Exploring new ways to cure depression

Ask a high school student today if he remembers life without the Internet and he will answer “No”. They do not recall using an encyclopedia or card catalog as their primary source of information. In fact, you probably can’t even imagine looking in the newspaper for movie times or having to listen to the radio to find out when your favorite band is coming to town. For them, life without the Internet is a foreign concept. That’s how I think most of us are when it comes to illness. Whether physical (strep throat, headaches) or mental (depression, anxiety), most of us are unable to consider the variety of possible treatment options. It has become the norm for us to do the same thing every time something is “wrong” with us: see a doctor, take medicine/inject/get X-rayed/etc., and wait for it to get better.

We often follow this same pattern when it comes to the most illusionary psychological foods with the only possible departure from our usual routine being possibly some psychotherapy or self-help book. I am not saying that something is wrong with this formula. When I realize that the strep throat is setting in once again, I run to the first ER clinic I can to get antibiotics. Still, it’s good to challenge your standard operating procedures from time to time and at least consider other options. Fortunately, there is a wide variety of alternative therapies available even for something like depression.

Below are snapshots of these treatment methods.

Herbal remedies. Herbs have been used for thousands of years to treat illnesses. Some of the common herbs used to treat depression include: St. John’s wort, Ginko biloba, lavender, valerian root, ginseng, amino acid supplements, and 5-HTP.

Vitamin and mineral therapy. Many people take vitamins and minerals, but this alternative treatment may involve taking a wider variety of vitamins/minerals, as well as taking different doses than the recommended amount shown on the bottle.

Acupuncture. This is an ancient Chinese method of healing that prevents and cures specific diseases and conditions. The technique involves sticking very fine, solid needles into specific points on the body, causing the body to produce chemicals that decrease or eliminate painful sensations. The theory is that it stimulates the body’s ability to resist or overcome diseases and conditions by correcting imbalances.

Exercise. If you read last week’s article, you’ll know why exercise is a “super activity.” Consistent and proper exercise can do wonders for the body; not just on the surface (size 6 jeans) but in other, less visible ways. Exercise reduces stress and strengthens neurons; both good things when treating depression.

Reflexology. Reflexologists, like many other natural health practitioners, believe that the body has the ability to heal itself. In this therapy, nerves related to various parts of the body are manipulated by applying pressure to specific points on the hands and feet. Through this it is thought that the healing process is stimulated.

Meditation. Meditation has been around for thousands of years and is a relatively simple treatment option, in theory if not in practice. Through meditation, a person learns to focus on their breath and becomes aware of their thoughts. Although one does not usually stop thoughts from happening, in meditation a person learns to let thoughts be, without reacting to them. This alone can be quite powerful as most people in the western world tend to “live in their head” and become entrenched in their thought patterns.

Art therapy. Art therapy is exactly what it sounds like: therapy using art. Art therapy uses a combination of therapeutic techniques along with various artistic techniques and materials (clay, paints, and chalk) to help people express themselves and heal.

Biofeedback/Neurofeedback. This treatment relies on sensitive computers that can “read” the various internal states of a person. Patients receiving this treatment receive information about how their body responds to certain thoughts, activities, and beliefs. Using this information, patients are taught how to manage their bodily reactions. For example, let’s say I learned through biofeedback that my heart starts racing and my mind becomes overly active when I’m around dogs. My therapist would teach me how to control my body’s reactions so that when I encounter dogs I can handle it better.

Emotional Freedom Therapy/EFT. This relatively new therapy is based on the fact that our bodies are made of energy. Disruptions in our energy fields cause problems, and according to EFT, healing can occur by tapping on established energy meridians while thinking about negative emotions.

Alternative therapies for depression are becoming more popular due in part to the adverse side effects of traditional antidepressant medications. Even if you’re not “in the market” for new ways to deal with depression; Consider the multitude of solutions available for any ailment you may encounter. After all, if the internet goes down, it’s good to know how to use an encyclopedia. 🙂

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