How I Healed my Clinical Depression Naturally

Ever since I was 12 years old, I’ve struggled with my mental health.

Growing up with explosive anger around me for a significant part of my early childhood, I learned at a young age to internalize my emotions.

I would hold anger in different areas of my body, never letting out a single peep. This was, in my opinion, what lead to my depression later on.

I’ll write a separate post on the whole story soon, because there are a lot of details that I feel could be helpful to some, especially to parents of teenagers and young people going through similar situations as I did… or just for anyone who’s curious!

This post is going to be mainly about how I dealt with my depression, and what I would and wouldn’t recommend from my journey to healing.

I want to start off my saying that I’m by no means cured.

I still struggle with my mental health on a weekly basis. Healing is a process, not a final destination!

However, my clinical depression no longer weighs me down, and it’s safe for me to say that I no longer consider myself a depressed person.

It became apparent that I had some sort of emotional imbalance while I was in high school. I had just switched from mainstream high school to a smaller, partially homeschool program where the students had all known each other for years.

After I turned about 15, my desire for social interaction had been steadily declining until I was only seeing friends when I was at school.

So, when I switched to a much less structured situation where I didn’t know anyone, I completely isolated myself from other people.

I had hours upon hours of free time to myself, with no real passions or goals.

My mental health quickly spiraled downhill.

I spent most of my time binge-watching movies and TV shows. (I just wrote a post all about my Netflix addiction, which you can read here if you’d like. In it, I delve a bit more into the psychology of watching TV and how it affected me personally.)

My parents instantly became very concerned.

Unsure of what to do, and knowing I have a family history of clinical depression, they quickly sent me to my doctor.

After explaining my symptoms, she nodded:

“Yep, sounds like depression. Do you want to look at the options for medication?”

My parents and I were head-set on getting me the help I needed through natural means, so we made the decision to see a naturopathic doctor.

She asked me some questions, gave me some advice (such as to “exercise more”) and told me to take a turmeric supplement.

I left feeling… disheartened.

It felt like no one on Earth had ever experienced what I was going through, and no one had a single clue how to help me – not even doctors.

I’d been given some advice that any average Joe could provide, and thrown two different pills after less than thirty minutes of reviewing my symptoms.

My dad took me to the store, and bought me a bottle of turmeric capsules.

Long story short, I didn’t notice any significant improvements. I still felt like I was carrying a hundred pound weight on my shoulders.

When I started my first post-school job, I started interacting with others, and had less time to wallow and lay in my dark room alone.

This brings me to remedy #1 that helped me overcome my depression:

Vitamin D

Not once in my journey through meeting with health care professionals did I hear mention of nutrient, vitamin or mineral deficiencies.

When I was depressed, I hardly ever saw the sun.

If I didn’t have to set foot outside, I wouldn’t.

About a week after I started exposing my skin to the summer sun on the way to work and on my lunch breaks, I noticed an improvement in my motivation, and just getting out the door in the morning became easier for me.

I wasn’t aware of this back then, but looking back now, the times when I remember being most content were summers when I would spend my days laying in the warm sun.

For this reason, I still cope with seasonal depression – I tend to become more susceptible to emotional imbalances during the winter months when it’s cold and rainy.

Studies have linked vitamin D deficiency to depression, schizophrenia and other mental disorders.

Over three million cases of vitamin D deficiency in the US are recorded annually, and this obviously doesn’t count the amount of people who aren’t tested.

The most amazing thing about vitamin D is that it’s free! Your body produces vitamin D on its own when exposed to sunlight, which means that all you really need to do is lay in the sun for 15 to 20 minutes.

There are also some great vitamin D supplements out there – I use this one.

This is especially helpful during the winter months or when I’ve been spending a lot of time indoors.

Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 is one of the most researched factors in treating depression.

One study states: “We review the findings in major depression of … low vitamin B12 status. Both low folate and low vitamin B12 status have been found in studies of depressive patients, and an association between depression and low levels of the two vitamins is found in studies of the general population.”

