Five Ways to Help Someone With Depression: Dr. Shawn Talbott

Dr. Shawn Talbott (Ph.D., CNS, LDN, FACSM, FACN, FAIS) has gone from triathlon struggler to gut-brain guru! With a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry, he's on a mission to boost everyday human performance through the power of natural solutions and the gut-brain axis.

Did you know that depression is a normal psychological mood state?

Yep. And we will all experience it at different times in our lives.

It doesn't always involve an emotional crisis. The “disease” that some people struggle with is actually called “Major Depressive Disorder” (MDD) and is different from the normal day-to-day ups and downs that many of us experience as a consequence of our busy stress-filled lives.

But what do you do when someone close to you is showing depressive symptoms?

And what are some helpful practices that will help restore them to balance?

In today’s blog post, we are going to find out how to help friends or family members with depression. We’ll delve into:

  • Natural ways to alleviate depression, focusing on key lifestyle changes
  • Practical approaches for assisting people experiencing depression symptoms
  • My three favorite supplements that ease depression

Let’s jump in.

Feeling Down? Get Sleep, Boost Mood & Break Free - FREE COURSE Reveals How!

  • Struggling with Depression? Discover science-backed sleep hacks for a calmer mind and more restful sleep (a key weapon against depression!).
  • Learn how to naturally improve your mood with the power of gut health (say goodbye to low days and hello to resilience!).
  • Uncover practical tools to break free from negative habits that can worsen depression and live a more balanced life.
bfy - mental wellness 101

 Download Your Free Course & Feel Better Today!

Herbal Supplements for Mental Health

One unique way to aid someone with depression is to help them integrate herbal supplements into their routine.

Here are my favorite supplements that help ease depression symptoms and improve low moods:


Not many people have heard of rafuma. It has an Asian background (mostly China and Japan), where it has been used to help treat melancholy (i.e., low mood or depression).

Now, this is a cool fact:

Rafuma has been shown in clinical trials to be as effective or more effective than some antidepressant medications in helping to alleviate low mood and restore well-being.

In fact, in these trials, rafuma reduced depression indexes by ~30% over four weeks.

By eight weeks, depression indexes were reduced by ~50%.

With findings like these, it is undoubtedly a potent option worth exploring!


Another supplement I like is Kanna.

Kanna is a little succulent from South Africa. It grows wild across the Kalahari Desert.

Interestingly, the people who live there (the San tribe) have been using it for its mood-improving properties, as well as for promoting resilience.

Its effect is to help increase serotonin in the brain.

Thus, when you combine Kanna with Rafuma, you get a powerful duo that simultaneously lowers the negative mood state while increasing the positive mood state. Win-win.

The “Mood+” product from Amare has both rafuma and kanna in the same formula—I use it every day and swear by it!

The Healing Power of Nature


The second way to help someone who has depression is to get them outside.

In this day and age, we spend an inordinate amount of time indoors. This triggers an unfortunate cycle where the more we are inside, the more likely we are to feel depressed, and the more depressed we feel, the more likely we are to stay inside. Depression worsens, and the cycle starts all over.

So, how do we break that cycle?

Make getting outside a normal part of daily life.


Here are a few ideas.

Easy, Simple Activities to Do Outdoors

Keep in mind that someone who is depressed may not have the energy or desire to run a 5k or hike a mountain.

Keep it simple and sustainable. Here are some gentle activities they can do (both alone and with you):

  • Sunbathe
  • Walk the dog
  • Water the garden
  • Visit a park and stroll around
  • Take a bike ride
  • Have a picnic


We all know that exposure to sunlight boosts vitamin D levels and has a serotonin-improving effect, particularly when we let sunlight into our eyes, as it has a significant effect on the brain.

But did you know?

Plants release substances called phytoncides, and phytoncides have a calming effect on humans.

Being in a natural environment, breathing in fresh air, listening to birds, and looking at flowers all contribute to our mental health.

Invite the person struggling with depression to go walking with you, visit a botanical garden, or have tea on your front porch or deck, where you can listen to birds sing.

This gentle but consistent exposure to nature and sunlight will have a compounding effect, leading to improved moods and overall well-being.

Quality Sleep for Better Mood


While you cannot control how much or how little a person with depression sleeps, you can certainly share impactful information about the benefits of getting enough sleep.

The link between depression and insomnia is undeniable. And addressing sleep issues is crucial for breaking the vicious cycle of mood disturbances.

I’ve done many videos (a link to the most fundamental one is below!) about sleep, how getting enough sleep (or not enough) impacts everyday life for us, and what we can do to improve our sleep routines.

But my all-time favorite tip for improving sleep?

Expressing gratitude.

Being Grateful Helps Us Fall Asleep Faster and Feel Better

One of the best ways to fall asleep faster and sleep better is to create a simple practice of expressing gratitude before bedtime.

Someone who is depressed may struggle to see the positive qualities of their own life or may experience constant negative thoughts. Practicing gratitude is one way we can train our brains to notice the good around us—and help us feel better about ourselves.

Suggest they keep a gratitude journal. Or, even simpler, spend a few minutes every night reflecting on the day.

Here are some reflections that can be used:

  • Think about three things you did today that you’re grateful for.
  • Think about your pet and how grateful you are to have one. Or a family member. How grateful you are to have them in your life.
  • Think about something good that happened that day.

