Natural Remedies for Depression and Anxiety - Self-Help for Depression and Anxiety

16th October 2023

Overcome depression and anxiety without drugs
All-natural, positive steps for better mental health

This page has been edited and reviewed by Nisha Cooch, PhD, a research neuroscientist with expertise in medicine, neuroscience, biology, psychology, and pharmacology.

With lifestyle changes, developing coping skills, and some help
you can overcome depression.

Symptoms of disorders including depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, can be reduced through lifestyle changes and the development of an array of self-help coping skills.

Many mental health disorders may go into complete remission with the use of steps mentioned in this article. Such results require effort, time, and patience, but they can and have been accomplished.

Mental Health Facts and Statistics - Adults and Children

About thirty to thirty-five million people, or approximately 10% of the U.S. population, suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, anxiety disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Children are being diagnosed with these disorders at an increasing rate. Accordingly, the number of children taking psychiatric medications has increased dramatically in several countries including the U.S., Britain, Australia.

Additionally, approximately 10% of all children in the U.S. are currently take prescribed pharmaceutical drugs. The decision about whether to medicate can be an agonizing process for parents. Empathy and compassion should be extended to anyone going through mental health problems. It is important to note that there is no single correct viewpoint or choice with regard to options in mental health treatment, self-help, or natural remedies for depression and anxiety.

What is Natural Psychology and Why?

There is evidence to suggest that pharmaceutical treatments for mental health are being over-prescribed and that some forms of mental illness are being over-diagnosed. Natural psychology refers to a non-pharmaceutical method of working through mental health problems. It is safe and effective.

Many positive outcomes can be accomplished with attention to self-help and lifestyle changes. This is written out of genuine concern and empathy. In the spirit of sharing, we sincerely hope that some of the material that is found in this site can be of help.

Self-help and Natural Remedies for Depression and Anxiety

Please consider some of the many options in professional therapies for treating mental health disorders beyond prescribed drugs. In Great Britain, doctors are known to prescribe self-help books to patients as a first-line defense strategy, with medication usually given as a secondary consideration.

Professional programs such as cognitive-behavioral therapy are proven to be as effective as anti-depressants for treating depression, and are also being used successfully for many other mental health problems such as anxiety disorder, OCD, and bipolar disorder. Read self-help books for depression, or whatever mental health issue you are facing. Become an expert. There are scores of self-help books of value with reasonable approaches to overcoming many mental health disorders. Choose the ones that you feel fit best to your situation, and eclectically incorporate the best ideas into your routine.

It has been reported that the use of psychiatric medications for both adults and children has increased between four and seven times in the past decade, indicating the increasing reliance on psychiatric drugs as a first-line treatment. This is proving to be true even for children as young as four years old (Olfman, S. 2006), (Sifferlin, A. 2013), (Elliot, G. 2006). Often, it is economic considerations and interests that skew the mainstream treatment choice of physicians, insurance companies, and of course, pharmaceutical companies towards drugs.

By contrast, lifestyle changes can help a person regain and maintain mental balance without resorting to medications or an adjunctive therapy while on medications, with the possible goal of weaning off anti-depressants or other psychiatric drugs. As our decisions cannot be relegated to a doctor, a family member, or another professional, making life changes takes self-initiative and courage.

Coaching for those with ADHD or depression can help with this mission. Coaches can even work with you on the phone, supporting you or your child by providing practical suggestions and encouragement. Coaches are less costly than therapists, and are used instead of a therapist or in addition to one. One mental health organization suggests that coaching can act as a first line of defense for those who do not want to see a psychologist or take medication.

Mental Health Solutions and a Long-term Approach

Keep a positive attitude. Lifestyle changes and self-help can lead to a permanent solution for depression and other mental health issues.

