that are unique to them.

But some of the most common attitudes that develop are those of sadness, anxiety, emptiness, helplessness, worthlessness, guilt, and irritability. Often, you feel like you can't successfully accomplish anything.

To combat this, you can try to set daily goals for yourself, says Ian Cook, M.D., the director of the Depression Research and Clinic Program at UCLA.

"Start very small," he says. "Make your goal something that you can succeed at, like doing the dishes every other day."

Step by step, you may start to feel better by reaching each of these small, daily goals. Eventually, you'll be completely ready to add new, more challenging goals for yourself.

4. Have A Routine Sleep Schedule

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Among other things, depression can make it very difficult to get a good amount of sleep. In fact, too little sleep can actually worsen symptoms of depression and your overall state of mind.

Just like setting small goals for yourself every day, start by making some changes to your lifestyle, according to WebMD.

Go to bed at the same time every night, and rise at the same time each morning. Establish a good "sleeping routine" — try not to take naps during the day, and turn off your TV and all phones and tablets before you go to sleep.

5. Do Something New

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Many people tend to feel like they are stuck in a rut when they're depressed. This might be accompanied by a poor ability to concentrate or make solid decisions.

That's why it's so important to push yourself to do something new and different. "When we challenge ourselves to do something different, there are chemical changes in the brain," Cook tells WebMD. "Trying something new alters the levels of dopamine, which is associated with pleasure, enjoyment, and learning."

Why not try taking up a paint class, or visiting a new museum? You can also take a language class, read a new book, or do anything else that you've been wanting to explore for a while.

Besides going to new places and meeting new people along the way, you can be sure to find joy right at home, in your comfort zone, with people you are familiar with.

6. Talk It Out With Someone You Trust

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Talking to someone you love and trust can help benefit you in many ways. Talking about what's going on in your life or inside your head, and having someone respond, can help you see things from a different perspective.

Talking about your feelings can also help you find solutions, but most important of all, you'll gain that emotional support you need from others.

A lot of people might find it difficult to open up to others at first, but don't let awkward feelings inhibit you. Friends and family can help you explore your options for getting support, or can help you in more practical ways, like driving you places, or helping you get organized.

7. Try Out Light Exercise

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Simple aerobic exercises, or even light activities like taking strolls and flexing parts of your body, are helpful in treating depression symptoms.

Exercise promotes endorphins, your body's feel-good chemicals. It can encourage the brain to "rewire" itself in positive ways, according to Cook.

Research has also shown that by exercising, you'll slowly regain your self-confidence.

8. Take On Responsibilities

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Because you might feel down, you may also want to withdraw from your daily activities in life and your responsibilities at home or at work.

Being able to keep busy is key, according to WebMD. Try staying involved as much as possible in the causes you care deeply about, and take on new daily responsibilities.

These can be as simple as volunteering at your local food pantry, or going back to work part-time. Over time, this will give you a renewed sense of accomplishment.

9. Try A Relaxation Exercise

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According to George Krucik, M.D., who has practiced primary care for more than 14 years, depression can make you feel disconnected from your surroundings, and from things you normally love doing.

Not only this, it can also negatively affect your sleeping patterns and cause fatigue. That's why it's so important to find ways to unwind and relax in your spare time.

You can try exercises like autogenic training and progressive muscle relaxation, or it can be something as simple as taking a nice, long bath.

10. Ditch The Coffee

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For many people, drinking coffee in the morning is vital. However, caffeine intake can be indirectly related to depression.

According to the Mayo Clinic, many people can be sensitive to the effects of caffeine. Caffeine can cause sleeping problems and have a slow, creeping effect on mood. If you're having trouble sleeping at night, try not to drink caffeinated drinks late during the day.

However, quitting caffeine suddenly can be bad. Until your body adjusts to the change, the abrupt loss of caffeine can worsen your mood and also cause headaches and irritability. Slowly reduce the amount of coffee you drink, so that you won't suffer strong withdrawal effects.

Did you learn something new about how to naturally treat symptoms of depression?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments, and please SHARE with family and friends if you think these tips are helpful!

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