Alternative Ways To Improve Your Mental Health

We all know that there are orthodox ways to improve mental health, anti-depressants are commonly used for example. However, there are known side-effects to this type of medication, which include nausea, weight fluctuations, sexual problems, insomnia and blurred vision. Moreover, with more anti-depressants than ever prescribed in 2016 - an all-time high of 64.7 million items -, there are growing questions as to whether they are simply too available and represent an easy panacea for emotional health problems, treating the symptoms rather than the cause.

Of course it could also be argued that mental health issues carry less of a stigma these days, are better diagnosed and patients are receiving more help – it’s difficult to say. What is clear is that anti-depressants are not appropriate for everyone and some people simply don’t want to take them, preferring natural ways to combat emotional difficulties. So what are the natural alternatives? 

Natural botanicals

There are several natural "medicines" that may help with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. St John’s Wort, for example, is a herbal medication which has been used for hundreds of years to combat depression symptoms. Its botanical name is Hypericum Perforatum and it is sometimes marketed as Hypericum. It is believed that the two active ingredients, hypercin and hyperforin, act in a similar way to anti-depressants, changing the activity of certain brain chemicals responsible for mood regulation. Some studies have found that the use of St John’s Wort is as effective as orthodox prescribed medication.

Another herbal medicine is Kava Kava, which has relaxation and stress-reducing properties. It has also attracted attention, however, for its potential side effects, raising some questions about its safety. As with all medicines, herbal or not, you must consult a doctor prior to taking them. Natural medicines have side-effects as well as other medicines and you need to be sure that they are safe for you to take.

Proper diet and nutrition

Research has shown that following a diet low in sugar, processed foods, caffeine and alcohol can have beneficial effects on people suffering from anxiety. Eating pro-biotic food, such as live yogurt, can also help. Other beneficial foods said to reduce anxiety include salmon, turmeric, dark chocolate, chamomile and green tea.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is said to stimulate the body’s own healing processes and research has demonstrated that it can have a real and positive impact on mental health. Some studies indicate that acupuncture can alter the brain’s mood chemistry, increasing production of serotonin and endorphins.

Therapies promoting relaxation

These may include massage therapy, hypnotherapy, meditation and mindfulness, which work in various ways to relax and re-centre yourself. Relaxation decreases your heart rate and lowers your levels of stress and anxiety, both of which contribute to depression. There is a huge link between mind and body and if you feel better physically, then there is a significant knock-on effect in your emotional health too.

Taking regular exercise

Exercise has a very positive effect on mood by boosting the production of the "feel-good" chemicals in your brain, serotonin and endorphins. It also helps to distract the mind from anxious thoughts and increases energy levels. Another positive is that it promotes good sleep – essential when you’re feeling depressed or emotionally drained.

Get outdoors!

It’s very easy to stay in bed all day and avoid the world when you’re feeling very low but trying to get outside can be very beneficial. Sunlight cues special areas in the retina to release serotonin and it really does have an effect on our mood. Even on dull days, experiencing some fresh air in a natural environment can help to alleviate depression.