Listed are a number self-help principles and tools for good mental health, depression and other mental health issues:

  • Love
  • Purposeful living
  • Mental hygiene
  • Attention to spiritual needs

  • Physical activity & balance

  • Cleanliness & orderliness

  • Mind strengthening and creative activities

  • Art as a natural mood stabilizer

  • Honesty & humility
  • Communication concerning the present and past
  • Effort.
  • Finding good companions, positive social interaction, and avoidance of isolation

Why a Non-Pharmaceutical Approach?

Lifestyle changes, mental hygiene, and physical exercise may provide insight into how to overcome mood disorders permanently. Additionally, consideration of past experiences that may still be effecting one's emotions can improve chances of overcoming mood disorders.

Numerous side effects of antidepressants and psychotropic drugs, including new drugs and classes of drugs, can range from mild to severe.

Non-pharmaceutical approaches may be more effective and result in less adverse (or no) side effects. However, such approaches do initially take more time and effort for both patients and their physicians. These techniques also require patience and commitment on the part of family members, whose involvement in the treatment plan or counseling can be valuable. One psychiatrist stated that diagnosing the illness and prescribing what he felt was appropriate medication was easy. Helping people with family issues, employment issues, emotional issues, and lifestyle issues, however, was much more difficult.

Lifestyles Changes and Self-Help for Depression and Good Mental Health

It has been demonstrated that addressing lifestyle issues can improve coping abilities, and help individuals overcome many symptoms of mental health disorders, ranging from mild to more severe. Strict mental hygiene is something to which many patients need to give attention.

Mental Hygiene - An Important Aspect of Curing Depression
and Mental Health Self-Help

When we floss our teeth, we are surprised by how much food is stuck in between. Though our teeth may appear clean without flossing, daily flossing helps preserve the life of one's teeth. Similarly, the minds of adults and children need frequent "mental flossing." Mental flossing involves attention to what we are allowing into our minds.

The Mind Needs Rest

Our minds require rest. If you were to use a hair dryer for 24 hours each day, the hair dryer would burn out relatively quickly. The same is true with our minds. A person who is on the go constantly needs to find time to recharge his or her batteries. We need to get adequate natural sleep, not facilitated by pills or alcohol, for our minds to recharge.

By giving attention to lifestyle issues, one may also find his/her mental health gradually restored, and that one can learn to both cope with these problems and even see them go into remission over time. This isn't a miraculous overnight transition. It is one that takes perseverance and effort, and it might take some time to see significant differences in one's mood. But the end result may be a significant improvement or even a full and permanent recovery.

Exercise for good mental and physical health

When we think of lifestyle changes, we may imagine quitting drinking, smoking, or drug use. Such changes would benefit anyone's mental health. However, there are also many small changes that can make a big difference in an adult or child's mental health. For example, some have found relief from depression by maintaining an exercise regimen.

Exercise for effective depression self-help. Its positive effects are good for both the short-term and the long-term.

A Duke University study concluded that brisk walking for exercise is more effective in treating mild to moderate depression than taking antidepressants, in both the short and long-term. The study demonstrated that not only was exercise more effective than antidepressants, it was even more effective than the combination of medicine and exercise. This proved to be true in both the short and long-term.

Regular exercise increases levels of serotonin and endorphins in the brain and thus contributes to improved moods. These findings demonstrate that mood can be improved without manufactured pharmaceuticals.

Brisk walking or exercise is known to be a better and more long-lasting treatment for depression than that of medication (Duke University). Even if you seek professional treatment for depression, you should still work hard at self-help measures and lifestyle changes. Brisk walking and other forms of physical exercise are great self-help strategies for depression.

Physical exercise is good for you because:

  • It helps you to focus
  • It stimulates positive emotions
  • It contributes to positive self-worth
  • It helps stimulate endorphins and opiates in the brain, giving a natural sense of well-being
  • Its positive effects are long-lasting when continued
  • It improves physical fitness and stimulates the heart
  • It contributes to weight loss
  • It can give the mind time to rest (try to walk or engage in exercise without listening to music to give your mind a rest)

Other forms of exercise also help. Henry, a man in his 60s who has experienced moderate depression for a number of years and overcame it, takes no medication. Instead he swims three or four times a week. He says it is the only thing that keeps him out of depression and away from antidepressant treatment.

