Posted on

Depressed? You’re Not Alone. Here’s How to Fix It

Note: This information presented in this article is not intended as a replacement for medical advice. Always consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner if you think you have a mental health condition. 

We’ve all experienced episodes of the “blues” before, but what happens when those gloomy moods just won’t seem to go away? As the saying goes, “The mind is everything.” When you’re down and depressed, everything else follows. But don’t worry if you’re battling depression, there are proven strategies to help you overcome negative thoughts and improve your mood. 

Feeling Down? You’re Not Alone…

Depression is the most common mood disorder in the United States. In fact, a recent survey by the National Institute of Mental Health found that nearly 1 in every 10 U.S. adults had at least one major depressive episode in 2017 (1). However, one of the more concerning findings was that only 65% of these individuals sought treatment for their depression.

It’s patently clear that a societal stigma towards mental health issues still persists in the U.S., causing people to conceal their battle with things like depression, anxiety, and other debilitating mood disorders. 

Let’s be clear that feeling chronically depressed is not abnormal, nor does it make you “unstable”. Those are silly misapprehensions that undermine the power of the mind. If anything, depression is something virtually everyone experiences in their lifetime, some just face it more frequently than others. 

So, what causes us to feel “down”? In short: serotonin dysfunction. 

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that the body produces from the amino acid L-tryptophan. It is considered the “happy” neurotransmitter largely because research shows that serotonin dysfunction plays a major role in the development of mood disorders, notably depression (2). 

The common “antidote” in modern medicine is to prescribe a selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which reduces the reabsorption of serotonin that has been released from a neuron, thereby allowing serotonin to stay active longer. While SSRIs are generally reliable for treating mood disorders, they may produce adverse effects that make them undesirable as a long-term solution for depression (3). 

The good news is SSRIs aren’t the only way to treat depression. Even simple lifestyle changes can have a profound influence on your mood and state of mind. For example, natural dietary supplements like herbal extracts and CBD oil have been used with promising results by many people. 

Lifestyle Hacks to Boost Your Mood Naturally

If you’re looking for alternatives to boost your mood and subdue depressive thoughts, these lifestyle hacks might just do the trick.

Get More Sun in Your Life!

The sun is Mother Nature’s “source” of vitamin D – an essential fat-soluble micronutrient that plays a multitude of roles throughout the human body. When we are exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun, the body converts pre-vitamin D into calcitriol, which is essentially “active” vitamin D. 

If you’ve ever experienced the “blues” during the winter months, this is often the result of less exposure to sunlight (meaning your body has a lower amount of active vitamin D to work with). 

Since people with mood disorders like depression tend to seclude themselves indoors, this can further exacerbate the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. 

But it can’t be as easy as just getting more sunlight, can it? Actually, it may very well be that simple. A recent study of 444 subjects found that sunlight exposure was inversely correlated with depressed mood and anxiety (4). In other words, those who got more sunlight were less likely to feel gloomy. 

Don’t overlook the importance of being outside and surrounded by nature. Even a 20-30 minute walk while the sun is out can work wonders for your mood. 

Break a Sweat

While it might be tough to find the motivation to hit the gym when you’re feeling depressed, exercise is one of the best natural anti-depressants. According to a recent meta-analysis, exercise was deemed comparable to psychotherapy and antidepressants for depression (5). 

It makes sense biologically since exercise produces endorphins that make us feel happy, satisfied, and motivated. If you can just get over that initial hump of putting on your sneakers and clearing your mind, you’ll find yourself in a happier mood soon after you start working up a sweat. 

And remember, being outside will only help so if you prefer to go for a jog or bike ride instead of going to the gym, by all means, do that! There are many ways to keep physically active without a gym membership.

Laugh it Off

You hear it all the time, “Laughter is the best medicine.” It may sound cliche, but there’s actually a well-established body of evidence that shows laughing does alleviate the acute symptoms of many health conditions, especially mood disorders (6). In fact, even hearing someone else laugh has been shown to reduce stress and improve mood (7). 

When those rainy clouds just won’t seem to stop following you around, find something to do that amuses you. Listen to a stand-up comic that you like, watch a sitcom series or funny movie, read a humorous book or article, whatever gets a chuckle out of you. 

Happiness: A State of Mind, Not a Destination

Remember that happiness isn’t some esoteric, farfetched dream that only a select few people ever realize. Quite the opposite, actually. Being happy is a state of mind and something that we all can, and should, experience every day with the right strategies and lifestyle choices. 