If I could accredit one supplement to the improvement of my overall mental health, it would definitely be B-12.

B-12 is especially important for vegetarians, vegans and those who don’t consume a large amount of animal products.

While it’s relatively easy to find a B-12 supplement, many of them aren’t high quality and your body won’t actually absorb what it needs.

I highly recommend investing in a high quality B-12 spray, such as this one or this one.

Magnesium

This one is especially helpful if you suffer from stress and anxiety.

I have an entire blog post on magnesium that you can read here, but I definitely needed to add it to this post as well.

Magnesium has helped me so much with my mental health, and my ability to calm down when I’m seriously stressed out.

An article published in the US National Library of Medicine states that “An impoverished Mg (magnesium) diet is associated with depression in humans”, and “Low serum and cerebrospinal fluid Mg levels have also been associated with depressive symptomology and suicidality”.

Yoga

While I was less than motivated to go for a walk or a run – let alone go to the gym – rolling out my yoga mat and practicing some gentle stretching was always doable.

I would pull up a short yoga video on YouTube and practice along.

There has never been a time when I didn’t feel at least a little bit better after twenty minutes of yoga.

There have been a significant amount of individuals who claim to have overcome serious mental disorders through yoga and meditation, and Harvard Health Publishing states that: “Indeed, the scientific study of yoga demonstrates that mental and physical health are not just closely allied, but are essentially equivalent. The evidence is growing that yoga practice is a relatively low-risk, high-yield approach to improving overall health.”

Not only is moving your body and getting blood circulating immensely supportive of overall brain health and function, but the calming, meditative aspects of yoga can really help to soothe the mind.

Diet

This was the most important part of my healing.

It was when I changed my diet and eating habits that I noticed the most radical changes in my mood.

Diet is acknowledged by the medical community to play a huge role in mental health… there’s even a field of medicine called nutritional psychiatry!

Harvard Health Publishing states that: “Researchers found that a healthy diet (the Mediterranean diet as an example) was associated with a significantly lower risk of developing depressive symptoms.”

To me, the line between an unhealthy diet and depressive disorders is clear….

When I felt emotionally the worst, I was eating mainly foods lacking in living energy such as processed vegan meat alternatives, processed non-dairy milks, sugary products, noodles – loads of noodles – and soy-based products.

When I started eating primarily raw leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables, and I incorporated supplements like spirulina and the aforementioned B-12 into my life, I noticed huge improvements.

I consumed nutrient-dense, high life-force foods like sprouts, green juices, chia puddings, green soups and smoothies.

I cut out all forms of processed sugars and grains, and replaced them with whole plant foods.

For the most part, I was following a high-raw diet with loads of healthy fats like avocado and olive oil.

This is the same diet I’m following currently, and I always notice big changes in my mind and body when I switch onto raw foods!

Meditation

While I wasn’t exactly sitting cross-legged with my eyes closed and focusing on my breath during the depths of my depression, I spent a lot of time working on my thought processes.

When my mind wanted to show me thoughts about how alone I was or how much of a loser I was, I actively trained myself to not take them seriously or see them as truth.

I tried my best to imagine what I wanted my life to look like, how I wanted to contribute to making the world a better place and how I could get there.

Focusing on a positive future helped me immensely when I was feeling down on my reality, and it drove me forward.

While it can be extremely difficult to gain control of your mind, it can be done.

Knowing what I know now about how beneficial meditation can be, I would highly recommend it to anyone, no matter their state of mind or situation.

This can be guided meditation, mindful breath practice, yoga or just simply sitting outside and listening to the birds chirping.

Almost any quiet, relaxing activity can be used as a vehicle to practice meditation.

Knitting, painting, stretching, going for a walk, taking a hot bath or shower or even making a cup of tea can all be meditative and calming to the mind. You don’t need to force yourself to sit quietly and try not to think… it’s not about that!

Whatever gets you into a quiet, calm and reflective state is a great place to start.

