Over the last several days I have been spending time and supporting a friend who has been extremely down after a breakup. 

Depression is something that runs in my family so I have had plenty of experience with down times.

If you've ever been extremely blue you know the struggle. Feeling helpless, powerless, unmotivated, stuck, frustrated, sad, alone, and wondering when it will end. 

While in some situations antidepressants are an important tool, too often the power of specific life rituals and nutritional therapies are underestimated and underutilized.

Furthermore many mood stabilizing drugs take 4-6 weeks to kick in so its important to have other tools to work with during down times.

Here are a few things I have learned from years of experience and research with down days:

  • Eat Clean: Refined sugars, chemical additives , and processed junk all impact the brain adversely. Stick with clean whole foods. In addition avoid over-consuming Omega 6 oils--soy, sunflower, and corn being the highest--as they cause inflammation and effect the brain negatively.   
  • Supplement Right: It is key to give your brain nutrients that help stabilize mood. Vitamin D (2-5,000 IU daily), Omega 3's (1-2,000 mg daily fish oil), and a B-Vitmain complex that includes B12, 6, and folic acid. In addition, according to Dr. Weil  "SAMe (S-adenosy-L-methionine) promotes brain function and can support depression. Use only the butanedisulfonate form in enteric-coated tablets, or in capsules. Try 400-1,600 mg a day on an empty stomach."
  • Ensure High Quality Protein: Especially if you are a vegan or vegetarian low mood can be related to not enough protein. Read more here. 

  • Mellow your Inflammation: The brains (and consequently guts) of depressed people often show signs of inflammation which often occurs due to processed foods and common allergens like gluten or dairy. Explore an elimination diet and enact protocols to repair your gut. 
  • Move It: Cardio based movement for 45min four days a week is key to release endorphins and helps stimulate BDNF a natural mood enhancer in the brain. Read more about BDNF.

  • Schedule Up: Every Sunday plan out your week. Schedule your movement times, social engagements--even if you don't feeling like seeing people it is vital to not isolate--and plan times for cooking food. Having a plan will ensure you avoid too many pockets free space where you can overthink your situation. 
  • Get a Check Up: Sometimes depression/fatigue can be exasperated or caused by hypothyroidism, heavy metal toxicity, or iron deficiency. 
  • Journal Daily: When we feel down its important to journal and catharsize the cyclone of thoughts in the mind. Even if you don't feel great about your life take time to include some gratitude in your journalling. It can be small being grateful for the sun, breath, a piece of fruit, love of friends and family, water, etc. 
  • Spend time in Nature: Many studies have shown that being in nature for as little as 20 minutes can serve to relieve mild to medium depressive symptoms. Buy yourself flowers and plants, spend time in a park, or invite a friend to go for a hike.  
  • Talk to Someone: Talk therapy serves as an important tool in down moods as it provides a chance to speak to someone outside of your life circle and to share what is present for you with a caring invested listener. 
  • Take An Herb: St. John's Wort has been clinically proven to help enhance mood in depressed people. Take 300 mg  three times daily. The herb can take 4-6 weeks to take effect and it is vital not to take it if you are on birth control pills or antidepressants especially SSRIs. 
  • Get Poked: Acupuncture has been shown to enhance mood and support overall vitality especially during down times. 
  • Laugh: Even though you might not feel like it put on a stand up comedian, go to a comedy show, or watch a funny movie, laughter improves mood. 
  • Clean Up: Cleaning is extremely therapeutic as often depression is coupled with a lack of motivation. Organizing and cleaning will provide a sense of purpose, accomplishment, and energetically will make your living space feel more habitable. 

While this list might seem overwhelming choose a few rituals to explore and implement every day. Particularly with the daunting feeling of depression it is the simplest small baby steps that add up and make a huge difference!