No matter what’s weighing on your mind, take a few deep breaths, be in the moment, and remember that depression is conquerable and you have the power to take back your life. 

Posted on

How to Improve Your Mood Now (and Keep It That Way)

Where does mood originate from? If you said “”the mind,” you’re close enough. No matter what mood you’re in, the brain is controlling that feeling. If you constantly feel grumpy, thinking about things that make you even more grumpy surely won’t tell your brain to change anything. 

On the contrary, positive affirmations and thinking are well-known to create a healthier, happier state of mind. But there’s much more to mood than just positive thoughts or imagery. In fact, many of the “passive” things we do in our day-to-day lives have a major impact on mood. 

If you’ve been in a poor mood lately, or you just want to feel better and improve your well-being, then these simple lifestyle changes are just what the doctor ordered!

Lifestyle Hacks to Improve Mood

From drinking water, to sleeping well, to nourishing your body appropriately, these lifestyle hacks can make all the difference between a bad day and a good day. 

Sleep well to live well

Chronic sleep deprivation is an insidious risk factor for a myriad of deleterious health conditions, notably depression, Alzheimer’s disease, metabolic syndrome, premature aging, and even sudden death [1]. In other words, skimping on sleep affects all aspects of your wellness, especially mental health and mood – the exact opposite of what you want. There is no better way to start your day than being well rested, which means getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night [2].

If you have trouble falling asleep, taking a CBD supplement shortly before bedtime can help. Many people find that CBD allows them to unwind and achieve deeper sleep. 

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

The human brain is 75-80% water, and dehydration is known to impair cognitive performance and mental function (especially in older adults) [3]. In other words, being dehydrated can lead to brain fog, irritability, and mental fatigue, none of which will help your mood.  

As a simple rule-of-thumb, consume at least ½ oz of water per every pound you weigh. For example, a 170-lb man should drink about 85 oz of water per day. If you’re not a fan of plain water, try adding freshly squeezed lemon or cucumber to it for a natural flavor boost and beneficial vitamin C.

Exercise your brain

It’s common knowledge that physical exercise keeps us feeling youthful and healthy, but the mood benefits of challenging your mind are just as important [4]. After all, there’s not much reason for your brain to “feel good” if it doesn’t get the necessary “exercise” it needs to function optimally. Whether it’s learning something new, trying to solve a crossword puzzle, painting a picture, or reading a book, do something to challenge your brain every day and it will pay dividends towards your mood and well-being. 

Relax your mind with meditation

Stress is a major culprit of premature aging and poor mood. While one might presume that the stress-relieving benefits of meditation are based on pseudoscience, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Deep breathing exercises like meditation have been shown in clinical trials to significantly reduce the psychological symptoms of chronic distress [5, 6]. 

Meditation encourages breathing deeply through your belly and nose instead of through the mouth, as we often do when we are anxious or stressed out. In turn, this calms the adrenal glands and reduces stress hormone secretion, thereby protecting the heart and brain from undue physiological stress. All it takes is 5-10 minutes of meditating per day to feel better and keep your mind sharp. 

Food is fuel for the brain

Many of us overlook the importance of proper diet for keeping our minds sharp, yet food is Mother Nature’s primary form of medicine. As part of a balanced diet, be sure to incorporate at least 5-6 servings of vegetables and fruits per day. Green vegetables like spinach, cabbage, collard greens, and broccoli are especially important due to their abundance of brain-supporting micronutrients, notably magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin K, vitamin A, and vitamin D. 

Improve Mood and Sharpen Your Mind

Some of these “hacks” may seem so obvious that people dismiss them, but you’d be surprised how often these lifestyle changes are overlooked. Practicing these healthy habits will only encourage positive mood and a sharper mind – the foundations of health and happiness.

Posted on

4 Natural Tips to Beat Insomnia Once and For All

Can’t sleep? You’re not alone. Millions of Americans suffer from insomnia, across all age ranges (1) . As of 2016, it’s estimated that chronic insomnia may impact upwards of 1 in every 3 adults in the United States, many of who never seek treatment for their sleep issues (2). 

It’s presumable that people with insomnia simply don’t want to have to rely on a prescription just to get a good night’s rest. But there are other ways to treat insomnia, many of which you can do without the risk of adverse effects. 

