Lifestyle Changes To Reduce Anxiety & Depression
Your Lifestyle is You (so make yours a healthy one)
In this article, we’re going to dive right into the lifestyle changes for anxiety & depression
We must accept the fact that all of us are captains of our own healthy lifestyle ships, no matter how rough our seas become now or in our future.
But we’re going to offer some very definite destinations here that we strongly suggest you include on your lifestyle itinerary as you bravely take the helm and head towards your horizon.
These are points that we believe will directly benefit you both in the short and long term, and points we trust are worth marking on your lifestyle map to a healthier future.
Get More Sleep (and make it the best kind too)
Let’s begin with one health and fitness goal that most of us can safely manage no matter our current physical state or situation.
And yet the reality for many of us is that we struggle to either manage the time necessary to fulfill this very manageable goal or struggle to properly schedule this vital aid to our overall health and wellbeing.
And we want to remind readers here to not get stuck into any set amount of hours for your own personal, optimum sleep number.
Yes, while the most common consensus sighted is the Western standard 8-Hour period of restful, restorative sleep, we strongly suggest that you do NOT get caught up in focusing on any particular number of hours, and rather focus on the restful, restorative nature of your sleeping patterns.
Many of us may require more than 8 Straight to feel completely recharged.
Some of us may achieve the exact same restful state with a mere 5-6 (Founding Father and Next Level genius Ben Franklin famously depended on a solid 7).
Whatever your personal sleep number, find it, and do your best to create a workable schedule of sleep that fits your personal lifestyle.
And this includes one of our top-secret health hacks- Napping!
There are few things more restful and restorative to your overall health than the timely afternoon nap (and we suggest anywhere from 30 mins - 1 hr.
for optimum effect) to recharge your batteries and really give your body a rocket boost for the remainder of your day and night. And when is the best time for a nap?
The best time is when your body/mind tells you it needs it!
Listen closely to the signs of physical and mental fatigue your body and brain is sending you and—if you can take advantage of a break—do NOT hesitate to do so.
And this is the real-world challenge for most of us in regard to our sleeping patterns, whether nighttime or napping. That is, finding and/or actually scheduling the time to do it right.
Because we strongly suggest that you make every effort at creating time for proper sleep at night (and depending on your needs we say anywhere from 6-8
hours is AOK), and listen to your body when it cries out for rest during the day.
Stop Smoking (everything…you know who you are)
As our unhealthy behaviors go, tobacco/nicotine addiction is undoubtedly one of the most damaging.
Aside from the direct damage to your overall cardiovascular system (permanently damaged lungs, restricted blood vessels, etc.) smoking causes a plethora of horrific side effects (elevated cancer risk, lung damage, skin damage, teeth staining, et al) along with its increasingly expensive economic downsides.
We realize, however, that nicotine addiction is one of the most insidious addictions to conquer.
As of this writing, there is no clear, 100% effective treatment for nicotine addiction and we do understand what a difficult struggle this addiction is for those affected.
To which we say-
All the more reason to grab that brown-stained bull by the horns and take it down!
Whether you begin a single-pronged attack like nicotine replacement therapy (NRTs-the patch, the gum- therapy; or support groups, individual willpower, and even cold turkey) or a multi-pronged attack that includes some, most, or even all of these widely available treatments, the most important aspect of tackling nicotine addiction is to take action today!
The very positive upside is that cutting back—or ideally quitting altogether—will have an immediate, healthful impact on every single part of your life and your health.
As for our friends who like to indulge in the regular use of non-nicotine smoking products, we can only say that lung and cardiovascular damage is an undeniable and unfortunate reality for you as well, along with the sobering side effects of smoking that come along with this unfortunate habit.
The very good news, of course, is that there are currently many, many completely legal and quite available alternatives for smoking (chewable, edibles, prescriptions, et al) which you can take advantage of right now.
Yes, rolling and smoking your own is an addictive process in itself, but please remember that we’re the primates that are best adapted to our evolutionary advantages, so let’s adapt and evolve!
Practice Your Deep Breathing (and you’ll be surprised at the practical payoff)
As we’ve already emphasized (see-our exercise & anxiety article) there simply is no other activity more essential than the proper, regular, and optimum intake of O₂.
