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3 Lifestyle Triggers that Relieve Depression and Anxiety

3 Lifestyle Triggers that Relieve Depression and Anxiety
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Depression and anxiety are a big problem for a lot of people. It feels like this problem becomes a part of who you are.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

I have seen people transform from being crippled by depression and anxiety, to a point where they get that feeling of serenity back in their lives. The dark cloud of depression begins to fade and the heavy weight of anxiety gets lighter. They used the 3 ‘lifestyle triggers’ to achieve this state.

The beauty of these particular lifestyle triggers is their simplicity. No side effects. Not emotionally draining. This makes it so easy to stay committed and consistent towards them.

So you probably have one big question right now…

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What Is A ‘Lifestyle Trigger’?…

First, you need to understand what is actually going on with your body when you’re feeling depressed and anxious. Once you can understand the physical problem, you just need to know how to reverse it.

First, some science…

I want you to imagine you have 2 buckets in your body (ok, maybe not too science-y). One bucket is for stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline), the other is for feel-good neurotransmitters (these are messengers in the brain responsible for mood). Normally, there is a good balance between these two buckets and they complement each other, helping the body create a state of serenity. I call this balance your ‘Hormone Harmony’, remember this, it’s important for later.

When you’re depressed and anxious, the stress hormone bucket fills to level where it is unmanageable to the body. The feel-good neurotransmitter bucket empties to a level where they don’t work or receive correctly anymore. These imbalances your hormone harmony, therefore ending the serenity and creating all the nasty symptoms of depression and anxiety.

That’s why sometimes you might feel like you have no rational reason for feeling depressed or anxious, but you still feel like crap. You can’t just ‘Snap out of it’. You can’t just click your figures and fix a broken hormone harmony. So don’t be hard on yourself about it.

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You need to reverse the damage done to your hormone harmony, therefore reducing your symptoms. The answer to this is something I call ‘Lifestyle Triggers’. This is a principle I have developed, working as the fitness coordinator at one of the UK’s leading mental health hospitals. The great thing is, they help improve general mental health (memory, energy, mood) as well as reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Basically, these are slight unique changes and factors in your lifestyle, you could look at them as small steps that reverse the damage to your hormone harmony. This is why they can give you quicker relief from symptoms of depression and anxiety compared with traditional psychotherapy. This is because they are fixing the physical root cause of the symptoms… your hormone harmony. I’m not for one moment suggesting you shouldn’t undergo psychotherapy, just pointing out that you’ll need an approach from both angles.

So, the 3 lifestyle triggers I’m going to share with you…

1. Create A Positive ‘Exercise-Stress Axis’

The exercise-stress axis is a principle I created and work by, which allows me to use exercise to relieve depression and anxiety. Let me explain… All exercise is a stress on the body. Your body can either adapt to this stress, thereby lowering your stress hormones at rest, or it can overload the body and actually increase stress hormones at rest. I call this balance your exercise-stress axis. The idea is to create a positive one so that over time your stress hormones reduce right down and improve your hormone harmony.

With me so far? Good, let’s keep going…

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The key is to not use traditional exercise, instead use something I call ‘flexible exercise’. This is different from  traditional exercise as it’s far shorter, 10/20/30 minutes long. These short timely bursts of exercise give the body a chance to adapt to the stress of exercise, therefore emptying the body of stress hormones giving you an improved hormone harmony and relieving symptoms.

2. Avoid ‘Negative Trigger Foods’

The food we eat is constantly affecting our hormones, neurotransmitters and nervous system. I call these 3 systems your power 3 as they can all rebalance your hormone harmony when they are functioning correctly. I call this constant dynamic between the food you eat and the power 3 the ‘Food-Mood Constant’. The idea is to create a positive food-mood constant, therefore relieving symptoms through a better functioning power 3. So a simple way to get started with this is one crucial ‘lifestyle trigger’… Avoid ‘Negative Trigger Foods’, these are all the foods that inhibit the power 3 and trigger a negative response to your hormone harmony. Some of these foods are well known…

Big portions of simple carbohydrates and sugar- will create peaks and lows in blood sugar. This forces the body to increase stress hormones (adrenalin and cortisol) to try and rebalance it.

Over processed foods- will put pressure on the power 3 and stop them functioning properly. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of these negative trigger foods, some are hidden by clever marketing.

3. Have A Daily ‘Motivational Prompt’

The final lifestyle trigger brings it all together and just helps to ensure consistency and compliance to the first two. Simply create a ‘motivational prompt’ and write it down each day. This is something that instantly triggers motivation for the person that day.

