How to Lower Anxiety, Stress, and Depression Without Drugs

Being anxious, stressed, and depressed takes us away from the present moment. Our minds become lost in a hasty whirlwind of troubles, doubts, and insecurities. The lizard brain (as Seth Godin calls it) takes over, and we feel helpless.

Anxiety manifests itself in many ways. Many times it’s in our heads. Often though, it’s physically built up in our bodies (requiring manual extraction).

After years of research, I have discovered excellent strategies that lower anxiety, stress, and depression without drugs. Drugs only mask the problem, and never asses the root cause. In no particular order, here they are:

  1. Change Your Environment.

    Before we treat the symptoms of stress, let’s look at the causes: If your job stresses you out, or your relationships with people are toxic on a consistent basis, you soul is telling you to pay attention because something isn’t working out. Neurosis, as Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung has described, occurs due to a failure to adapt to the current demands of life. Some people may say that it’s “impossible” to change what they’re doing, of which I empathize with your difficult situation. It is tough. However, cynical thinking isn’t going to get you anywhere. Unless you have a severe physical disability that hospitalizes you, you are capable of making positive change in your life–if you care enough. 

  2. Examine Your Locus of Control. 

    Are you constantly attributing your emotional state to external factors or blaming others? Do you take credibility for your faults or brush them off? In Charles Duhigg’s book “Smarter Faster Better: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity “ a study suggests people who have internal locuses of control, i.e. those that believe events in their life are caused by factors they can control–are significantly less depressed, happier, and more productive.

  3. Meditation and Mindful Awareness.

    With practice and effort, you can change your neural networks and become more buoyant in life and less reactive. Bringing attention to the physical sensations and thought processes in your body is absolutely imperative for understanding yourself and how you are feeling. Our minds store dense tension and are distracted by excessive technology use.  Taking just 10 minutes to meditate a day can help drastically. (Headspace is a free app you can download which teaches you how to mediate. Highly recommend it). Alan Watt’s has an excellent perspective on the dangers of excessive thinking:

  4. Exercise: 

    Excerpt from a Psychology Today article states: “Exercise not only increases blood flow to the brain, it releases endorphins, the body’s very own natural antidepressant. It also releases other neurotransmitters, like serotonin, which lift mood.” Running just 10 minutes a day, and throwing in a few push ups, sit ups, and weights can significantly boost your mood. Walking in nature is also extremely good for lowering stress.

  5. Stretching & Yoga:

    I’ve found stress tends builds up in my body, especially the chest and neck regions. If you consider the weight the body carries around , this accumulates years worth of tension in the muscles and joints. At first you may resist stretching all the way because it may feel overwhelming. Do it anyway. That feeling is your body releasing immense tension. Afterwards you will feel incredibly relaxed and lighter. YouTube fitness trainer Eliot Hulse has demonstrated a –hands down– excellent exercise called the “Bow” that opens up your entire respiratory airways: 

  6. Soak Up Some Sun.

    The sun has magical effects on the soul. Nobody says they’re stressed out laying on the beach, do they?! The sun’s warmth and energy nurtures the soul, produces vitamin D, and lowers cortisol, the stress hormone. In all seriousness, I can’t emphasize how important it is to get outside and bask in the sun whenever possible. To learn more about lowering cortisol (stress), Dr. Eric Berg explains in this video:

  7. Herbal solutions: 

    Herbal teas have been shown to act as effective nootropics and aid with mood regulation. Kava root is excellent for anxiety. A Cochrane systematic review concluded it was likely to be more effective than placebo at treating short-term anxietySt John’s Wort has been shown to raise serotonin and act as an antidepressant for many users. L-Theanine helps promote alpha brainwaves (a more trance like state) associated with calmness, creativity, and lucidity. From the subreddit “Nootropics” here is a list of many other natural cognitive enhancers.

  8. Hydrotherapy and Heat Therapy:

    From Psychology Today: “Applying water of different temperatures to our skin can change our physiology and mood.  When humans take a cold swim…it is usually very invigorating…it also reflexively bathes the brain and vital organs in fresh blood. This movement will bring nutrition, oxygen and also help gently detoxify the area.”  Hydrotherapy is incredibly helpful. I’ve found by swimming in a cold river or taking a cold shower I felt immediately relaxed and no longer stressed.  As for heat therapy, if you can find a sauna nearby your home, I recommend giving it a try.

