5 proven alternatives to antidepressants

If you’re currently taking antidepressant medication, it might come as a surprise that you may be harming yourself more than you are helping.

Like most people, you no doubt want some effective relief from depression, anxiety or that cloud that hangs over your head. But if you’ve felt like the meds are having no effect, or may even be making you worse, you’re probably not imagining it.

Though antidepressant medications are one of the most frequently prescribed medications, research shows they only have a minimal effect, mainly in those with severe depressive symptoms.

In those with mild depression, mood disorders or anxiety, antidepressant medications are no better than placebo — meaning you’re subjecting yourself to a whole range of negative side effects and your problem isn’t likely to get any better as a result of taking the meds.

And some of those side effects are pretty darn scary…

Brain drugs that clog arteries

A lab study of the effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), a class of drug used to treat depression and marketed under names like Prozac and Zoloft, found that animals given SSRIs had an alarming increase in arterial plaque.

SSRIs are designed to increase the amount of available serotonin in your brain. The theory is that by keeping this feel-good hormone in your brain it will boost your mood, although this doesn’t happen for many people who take the drugs (chalk it up to placebo effect).

In the healthy monkeys that were studied by the researchers, the SSRI tripled the amount of arterial plaque. When the SSRI was given to monkeys who were acting depressed, it increased arterial plaque by six times on average.

Due to these facts, researchers are calling on medical professionals to de-emphasize the use of antidepressant medications in exchange for alternative options… But don’t wait on your doctor to make the first move. Even in light of information like this, mainstream physicians are slow to make the move to alternative therapies…

5 Proven alternatives to antidepressants

#1 Psychotherapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy are two forms of therapy shown to be very effective for depression and mood disorders.

These therapies involve working with a qualified therapist to learn alternative habits for thinking patterns, attitudes, feelings and behaviors. These therapies are designed to take you from a negative focus into a more positive one.

#2 Get outside

Modern lifestyles see many of us stuck in front of computers or inside office buildings during work hours, then at home we’re in front of our TVs or devices — we’ve become very indoorsy-type people. Yet, we’re naturally designed to spend more time in the great outdoors.

Researchers have shown that exposure to green space reduces anxiety and stress, relieves mental fatigue, improves mood, restores attention and lowers levels of depression overall. Get outside in the fresh air, and more importantly, make sure you have exposure to green space — trees, grass, plants and flowers.

On a regular basis, take a short walk in the park, go on a forest outing, sit in the garden for a cup of tea, close your eyes and feel the sun on your face or get your bare feet on the grass and enjoy the sensation for five minutes.

#3 Use combo therapies

To overcome the blues, what’s been shown to work best is using a combination of therapies or daily practices.

There are lots of positive practices that can provide assistance — mindfulness meditation (Harvard says it works), yoga (hot yoga is a proven mood booster), herbal medicines, eating a healthier diet, doing regular exercise, art, dancing, gardening — any type of activity that engages you in positive, nurturing actions.

#4: Time is the best healer

Oftentimes in life, depression is a consequence of life events that have occurred — stress, death, financial pressures, relationship issues and various other circumstances. There are lots of reasons we may find ourselves in a deep dark hole.

Studies show that regardless of treatment, patients naturally recover over time. And surprisingly, this occurs even when there is no treatment.

Allow yourself everyday time to relax and reflect. Keep a journal of your thoughts to become more attuned with yourself. And most importantly, be kind to yourself. Give yourself time to heal.

#5 Live in gratitude

According to my colleague Dr. Brad Cutler, gratitude begins with a thought. If believed, it grows into that wonderful feeling of “well-being” that begets balance and wholeness in the entire body.

The really good news is that you can experience gratitude whenever you wish…

The very thoughts of relief, of peace, protection, connection, abundance and joy can bring about this feeling. And how you think and feel about the events of your life — your perspective — provides a basis for your physical well-being. Read more about what Brad has to say about the 7 benefits of living in gratitude here.


  1. Davey CG, Chanen AM. The unfulfilled promise of the antidepressant medications. Med J Aust. 2016;204(9):348-50.
  2. Beyer KMM, et al. Exposure to Neighborhood Green Space and Mental Health: Evidence from the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin . International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2014;11(3):3453-3472.
  3. Nieuwenhuijsen MJ, et al. Fifty Shades of Green: Pathway to Healthy Urban Living. Epidemiology (Cambridge, Mass). 2017;28(1):63-71.
  4. Liu L, et al. Herbal Medicine for Anxiety, Depression and Insomnia. Current Neuropharmacology. 2015;13(4):481-493.
Jedha Dening

By Jedha Dening

Jedha Dening is a qualified nutritionist (MNutr), researcher, author, freelance writer, and founder of type 2 diabetic nutrition site Diabetes Meal Plans. Her masters thesis on nutrition and inflammation was published and then presented at a national scientific conference. She has millions of words published in the health industry across various print and online publications. Having been in the field for over 15 years, she’s incredibly passionate about delving into the latest research to share the myths and truths surrounding nutrition and health. She believes when armed with the right knowledge, we’re empowered to make informed choices that can truly make a difference.