Give attention to diet and engage in mind-strengthening activities for the prevention of mental health disorders and to improve symptoms of depression.

Utilize a healthful and balanced diet for a positive improvement in depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and many other mental health disorders. Attention to nutrition is positive mental health and depression self-help!

Regular, healthful meals with low sugar and balanced nutrition, as well as regular healthful breakfasts improve mental health and relieve some symptoms of depression. Foods to avoid are: sugar, sodas, cakes, candies, ice cream, deep-fried foods, white bread, white rice, butter (or ghee). Replace such foods with: fresh vegetables, fruit, nuts, whole grains, whole wheat bread, and whole grain rice.

Mind-Strengthening Activities

Additionally, engaging in mind-strengthening activities can do much for positive long-term gains in one's mental health. "Mental hygiene" is a term that has been coined by psychiatrists, and is something many need to give attention to in order to restore mental balance.

A definition of mental hygiene in modern medicine refers to the "branch of psychiatry that deals with the science and practice of maintaining and restoring mental health, and of preventing mental disorder through education, early treatment, and public health measures" (American Heritage Medical Dictionary. 2007). In the context of this discussion, it refers to preventive and restorative measures initiated through self-help or recommended by mental health professionals.

Just a little bit of sand in the engine of a car can render it inoperable. Ship owners regularly spend large sums of money to clean barnacles from their ships to keep the ships running smoothly. Like cars and ships, the mind is sensitive. It doesn't take much "mental sand" for some to experience mental health problems. By keeping our minds clean, we can prevent mental disorders. For example, avoiding violence in the media (movies, TV, video games) and pornography can improve the mental health of individuals of all ages.

Talk Things Out, Write in a Daily Journal, Create Poetry, Develop Spiritually

Talk things out with a good listener or a trained professional, which can be of value for relief from emotional or psychological burdens. Such burdens may arise from childhood trauma, spousal abuse, or other emotional turmoil. Whether talking to a therapist or psychologist, a friend, spouse, minister, or teacher, discussing emotional wounds can provide a path to repair. Specifically, by encouraging the organization of one's thoughts, such discussions can promote mental and emotional balance, and contribute to self-insight.

Another mode for organizing one's thoughts is writing in a journal. Like discussing issues, writing about them provides good self-help for depression and other mental health disorders. Journaling can clear one's mind of "clutter."

·  Keep a journal. It can be cathartic and help organize the mind.

·  Write poetry It can also be something of a creative catharsis as well as a tool for building self-esteem

·  Pray regularly. It can help to build inner strength, contribute to inner peace, and raise personal esteem-leading to balance

·  Similarly, attend to spiritual needs in a balanced way, which can contribute to better mental health

In addition to mental, emotional, and physical considerations, humans are also spiritual beings. Our mental health is tied up in our spirituality, and spiritual hygiene is vital in maintaining mental balance. It takes much effort to be aware of our spiritual needs and to fulfill those needs. Some have found daily Bible reading to be a strengthening aid.

Randy, a young adult who suffered recurring panic attacks, stated that prayer was helpful in overcoming his anxiety disorder. Prayer can also be helpful for depression and bipolar disorder because it can be a valuable source of strength, guidance, and comfort. Prayer in this context refers to speaking openly or communicating with God about one's problems and asking for help. (See page: Spirituality, a Vital Key to Good Mental Health - on-site). While this page approaches the subject of prayer from the perspective of a personal deity, it recognizes that there are many other ways that individuals approach spirituality.

Preventive Medicine, Depression Self-help and Natural Psychology Solutions

Dr. George Albee was former president of the American Psychological Association and professor emeritus at Vermont University until his death in 2006. He advanced the idea that the roots of mental illness lay in the social structures and pressures, stresses, and traumas that people have experienced. At a time when psychiatric medications were becoming widespread, he taught and wrote extensively about how medications were not the answer to mental illness. He especially felt that children should never be prescribed psychiatric medications.

