The Carpenters described the feeling well in their song “Rainy Days and Mondays”: “Talking to myself and feeling old, sometimes I want to quit, nothing ever seems to fit…” For those with more serious mood disorders, such as Clinical Depression or Bipolar Disorder, medication is usually necessary, as is therapy and the care of a psychiatrist.
But for milder cases of depression, or a case of just feeling down, natural means are available to help lift the low mood.
“Nutrition, more than anything else, controls your state of mind,” says Don Tolman in the Farmacist Desk Reference: Encyclopedia of Whole Food Medicine (Ynoteduk8, 2007).
Tolman says that the most beneficial nutrients for depression are whole food B vitamins and amino acids.
As it may be hard to eat enough B vitamins to lift the mood, a B-complex supplement can be taken.
A study in England showed that depressed persons given 200 micrograms of folic acid for one year saw their moods lift as much as 40 percent over those given a placebo.
Also, there is good reason why certain foods are thought of as comfort foods. Carbohydrates can help ease feelings of fatigue, anxiety, and depression.
• Enjoy a bagel or piece of bread, or a serving of macaroni and cheese or pasta with a favorite topping. Whole grain products are best. Carbohydrates boost levels of the amino acid tryptophan, which is then converted into serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps boost mood.
• Reduce the intake of sugar and caffeine.
• Green leafy vegetables (spinach, for example) help boost serotonin levels.
St. John’s Wort has been proven to help boost mood in cases of mild depression. At least 23 controlled studies involving more than 1,800 outpatients diagnosed with mild to moderate depression have been documented, says Stephen Foster, author of 101 Medicinal Herbs (Interweave Press, 1998).
• For products standardized to 0.3 percent hypericin (the active ingredient in St. John’s Wort), Foster recommends taking 300 milligrams three times daily. Note: This herb may increase sun sensitivity, so be sure to wear a sunscreen and limit time in the sun.
• Valerian helps ease anxiety and control insomnia. It can be a helpful companion herb to St. John’s Wort to control mild to moderate depression compounded by anxiety and sleeplessness. For products standardized to 0.5 percent essential oil, take 300 to 400 milligrams one hour before bedtime, or, to help with anxiety, take this amount during the day.
• Exercise can help to dispel the blues and life mood, and is a good way to let go of tension, Tolman says.
• Draw out your feelings using crayons. Tolman suggests being free with colours. When finished, examine the drawing. Red suggests anger, black suggests sadness, and grey suggests anxiety.
• Avoid major decisions until the depression lifts.
• Avoid shopping binges, which could bring on another bout of depression coupled with guilt when the bills arrive.
• Treat others with respect. This may be harder to do when depressed, as the tendency is to be impatient and sharp. But others may return this attitude, which will only make the depression worse.
For mild to moderate depression, changes in diet and behaviour, along with using herbal supplements and B vitamins, can lead to significant progress in the mood lifting.
Feeling sad is a part of being human, and sometimes all one can do is be with the sadness for awhile. But if mild depression persists slightly longer than it should, try natural remedies and see if they help the clouds part and the sun to shine again.