  9. Massage. 

    Massages release tension in the muscles and are ultra relaxing. If you can afford them, I would regularly get them once a month.

  10. Eat for Nutrition, and Only When You Are Hungry: 

    Minimize unnecessary sugars and carbohydrates. Drink more water. You will build your willpower the more you resist unhealthy foods and feel more in control of yourself.  Intermittent fasting (eating only when you are hungry) lowers cortisol and increases growth hormone (which is anti-aging). Eating dark green leaves and vegetables like kale are excellent for the mind. I feel absolutely amazing when I eat solely for nutrition. Here is a list of some foods that are wonderful for your mental health.

  11. Get enough rest. 

    7-9 hours. Rest has a significant effect on our chemical balances, mood, and energy. It helps us think clearly and rationally. Prioritize this as #1 before anything else on this list.

  12. Talk to Someone Positive. 

    At the end of the day, the quality of our relationships with people matter. Talk to someone you can open up to and exchange perspectives. Set aside time and do this regularly.

  13. Listen to Music: 

    Certain songs can connect with the emotional state we are in and be quite a cathartic outlet. Music can elevate mood, boost dopamine and oxytocin (a hormone associated with trust, intimacy and comfort). It can even elevate neuroplasticity by aiding the listener’s brain in finding alternate pathways to memories, emotions, and even physical systems such as speech. I recommend reading this excellent article to learn more about the effects of sound on the brain’s health.

  14. Actively Improve & Invest in Yourself: 

    Only you can change you. I discuss the importance of belief in my previous article, The Beauty of Neuroplasticity.  So go forth, and be the change you want to see.

The Beauty of Neuroplasticity

“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” “The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.” – Nikola Tesla

The amazing thing about the human body and mind is, the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Turns out, we’re far more resilient than any machine can ever be.

The experiences we have, the thoughts we think (or don’t think), the emotions we feel, the senses we perceive, the foods we eat, and the physical tasks we engage in — all have dramatic effect on how we perceive reality.

You can literally rewire your brain over time. We are shaping it every day, and writing the script in real time.

If you want to create change in your life, the first step is believing you can do so. A belief isn’t a whim. Beliefs are strong, driving forces full of vitality and energy.

Next, you’re going to have to be very self-aware and aware of the environment around you. Mindfulness meditation is highly recommended. Meditation will help ground your thoughts and feelings, bringing more clarity to them. And in turn, you will be more in control of yourself.  Feeling that you are in control of yourself and your actions is the most imperative precursor for motivation and productivity. 

The third step is actualization. Channel your energy and passion into motion. Love what you do, and do it. Embrace the ride and journey.

Just remember to check yourself before you wreck yourself.

Generate positivity: Cut voluntary exposure to negativity on social media (and everywhere else).

Social media. Ahh. What a concept.

The current age of technology allows us to be selective. We can cherrypick content to our liking.  Subjectivity is the new objectivity.

The issue with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc… is that they are all designed to make you feel bad until you use them again. It’s a modern control mechanism to encourage conformity.

Let’s be honest: The majority of the time we’re on these sites, we’re using them in an automated fashion that stems from the subconscious desire to…

a) boost and or maintain our egos

b) out of habitual addiction to see what’s going on

c) confirm our existing beliefs

Now, let’s be clear here: I don’t discourage social media. What I do encourage however, is the following:

  1. Stop following ALL negative people and pages. You are in control here, and should maximize  your mental capital by avoiding the melodrama and negativity. These people are toxic. They will only bring you down. On my Facebook, for instance, I tailored my feed so that the only people I see are family and close friends. The other people?–I just don’t care.
  2. Follow pages that are relevant to your passions. If you’re a musician, follow the local venue’s page to get a scoop on live events around you. If you’re a cook, look at the cooking magazines. If you’re into nature or photography, it’s fantastic to get a glimpse of the world around us though breathtaking pictures. Cultivate a feed that is exciting and relevant to you.
  3. Only post and share what is an expression of your happiness. It’s not to get likes, status, approval–it’s not to get anything. You are living your life and simply sharing that love. The internet is just a medium for sharing.

