Advertising
Advertising

3 Lifestyle Triggers that Relieve Depression and Anxiety

3 Lifestyle Triggers that Relieve Depression and Anxiety

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…

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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…

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

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 20-Minute Morning Routine That Relieves Anxiety The 10-Minute Daily “Lifestyle Trigger” That Relieves Anxiety and Depression 2 Major Flaws in Your Diet That Cause Stress and Anxiety

Trending in Brain

1 Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science 2 10 Positive Affirmations for Success that will Change your Life 3 7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory 4 15 Ways Meditation Benefits Your Brain Power and Your Mood 5 How to Build Good Habits

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on September 10, 2018

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

We thought that the expression ‘broken heart’ was just a metaphor, but science is telling us that it is not: breakups and rejections do cause physical pain. When a group of psychologists asked research participants to look at images of their ex-partners who broke up with them, researchers found that the same brain areas that are activated by physical pain are also activated by looking at images of ex-partners. Looking at images of our ex is a painful experience, literally.[1].

Given that the effect of rejections and breakups is the same as the effect of physical pain, scientists have speculated on whether the practices that reduce physical pain could be used to reduce the emotional pain that follows from breakups and rejections. In a study on whether painkillers reduce the emotional pain caused by a breakup, researchers found that painkillers did help. Individuals who took painkillers were better able to deal with their breakup. Tamar Cohen wrote that “A simple dose of paracetamol could help ease the pain of a broken heart.”[2]

Advertising

Just like painkillers can be used to ease the pain of a broken heart, other practices that ease physical pain can also be used to ease the pain of rejections and breakups. Three of these scientifically validated practices are presented in this article.

Looking at images of loved ones

While images of ex-partners stimulate the pain neuro-circuitry in our brain, images of loved ones activate a different circuitry. Looking at images of people who care about us increases the release of oxytocin in our body. Oxytocin, or the “cuddle hormone,” is the hormone that our body relies on to induce in us a soothing feeling of tranquility, even when we are under high stress and pain.

Advertising

In fact, oxytocin was found to have a crucial role as a mother is giving birth to her baby. Despite the extreme pain that a mother has to endure during delivery, the high level of oxytocin secreted by her body transforms pain into pleasure. Mariem Melainine notes that, “Oxytocin levels are usually at their peak during delivery, which promotes a sense of euphoria in the mother and helps her develop a stronger bond with her baby.”[3]

Whenever you feel tempted to look at images of your ex-partner, log into your Facebook page and start browsing images of your loved ones. As Eva Ritvo, M.D. notes, “Facebook fools our brain into believing that loved ones surround us, which historically was essential to our survival. The human brain, because it evolved thousands of years before photography, fails on many levels to recognize the difference between pictures and people”[4]

Advertising

Exercise

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that reduce our perception of pain. When our body is high on endorphins, painful sensations are kept outside of conscious awareness. It was found that exercise causes endorphins to be secreted in the brain and as a result produce a feeling of power, as psychologist Alex Korb noted in his book: “Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, neurotransmitters that act on your neurons like opiates (such as morphine or Vicodin) by sending a neural signal to reduce pain and provide anxiety relief.”[5] By inhibiting pain from being transmitted to our brain, exercise acts as a powerful antidote to the pain caused by rejections and breakups.

Meditation

Jon Kabat Zinn, a doctor who pioneered the use of mindfulness meditation therapy for patients with chronic pain, has argued that it is not pain itself that is harmful to our mental health, rather, it is the way we react to pain. When we react to pain with irritation, frustration, and self-pity, more pain is generated, and we enter a never ending spiral of painful thoughts and sensations.

Advertising

In order to disrupt the domino effect caused by reacting to pain with pain, Kabat Zinn and other proponents of mindfulness meditation therapy have suggested reacting to pain through nonjudgmental contemplation and acceptance. By practicing meditation on a daily basis and getting used to the habit of paying attention to the sensations generated by our body (including the painful ones and by observing these sensations nonjudgmentally and with compassion) our brain develops the habit of reacting to pain with grace and patience.

When you find yourself thinking about a recent breakup or a recent rejection, close your eyes and pay attention to the sensations produced by your body. Take deep breaths and as you are feeling the sensations produced by your body, distance yourself from them, and observe them without judgment and with compassion. If your brain starts wandering and gets distracted, gently bring back your compassionate nonjudgmental attention to your body. Try to do this exercise for one minute and gradually increase its duration.

With consistent practice, nonjudgmental acceptance will become our default reaction to breakups, rejections, and other disappointments that we experience in life. Every rejection and every breakup teaches us great lessons about relationships and about ourselves.

Featured photo credit: condesign via pixabay.com

Reference

Read Next