These 11 Changes Will Make You Happier And More Fulfilled Than Antidepressants Ever Will

Why is it that our culture heavily pushes potentially life-changing medications like birth control and antidepressants onto young adults? And is exercising your medical freedom really possible if you don’t have all the information about these medications?

By Gwen Farrell4 min read
Pexels/lil artsy

Like anything else, it all comes down to money. Doctors and pharmaceutical companies work hand-in-hand with one another to push certain medications purely for profit, and if that’s not concerning to you, it should be.

If you’re looking for alternative treatments for depression or anxiety, you probably won’t find them at a doctor’s office. And it’s understandable if you turn to antidepressants after exhausting all other solutions. But if you’re on antidepressants and looking for different, side-effect free solutions, they are out there, and better yet, they’re effective. 

If you don’t know where to begin, start small. Depression and anxiety can control your life, even making it difficult to get out of bed in the morning. But we know that antidepressants don’t work to correct so-called chemical imbalances, nor do they produce more benefits than placebos. With that said, it’s worth it to try to make intentional changes on your own end. These 11 things can improve your mood more than antidepressants ever will, and they don’t negatively affect your weight, sex drive, or sleep schedule.


Our body naturally produces myokines, proteins that are secreted into the bloodstream and sent to the brain when our muscles contract during exertion. These “hope molecules” can act as natural antidepressants produced by your body, but you can’t activate them by staying in bed or lying on the couch.

You might look around and think you need to start jogging or running marathons to be “healthy.” But what feels good for your body may be something different, like weight lifting, playing ultimate frisbee, or doing cardio and barre movements.

This may be first on the list because it’s the hardest. Depression can leave you feeling physically weakened and unmotivated to get up and do a workout. You don’t have to exercise obsessively to reap these benefits, but chasing the natural high that endorphins produce when you exercise daily can be extremely useful in staving off depressive symptoms. 

Light Therapy

Neuroscientist and professor of neurobiology Dr. Andrew Huberman recommends getting sunlight first thing in the morning – before you pick up your phone or do anything else, in fact. Why? Exposure to vitamin D, especially first thing in the morning, can energize you naturally and help optimize your circadian rhythm. Getting outside within the first hour after waking up in the morning triggers physiological responses by making you alert throughout the day and encouraging you to sleep at an appropriate time. This is crucial when you’re feeling depressed because you may be tempted to sleep more or less, which can upset your circadian rhythm. Additionally, the vitamin D we get from sunshine is a natural mood booster and helps set the tone for your day.

Goal Setting

If you’re experiencing depression, the last thing you want to do is climb Mount Everest or paddle the Atlantic. Just doing basic things is an exhausting task, but it’s important to be in control of your routine – letting go of it will only make you feel worse. Setting goals can help you prioritize what you need to do and what you don’t, and being honest in the process helps you keep track of what you can commit yourself to. Start small – whether it’s going to the grocery store, the gym, taking a walk or shower – and work your way up. Commit yourself to three things per day, however small, and feel satisfaction when you complete them and check them off your to-do list.


Sex appears on the basic hierarchy of needs for a reason. Its benefits aren’t just physical, and though you might feel distanced from your husband while having feelings of depression or anxiety, the rush of oxytocin, serotonin, and all the other amazing, feel-good chemicals can relax you, help you sleep better, and draw you closer to a supportive individual.


You wouldn’t think that your diet could be connected to your mental health, but it is. In fact, there’s a whole field of medicine surrounding this connection called nutritional psychiatry, which studies how your diet influences your risk for depression and vice versa. One study published in a psychiatry research journal found that a diet higher in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, olive oil and antioxidants faced a lower risk of depression, compared to a diet high in sugar and processed foods. Indulging in cravings is good every now and then, but if your diet is more indulgent than it should be, it could be having a negative impact on your mental health.


Sleep and depression are inextricably linked, with one often affecting the other. If you’re experiencing depression, you could also be experiencing insomnia, or trouble staying asleep during the night or trouble waking up at an appropriate time in the morning. Additionally, depression makes it more difficult to get good quality sleep and often makes you feel more tired during the day.

Fixing your sleep routine is essential to combating depression and anxiety, and waking up well-rested. This means establishing your circadian rhythm at appropriate times, and getting the right amount of sleep for you, which may look different from your spouse or your roommate, for example. This means limiting alcohol, electronics, and blue light before going to bed, not bringing electronics into bed with you, and waking up not too early nor too late. Creating a routine before bed like showering, a skincare routine, and prayer or meditation, can help you quiet your mind and prepare for a peaceful night.

Supplement Naturally

You might not have ever used supplements before (and be sure to check if they might interfere with anything else you’re taking), but they can help ease your day-to-day feelings of anxiousness. Supplements like St. John’s wort, L-theanine, SAM-e, folic acid, DHEA, and omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to be effective, and some can make antidepressants more effective if you choose that route. Countries like Japan, for example, have a lower risk of depression likely due to the prevalence of omega-3s in their fish. Even if you’re skeptical about natural supplements, it’s always worth it to investigate further and give them a shot.

Practice Gratitude

Skills like resilience and gratitude have been proven to help depression and anxiety. But how do you practice gratitude when you’re at your lowest? It isn’t easy, but you can’t wait to feel gratitude to practice it or wait to feel motivated to do it. Writing one thing per day that you’re grateful for is a small but effective way to start. If you feel like working your way up, buy a gift for someone meaningful to you, or call or text someone you’re grateful for that you might not have spoken to in a while.

Gratitude is a skill that has to be practiced, and if it atrophies from lying dormant, it can turn into bitterness and resentment. Gratitude helps put things in perspective for us, and doing things for other people gets us out of our own head and makes someone else’s day better.


Whether you like country, rap, classical, or all of the above, you’re helping your body by listening to music. Certain studies have found that music played during surgery helped lower patients’ blood pressure, and it’s been shown to decrease cortisol production and stress. Whatever you listen to and however you listen to it, you can achieve a sense of calm and relaxation through using music as a mood-booster.


Writing down your raw, honest thoughts means you’re less likely to keep them bottled up and hidden. Set a timer in the morning or before you go to bed, and write your honest fears, anxieties, and concerns down. Once you’re done, leave them on the page where they belong, and don’t carry them with you. Sit with them as you write, acknowledge them, and let them go.

Change Your Scenery

Take a week, a weekend, or even a day, and get out of your environment. Take a day trip to an outdoor attraction, or go on a hike. Get yourself away from your home and your space which may be cluttered literally and figuratively. Allow yourself to get out of your head, and look at something beautiful and peaceful. Immerse yourself in the peace of your surroundings, and let your mind be quiet. 

Closing Thoughts

Living with depression isn’t easy, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. You don’t need platitudes or empty words – you need help. But it makes a difference to take things day by day, doing only what you can do on that day, and starting anew the next one if you need to. Being intentional about what you can do to optimize your mood from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed can help put things in perspective and help you feel not as overwhelmed. You have the power to feel better, but it’s all about discovering what works best for you.

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