Encourage them to get specific. It doesn’t matter how small the detail is—the point is to spend a few minutes reflecting on the good they have experienced that day.

A nightly habit of practicing gratitude can help shift the brain’s focus, which will improve sleep. And getting enough sleep can dramatically improve mental health.

Sleep is so important to mental wellness that I created an entire training video on it!

FREE Training Reveals:


How to Improve Your (and Others) Sleep Quality Tonight

  • Learn why you should avoid Melatonin at all costs and what to supplement instead
  • Learn easy bedtime snacks that help you fall sleep
  • Learn how to control glucose and cortisol levels to help stay asleep through the night
  • And more!
solve the 3 main sleep problems

Encourage Exercise as a Mood Enhancer

Another way to help someone who has depression is to get them moving.

Exercise is a powerful tool for enhancing mood, both immediately and in the long run. Not only does it promote physical health, but it also plays a crucial role in mental well-being.

Myokines, substances released during physical activity, signal happiness to our brains and contribute to an improved mood.

More specifically, myokines are signals of hope.

How Do You Give Hope to Someone Who is Depressed?

Get them exercising as soon as possible to increase those “hope” signals to the brain!


While you can’t (and shouldn’t) force someone with depression to exercise, here are two ways you can approach them about it:

  • Highlight the benefits of regular exercise, and help them understand the link between exercise and mood.
  • Be an example. Create an exercise habit for yourself, and gently encourage them to join you. Invite them for a game of tennis or pickleball! Ask them to accompany you on a daily walk.

Mindful Eating for Improved Mood


The fifth strategy to help someone with depression is addressing dietary habits.


Because diet plays a pivotal role in overall mood and well-being, yes, the link between mood and your gut microbiome is huge!

Advocating for a diet rich in whole foods and low in ultra-processed items is essential.


A person with depression may not feel up to exploring better ways of eating. This is where your support and encouragement are needed.

It is so important for people dealing with depression to reduce the amount of ultra-processed foods they eat and, instead, increase their intake of whole foods and non-processed foods.

Examples of non-processed foods are:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Whole grains


These are foods you would find around the perimeter of the grocery store.

To encourage someone with depression to avoid ultra-processed food, you may need to get creative:

  • Invite them to go grocery shopping with you.
  • Make some healthy freezer meals and drop the meals off at their front door.
  • Have them over for a nourishing, nutritious dinner.

As with exercise, the best way to encourage someone to better their habits is by modeling the example.


An integral “food” to consider is probiotics—but not just any probiotics. Specific types known as “psycho-biotics” because they can improve mood.

Many of us have heard of the unending benefits of probiotics for gut health. The gut has been called the “second brain”—and with good reason!

The majority of the neurotransmitters in our bodies, including about 90 to 95% of our serotonin and 70% of our dopamine, are sourced in the gut.

Fascinating, right?

Knowing this, how can we help our gut produce more serotonin?

One way is to use a specific strain of probiotic bacteria called Lactobacillus Helveticus R0052.

This special strain of probiotics plays a significant role in gut-brain communication by lowering neuroinflammation.

Lowering inflammation in the brain is super important for improving overall mental wellness.


Amare, the mental wellness company, includes this strain of probiotics in their MentaBiotics.

You can also go into most health food stores and ask for label-reading help to find this strain in a local store.

A Note of Encouragement

Helping a person with depression takes strength, persistence, and some extra effort and dedication.

Giving advice is not always easy, and I don't suggest being forceful in any way. The goal here is to lead by example and offer gentle encouragement.

In your quest to provide support to a loved one with mental illness (whether it's a friend, a family member, or some other person), be sure to look after your own needs too.

The specific tasks I've mentioned in this guide are ones I highly suggest adopting for yourself. This will keep your cup full and keep low moods at bay.

Here are a few more life-giving activities to engage in every week to stay healthy:

  • Watch a funny movie
  • Enjoy a nourishing dinner with close friends
  • Practice a fun hobby or other activity that makes you feel good
  • Put on some upbeat music and do some light household chores

Remember that when your cup is full, it’s much easier to pour into others.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is one way to help a friend or family member with depression?

The best way to help someone with depression is to help them see the mind-body connection and take a holistic approach to their mental health. The five strategies above are perfect for this.

The five practical methods I shared in this guide are all applicable whether your loved one lives near or far. Check-in with them often, and be sure to share the information you learned in this blog post today.


Incorporating these five natural strategies—exercise, spending time in nature, ensuring quality sleep (by practicing gratitude), mindful eating, and herbal supplements—can make all the difference in alleviating a loved one's depression.

In addition to these, other helpful options may include support groups, attending family therapy sessions, or seeking therapy to process difficult emotions.


In the case of clinical depression, major depression, or major depressive disorder, seeking treatment with a mental health professional is advisable, especially if the depressed person is at increased risk of having suicidal thoughts. People who are at immediate risk, in a suicidal crisis or emotional distress, can call the suicide prevention 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline for 24-hour, confidential support.

About the Author

Exercise physiologist (MS, UMass Amherst) and Nutritional Biochemist (PhD, Rutgers) who studies how lifestyle influences our biochemistry, psychology and behavior - which kind of makes me a "Psycho-Nutritionist"?!?!

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Solve the 3 Main Sleep Problems
and Improve Your Sleep Quality
without Drugs or Synthetic Melatonin