Yet most of us consider this proper intake to be a strictly involuntary physical process that we need never pay the slightest attention to—let alone practice—as we go about our busy daily lives.
We somehow consider our oxygen intake system to be something we merely need to set to “auto-pilot”, then simply take our hands off the wheel as we let our crucial supply plane of precious oxygen fly itself.
But even the most cursory look at any advanced, high-level form of any athletic
competition will clearly prove that, at the highest athletic levels, the optimum intake of vital oxygen is always a primary key to optimum athletic performance!
And how do world-class athletes around the globe maximize their intake ability?
Yes, of course, we do not need to practice breathing in order to do it. But, we do need to practice our breathing techniques in order to optimize our performance.
And here is where we circle back to what we consider among the best ways for even the most average among us to practice and improve your breathing techniques and capacity
Meditation and Yoga!
For the purposes of regularly practicing and steadily improving your breathing
techniques and capacity, we can think of no finer pursuits then these two and
for a number of great reasons.
- Almost anyone of any age can regularly practice both.
- Almost anyone of almost any physical condition can regularly practice both.
- Both specifically focus on breathing as one of the core elements to the practice (with any Yoga school or studio offering a number of breathing exercises—pranayamas—specifically designed for this purpose)
In short, yes we do strongly advocate for the regular practice of either—or
both—of these exceptionally useful, reliable and scientifically proven
practices which absolutely will significantly improve your ability and capacity
to take in that most precious resource that we all need to keep on keeping on!
Facing Your Fear Factor (and accepting release)
Right now we are all facing up to a “new normal” which is filled with fear of an unprecedented unknown.
Every day in every way we all have to deal with fear. And fear is the destroyer.
Our very good news is that we’re all doing it right now!
We are all facing up to fear and getting on with the business of life as we struggle to piece it together.
Yes, some of us are getting along better than others, and some of us are struggling more than others, but facing up to fear is not a contest, and there is no finish line that will declare a winner.
In many crucial ways it is the simple act of squaring up to our fear—and our own specific, personal phobias—that will provide our most vital antidote to our occasionally unfounded stresses.
And that antidote is real freedom in the form of release.
We mean release from the stressful unknowns that we’ve built up in our minds over time; the end result being these stresses crippling all our hopes, dreams, and ambitions for our future.
Release from our fears removes the blindfold, which in many cases we’ve placed on ourselves, and allows us to finally see clearly.
And see that we are capable, we are strong, and the future is not quite as unmanageable as we had imagined in our stressed-out scenarios that were filled with dread and foreboding.
Case in point - Paul B. Getting Bullied & Trying Boxing
Paul B. was a physically small, not particularly athletic teenager.
He was reserved and polite but unfortunately was growing up in an environment that did not always respect these qualities.
As he entered high school he was bullied and hazed regularly but was too afraid to fight back against his usually far bigger, stronger, and much more aggressive opponents.
Subsequently, his freshman life quickly became a nightmare of abuse and terror.
Then one day, still filled with fear but determined to take some sort of action, he entered a local boxing club and inquired about joining, hoping that he might somehow learn self-defense.
He was welcomed and very quickly he was instructed to don gloves, climb into the ring and spar with an obviously far more experienced, tougher opponent.
It was at this time he realized that he had really never been in a fight before. (he’d been beaten up before but had never properly fought back enough to call it a “fight”)
He was terrified of his opponent and terrified of the beating that he imagined would certainly happen. To him!
Of course, there were very real, very tangible reasons which his fear was reasonably based on-
- He was not an accomplished boxer (not a boxer at all really)
- His opponent was much more experienced (having boxed at the gym for months)
He’d never been in a boxing ring before.
But there was simply no going backward and so, with the rough encouragement of the gym’s head trainer, he climbed in the ring then the bell sounded the beginning of the 3-minute round.
Paul discovered 3 facts immediately.
- He was not good at boxing
- His opponent was very good at boxing
- Getting punched repeatedly in the face was not fun.
But he also discovered the most important fact that he would have never learned had he never entered that ring.
While it certainly was no day at the beach, he almost immediately found that he wouldn’t die from the blows!