Causes and Symptoms of Insomnia

Insomnia is thought to be a disorder related to daytime hyperarousal, which causes the neuroendocrine system to be in a state of chronic activation (3). In layman’s terms, the stress response system is in a perpetual “alert” mode, making it very difficult to relax and drift off to dreamland at night. 

Hence, many people who experience insomnia are also likely to have other mental health issues, such as generalized anxiety disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and bipolar disorder (4). 

The symptoms of insomnia are what you would expect given the essentiality of sleep to human health and wellbeing. These symptoms may include:

  • Lethargy
  • Daytime drowsiness/tiredness
  • Brain fog/inability to focus
  • Fatigue
  • Cognitive impairment/poor memory
  • Craving sugar during the day
  • Dependence on stimulants (which further perpetuates insomnia)

In addition, there is a laundry list of health risks associated with insomnia that goes untreated. For example, insomniacs have a significantly higher risk of developing depression, type-2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, cognitive dysfunction, and a variety of other health conditions (5). 

It’s not yet fully understood how insomnia contributes to the risk of bodily diseases, but the link is irrefutable. 

The good news is that insomnia is treatable and many people are able to achieve deep, restful sleep without the need for prescription medications. Read on to learn more about some of the top natural insomnia treatments.

4 Natural Insomnia Treatments

If you’re at your wits end to try and nod off and stay asleep at night, these four natural insomnia treatments might be just what you need. Best of all, these are risk-averse solutions and non-habit forming so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by giving them a shot!

Try Binaural Beats for Sleep

To fall asleep, you want your brainwaves to shift from the normal waking state (alpha and beta brainwaves) to the more restful theta brainwave state, and then finally all the way to the delta state. Binaural beats – playing a distinct pure tone into each ear – are a scientifically proven way to expedite this transition into these lower brainwave frequencies, helping you fall and stay asleep (6).

And don’t worry if you’re not a fan of listening to pure tones, most binaural beats audio sessions feature ambient background noise, like ocean waves or rain falling, to make it more pleasurable. All you need is a pair of headphones that are comfortable to wear while laying down and a binaural beats for sleep, which can be readily found on things like YouTube, Spotify, and Pandora. Start listening to the binaural beats about 20 minutes before bedtime and see how you respond. 

Cut Out Caffeine

One of the most common vicious cycles insomniacs run into is habitual, excessive use of caffeine (or other stimulants), which further exacerbates sleep issues. Remember, hyperarousal during the day is thought to be the underlying cause of insomnia. Drinking copious amounts of energy drinks, coffee, soda, etc. is only going to make the problem worse. 

If you have the willpower, try stopping all caffeine/non-prescription stimulant use cold turkey. You will feel some withdrawal effects for the first week or two, but if you can get past that hump, chances are you’ll finally be able to sleep at night and have more energy throughout the day.

Put the Phone Down

Sometimes the source of insomnia is staring us right in the face, literally. Many people are now in the habit of staring at their brightly-lit smartphone or tablet right before bedtime. This is a major no-no if you want to get some quality sleep since the blue light of screens cause the brain to think it’s daytime – the exact opposite of what we want. Get into the habit of turning off your smartphone/tablet/computer/TV about 30 minutes before bedtime and instead use this time to calm down with some easy reading material, relaxing music, or binaural beats. 

Drink Chamomile Tea before Bed

Being stressed out and anxious is well-known to cause restlessness and acute insomnia. Interestingly, chamomile tea has been shown in research to improve sleep quality, reduce anxiety, and decrease the frequency of sleep disturbances in adults with prior sleep issues (7). 

Scientists postulate that the flavonoids in chamomile alter brain chemistry in a manner that induces sleepiness (8, 9).

No matter which tactic helps you catch your Z’s, consider adding a few drops of CBD oil into the mix to enhance the relaxing effects, making it easier to drift off at night. 

So there you have it! Four simple and natural ways to treat insomnia without the side effects of prescription sleep medications. Give them an honest chance and you might be pleasantly surprised by their impact on your sleep quality. 

Posted on

Sleep Your Best with these 5 Simple Diet Hacks

For proper health and longevity, medical professionals recommend that we get about 8 hours of quality sleep per night. Kinda crazy to think that 1/3rd of the day is supposed to be spent sleeping! 

Just imagine: if you live to be 90 years old and average 8 hours of sleep per night, you will have slept for a whopping 30 years! 

