Monday, December 9, 2013

Find Natural Support for Depression

No matter what depression symptoms you have, the foundations of health can support your mental health.

Square dancers

"Depression" is an umbrella term that covers many different clinical conditions. Mood changes that wax and wane with the seasons look different than someone who has a depressed mood throughout the year, regardless whether the sun is out. No matter what depression symptoms you have, the foundations of health can support your mental health.


We all love comfort foods in winter, but for mood support, look to foods that are nutrient-dense. This provides the building blocks for healthy nerves and neurotransmission. The best way to include a diversity of nutrients in a meal is through a whole-foods diet. Foods rich in B vitamins, choline, folate, B6, and B12, vitamin C and essential fatty acids, can help in building a nutrient foundation for mental health.


There is an increasing amount of evidence suggesting exercise is key to a sense of well-being for people of all ages. The key is not just moving around, but exercise rigorous enough to make you sweat. This doesn’t have to mean the gym or running around the block — it can be a social activity like dancing lessons, adult-league sports or community center events.
If has been a while, you can start slow and work your way up to breaking a sweat. Aim for a workout of moderate exertion at least three times a week. If slower movements are more your pace, try things like yoga, qi gong or tai chi.


Adults on average need 7-9 hours of nightly sleep to feel rested. Sleep deprivation can worsen mood and other depression symptoms, such as difficulty concentrating. Sleep is a time for the brain to down-cycle, relax, and filter toxins and inflammatory substances from the brain. Here are some ways to develop sleep hygiene:

  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule, including weekends.
  • Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath or hot tub and then reading a book or listening to soothing music. If you use a tablet to read, use an app like Twilight to reduce the amount of blue light emitted from the screen. This light frequency can be stimulating.
  • Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool.
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. Make sure that mattresses and pillows are changed out as needed.
  • Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex.
  • Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol before bed.


There are simple ways we can decrease stress.

  • Breathing technique classes such diaphragmatic breathing, neurofeedback or biofeedback.
  • Meditation.
  • A neutral bath.
  • A habitual hobby unrelated related to your job. If you work in an office, it could be gardening or cooking.
  • Regularly scheduled vacations— even if you stay home.
  • Laughing.

Taking the time to explore the many foundational options can help you support your mental health and add more tools in your toolbox for understanding your individual needs.

—By Stephen Phipps ND, PhD, naturopathic doctor and resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health.

Subscribe to Newsletters

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

More Health Tips

Here are some ways to eat an inexpensive and well-balanced diet consisting of many nutritious whole foods.

Here's how to create a healthy posture to improve your health.

The main benefit of the Paleo diet is that it promotes eating whole, nutritious foods while avoiding refined, processed foods.

While tax season can be daunting and stressful, these are simple, easy ways to help lighten the load.

Behind the calm exterior of a doula is a person who is constantly thinking, strategizing and endeavoring to create an environment to support a pregnant, birthing or postpartum family.

With the recent buzz about gluten- and wheat-free diets, it’s good to know how they compare and if they’re right for everyone.


Apr 19 Continuing Ed

Cannabis has been used since antiquity for a range of therapeutic purposes. The current phenomenon of medical Cannabis use in the U.S. is not well supported by current scientific clinical research due to the legal restrictions of Schedule I status. Regardless, patients are accessing this plant medicine and clinicians are compelled to complete their knowledge base with regard to interaction with patients.
April 19, Sat, 8:30a.m.-5p.m.
Instructor: Michelle Sexton, ND, BS.
(7 CEUs, CMEs)

Apr 19 General

Learn how diet and lifestyle modifications can help you control and prevent type-2 diabetes.

Apr 19 General

Watch your classmates and co-workers battle it out in Top Chef style to raise money to feed the homeless youth of Seattle.

Recent News

David Tolmie, BS ('06), MLIS, combines psychology and technology skills to help students navigate the fast-changing world of evidence-informed medicine.

Coquina Deger, MBA, and David Siebert fill key roles as part of President’s Cabinet

Herbal sciences students cook up foods with love -- and health-giving herbs -- in a popular lab class.

The actor and author joins us for a Q-and-A before her May 22 talk at Bastyr's Spring for Health Luncheon.

Spring 2014: There is a lot blossoming at Bastyr University


Bastyr University Nutrition Faculty Member Receives Prestigious State Honor

The public is invited to a free community event to explore Bastyr University’s teaching clinic

Teaching clinic earns second consecutive year of stellar results in regional patient satisfaction survey

In the Media

FOX Q13: Bastyr University's Ellie Freeman Discusses the FDA’s New Food Labels
Bothell-Kenmore Reporter: Bastyr Center for Natural Health Expands Integrative Oncology Services
Puget Sound Business Journal: Bastyr University's President Daniel Church to Retire