In fact, with proper headgear on and mouthpiece in, he discovered an amazing new reality-
The punches did not hurt as much as he had imagined they would!
His opponent that day beat him soundly, knocking him down twice in the 3-minute round.
But, with the steady, vocal encouragement of the trainer, he got up and by the end of the period, actually fought back until the bell sounded to end the round!
When he came to the corner—dazed and confused but still on his feet—he was greeted with more encouragement and instruction.
He then realized that while he had certainly got the worst of every exchange of fists, he felt an unfamiliar excitement running through his entire mind and body.
He was facing a 2nd round and immediately realized…he was not particularly afraid anymore!
The sparring session ended in the 2nd round, and after he was knocked down again, but the trainer had nothing but praise, real encouragement, and useful instruction for him as it ended.
And his opponent, a boy his own age, actually congratulated him on his display of “heart”!
The excitement coursing through his body was freedom.
Freedom from a fear that was certainly real—those punches hurt—but was not the monstrous boogeyman that he had imagined in his head while locked in terror of the unknown.
This real freedom gave him the courage to continue and he did, eventually becoming a gym regular and an accomplished if unspectacular boxer himself.
At school he quickly discovered that he didn’t need to flash his fists or his new skills, to stop the bullying and harassment.
The freedom from his fear had given him a newfound sense of confidence that acted as a powerful shield that was always ready, even when not needed.
This true story is a template we can all match.
Our fears can be real—or sometimes only imagined—but when we face up to that fear we will certainly take control of our freedom, which will be the gift that we never knew was ours for the taking all along.
Our future is unknown. It can be frightening. It often will be frightening.
But we can also be stronger and tougher than we think we are at any given moment.
Freedom from our fears is right there. Facing up to the unknown won’t necessarily ever be easy, but we can do it. We all have that power.
Real freedom can be ours.
Electronic Detox Time (put that phone down)
We live in a technologically amazing and advanced time and place.
The total sum of information which used to be stored in massive volumes of mammoth encyclopedia sets which were centrally collected and stored in gigantic buildings called libraries—which also stored thousands of other books also filled with separate information—now fits into our pocket.
And we can access all of this information with a literal touch of our fingertips!
This is truly a miracle of modern science.
But as we’ve previously mentioned this modern miracle has also, unfortunately yet perhaps inevitably, led directly to the creation of our own Frankenstein’s monster.
And while our pocket-sized, handheld technological marvel has in many ways made our lives infinitely more convenient, it has also insidiously introduced a stealthily dangerous level of stress into our daily lives.
Because we are both instantly and constantly connected, far too many of us can and do become entirely addicted to both instant and constant connection, and then we almost unconsciously become completely consumed by our desperate hunger for more of the same.
This is, in fact, how addiction works.
How many of us begin to feel an almost instant sense of real panic whenever we’re separated from our cellphones? (even momentarily)
How many of us obsessively check and recheck our phones for text replies, social media post replies, messages, and updates? (lest we miss out on the all-important rush of an instant reply to our texts/posts/requests)
How many of us keep our eyes glued to our screens whenever we’re faced with the now daunting task of actually figuring out where we need to go? (heaven forbid that we look up and figure it out ourselves)
How many of us consider texting to be the medium for all of our important personal correspondence? (and we mean personal)
How many of us check our phones first as the default response whenever we want to check the day’s weather? (the inconvenience of actually looking out the window now an intolerable burden)
Of course, all technological advances are a modern reality that we can only afford to ignore at our own peril, as well as an imperative in keeping up with the Game/Rat Race, but we must practice some real degree of moderation whenever we wade into the tricky quicksand of technological convenience.
And here are some basic and quite simple methods of both practicing e-moderation, unplugging, and detoxing your mind and body from online addiction-
- Schedule a Daily Phone Break- Although this will at first seem counterintuitive to many, research shows that taking a daily break from being connected will actually improve your overall productivity. In addition, turning off your phone for 45 mins -1 Hour a day can easily be incorporated into your fitness/training schedule in order to accomplish two goals simultaneously. Two birds, one stone!