Once you’ve cleansed your feed, things will feel a bit different. A bit lighter. A bit happier. More inspiring. You might even be asking yourself, “Where did all of the bullshit go?!”.  

And that is perfectly normal, because we drastically underestimate the impact social conditioning has on our mental health.

It all stems from awareness. Say it with me: Awareness. Awareness. Awareness.

When we can step off the conveyor belt, assess our feelings, and take conscious control of ourselves, positive changes will blossom in our lives. We can reshape our thought patterns through engaging in healthier information.

Even the little things make a huge difference.

10 Timeless and Best Feelings

Without getting into drug territory (that would require a separate and quite lengthy article), I have compiled a list of feelings I would consider among the most enjoyable. They are in no particular order.

  1. Intimacy with someone you care about. I think this one is the most obvious but there are few things that top being with someone special and exchanging each others energies. Whether it’s light flirting or something intensely sexual–it’s easy to forget the rest of the world around you.
  2.  Connecting with someone on a deep level you just met. In a world full of people who just don’t understand what you’re going through, it’s an incredibly comforting feeling to be around someone who shares values and experiences that you do.  Especially when it’s an instant connection. You’re both ready to take on anything.
  3.  Finishing a hard project and basking in its glory. Whatever it is–it’s that feeling of seeing hard work pay off. You didn’t take shortcuts, and you most certainly didn’t bullshit anything. You took it step by step, and with finesse and patience–the end goal came to fruition. It could have taken weeks, months, years–but it was finished. And you couldn’t be happier it was done even though it may have been tedious and frustrating.
  4. Listening to music. You just discovered the perfect album. A new artist, a new track. Music has a way of changing our reality. It takes us to a different landscape of emotions and colors. It can change the way we see the world around us. It can comfort us. We can cry to it. It can make us want to break shit and rob a bank. Regardless–it channels our emotions and allows us to zone in on them.  Don’t forget to listen to it LOUD (more energy is created and sometimes you can’t feel what the artist intended until your speakers are literally distorting). Live music is also fantastic to be a part of.
  5. Travel and discovering everything new and beautiful. Stepping off an airplane, going on a road trip, walking in a forest. You’ll never know what you’ll find. The sounds, the sights, the colors. You’re in new territory and adventure awaits. That feeling of the fresh air, the excitement of being somewhere new. Life doesn’t have to always be hard, so give yourself a damn vacation and go somewhere exciting. It nurtures the soul. As Ferris Bueller says, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
  6.  Teamwork and problem solving. Regardless if you love or hate your colleagues–a problem has birthed. If it isn’t addressed timely, things could get ugly. Setting aside our differences and working to overcome a conflict as a team is a very communal feeling. It strengthens relationships and gives us the confidence to realize we can overcome even the worst of scenarios. When everybody can ditch their egos, swallow their pride and get the job done, progress manifests.
  7. Epiphany. Having a sudden realization of a perspective you never considered, an idea you never thought of. Everything starts to align and resonate with you. Your inner genius is unleashed. Cherish this feeling and dance with it as it develops. Literally–your ENTIRE life can change simply because you thought of something in a certain way. It’s unbelievable how powerful our minds are and how ideas can inspire immense change in ourselves and the world around us.
  8. Nostalgia. Looking through old photographs and remembering the good times. It makes us wonder how much we’ve changed and how life seemed so simple back then. Especially when we were children without a clue how anything worked except playing and laughing. “Was that really me?!” is a question that often pops up. Nostalgia is such a unique feeling of its’ own.
  9. Feeling cozy during a storm. I personally love storms, wind, rain. It’s so fascinating to me and being inside when the sky is going crazy is a very comforting feeling. And even if I’m outside getting soaked, I can’t help but laugh and feel happy to be alive. Storms are the sky putting on a sort of symphony, and avant garde composition that is so subtle and so jarring at the same time. They seem to be very entertaining and remind us that the world is a lot more vast of a place and we are simply a tiny part of everything going on. Storms are so timeless and tap into our ancient roots to find shelter and survive.
  10. Laughing. “Does anybody remember laughter?” chants Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin in the famous live recording of Stairway to Heaven in 1973. Laughter is among the best of the best feelings. I believe laughing is a medicine to cure many of our problems. People take themselves way too seriously and forget the simple things in life. Being around people who are smiling and sincerely happy to be alive is such a wonderful feeling. Life doesn’t always make sense, so laugh and love each other!
  11. (Bonus) Making Others Happy. Seeing another soul happy is contagious. It’s always a great feeling to know something I did made a difference in someone’s lives for the better. Whether it took a lot of effort or simply was the result of my mere existence, I love to see others enjoying life to the fullest.