It almost seems like a waste of time, doesn’t it?

The reality is if you skimp on sleep, you probably won’t make it to 90 anyway. In fact, a recent research review found that people who sleep less than 7 hours per night are at a higher risk of all-cause mortality and typically have shorter lifespans than those who sleep 7-8 hours per night.

So, what should you do if you struggle to fall and/or stay asleep at night? Surprisingly, a few simple diet modifications can help you sleep like a rock! 

1. Eat Freshwater Fish 2-3 Times Per Week

A recent study found that adult males who consumed Atlantic salmon (300-gram portion) 3x weekly for six months were able to fall asleep roughly 10 minutes quicker than males who ate beef, chicken, or pork instead. It’s likely that the sleep-promoting properties of freshwater fish like salmon are due to their rich profile of omega-3 essential fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA, and vitamin D content. However, don’t get too carried away with eating seafood as it can lead to excessive intake of heavy metals like mercury and arsenic.

2. Avoid Eating Shortly Before Bedtime

“Nighttime eating” is suggested to be a major cause of non-restorative sleep. In general, you should avoid eating within an hour of bedtime. When you lay down to sleep, your body is trying to “shut down” for the night; having food in your stomach/digestive tract hinders that shutdown process and may cause indigestion/acid reflux since gravity is, in part, responsible for moving food through the gastrointestinal tract when we are upright.

3. Watch Your Sugar & Caffeine Intake (Especially in the Evening)

Soda, fruit juice, energy drinks, coffee and other sugary and/or caffeinated beverages are the last thing you want to put in your body when you’re trying to unwind and get to bed. Frankly, soda and sugar-laden drinks are poor choices for health and longevity, so cutting those out of your lifestyle will only help. If you crave carbonated beverages throughout the day, try natural sparkling/mineral water instead. For coffee and tea lovers, switch to herbal/decaf varieties in the evenings so you don’t feel “amped” up when you’re trying to nod off for the night. 

4. Go Nuts (on Almonds)!

Almonds are arguably the single healthiest nut known to man due to their essential monounsaturated fatty acid and mineral profile.  In fact, consuming almonds daily appears to significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, such as type-2 diabetes and hypertension. In addition, the magnesium content of almonds may help improve sleep quality by supporting healthy cortisol rhythms, which is imperative for mood and relaxation.

Even just one ounce per day – which is about a handful of almonds – can contribute to deeper, more restful sleep.

5. Drink Chamomile Tea in the Evening Hours

Being stressed out and/or anxious after a long day at the office anxious is a major culprit of restlessness. Chamomile tea is loaded with antioxidants and has been shown to improve sleep quality while also reducing anxiety in a recent human trial

What about CBD for Sleep? 

Cannabidiol is suggested to be a natural treatment for insomnia and improving sleep, particularly when underlying stress and/or anxiety are the cause of sleep disruption. In fact, a recent survey study found that CBD users are significantly more likely to have “good” sleep quality when compared to non-CBD users. 

If you’re looking for a little extra help to get a good night’s rest, CBD just might be what the doctor ordered. 

Posted on

5 Natural Pain Solutions Backed by Science

What a pain! Whether you have arthritis, tendinitis, muscle pain (e.g. fibromyalgia), or chronic nerve pain (neuropathy), pain can put a major damper on your quality of life. Sadly, contemporary medical practices in the United States have led to an opiod crisis that leaves people hooked on drugs that don’t really solve the underlying causes of chronic pain (1). 

Thankfully, there are alternative pain solutions that are backed by scientific evidence – many of which require very little effort on your part while being highly affordable. 

Evidence-Based Natural Pain Solutions 

The simplicity and practicality of these natural pain solutions is what makes them so appealing. No need for multiple doctor visits just to be left empty-handed (or with a prescription for an addictive substance). If you’re in need of a alternative pain remedy, science suggests these are worth a shot: 

Roll Out the Pain

The majority of the muscle aches and soreness are the result of ‘knotting’ in muscle tissue and surrounding fascia. If you can’t afford massage therapy, using a foam roller is the next best option for loosening these painful knots (i.e. it’s a type of myofascial release). Clinical evidence suggests that regular foam rolling can significantly reduce muscular soreness/tightness and expedite the recovery process (2). 

Distract Your Brain with Relaxing Music

Research shows that slow-tempo music helps reduce heart rate and blood pressure, essentially the opposite of what happens in response to chronic pain (3). Since the brain is ultimately the center of pain perception, it only makes sense that calming the mind with some relaxing music will help ease painful sensations.

