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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…

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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

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

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Published on May 26, 2020

7 Most Effective Problem Solving Techniques That Smart People Use

7 Most Effective Problem Solving Techniques That Smart People Use

Problems are, by their very nature, problematic. There are life problems, work problems, creative problems, and relationship problems. When we’re lucky, intuition takes over, and we solve a problem right away. When we’re not so lucky, we get stuck.

We might spend weeks or even months obsessing over how to write that term paper, get out of debt, or win back the love of our life. But instead of obsessing, let’s look at some effective problem solving techniques that people in the know rely on.

Ideation Vs Evaluation

It’s important to first understand and separate two stages of creativity before we look at effective problem solving techniques. Ideation is like brainstorming. It’s the stage of creativity where we’re looking for as many possible solutions as we can think of. There’s no judgment or evaluation of ideas at this stage. More is more.

After we’ve come up with as many solutions as possible, only then can we move onto the evaluation stage. This is when we analyze each possible solution and think about what works and what doesn’t. Here’s when all those good ideas from ideation rise to the top and the outlandish and impractical ones are abandoned.

7 Problem Solving Techniques That Work

Everyone has different ways of solving problems. Some are more creative, some are more organized. Some prefer to work on problems alone, others with a group. Check out the problem solving techniques below and find one that works for you.

1. Lean on Your Squad

The first of our seven problem solving techniques is to surround yourself with people you trust. Sometimes problems can be solved alone, but other times, you need some help.

There’s a concept called emergence that begins to explain why groups may be better for certain kinds of problem solving. Steven Johnson describes emergence as bottom up system organization.[1] My favorite example is an ant colony. Ants don’t have a president or boss telling them what to do. Instead, the complicated organization of the ant colony comes out of each individual ant just fulfilling their biological destiny.

Group creativity can also take on an emergent quality. When individuals really listen to, support, and add onto each other’s ideas, the sum of that group creativity can be much more than what any individual could have created on their own.

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Therefore, if you are struggling to solve a problem, you may want to find a group of people with whom you can collaborate, so you can start riffing with them about possible solutions.

2. Regulate Your Emotions

The next of the problem solving techniques is to be honest about how you’re feeling. We can’t solve problems as efficiently when we’re stressed out or upset, so starting with some emotional self-awareness goes a long way in helping us problem solve.

Dr. Daniel Siegel famously tells us to “Name it to tame it.” [2] He’s talking about naming our feelings, which offers us a better chance of regulating ourselves. I have to know that I’m stressed or upset if I want to calm down quickly in order to get back to a more optimal problem-solving state.

After you know how you’re feeling, you can take steps to regulate that feeling. If you’re feeling stressed out or upset, you can take a walk or try breathing exercises. Mindfulness exercises can also help you regain your sense of presence.

3. Listen

One thing that good problem solvers do is listen. They collect all the information they can and process it carefully before even attempting to solve the problem.

It’s tempting to jump right in and start problem solving before the scope of the problem is clear. But that’s a mistake.

Smart problem solvers listen carefully in order to get as many points of view and perspectives as possible. This allows them to gain a better understanding of the problem, which gives them a huge advantage in solving that problem.

4. Don’t Label Ideas as Bad…Yet

The fourth of the seven problem solving techniques is to gather as many possible solutions as you can. There are no bad ideas…yet.

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Think back to the two stages of creativity. When we are in the ideation stage, we shouldn’t be evaluating each other’s ideas, input, and possible solutions.

When we evaluate, judge, and criticize during the ideation stage, we inadvertently hamper creativity. One possible outcome of evaluating during ideation is creative suppression.[3]

When someone responds to someone else’s creative input with judgment or criticism, creative suppression can occur if the person who had the idea shuts down because of that judgment or criticism.

Imagine you’re at a meeting brainstorming ways to boost your sales numbers. You suggest hiring a new team member, but your colleague rolls their eyes and says that can’t happen since the numbers are already down.

Now, your colleague may be 100% correct. However, their comment might make you shut down for the rest of the meeting, which means your team won’t be getting any more possible solutions from you.

