With major depressive disorder (MDD) affecting nearly 14.8 million Americans every year, the search for adequate treatments is more important than ever. Although talk therapy can be immensely helpful in cases of MDD, there are many other alternative therapies available to help you soothe your symptoms and heal your spirit. In this article, you'll learn about two potential treatments that you can safely use alongside traditional talk therapy.
Massage and Touch-Based Therapies
Depression can sometimes cause physical pain, and some of that pain may be related to stress. Since massage is frequently an effective way to unlock and relax tense muscles in the body, massage may thus be an effective treatment alongside talk therapy. As humans are also very social creatures who require touch and friendly affection to feel loved and cared for, some patients find massage very nurturing and loving.
Massage comes in many different forms, too. If you're comfortable with it, you may find a full-body massage by a licensed therapist to be the best all-in-one experience. This form of treatment works on most of the major muscle groups within the body, particularly in the back, arms, and legs, to relieve tension. Here are some other types of massage therapy you may want to look into:
Trauma Touch Therapy
Alternatively, if you have a history of PTSD or trauma-related issues, you may wish to check locally for a trauma touch therapist. Trauma touch therapists have training and experience in working with people for whom touch may be triggering, so they may be helpful for those with a history of sexual assault or abuse.
Chair Massage and Reflexology
Other forms of massage include chair massage or reflexology. Chair massage requires the patient to simply sit leaning forward within a specialized chair, and it often focused on tension points in the neck, face, and upper back—areas where many people with depression may hold stress.
Reflexology focuses on pressure points within the feet and theorizes that putting pressure on those points may be able to impact other areas of the body. These methods may be more appropriate for those who aren't comfortable with other methods, as they are less invasive and don't require the removal of clothing.
What do you picture when you think of meditation? If the answer is something like a Buddhist monk sitting in one position for far too long, you should know that this is a very limited view of the practice. The type of meditation practiced by many Buddhist monks is a form of sitting meditation, but meditation actually comes in many forms:
- Walking meditation
- Guided meditation
- Focused attention meditation
- Mindfulness meditation
- Other nonspecific, individualistic forms of meditation
The takeaway here is that meditation comes in many, many forms, and it's okay to use the form that works best for you.
Meditation—in whatever format works best for the patient—can sometimes be very effective for depression because it helps you to slow down your mind while accepting, and thus calming, negative thoughts. This may help you to relax, let go of stress and tension, or even deal with your depression from a more calm and neutral headspace.
In fact, several studies have shown that for some patients, mindfulness meditation may very well be as effective as psychoactive medications for treating depression. This form of meditation teaches the patient to stay in the present moment, helping to alleviate the impact of constant "what-ifs" about the past or future. Consider the following method of meditation:
A Simple Meditative Practice for Home Use You Can Use Right Now
For a quick, easy meditation you can do at home, try the following:
- Start by sitting in a quiet room in whatever position is most comfortable for you.
- If you enjoy it, and can do so safely, light your favorite candle or incense.
- Dim the lights if possible; if not, simply reduce the lighting altogether so you aren't sitting under harsh lighting.
- Play soft, ambient music. Try this video to get you started.
- Sit quietly with your hands folded in your lap and your back straight—but make sure you're comfortable at all times. If you're disabled or require a different position for any reason, it's fine to adjust.
- Focus on your breathing; breathe in for the count of three or four, whatever's most comfortable for you. Then, hold the breath for three or four. Finally, release the breath slowly to the count of three or four.
- As you breathe, try to focus on the feeling of the air passing over your lower lip. If your mind wanders, simply and gently refocus your mind on the feeling of air escaping and coming into your mouth.
- Sit like this for as long or short a time as is comfortable for you. Anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes is an excellent start.
If you're not comfortable with the above practice, or you just aren't sure what type of meditation is right for you, ask your therapist for guidance; most licensed counselors have experience and training in the subject and will be happy to help you find a method that works for you.
At the end of the day, treating MDD often requires a multi-faceted approach that considers the whole person, including the body, mind, and spirit. These complementary treatments do help many MDD patients, but they may or may not be right for your unique situation. For more info about this or any other issue related to your MDD, schedule an appointment with your therapist.