Depression affects millions of people all over the world. When you are in it, its like someone has sucked all the light out of a room. For some people, depression is a chemical imbalance requiring medication. But many people suffering from this debilitating illness can be helped by a few dietary and lifestyle shifts.

A Day in the Sun

Most people spend an unnatural amount of time indoors. Getting unfiltered sunlight on exposed skin, especially the face, is essential for maintaining mental health and a positive attitude. If your climate or pollution levels do not allow you to access the sun, and you cant move to the tropics, then take high-quality vitamin D3 supplements and look into lighting that mimics sunlight.

Move Your Body, Ease Your Mind

The most direct and sustainable way to ease or heal depression is vigorous exercise. Exercise literally shakes the stagnation out of our bodies and minds. It stimulates the cardiovascular and lymphatic systems, and clear-flowing fluids make for a clearer mind.

Exercise also stimulates the release of feel-good endorphins and hormones. The goal of most anti-depressant drugs is to release more of the neurotransmitter serotonin into the bloodstream, and keep it from being rapidly reabsorbed. Exercise naturally increases the production of this crucial happy brain chemical.

Its important that the exercise you do is fun and interesting for you. It can be hiking, playing a sport (which can also give you the happiness boosts of being outside and being with other people), cardio-kickboxing, dancing, swimming whatever you enjoy that gets your blood pumping and sweat flowing.

Aim for at least 45 minutes of vigorous exercise, 5 days a week, and spice it up with some variety.

A good balance for the vigorous exercise is a mind-body discipline like Yoga or Qigong. These practices help focus and enliven the mind, and teach presence and the power of intention. Many people who suffered from depression reported being at least somewhat helped by a consistent Yoga practice.

Happy Belly, Happy Brain

Health begins in the gut, and this is true for the brain as well as the body. Poor digestion and food sensitivities can directly lead to depression. Cutting out gluten, dairy, unsprouted grains, sugar, alcohol, and other things that can inflame the gut can improve mental health.

Taking probiotics and enzymes can help with digestion. So can avoiding conventional food, which is often sprayed with digestion-disrupting pesticides. The pesticide glyphosate (RoundUp) especially has been shown to interfere with metabolism and damage the intestines.

Fermented foods and drinks help the gut create more beneficial organisms, so you can absorb more of the vital nutrients in your food.

Essential fatty acid balance plays a role in mental health, too. Be sure you are getting plenty of omega-3s (flax and chia seeds) and going easy on the omega-6s (soy products and plant oils like safflower).

If our efa balance is off, we are more likely to develop inflammation which also affects the brain. You especially want to seek out the omega-3 EPA, which has been proven to help alleviate depression. As this can be hard to find in vegan food, you may want to consider an EPA-rich omega-3 supplement. Supplementing with vitamins C, B6, iron, magnesium, and zinc can help alleviate depression, too

The First Step

For many people with depression, even simple activities can seem impossible. It is one thing to know the importance of exercise, but a whole other to actually start a routine when all you want to do is lie in bed. Know that the first step is worth the effort.

Even if you only do a little exercise or only cut out one food allergen at a time, you are caring for your mental health. It will add up. And enlist supportive friends that believe in you.

While depression can feel endless and challenging, it doesnt have to be hopeless. Sunlight, exercise, and proper nutrition are all simple and natural ways to help you or your loved one see the light of day.

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