As always, please speak to your health care professional if you feel like you could be depressed. Reaching out to close friends and family can also be super helpful.

These are all things that I did to help me overcome my depression, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what everyone should do.

My inbox is always open, and I would be more than happy to listen or help in any way I can.

One mantra I’ve learned to tell myself during my darkest times is that I’m supposed to be here, going through whatever I’m going through right now.

I’ll share a quote that came to me when I needed it most:

“Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors or aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” – Max Ehrmann

Peace & Healing,

xoxo – Mackenna

My Breakup with Netflix

Watching Netflix on a laptop in bed

Actually, it was more like a divorce.

First, I questioned our relationship.

Then, we needed to talk.

Next, I needed space.

Eventually, we came back together, but it just wasn’t working for me anymore. I’d been happier and felt more fulfilled in our time apart.

I felt… different. Things had changed….

I had changed.

So, I said goodbye.

It wasn’t a difficult decision to make. It felt right.

This definitely wasn’t always the case, though. Just a couple of years ago, the idea of letting go my endless days and nights of Netflix binging would have made me go into a panic attack.

Growing up, particularly in high school, I never felt like I fully connected to my peers. When I switched to a small, partially homeschool program in 11th grade, I became even more isolated. Everyone had been going to school together since they were in kindergarten, and I was too depressed at the time to go out of my comfort zone and try to make friends.

I can definitely count on one hand the amount of times I had any social interaction in my final two years of high school.

I’ll write a post on this soon, because I think it’s an important topic to talk about.

Bottom line, I felt very alone.

I was seventeen years old with no aspirations or goals, and no one to talk to – aside from my parents, who are wonderful, spiritual people. However, sometimes you just feel that you can’t talk to them about some things when you’re young.

I had always loved any sort of media, from the time I was eight and received a Nintendo DS for Christmas.

My parents did their best to balance my time playing video games and watching television, but once I was older, I had infinitely more freedom with my time… leaving tons of space for any activity.

I quickly became severely addicted to Netflix and YouTube, as well as several other TV show-viewing platforms.

I would lay in my bed for hours at a time, often never setting foot outside for multiple days.

I would scribble through my homework just so I could get back to the newest season of Orange is the New Black, New Girl or American Horror Story.

As ridiculous as it may sound, the characters of these shows felt like my friends.

They were people I could relate to, and watching their social interactions momentarily satisfied my own loneliness… at least on a conscious level.

There was a certain point where I started noticing that I was becoming emotionally attached to these fictional characters. I would become depressed when a season was over, and obsessed over the show’s return.

I would re-watch old episodes – or entire seasons – multiple times for comfort.

I started questioning if this habit was helping me or hurting me.

After high school, I got a job cashiering at a local health food store.

This filled up a lot of my time, and forced me to interact with co-workers and customers, helping my emotional stability immensely.

I still watched a lot of Netflix – don’t get me wrong. But it was the beginning of the end.

A while later when I met my partner, I was absolutely shocked to the core when he told me he had never watched my favorite shows like The Office or Skins.

In fact, he had never seen any TV shows, save for two or three I’d never even heard of.

What was the point of living in a world without Michael Scott’s unapologetic ignorance or Jim & Pam’s adorable relationship progression?

I didn’t want to know.

He explained to me that he had never been a huge fan of TV, and that he felt it was a waste of time and mental focus. At first, I didn’t understand.

Come summertime, I started eating cleaner foods, more raw vegetables and less sugar. I started drinking more water.

I was steadily becoming a more stable, generally happier person.

Months went by, and I slowly started watching less and less Netflix.

I was getting outside more, absorbing sunlight, working on creative projects, learning. I was focusing my energy on things I loved.

There came a point where I couldn’t sit and watch anything without becoming restless.

The distance made me really start to think.

What was I gaining from these shows? Was I becoming a better human? Was I learning anything that would help me in the future? Was I developing a true sense of what people are really like?