The widespread use of of medicinal treatment in psychiatry is a relatively new practice. The first true psychiatric medications that were extensively used were developed in the 1950s, and it wasn't until theThe widespread use of medicinal treatment in psychiatry is a relatively new practice. The first true psychiatric medications that were extensively used were developed in the 1950s, and it wasn't until the mid to late 1950s that thorazine, a psychotropic or typical antipsychotic, was used in psychiatric hospitals.

Since that time, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of different psychiatric medications have been developed. Medicines such as barbiturates and amphetamines, developed in the 1930s, started to be used more frequently in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Children, Mental Health Disorders, Child Abuse, and Prevention

Children are being bombarded today with overwhelming family, social, and media issues. Family life has deteriorated for many. Because children thrive on love and attention, they need the support and love of a father and mother. Up to 50% of children in the U.S. will be without one or the other parent at some time in their lives.

Additionally, some children are abused by a parent. An estimated one million U.S. children experience some form of child abuse or neglect each year, which is described as only "the tip of the iceberg" (Gillespie, C., Nemeroff, 2005). One news report puts the percentage of children who experience some form of child abuse in Brazil, as one example, at 25%, with 5.6% of Brazilian girls experiencing sexual abuse (Bassani D., et al. 2009).

Other countries show similar trends. In some Asian countries (India is one), the percentage of child abuse soars to 53% according to a 2007 report, Study on Child Abuse - India 2007, conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development - Government of India. Current statistics indicate that about 4% of men in high-income countries to more than 40% of women in parts of Africa have been victims of child abuse throughout the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) (WHO. 2009).

Child abuse can lead to emotional wounds and mental health disorders not only for the children, but for adults who have been abused as children (Gillespie, C., Nemeroff, 2005). Love, support, and gentleness are keys to healing the mind and emotional wounds of children who have been abused.

Self-help and the Importance of Self Esteem

Self-esteem is a vital component of a healthy mind. When we see tangible results of our own work, it helps build healthy self-esteem. Mind-strengthening activities can help. Doing good things for others helps us build positive feelings about ourselves. Creative endeavors also are of help in building self-esteem. Avoiding self-destructive behavior and having a regular job also build a positive sense of self-worth. Choosing associates who are a source of strength rather than those who might be engaging in actions that are self-destructive (such as drinking excessively or taking drugs) is also of value.

Cognitive behavioral therapy, which can also be considered from a self-help perspective, helps individuals get away from an all-or-nothing mode of thinking. We all make mistakes. Many people are wounded from the past and present. We need to accept our failures, mistakes, and shortcomings and work to overcome them. We should not self-flagellate for past or present problems. We need to accept God's mercy and look to Him for help. We need to learn to be merciful both to others and ourselves, and realize that that is how God looks at things; God is there to help, not to condemn.

One high school teacher in a New Jersey public school talks openly to students about God, and when she counsels them in a professional setting, she encourages them to look to God or to someone higher than themselves: "You need someone bigger than yourself," she says, "to get out of the problems that you are in and to cope with them." Those that follow this advice, she says, are twice as likely to succeed. We need to accept love and mercy, and try to do the best we can; if we do our personal best, then we are doing well. And this goes for those suffering with mental health problems, as well as the parents and family of those who suffer.

"Don't think of doctors as God," was one suggestion on the National Resource Website for CHADD (for ADD and ADHD). In other words, we have to take charge of our own lives and make informed decisions. Parents need to do this if their children have mental health problems. Much can be accomplished on the home front. Attention to spiritual needs, learning to have a balanced view of yourself, accepting and forgiving yourself, working towards improvement, and learning to be happy with every small positive step forward are big steps in self-help for depression and for good mental health in general.