CBD for Pain

Given that CBD is a well-known “stimulator” of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), it’s no surprise that many studies have found it to be a useful natural pain remedy (4). As time evolves, it’s very likely that CBD will continue to garner interest from holistic and alternative healthcare practitioners as a means of managing chronic pain. 

And thanks to its exceptional safety profile, many people find topical CBD cream to be a nothing-to-lose-everything-to-gain remedy for localized pain. Other users suggest that CBD oil tends to be a better fit for systemic pain

If pain is taking over your life, it’s undoubtedly worth a shot to try either form of CBD. 

Cut Out Pro-Inflammatory Foods

When you regularly eat foods that induce a low-grade inflammatory response, the integrity of the gut wall is eroded (5). Consequently, any inflammatory pain you may be experiencing will only become more intense. 

According to the present scientific body of evidence, the major dietary culprits of low-grade inflammation include (6):

  • Added sugars 
  • Fatty dairy products (e.g. whole milk)
  • Refined flour (e.g. processed bread, crackers, chips, etc.)
  • Vegetable oils (particularly soybean and corn oil)
  • Grain-fed and processed meat products

It’s crucial to eliminate – or at least greatly reduce – your consumption of these pro-inflammatory foods when trying to manage chronic pain. 

Practice Yoga for Pain Management

A recent meta-analysis concluded that there is strong evidence that even short-term yoga can significantly improve quality of life and reduce pain in individuals with pain-associated disabilities, such as chronic back pain and rheumatoid arthritis (7). Given the abundance of yoga studios these days, there’s no reason to not give it a shot and see if it helps. 

Get Back to Pain-Free Living!

Pain doesn’t have to stop you from doing what you love most. Many people have found solutions to their chronic pain without the need for harsh drugs. By trying the alternative pain solutions mentioned above, you’re bound to see some improvement in your quality of life.

Posted on

Everything Hurts: Chronic Pain Relief Strategies

Chronic pain afflicts millions of people across the globe. For many, living in agony becomes the new “normal”, which can have drastic ramifications on well-being. Conventional medicine tells us that the only “solution” for chronic pain relief is prescription drugs. As you likely know, this has led to an epidemic of opiate abuse

The good news is there are natural chronic pain relief strategies you can try without having to worry about side effects, addiction, or safety concerns. 

Is There a Cure for Chronic Pain?

The tricky thing about treating chronic pain is that it’s not always possible to target the underlying cause, particularly if it’s an incurable condition like fibromyalgia or multiple sclerosis. Thus, pain management may fall under the scope of palliative care. 

However, this should not discourage you from trying natural pain relief strategies, as there are plenty of people who lead largely pain-free lives even with preexisting conditions. 

In other cases, chronic pain may be curable. For example, rheumatoid arthritis can cause persistent joint pain, but it’s treatable to the point that it goes into remission

As with any medical condition, you should always consult with a licensed healthcare practitioner if you’re experiencing chronic pain, especially if you’re not sure what’s causing it. 

With that in mind, here are some natural pain relief strategies you can implement into your lifestyle for managing chronic pain.

Try Massage Therapy

When your pain is of musculoskeletal nature, such as tendinitis and myalgia (muscle pain), a massage can work wonders. Regular massage work is well-known to promote blood flow and enhance nutrient delivery to sore regions of the body, thereby facilitating recovery and curbing localized pain signals. 

Work with a Physiotherapist

Physiotherapy is a vital component to recovering your mobility and pain-free independence. Using a holistic approach, physiotherapists may prescribe a range of strengthening exercises, remedial massage, therapy for specific conditions, support garments, and other pain-relieving strategies. In addition, a well-trained physiotherapist will have a unique insight into inflammatory conditions that might be giving you chronic pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis. 

And don’t worry if you are in too much pain to leave the house, many physiotherapists offer video prescriptions that teach you custom-tailored rehabilitative exercises that are easily accessible on a smartphone. 

CBD for Chronic Pain

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is constantly working to keep your internal environment stable, especially when faced with stress. (Note that pain is a form of stress.) In order to accomplish this, the appropriate body systems need to be able to communicate with one another.

The endocannabinoid system is like the maestro of your body’s systemic orchestra. It coordinates and transmits the necessary signals between all 12 body systems so that you can get back to “baseline” (homeostasis). 