If your colleague had waited to evaluate the merits of your idea until after the brainstorming session, your team could have come up with more possible solutions to their current problem.

During the ideation stage, more is more. We want as many ideas as possible, so reserve the evaluation until there’s no more ideating left to do.

Another trick for better ideating is to “Yes And” each other’s ideas[4] In improvisation, there’s a principle known as “Yes And.” It means that one improviser should agree with the other’s idea for the scene and then add a new detail onto that reality.

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For example, if someone says, “I can’t hear over your loud music,” the other person needs to go along with that idea and then add onto it. They might say, “Sorry, I’ll turn it down, but I don’t think everyone else here at the club will appreciate it.”

Now the scene is getting interesting. We’re in a club, and the DJ is going to turn the music down. Playing “Yes And” with each other made the scene better by filling in details about who and where the improvisers are.

Yes Anding also works well during ideation sessions. Since we’ve already established that we shouldn’t be evaluating each other’s ideas yet, Yes Anding gives us something we can do. We can see the merits of each other’s ideas and try to build on them. This will make all of our possible solutions more fully realized than a simple laundry list.

5. Approach Problems With Playfulness

Approaching problem solving too seriously can exacerbate the problem. Sometimes we get too fixated on finding solutions and lose a sense of playfulness and fun.

It makes sense. When there are deadlines and people counting on us, we can try to force solutions, but stepping back and approaching problems from a more playful perspective can lead to more innovative solutions.

Think about how children approach problem solving. They don’t have the wealth of wisdom that decades on this planet give. Instead, they play around and try out imaginative and sometimes unpractical approaches.

That’s great for problem solving. Instead of limiting ourselves to how things have always been done, a sense of play and playfulness can lead us to truly innovative, out-of-the-box solutions.

6. Let the Unconscious Mind Roam

This may seem counterintuitive, but another technique to try when you become too fixated on a problem is to take a break to let the unconscious mind take over for a bit.

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Our conscious brain can only handle a limited amount of information at a time. Plus, it’s energetically exhausting to use our conscious brain for problem solving. Think about a time when you were studying for a test. It’s draining.[5]

But we’re in luck. There’s another part of our brain that isn’t draining and can integrate tons more information at a time—our unconscious.

This is why you come up with your best ideas in the shower or on your way to work or while you’re jogging. When you give your conscious brain a break, your unconscious has a chance to sift through mounds of information to arrive at solutions.

It’s how I write my articles. With my conscious brain, I think about which article I’m going to write. My problem is how to write it, so once I think carefully about the topic, I take a break. Then, the structure, sources, content, and sometimes phrasing happens in fits and starts while I’m not thinking about the article at all. It happens when I’m lying in bed, showering, and walking in the woods.

The key is to get in the habit of practicing this alternation between conscious and unconscious problem solving and to absolutely not force solutions. Sometimes, you just need to take a little break.

7. Be Candid

The last of the problem solving techniques happens during the evaluation stage. If we’re going to land on the best possible solution to our problems, we have to be able to openly and honestly evaluate ideas.

During the evaluating stage, criticism and feedback need to be delivered honestly and respectfully. If an idea doesn’t work, that needs to be made clear. The goal is that everyone should care about and challenge each other. This creates an environment where people take risks and collaborate because they trust that everyone has their best interest in mind and isn’t going to pull any punches.

Final Thoughts

In order to come up with the best solutions for problems, ideation and evaluation have to be two distinct steps in the creative process. Then, you should tap into some of the above techniques to get your ideas organized and your problems solved.

Hopefully, these seven problem solving techniques will help your problems be less…problematic.

More Tips for Problem Solving

Featured photo credit: Daria Nepriakhina via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Steven Johnson: Emergence
[2] Dr. Dan Siegel: The whole-brain child
[3] American Psychological Association: Creative mortification
[4] Play Your Way Sane: And What?: Yes And
[5] Daniel Kahneman: Thinking, Fast and Slow

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