- Engage Your Real World as Your First Priority- This means NOT automatically reaching for your phone whenever you have to find your way, navigate your streets, assess your physical situation, or otherwise figure out your next step.
- Phone Down-Head Up-Eyes Open! This may be difficult at first, but ultimately will be hugely beneficial to your both mental acuity and psychological confidence. Navigation is a puzzle and solving it will keep your brain sharper.
- Mealtime Means Face-to-Face Time- Another excellent opportunity to take a daily break from a nagging addiction, and practice an important pillar of healthy living—see Food is Love—is the shared sacrament of our daily breaking of bread. This is the time for eye contact and lively conversation, NOT for checking updates and replying to requests that can wait…exclusively. We strongly suggest that you turn off your phone completely during all shared mealtimes, and instead engage with the important human being(s) you’ve elected to share this vitally crucial span of time with on your way to a healthier lifestyle.
Moving forward, electronic detoxing will undoubtedly become ever more difficult as our tech continues to us easier, faster, and more convenient ways to disengage from our real world and ignore all the flowers along our life’s path.
And this is exactly why we have to begin to practice our detox today!
Start now, and both your mind and body will continue to reward you later.
Laughter is Our Best Medicine (so treat yourself, don’t cheat yourself)
As progressive thinkers many of us have understood this Western trope to be an absolutely true and real—if somewhat difficult to verify or quantify—method of maintaining a healthy mental outlook on life, as well as reducing the stress of daily living.
But rather than sharing our vast library of anecdotal evidence, we’re going to defer to science here.
Because the fact is there have been innumerable research studies to investigate the efficacy of laughter/laughing as a healthy antidote to stress and even the most cursory googling will reveal more information regarding the science of laughter than any of us have time to study.
So we’re going to focus on 2010, National Center of Biotechnological Information (NCBI) sponsored study- The therapeutic value of laughter in medicine (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21280463).
This exhaustive study is chock full of deep, dense and enlightening material, but rather than get bogged down in the ocean of details, in the interest of clarity we’re going to cut right to its “Conclusions”, which states in no uncertain terms-
“Laughter has shown physiological, psychological, social, spiritual, and quality-of-life benefits. Adverse effects are very limited, and laughter is practically lacking in contraindications. Therapeutic efficacy of laughter is mainly derived from spontaneous laughter (triggered by external stimuli or positive emotions) and self-induced laughter, both occurring with or without humor. Although there is not enough data to demonstrate that laughter is an all-around healing agent, this review concludes that there exists sufficient evidence to suggest that laughter has some positive, quantifiable effects on certain aspects of health.”
And there we have it. Thanks, science!
But beyond this scientific confirmation, in times of stress and uncertainty, many of us intuitively understand the crucial importance of enjoying a good, hearty, extended laugh.
Whether it’s at our favorite movie, our favorite sitcom, our favorite comedian, our favorite friend or—very importantly—at ourselves, we all understand that laughter both heal our sometimes fragile psyches and socially binds us together in an open-minded and open-hearted joyful way that’s almost impossible to quantify.
And the health-giving, stress-reducing aspects of laughter are universal.
We may not be able to always understand our fellow man on a social, cultural, class, gender, or linguistic level, but a proper pie-in-the-face moment produces the same result around the world- the blissful eruption of shared belly laughs.
So…come back Louis CK, wherever you are, because we all need you now! (just keep it zipped…please)
Practice Self Care (and don’t leave it to anyone else)
Alongside our technological advances comes another subtle form of daily stress-inducing danger that’s all too easy to go unnoticed.
Because in every modern tech advanced society, economic success becomes the primary brass ring that’s both available to many and therefore reached for by most in a daily mad dash to our capitalistically-based finish lines.
And so while in hot pursuit of this rat race finish line towards which we must run
ever faster and faster in order to win, too many of us tend to let Self-Care
fall to the wayside.
We neglect a proper, nutritious daily diet in favor of the quickest, most convenient one.
We neglect fitness training as simply too time-consuming to squeeze into our busy schedules.
We neglect proper grooming/beauty maintenance as a non-essential
“luxury” we just cannot afford to afford ourselves right at this moment…
But we have to remember that self-care is NOT selfish. Self-care does NOT equal self-centered.