Or was I flooding my brain with false interactions, negative stories, violent imagery and a structured, formulaic sense of the world?

I had shaken my depression, and I was working on things I was excited about. I didn’t feel like I even had time for Netflix anymore.

I sat down one night and tried to finish a series I had been watching… and something just wasn’t clicking. I saw the characters as actors and actresses, playing out an act that they had performed countless times to perfect.

I could see the entire team behind the scenes making sure every aspect of the production from lighting, to hair, to timing was impeccable.

It wasn’t filling a void for me anymore, because I had filled that void with art and learning and movement and spending time with people I loved and taking care of my mind and body.

I was truly happier without Netflix.

To this day, I haven’t watched a single TV series or Netflix show in over a year.

And it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

If I really feel like zoning out and laughing for a while, I hop on YouTube… I enjoy the realness of it and how short most of the videos are.

I am in no way saying that I think Netflix is evil, stupid or even a waste of time. Sometimes we just need to relax and focus on something we enjoy for a while. Maybe after a long day at work, while we’re down for the count with a cold or flu, or, in my case, PMS-ing.

But, I truly believe it’s so important to limit time spent watching movies and TV shows, and put it towards any other (healthy) activity.

I feel this is especially true for those times when boredom strikes, and we feel we don’t have anything better to do than flip on a Netflix original.

“Well, I’ve gone to the gym today already….” Maybe some yoga will help clear your mind and stretch out your sore muscles!

“I already got all my work done for the day.” How about making a to-do list for yourself for tomorrow?

“I need something to watch while I eat.” I’m very guilty of this one. Studies have shown that watching TV while eating can cause sluggish digestion and overeating, and lowers metabolism.

While there are always “better” more productive things to do, sometimes you might just want to watch some TV.

And there’s nothing wrong with that!

If you take anything away from this post, I hope it’s just to stay aware.

Aware of the amount of time you spend watching movies or TV shows.

Aware of if this is something you really want to be doing right now, or if you’re just bored or stuck in a habit.

Aware of how a particular show is making you feel. Is it causing negative thoughts or emotions? Is it making you feel sick or scared?

If it is, maybe consider looking around for something a little more uplifting! Your state of mind is so important, and keeping positivity flowing through it is hard enough without the addition of fictional drama, violence or heartbreak.

One of the most profound turning points for me in my journey through my TV show addiction was when I started watching a very popular, yet very twisted & disturbing series on a TV show-viewing platform called Hulu.

It genuinely made me sick to my stomach, and the horrifying concepts and imagery stuck with me for days after I had watched it. I was hooked into the storyline, but at the same time, I found myself dread sitting through each episode.

After snapping myself out of my obsession with the show, I quit mid-series. I became confused and angry.

How was this show so popular!? It was so dark, depraved and depressing. There was no light at the end of the tunnel for any of the characters as far as I could tell, and the forces of evil cast a looming, nerve-racking overlay over the whole setting.

I started thinking back to all the scary movies I’d watched growing up, and how they lead to my current fears and perceptions.

Even now, I have flashbacks to disturbing scenes from horror movies I watched years and years ago.

Studies have shown that your subconscious mind has limited discretion between what’s real and what’s not.

When you watch someone getting brutally murdered on TV, some part of your brain thinks it’s really happening. The intensity of the scene can break through your conscious knowledge that what you’re watching is fake, and make your “primitive” or instinctual brain think you could be in danger.

After learning this, my views on television were further reaffirmed.

All in all, I don’t have anything against television shows per se.

But to me, I’ve had enough for a lifetime, and I’m ready to live the rest of my life Netflix-free.

What do you think about TV shows? I always love hearing different views and opinions, and this topic is totally fascinating to me!

Peace & Healing,

xoxo – Mackenna

Magnesium, the Miracle Mineral

Magnesium Salt

In all my years of stressing over one thing or another, nothing has helped me quite like magnesium – specifically, magnesium chloride.

When we’re stressed, our bodies dump magnesium through waste processes. This is one reason why it’s so important to include magnesium in your health routine, especially if you suffer from anxiety or stress frequently.

