6 Ideas for Overcoming Depression Without Medication

With more than 21 million adults in the United States experiencing major depression,  it needs to be something that we talk about without fear of judgement and fear. After all, it can affect any of us.  Some of the signs and symptoms to look out for include:

  • Sadness that you can’t seem to shift
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Guilt
  • Struggling to sleep
  • Loss of interest 

The problem is, lots of people who suffer from depression do not want to take medication. There is nothing wrong with medication – for so many people, it is the only thing that can help if all other avenues have been explored. However, we often tend to jump straight to medication to treat depression without trying out other things first. In some cases, depression can be overcome without the use of medication and a few fairly simple lifestyle changes. In this article, we will look at six ways to overcome depression without the use of medication.

No meds

TLDR Summary:

  1. Lower Stress: Adopt stress-reduction techniques like mindfulness and ensure adequate rest.

  2. Sleep Well: Practice good sleep hygiene to improve mood and cognitive function.

  3. Eat Healthily & Stay Active: Incorporate a balanced diet and regular, gentle exercise to boost mental health.

  4. Practice Mindfulness: Engage in mindfulness to break negative thought patterns and enhance emotional regulation.

  5. Nurture Relationships: Address and improve challenging relationships to reduce stress and enhance support.

  6. Set Achievable Goals: Focus on small, SMART goals to foster a sense of accomplishment and progress.

1. Take steps to reduce stress levels

Stress, according to a 2012 study conducted with students, had a negative impact on mental health, life satisfaction, and general health, the researchers discovered.

However, even though it is not always possible to avoid stress, taking steps to do so may be beneficial. These are some examples that are covered in more detail below:

  • Obtaining sufficient sleep and rest
  • Exercising Regularly and Eating Properly
  • Practicing Mindfulness
  • Thinking about your difficult relationships

2. Make sure you are getting enough sleep

Ensuring adequate sleep is crucial for managing and potentially alleviating symptoms of depression. The connection between sleep quality and mental health is significant; insufficient sleep can lead to or exacerbate feelings of sadness, irritability, and stress, regardless of whether one is currently experiencing depression. To promote emotional well-being, it’s important to follow practices known as “good sleep hygiene.” This includes maintaining consistent sleep schedules, ensuring your sleeping environment supports restful sleep, and establishing a calming pre-sleep routine that avoids screen time.


Consider the case of Alex, a client who struggled with mild depression and found it difficult to concentrate during the day. By adopting a consistent bedtime, creating a relaxing environment free of electronics in the bedroom, and engaging in a soothing nighttime routine, Alex began to notice an improvement in mood and focus.


Adequate sleep offers several benefits that can help with depression:

  • Brain Function and Emotional Regulation: Sleep supports vital brain functions, including cognition and emotional balance. It can help stabilize mood swings and reduce symptoms of depression.

  • Stress Reduction: Quality sleep reduces stress hormone levels, such as cortisol, which is linked to depression. Lowering stress can diminish the severity of depressive symptoms.

  • Physical Health: Lack of sleep can increase the risk of conditions like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, which can worsen depression. Good sleep supports overall physical health.

  • Immune System Boost: A strong immune system, bolstered by sufficient sleep, protects against illnesses that can negatively affect mood and deepen depression.

  • Body Repair: Deep sleep phases are crucial for bodily repair and tissue growth, contributing to physical well-being and, by extension, mental health.

Incorporating healthy sleep practices into one’s routine can play a key role in managing depression, as evidenced by improved outcomes in clients like Alex.


3. Exercise regularly and eat properly

A nutritious diet may aid in the prevention of depression and the enhancement of mental well-being. According to a 2019 study, dietary adjustments may have a role to play in the treatment of depression. Aim to eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, healthy fats, whole grain foods and oily fish.

Increasing physical activity does not necessarily imply training for a marathon; rather, it entails engaging in a half-hour or so of low-intensity activity each day, which has been shown to be useful in boosting mood. 

Here are 5 ways Exercise can specifically help with Depression:

  • Endorphin Release: Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. Endorphins contribute to the “runner’s high” and can bring about feelings of euphoria and general well-being.
  •  Brain Health: Exercise promotes neuroplasticity by stimulating the growth of new connections between cells in many important cortical areas of the brain. It also encourages the growth of new neurons, a process known as neurogenesis.
  • Increased Energy: Though it might seem counterintuitive, exercising can actually increase your energy levels, helping to alleviate some of the fatigue commonly associated with depression.
  • Self-esteem Boost: Setting and achieving fitness goals, whether small or large, can boost self-esteem and self-worth. This sense of accomplishment can combat feelings of worthlessness that often accompany depression.
  • Distraction: Engaging in physical activity can serve as a positive distraction from ruminative or negative thoughts.  It can also provide more Social Interaction as another distraction.