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This is usually a desired outcome of the first two lifestyle triggers like; improve my energy, feel less tired and fatigued, feel less stressed, reduce my anxiety. When motivation is feeling low and you feel like you might not bother doing your 10 minutes flexible exercise workout or you are going to binge on some negative trigger foods, look at the prompt and remind yourself why you are using the lifestyle triggers.

The Beauty Of Lifestyle Triggers…

The beauty of lifestyle triggers is that you are in control of them. Unlike therapy or medication where you may feel dependent on a therapist or pill, you get a real sense self-control which is really empowering and very important to someone depressed or anxious.

This means you are in control of the depression or anxiety, not the other way around. As I have already said, I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t do therapy or take medication, but you should be using things like lifestyle triggers along with them.

Remember, if you are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, always seek medical advice and talk to a doctor. These things are nothing to ashamed of. If you found this useful please like and share, as it might help someone else going through the same thing. We can beat depression and anxiety together.

More by this author

Ben Jones

Fitness Coordinator

The 20-Minute Morning Routine That Relieves Anxiety 2 Major Flaws in Your Diet That Cause Stress and Anxiety We Feel Empty Because Our Bodies Aren’t Evolved to Cope With the Current Lifestyle How Not to Let Negative Thoughts Trump the Positive Vibes The 10-Minute Daily “Lifestyle Trigger” That Relieves Anxiety and Depression

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Published on November 23, 2020

How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly
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Your neighbors downstairs are playing loud music. Again. How do they not get tired of partying? And why do they choose songs with such a heavy downbeat that the glass in your cupboard is vibrating every two seconds? What can you do to get some peace that you deserve? What should you?

Human mind tends to go in circles whenever faced with a problem without a clear solution. It becomes easy to forget the big picture and get lost in anger and self-pity, wasting our precious time, energy and enthusiasm.

Would it not be nice if we always remembered to put things in perspective?

Would it not be more efficient to face all kinds of problems, from tiny annoyances to life-changing emergencies, with a calm demeanor, sharp focus and fearless determination to promptly take the most efficient action possible?

Alas, humans are not like that. All too often we let anxiety or greed get the best of us and make a rushed or shortsighted decision that we quickly come to regret. Other times, we spend weeks or months at an impasse, rehashing the exact same arguments, unable to accept the compromise required to move forward with any of the available options.

Buddhists talk about getting lost in the “small self.” In this state of mind, we literally forget the big picture and focus on the small one. We start taking our daily problems too personally and, paradoxically, becomes less capable of solving them in an efficient manner. And this is the opposite of big picture thinking.

Let me share with you a story related to big picture thinking…

In 1812, the French army of Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia.[1] After a decisive Battle of Borodino, the capture of Moscow and therefore Napoleon’s victory in the war seemed inevitable.

Unexpectedly, the Russian Commander-in-Chief Mikhail Kutuzov made a highly controversial decision of retreating and allowing the French to capture Moscow. Much of the population had been evacuated taking supplies with them. The city itself was set on fire and large parts of it burned into the ground.

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After waiting in vain for Russia to capitulate, Napoleon had to retreat in the middle of a bitterly cold winter. He won the battle but lost the war. The campaign ended in a disaster and the near destruction of the French army.

What can we learn from this historical lesson?

1. Focus on the Consequences

Napoleon focused on the important part: capturing Moscow. Nobody could accuse him of thinking small. Yet he overlooked that the Russian army could still fight even after giving up the country’s most important city.

So was Moscow not an important target after all?

Success expert Brian Tracy has a litmus test: things are important to the extent that they have important consequences. Things are unimportant to the extent that they have no important consequences.[2]

When faced with a choice, ask yourself, what would be the consequences of each option?

  • Want to spend an hour studying or watching the new series on Netflix? What would be the consequences of each option? Netflix can sometimes be a better choice, but it helps to put things in perspective.
  • Want to maintain your apartment by yourself or to pay a cleaning service? Would would be the consequences of each option?
  • Want to meet up for coffee with this acquaintance of yours or catch up on your work instead? What would be the consequences of each option?

The choice can be different for different people. An aspiring filmmaker may have a legitimate reason for choosing Netflix. Personally, cleaning your own apartment can be relaxing and nourishing even if the economics of hiring a cleaner looks compelling because you are earning a high hourly rate.

This is where you will need a basic idea of who you are — what are your goals, values and aspirations.

2. Flip Defeat Into Victory

Kutuzov managed to turn Russia’s defeat into a historic victory by recasting the problem in a wider context: losing Moscow need not mean losing the war.

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Despite the symbolic meaning attached to the Kremlin, the churches, the priceless treasures that had been stored in the city for centuries, the outcome of the campaign was ultimately determined by the strength of the remaining armies.