Art has value in mental health therapy

Art is a form of recreation and, much like a tranquilizer, can help calm the mind. Particularly if engaged in regularly, art can help stabilize the mood of those with bipolar disorder and those with ADHD because it helps one establish new thought patterns. It can thus be thought of as a natural mood stabilizer.

Art can be of value in strengthening the mind, and provides both children and adults with a healthy form of recreation. It can be a positive force especially when replacing less healthy forms of recreation like watching TV, movies, pornography, or playing video games. It can also be a tool for building self-esteem, and can be a peaceful healing tool for those who may have suffered from abuse.

Love is an essential element of good mental health

The giving and receiving of love, is an important aspect of good mental health and recovery from depression.

Both the giving and receiving love are essential components of human emotional needs. Any time that we spend in giving of ourselves to help other people can help us have fulfilling and happier lives and can contribute to healthful thought patterns.

Earnest effort is need to recover from mental health disorders and difficulties.

It takes much effort for educators, parents, and doctors to work together to protect children and teenagers from potentially destructive influences, and to provide home and school atmospheres that give a child the love and peace required for good mental health. It also takes work for adults to learn new lifestyles or habits that can contribute to better mental health. Breaking free from lifestyles and habits that contribute to mental health problems, including depression, can be difficult and take a great deal of determination, and at times professional help. But it is well worth the effort.

Whether or not a person with depression or any other mental health disorder decides to take psychiatric drugs or not, self-help is a very important part of successful recovery. Educate yourself on self-help methods for whatever mental health issue you are dealing with, and your chances for successful recovery will be more certain.

We sincerely hope that this information will help achieve a better success ratio with the treatment of mental health disorders for both adults and children in this rapidly changing world.

References for Natural Psychology page

1. Bassani, D., Palazzo L., Beria J., Gigante, L., Figueiredo, A., Aerts, D., Raymann, B. (2009 May 11). Child sexual abuse in southern Brazil and associated factors: a population-based study. Public Health.
Statistics based on a survey of 1040 households indicate that 5.6% of girls and 1.6% of girls are sexually abused in Brasil.

2. Elliot, G. R. (2006). Medicating Young Minds: How to Know If Psychiatric Drugs Will Help or Hurt Your Child. New York: Stewart, Tabori and Chang.
"Treating a child with drugs before it's clear what is going on is worse than not treating a child at all. Let's face it: We are experimenting on these kids without tracking the results." -Glen Elliott, M.D., Ph.D. (it added)

3. Gillespie, C. F., MD, PhD, Nemeroff, C. B., MD, PhD. (2005, October). EARLY LIFE STRESS AND DEPRESSION - Childhood trauma may lead to neurobiologically unique mood disorders. Adults with a history of child abuse or neglect may respond differently than other depressed patients to the usual treatments. Current Psychiatry. Vol. 4, No. 10.;_ttnews[tt_news]=169044

4. Global Health Risks. 2009. World Health Organization (WHO).

5. Olfman, S. (2006). No Child Left Different. Westport, CT: Praeger.

6. Sifferlin, A. (2013). Fewer Drugs Being Prescribed to Treat Mental Illness Among Kids. Time.
From the early 1990s to the early 2000s, the number of young children on psychotropic drugs, which include anti-depressants, stimulants, mood stabilizers and anti-anxiety agents, increased by two- to three-fold." This includes "preschoolers [generally ages 4 and 5], according to the article. The headline of this article is misleading in that it reports on a study that indicates that the number of children being prescribed psychiatric drugs is now stable (not decreasing), but that it is not increasing dramatically as it had been until around the year 2009.

"more than one in five specialists who diagnose and recommend treatment for preschoolers with ADHD turn to drug therapy first, either alone or in tandem with behavior therapy." (Monetary considerations are noted as the primary reason why doctors rely heavily on drug treatment rather than other therapies).

7. Study on Child Abuse - India 2007. (2007). Ministry of Women and Child Development - Government of India.