For example, if you experience a painful injury such as a broken tibia, the body produces endogenous cannabinoids that attach to receptors of the ECS and attenuate the secretion of chemical activators from tissues surrounding the site of injury.  In turn, the neurons near the broken tibia are prevented from firing excessively, thereby abating pain signals to the brain. 

Subsequently, the ECS stimulates proximal immune cells to release inflammatory signaling molecules that help start the recovery process and clear out damaged cells/tissues. 

This is just one example illustrating how the endocannabinoid system integrates communication between multiple body systems (e.g. skeletal, nervous, and immune) to initiate the healing process and restore homeostasis. 

Given that CBD is a well-known “stimulator” of the ECS, it’s no surprise that many studies have found it to be a useful natural pain remedy. As time evolves, it’s very likely that CBD will continue to garner interest from holistic and alternative healthcare practitioners as a means of managing chronic pain. 

Posted on

5 Natural Ways to Relieve Anxiety Quickly

At its core, anxiety is a culmination of stressful apprehensions we have about what lies ahead. In other words, people who tend to be anxious are typically living in the future instead of the present moment. This might make anxiety sound like a wholly negative form of tension, but anxiety isn’t inherently “bad” or “unhealthy.”

Everyone gets the heebee jeebees from time to time, and that’s a good thing! Anxiety is the brain’s way of telling us that something feels “off” or that we should be fearful of what looms around the corner. As you can imagine, this can be a lifesaver in certain circumstances.

The Trouble with Anxiety

What’s especially troubling about anxiety is that there is a well-understood biochemical basis to it, yet the solution is often not just as simple as popping a pill. Medication does help in some cases, but there’s more to the puzzle when it comes to relieving anxiety. 

So, what exactly is anxiety? Why is it becoming such a common mental health issue as of late? 

Well, let’s first make it clear that anxiety is a part of life. In many ways, anxiety is how you know you’re alive. Just imagine looking out the window during a thunderstorm and seeing a roaring tornado heading straight for your house; it wouldn’t be very wise to just stand in place without any apprehension, would it? Chances are your brain would be telling you “Get to the basement and take shelter!” This fight-or-flight response is a life-saving form of stress that can be classified as acute anxiety. 

  • Loss of appetite & unexpected weight loss
  • Panic attacks
  • Tachycardia
  • Tension headaches
  • Insomnia/poor sleep
  • Inability to focus or concentrate

Relieve Anxiety Quickly & Naturally

Make no mistake that managing anxiety is an ongoing process that requires diligent effort on your part. Nobody can “cure” it for you, unfortunately. However, this is one of the most liberating things about anxiety: You have the power to stop those unwanted thoughts!  Here a handful of strategies you can try for relieving anxiety quickly. 

Start the Day with a Healthy Meal

Food is medicine for the body, so nourishing yourself properly is crucial for stopping anxiety in its tracks. Likewise, skipping breakfast and starving yourself throughout the day is one of the worst things to do when you’re trying to fight anxiety since nutrient deprivation is a form of stress

Make time in the morning to eat a solid breakfast containing a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats, such as an egg omelet with a side of fruit. If you don’t have time to eat breakfast because of your schedule, make a homemade smoothie or buy meal replacement bars that you can take on your morning commute. 

Hit the Gym (Get some Exercise)

Arguably one of the most effective ways to “let off some steam” and put the kibosh on anxiety is to go to the gym and get a workout in. If you’re not a fan of the gym, then even some light physical activity, like going for a walk or bike ride outside, will help take your mind off whatever is bothering you. Best of all, keeping physically fit sets the foundation for beating anxiety in the long run

If you don’t do much physical activity at this point, start small with a simple 30-minute walk during the day. From there, you can gradually increase the intensity/duration of exercise and try different workouts. 

Take a Deep Breath 

Deep breathing seems so simple that people presume it just can’t be an effective way to relieve anxiety quickly. Well, guess what? It’s been shown in several studies to reduce anxiety and calm patients down when they are feeling apprehensive. By breathing deeply, through your belly and nose rather than your mouth, blood oxygen levels and pH rise; in turn, this calms the adrenal glands and nervous system, which lessens those pesky anxious feelings you may have. 