Magnesium is a very crucial mineral that most people are severely lacking in their diets. It’s extremely important for maintaining mental health and stability, aids immensely in the relaxation of joints and muscle tissue, and helps to prevent calcification in the body.

I often notice immediate relief from muscle cramping and joint pain when I apply magnesium chloride topically.

Magnesium regulates the “HPA Axis”, or the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis, which in turn regulates our stress response.

“Supplementing Mg levels in mice has been demonstrated to reduce the expression of anxiety-related behavior” – Neil Bernard Boyle, Clare Lawton, and Louise Dye.

While many people see improvements in their stress response after using a bio-available source of magnesium, it’s also been shown to improve symptoms of depression.

The same article written by the individuals mentioned above – published in the US National Library of Medicine – states that “An impoverished Mg (magnesium) diet is associated with depression in humans”, and “Low serum and cerebrospinal fluid Mg levels have also been associated with depressive symptomology and suicidality”.

There are several different types of magnesium including magnesium sulfate and magnesium citrate, however there is some controversy on their bioavailability, as well as concerns that they may be dehydrating due to their hydrophilic properties.

Both of these types of magnesium are commonly used to relieve both stress and occasional constipation, and are generally more inexpensive than magnesium chloride.

My absolute favorite ways to use magnesium are in sprays and soaks.

There are several different brands of magnesium spray. Some tend to have a strange oily feeling that doesn’t go away, while others absorb right into the skin and leave very little residue on the skin’s surface. The brand I like to use is this one. I’m not at all sponsored by this company, it’s just much less oily than others I’ve tried.

When first starting to use magnesium spray, start off slowly to acclimate your body to its new magnesium levels. 10-15 sprays per day is a good place to start!

What I Use Magnesium For….

For sore muscles after hiking or working out, I will use 5-10 sprays of magnesium chloride solution on the area and massage it in. I tend to notice effects immediately with this method.

Magnesium spray is also wonderful for headache relief – I am a common headache-haver, and nothing works quite like magnesium spray. For headaches, I massage 4-6 sprays onto the back of my neck, shoulders, temples and hairline, and then repeat several times after the first coat has dried.

For menstrual cramps, I will rub 5-10 sprays on my abdomen, and then repeat multiple times after each coat dries. For those with minor menstrual pain, I could see magnesium working especially well.

For stress & anxiety, I will dissolve half a tub of magnesium chloride flakes into a bucket of very warm water and use as a foot soak for 15-25 minutes. This method works best for me as a mental relaxant, and is also a soothing, comforting experience all the way around.

I’ll usually add 3-4 drops of lavender or eucalyptus essential oil to the water to make it an even more relaxing experience!

If you have a bathtub, I highly recommend adding magnesium chloride flakes to a full bath. If you’re like me and don’t have a bathtub (we’ll get through this together) magnesium foot soaks work almost just as well.

For restful sleep, I will basically just apply magnesium chloride spray to my entire body, focusing on my abdominal area, calves, feet, neck and shoulders.

I also use magnesium chloride spray whenever I think about it, just for magnesium maintenance!

Make Your Own Magnesium Spray…

If you’d like a more economical option or just don’t feel like going out and searching for a pre-made solution, you can totally make your own magnesium spray!

Just dissolve magnesium chloride flakes in hot distilled water in a 1:1 ratio!

It’s that easy.

You can add a drop or two of your favorite essential oil if you like, as well.

The Bottom Line…

Overall, magnesium is one of my top go-to’s in uncomfortable situations, from stress to headaches. In my opinion, it’s a must-have wellness tool for everyone, especially those dealing with sleep issues, anxiety, depression or aches and pains.

If you want to do your own research on magnesium, here is the article I referenced towards the beginning of this post. It’s filled with more cool studies, information and science about this amazing mineral!

What are your experiences with magnesium? I want to know!

Peace & Healing,

xoxo – Mackenna