So, that wraps up today’s article! Hope you all enjoyed what you read and have a wonderful day. You’ll notice a theme in all of these feelings. They all involve new experiences from the ordinary and mundane. If you’ve ever wondered why kids are so smiley and happy and can endlessly laugh — it’s because the world is a very novel place to them that they are still discovering everything. Which is why I challenge all of you to continue to explore, continue to question, continue to search for your truest passions and follow the path that you feel happy engaging in. Embrace the unknown and plunge into everything. We all still have that inner kid inside us all!

Warm Regards,

Seth @ BeHereNow

“Know Thyself”: Thoughts & Feelings Keep Us Alive, So Invest In Them

I discuss awareness a lot, but it’s incredibly important to know what you are feeling and why you feel a certain way. I used suppress my more negative feelings, but that never solved anything. In fact, it caused me to act in a way to compensate for feeling shitty about something I didn’t give myself time to learn from, take accountability for, and grow as a human being. That was only running from who I really was, and not addressing the root issues I was dealing with. Credibility is necessary for progress, so we need to examine ourselves openly and honestly before we can progress positively.

Which is why, if you feel like crying, let it happen. If you feel like jumping with joy, do it. We need to love ourselves. We often overlook taking care of ourselves due to distractions. Our feelings are a sort of compass that gives us valuable feedback on ourselves and the day-to-day environment we engage in. They might be telling us something isn’t working and we need to make positive changes in the direction we want to be in. The environment always reciprocates, and we should pay close attention to all processes going on. We should really invest in looking at why we might be feeling a particular way, from multiple angles and perspectives. An empathetic approach to everything.

The richer of a relationship we have with our thoughts, feelings, and behavior–the more aligned and grounded we can become.

Alan Watts (An English interpreter of Eastern philosophy) wrote a book called “The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are”. I highly recommend checking out some of his work. There are many recordings of his speeches on the internet.

We Are Meant to Roam Wild: Break the Chains of the Modern Paradigm

Imagine if you were given two scoops of the same food, along with a big bowl of water, every day, for the rest of your life. And to make matters more frustrating, you couldn’t leave the house until someone let you–you were 100% dependent on your owners to do anything other than sleep all day…and watch them eat whatever they want and do as they please.

Wouldn’t you feel controlled? Wouldn’t you instinctively rebel to try to reclaim your freedom?

We can apply this analogy to our lives as well. We are all unique individuals and should go about our lives pursuing our passions and utilizing our talents to the highest degree. We should do this in the purest form of joy and happiness to be alive. Sometimes we get so caught up in the system; we feel compelled to follow orders and do as we are told. We believe that is our only way to be successful, otherwise we’re hopeless. Our potential is limited because someone told us to follow their model, not yours. Someone else’s (more powerful) will is controlling ours.

Imagine again you are that dog with shitty caregivers that walk over you. All you want to do is run off into the wild and be free. However, you no longer have a guarantee of anything. Nothing is predictable or entirely safe, but it’s not mundane anymore. You’re doing exactly what you always wanted to do and you’re paving your own path to greatness.

Are you willing to give up on everything that doesn’t 100% matter to you or enrich your life, ditch those surface level “friends”, and take a leap of faith   – for the sake of doing what you love? This is the hardest step for everyone. It IS risky and people don’t like uncertainty. We want guarantees, tips and tactics. Because we might fail. In fact, we will. But we might succeed. We can learn an incredible amount of lessons along the way and become stronger and wiser individuals every day. All while doing what we wholly love and care about.

I hope you will take the plunge, break out of the mold, and blossom into the unique person you have always meant to be. The ice is thin, but the other side of the river is calling you to your greatness.

Warm regards,

Seth

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