If you can adopt this result-oriented perspective, many of your personal defeats may be flipped into victories as well. Few events in a human life are absolutely good or absolutely bad, and it usually takes many years to recognize in retrospect, what role a particular encounter did play in your story.

Therefore we have every reason to look for the good in the things that happen to us.

This is a very practical attitude, far from baseless “positive thinking.” After all, if something unfortunate has happened to you and you find good sides in this circumstance, you will then be better positioned to take advantage of those good sides.

Say your noisy neighbors are affecting your productivity. What if it is a blessing in disguise? How can you turn this defeat into a victory?

  • Perhaps you are too serious about life and could learn how to have more fun. Join your neighbors or go out for a walk instead of working;
  • Perhaps you only wanted to be productive while instead procrastinated on social media. Now that your procrastination has been interrupted, stop and acknowledge this much greater obstacle to your productivity;
  • Perhaps you are too sensitive to interference. Take this opportunity to practice ignoring the noise and doing your best anyway;
  • Perhaps you have a victim mentality and the feeling of unfairness drains you more than any actual nuisance your neighbors might have caused. Try accepting this lapse in your productivity the way you would accept bad weather.

Get used to finding opportunities in your problems. This is the quintessential big picture thinking.

3. Ask for Advice

Both Napoleon and Kutuzov had trusted advisers to discuss their affairs with. In general, getting a different perspective — or several — can only help inform your understanding and lead to better decisions. Just ensure that the people giving you advice are competent in the particular area where experience is needed.

Paying money for advice can also be a wise investment. Lawyers, tax accountants, medical doctors spend years learning how to assist people like yourself in living more successful, more fulfilling lives.

A quick legal consultation can save you a fortune down the line or even keep you out of big trouble. A medical check-up can uncover potential issues and help keep you healthy and active for years to come.

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Even big, complex dilemmas at your job or in your romantic relationship can be tackled more effectively by partnering up with a coach or a therapist or, of course, with the help of a wise friend.

4. Beware of Biased Advice

Many imperfect decisions occur in response to an imperfect piece of advice that you choose to act on. This advice often comes from a biased party.

For example, we are often encouraged to buy something that we supposedly need:

  • Protect your skin from harmful UV rays by using a special lotion.
  • Fortify your health by taking multivitamins.
  • Connect with your friends by sending them elaborate gifts.
  • Brighten your weekend by consuming a delicious pastry.
  • Become more productive by getting a faster computer.

However, most purchases are unnecessary.

Some, such as the sunscreen, do have legitimate benefits when used properly.[3] Others, such as multivitamins, only make a difference for a small group of people.[4]

Advertisers of those benefits inevitably want to narrow your focus in order to overstate the importance of their product. They frequently present it as the only solution to your problem, whether real or imaginary.

After all,

  • Skin can also be protected from the sun by wearing appropriate clothing.
  • Health can be better fortified by consuming a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.
  • Spending time or talking on the phone with your friends is the foremost way of connecting with them, and it is virtually free.
  • Your weekend can be brightened by doing something that you love.
  • You can become more productive by focusing on the tasks that have the most important consequences. A faster computer can, in fact, decrease productivity by making it easier to multitask and by enabling your favorite distractions.

There are other sources of imperfect advice. Politicians also frequently want us to focus on a particular “big picture,” to the exclusion of the alternatives.

Even loving parents can be guilty of the same. They can advise their children to pick a career path that is safe and respectable, based on their “big picture” that in life one has to make a living. A child may disagree, however, based on another “big picture” that one’s life has to have meaning and fulfillment.

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Bottom Line

It is human nature to make rushed, emotional decisions based on incomplete information, then regret those decisions later on.

You can protect yourself from poor judgment by striving to attain the big picture when careful consideration is called for.

Focus on the consequences of your decision before considering how you feel about it.

Play with the cards you’ve been dealt, but look for opportunities in each situation and you will find them.

Ask knowledgeable mentors for advice, but beware of biased people who have an opinion, but do not necessarily have your best interest in mind.

Yet remember, true big picture thinking comes from hard-won experience. Legendary military commanders Napoleon Bonaparte and Mikhail Kutuzov were both injured on the battlefield.

Clear thinking comes from putting your big picture to the test of reality.

More Tips on Thinking Clearly

Featured photo credit: Haneen Krimly via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Wikipedia: French invasion of Russia
[2] Brian Tracy: No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline
[3] American Academy of Dermatology: Say Yes to Sun Protection
[4] Harvard Medical School: Do multivitamins make you healthier?

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