Cut Back on Caffeine/Stimulants

Many adults have a morning routine that revolves around coffee. Coffee is also the go-to beverage of choice when the dreaded “mid-afternoon slump” hits. While coffee/caffeine in moderation may be beneficial for mood and motivation, it’s stimulatory actions throughout the nervous system aren’t without consequences. 

In fact, part of the reason caffeine makes us feel so “amped up” is because it increases cortisol and adrenaline production, which consequently elevates heart rate and blood pressure. In addition, consuming too much caffeine and/or other stimulants is well-known to intensify the symptoms of anxiety.

For managing anxiety, it’s recommended to limit caffeine intake (i.e. 100-200 mg or less per day). This doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t drink coffee/tea or other caffeinated beverages. A cup of coffee in the morning is fine for most people. Drinking the whole pot, on the other hand, will probably make your anxiety worse. 

Laugh it off

A great way to reduce anxiety is to “distract” your mind with positive thoughts or things that make you laugh and smile. This may mean reading a satirical book, listening to a humorous podcast, or watching an upbeat sitcom on Netflix – whatever gets a rise out of you! After all, laughter truly is the best medicine according to Rapid Anxiety Reduction (RAR) theory.

Wrap-Up

Anxiety is an intrinsic part of life and nothing to be ashamed of. Frankly, it would be inhuman to never feel anxious about anything. However, when anxiety starts to disrupt your quality of life and interfere with your productivity, it’s time to take action. Using the strategies described above can help relieve anxiety quickly and get your mind back to a state of calmness. 

Give them a shot and see how you feel – you have everything to gain and nothing to lose by at least trying!

Posted on

The Science Behind Meditation for Anxiety Relief

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mood disorders in the United States and Europe (1, 2). While it’s normal to experience brief bouts of anxiety from time to time, chronic anxiety is highly debilitating and disabling. 

Many people with anxiety are quick to seek medication as a sort of “band-aid,” but there are alternatives that can help as well. Believe it or not, mediation is arguably one of the best natural anxiety solutions anecdotally; the science behind why that is has started to unveil some intriguing insights into what makes us anxious and how we can quash those feelings. 

What Causes Anxiety?

Distinct neural patterns are continually being tied with states of fear as opposed to anxiety. It’s essential that your brain can make the distinction between fear-­specific and anxiety-specific responses. 

For example, if you go out for stroll around the neighborhood and suddenly see a masked stranger running after you with a knife, chances are your brain is going to tell you to run for your life. This is called the “fight-or-flight” response, a necessary survival mechanism in many life forms that is largely controlled by norepinephrine.

Once you escape the imminent danger, the fear-inducing cue goes away (for the most part). 

The conundrum is that high levels of norepinephrine are also associated with chronic anxiety.   

As such, anxiety is like perpetual fear or apprehension that something “bad” is about to happen. Over time, this can cause people to avoid social situations, obsess over small details, panic about mundane things, and become restless.

So, how does mediation fit into the picture of anxiety?

Meditation for Treating Anxiety

It’s generally accepted that depression is caused by dysfunction of the serotonin neurotransmitter system (3). Anxiety, however, is a bit more complicated from a neuroscience standpoint since it appears to be governed by a handful of chemical imbalances in the brain, notably gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), norepinephrine, and corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) (4, 5).

In general, depression is a result of concern over things that happened in the past, whereas anxiety is a disorder of anticipation and fear for what lies ahead. 

Question: What does meditation require? 

Answer: Focus on the present moment. 

See where this is going?

The physiological response to mediation more or less directly counteracts that of anxiety (6). 

Whereas anxiety tends to reduce blood oxygen content in the brain, meditation does the opposite; whereas anxiety increases the frequency of higher frequency brainwaves, meditation does the opposite; whereas anxiety increases CRF and norepineprhine, meditation does the opposite. 

Reduce Anxiety with Meditation

Arguably the biggest hurdle for widespread adoption of mediation to treat anxiety is that people have a tough time “emptying their mind” and relaxing deeply enough to achieve a restorative mediation session. 

However, there are ways to overcome that obstacle. Some people find that herbal medicine like CBD oil allows them to calm their mind before meditating. The good thing about CBD oil is that it only takes a few drops to work and it’s rapidly absorbed, so you can use it “on-demand” for anytime of the day you want to unwind and ease whatever apprehensions you may have. 

Regardless what’s stopping you from trying meditation to relieve anxiety, you owe it to yourself to give it an honest shot. There are virtually no negatives, and infinitely many positives, that can come from it.