Self-care is, in fact, a very engaging method of providing your loved ones with the best, most healthy and fulfilled version of YOU, so that everyone can and will benefit in both the short and long term!
And while the importance of regular self-care is absolutely a universal goal, we have to point out that for the standard, traditional Western male, it is even more
important that you do NOT neglect self-care as one of your healthiest choices.
Because far too often in Western culture (and many cultures), while females are typically socially encouraged and celebrated for their often-rigorous self-care regimens, males of all ages are regularly and typically socially discouraged from practicing self-care, because it’s widely regarded in a cultural sense as somehow “unmanly” or “feminine”.
So here we have to point out to males in particular, that they may have to take an even more engaged and disciplined effort to practice self-care—including advanced grooming and skincare—in order to accomplish what is a very worthy and ultimately selfless goal.
And regular self-care routines should include (but are not
- Upscale Skin, Hair, and Nail Care- Yes, men…taking care of your skin is the healthy choice (not the girly one your crew would have you believe), and manicures/pedicures may be an option you need to explore.
- Regular Dental Care- An absolutely vital key to all our health, no matter how much we may have to fight our fear of the dental chair. Remember- All diets/eating begins with proper chewing, and you know what proper chewing demands. And don’t neglect cosmetic dentistry if you, or your dentist, feel it’s warranted.
- A Regular Fitness Routine- See our full in-depth article here.
- A Regular Wardrobe Upgrade- Something that many men, and a number of women as well, tend to neglect as another non-essential “luxury” item. If it’s in your economic grasp however, we strongly suggest paying a bit more attention to your daily professional presentation, and the evident benefits of a regular fashion upgrade.
- Meditation Practice or Therapy- We’ve extolled the virtues of meditation, but we also want to encourage everyone to consider the benefits of therapy sessions, which can be an enormous psychological benefit, and one that goes a long way towards stress reduction for many, many of us.
Simply stated, self-care is a gift that you give not only to yourself but to every loved one, friend, and co-worker that you come in daily contact with on your way to success.
Declutter Your Space (and free your mind)
Another of the inadvertent but unfortunate byproducts of living in an economically successful, technologically advanced world is our almost unconscious accumulation of…stuff.
And almost all of us, at one point or another, find ourselves guilty of this stress-inducing modern-day malady, either at home, in the office, in our garage, or inside the sanctity of our vehicles.
The process of cluttering our living spaces is generally slow and far too easy to
ignore as we’re regularly encouraged at every capitalistic turn to-
Buy more stuff
Buy the latest stuff
Buy the trendiest stuff
Buy the stuff your friends are buying!
And none of us is immune to this creeping process that ever so gradually creates a pile of clutter that threatens to overwhelm the spaces we require to be
productive and think clearly.
But cluttering our vital physical spaces causes real problems, and creates real,
constant stress as we become trapped in the swamp of unnecessary—and very often unintended—accumulation that nevertheless severely hinders our productive output, and creates stress for ourselves and our live-in loved ones,
co-workers, and friends.
The good news is that, in everything but the most severe, pathological cases, decluttering our spaces requires little more than-
- A Manageable Amount of Hours- For the vast majority of home, office, and/or recreational spaces, often little more than 5-10 in real, actual work hours.
- A Manageable Amount of Adult Discipline- Yes, we too like our toys…but there comes a time when we must put away (preferably into a Goodwill bin) our childish things.
- A Manageable Amount of Emotional Discipline- We all understand that our stuff is…OUR STUFF! But bullet biting time won’t be as difficult as you think.
So contact your local charity/recycling/garage sale options, back up the truck, and begin the process of trimming the consumer fat that you definitely do NOT need, and that is definitely NOT serving you well at all.
Decluttering guru Marie Kondo uses the “Does it spark joy?” question as to the ultimate and immediate thumbs up or down disposal decision and we find this a great place to start.
We also suggest that when you take on the task of decluttering you remember these words-
LESS IS MORE.
Yes, of course, it’s going to be emotionally difficult to rid yourself of possessions that have come to cling to you like a fungus, but real freedom is ahead when you can bite that bullet, and take the very manageable amount of work hours required to enhance the real quality of your life.