If you’re living with a mental health issue like depression or anxiety, a doctor may have recommended medications, behavioral therapy, or both. These treatments can work wonders, but there may be even more you can do to help ease the symptoms. Here are four ideas that may surprise you.
Laughter always makes people feel better. It may even make you healthier both mentally and physically for the long term. Because it’s easy to implement and has no side effects (other than a slight stomach ache if things are a bit too funny), some experts are recommending laughter therapy as a treatment in clinical practices to go with other interventions and programs.
Laughter therapy may be particularly effective in older adults, according to researchers from the Shiraz University of Medical Sciences. They studied the effects of laughter therapy on 36 senior citizens at a retirement community in Iran. The group attended a 90-minute laughter therapy program twice a week for six weeks, while (sadly) 36 other senior citizens in the study did not.
At the end of the study, the researchers found enormous improvements in the general health of people who took part in laughter therapy. That group also said they slept better and had lower anxiety.
Korean researchers also tested laughter therapy on 31 patients being treated for breast cancer. The patients’ scores for anxiety, depression, and stress were much lower after just one session, and even more so after four sessions. No change was found in the control group of 29 patients who didn’t participate in laughter therapy.
A diet that reduces inflammation may lower your risk of depression risk by 41 percent, according to a Harvard Nurse’s Health Study published in the journal “Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.” For 12 years, the researchers tracked the diets of 43,685 women who had never been diagnosed with depression. They also used blood tests to measure the women for inflammation biomarkers.
During the 12 years, 9,040 of the women were diagnosed and/or treated for depression. The researchers noticed that those who had a lot of soda, red meat, and refined grains (such as white flour), but didn’t have much wine, coffee, olive oil, and vegetables were 29 – 41% more likely to develop depression than those who followed anti-inflammatory diets. Australian researchers found similar results in people who took anti-inflammatory drugs, like aspirin.
Nutrition guru Dr. Andrew Weil offers valuable advice on how to switch to an anti-inflammatory diet. He recommends getting plenty of fruits, vegetables, cooked Asian mushrooms, healthy plant-based fats, herbs, spices, and whole grains every day. Beverages include lots of water, a glass or two of wine, and two to four cups of tea each day. Dr. Weil also recommends taking a daily multivitamin that contains minerals.
Release Your Inner Gamer
Many new “brain-training” applications are being developed to help people with depression. Professors at the U.C. Davis Department of Communication decided to test this idea with video games.
They assigned games to 160 college students with mild depression. The games focused on two different types of depression. Internal depression, for the sake of this study, was caused by things like chemical imbalances or genetic predispositions. External depression stemmed from outside things, such as employment or relationship issues.
The six games were each three minutes long and required players to complete brain-training tasks. Players reported that the games helped then feel like they had more control over their depression. The researchers also found that specific messaging features, like motivational reminders to play the games, made the experience even more enjoyable for the users.
Some people say herbal remedies and supplements have helped them overcome mild symptoms of depression. The Mayo Clinic highlights three in particular, along with some warnings.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Flax, walnuts, and certain microalgae provide healthy fats called omega-3 fatty acids, which may help relieve depression. A small daily dose is considered safe for most people; however, omega-3 supplements can interact with other medications, so make sure it’s safe for you to take it.
St. John’s wort: A popular depression treatment in Europe, many consider St. John’s wort effective for mild or moderate depression. However, the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved it to treat depression and this herbal supplement can cause pretty serious side effects if you’re taking antidepressants. It can also interfere with blood-thinning medications, birth control, chemotherapy, HIV/AIDS medications and drugs that help prevent organ rejection after a transplant. Do not even try it if any of the above apply to you.
SAMe: Short for S-adenosylmethionine, SAMe mimics a chemical in your body and, like St. John’s wort, is popular in Europe, but not FDA-approved in the United States. People with bipolar disorder should not take SAMe because it can trigger some pretty alarming side effects, including mania.
The FDA doesn’t regulate nutritional and dietary products the way it does medications. As you saw above, some supplements don’t mix well with other medications, so consult with your health care provider before you begin taking supplements to relieve depression.
Have you tried any of the above methods to improve mental health?
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