4. Practice mindfulness

Increasing evidence supports mindfulness—the practice of focusing on the present moment thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment—as a valuable approach for enhancing mental health and managing depression. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy has been shown to be as effective as medication for preventing relapse in individuals with recurrent depression and for alleviating symptoms in those currently facing depression.


Mindfulness helps by teaching individuals to observe their thoughts without becoming entangled in them, thus aiding in breaking the cycle of rumination, a common feature of depression characterized by repetitive and often negative thought patterns. It creates a space where one can respond to negative thoughts and events with conscious choice rather than automatic reactivity. Furthermore, it promotes enhanced self-awareness, leading to early recognition and proactive management of depressive symptoms. Mindfulness also improves focus and decision-making, addressing common depressive symptoms such as distractibility and indecisiveness, and builds resilience by encouraging a balanced response to both positive and negative experiences.


For example, consider Alex, who struggled with depressive rumination, finding himself caught in a loop of negative thoughts that worsened his mood. Through mindfulness training, Alex learned to observe these thoughts as they arose, without judgment or immediate reaction. This practice enabled him to recognize the pattern and gently steer his focus back to the present, reducing the intensity and frequency of ruminative cycles. Over time, Alex reported not only a decrease in depressive symptoms but also an improved ability to concentrate and a newfound resilience in facing life’s challenges. This illustrates the profound impact mindfulness can have on individuals dealing with depression, transforming their relationship with their thoughts and emotions.


5. Think about your Difficult Relationships

Understanding the role of relationships in managing depression underscores the importance of nurturing strong, healthy connections. These relationships serve as a vital support network, offering someone to talk to and rely on during challenging times, thereby enhancing our ability to cope with depression. The Office for National Statistics highlights the significance of friendships and family bonds in contributing to our overall well-being.

Conversely, being in difficult relationships can significantly increase the likelihood of experiencing depression. Research suggests that individuals in unhappy or unsupportive relationships are three times more likely to suffer from depression. Such relationships can contribute to depression in various ways, including creating chronic stress from ongoing conflicts with partners, family members, or friends. They can also lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation, particularly if the relationship limits social interactions or causes one to withdraw from other connections to avoid conflict. Additionally, relationships marked by any form of abuse can lead to trauma, a known risk factor for depression, while also potentially leaving emotional needs like belonging, love, validation, and security unmet. Regular conflict, especially that involving personal criticism, can further erode well-being, paving the way for sadness, anxiety, and depression.

Consider the case of Alex, who was in a strained relationship that led to feelings of isolation and chronic stress. This environment made it difficult for Alex to express his needs or find solace, contributing to his depressive symptoms. By recognizing the toxic patterns and seeking support, Alex began to work on establishing boundaries and engaging more with his support network of friends and family. This shift not only reduced his stress levels but also helped fulfill his emotional needs, significantly improving his mental health and resilience against depression. Alex’s experience highlights the profound impact relationships can have on our mental health and the importance of cultivating supportive, fulfilling connections.

6. Set small goals – and chase them

No matter where you are on your journey to overcoming depression, working toward specific goals can help you live the life you want. You can start with setting one small goal to accomplish each day, such as writing down three things you are grateful for in your journal or going to bed ten minutes earlier. Aim for SMART goals – make sure they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Based

As you put these coping techniques into action, keep in mind that you are on the road to recovery from depression.

Patients who invent a rationale for why they are unable to accomplish these tasks, on the other hand, are more likely to experience depression. Doing many of these things every day — even when you do not feel like it — is critical to the treatment of depression, regardless of whatever medication you are taking. 

Overcoming Depression without Medication in the Denver Area

You don’t need to battle depression alone. Seek the help of a professional counselor who can make you feel more empowered, fulfilled, and able to take on the challenges of the world.   We invite you to call us at 720-551-4553 for a free 20-minute phone consultation. You can schedule your appointment via phone, email, or the contact page on our websiteYou can read more about our Depression therapy Services here.

Self Care Impact Counseling envisions a new age of counseling for adolescents, adults, couples & groups that makes a REAL difference with core values of GROWTH | BALANCE | COMPASSION | INNER HARMONY.