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Widely used in traditional medicine, Turmeric is a spice that gained popularity for both its flavorful properties and health benefits. With its spread across Asia, it has been used through ages, as a major ingredient in curries and across cultures as a vital food seasoning ingredient. It originates from the turmeric plant (Curcuma Longa) which is a flowering plant in the same family as Ginger. Its amazing collection of properties make it well utilized as a source of food-colouring, food seasoning and even food supplements. From teas to smoothies and even chocolate bars and hot meals, Turmeric has proven to be a relevant additive that provides a set of benefits.

tumeric, curcumin

It is a perennial and herbaceous plant with a warm-bitter taste, a yellow hue and have been utilized even in Ayurvedic practices for its purported benefits. This rich history and use profile of the plant makes it a vital herb of interest as more and more researchers continue to investigate the reason why Turmeric may be advantageous to human health. Even in its earliest stages of use, in Asia it as a viable treatment for skin conditions, pains and digestive issues. Research would later show that all of these were accurate as the active ingredient “Curcumin” possessed both anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties that helped with a wide range of health problems.

The function of Turmeric/Curcumin as an anti-inflammatory substance

Curcumin is the active ingredient in Turmeric that gives it both its flavour, taste and most of its healing properties. It represents about (5-6%) of the entire composite makeup of the spice. While Turmeric contains over a hundred different compounds, curcumin as the active compound is credited with most of the healing properties and is often the point of interests in many studies. It appears to have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects useful in a variety of conditions.

Curcumin’s well-stacked nutritional profile makes it a favourable treatment for metabolic symptoms, soreness, inflammation, anxiety and even arthritis. It is a polyphenol that works by targeting multiple signalling molecules while also functioning at a cellular level. By delivering therapeutic anti-inflammatory effects, it helps in relieving a wide range of symptoms. It is important to note, however, that while curcumin is responsible for the beneficial properties of the plants, it loses effectiveness when ingested alone as a result of its limited bioavailability.

This limited bio-availability, in turn, creates an atmosphere for rapid elimination, poor absorption, and rapid metabolism, three factors that hinder actual cellular absorption. Thankfully, bio-availability enhancers like Piperine (found in black pepper) can significantly help by increasing absorption up to 2000% and thus in turn, the effectiveness.

How does Turmeric help fight off inflammation?

Inflammation itself is a highly beneficial process of the body’s self-regulation without which bacterial and viral attacks on the body, could cause severe damage. However, not all cases of inflammation are the result of bacteria or viruses e.g. arthritis, autoimmune disorders, cancer. Chronic infection, over a prolonged period, is a cause for slow, sustained cell damage and is more challenging to treat.

Curcumin’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties explain the two primary pathways that explain most of its effects, and reason for having a wide base of effectiveness. There is evidence that it increases body serum antioxidant activities such as super dismutase (SOD), with significant benefit to the oxidative stress factors in the body. Curcumin is also an excellent free radical scavenger, which further assists in reducing oxidative stress load within the body. Free radicals are unstable atoms that cause cell damage. Lower availability of free radicals is associated with lower levels of oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.

Chronic conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s,  ME, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, cardiovascular disease, allergy, colitis, arthritis, diabetes, depression, fatigue and others, all involve a process of inflammation. It is a well-known fact that sites of inflammation release free radicals, further worsening the disease. Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effect is by blocking the NF-kB molecule (a molecule responsible for inflammation with direct involvement in chronic diseases). This potent anti-inflammatory property puts it right on par with pharmaceutical drugs). In fact, a study involving 45 people showed that Turmeric outperformed Diclofenac as an anti-inflammatory agent for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Treatment of Health conditions

While there aren’t a lot of studies that show more details on the function and therapeutic effects of Turmeric. However, early research has shown great promise, and its actual use is evidence of just how effective it is as an anti-inflammatory. One study shows that low doses of curcumin in healthy people can provide some health benefits. It is associated with improved memory function,  reduced cholesterol and reducing healthy biological inflammation. In combination with other supplements, its effects are enhanced even further.

When compared to pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory, curcumin has a significant advantage of having minimal side effects. It is most effective when combined with agents that can help to increase its bio-availability, and research suggests its benefit for inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety and high cholesterol.

 

References:

  1. Chandran B, Goel A. A randomized, pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of curcumin in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. Phytother Res. 2012;26(11):1719‐1725. doi:10.1002/ptr.4639.
  2. Hewlings SJ, Kalman DS. Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health. Foods. 2017;6(10):92. Published 2017 Oct 22. doi:10.3390/foods6100092
  3. Kesarwani K, Gupta R, Mukerjee A. Bioavailability enhancers of herbal origin: an overview. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2013;3(4):253‐266. doi:10.1016/S2221-1691(13)60060-X

In medicine we regard pain as a symptom associated with an injury or some type of pathological process. However this excludes a large proportion of sufferers with psychological pain where there is no obvious physical cause. Unlike acute pain which usually has an organic cause, patients with psychological ailments have no obvious cause of the pain. In the same way, chronic pain is also not a benign entity; the pain is continuous, can be disabling, lead to depression and overall the patients have a very poor quality of life. Often it is not just physical but also related to emotional and psychological reasons. Currently, it is estimated that anywhere from 3-7% of the population may have chronic or psychological pain.

psychological pain

Over the years many treatments have evolved for the treatment of psychological pain but none has proven to be effective in all patients. The traditional analgesics do not appear to work and with the current opiate crisis, these agents are no longer recommended. Most other drug therapies that include antidepressants and anticonvulsants do not reliably provide any significant pain relief in all patients. Plus, these drug therapies often have potent adverse effects, are costly and may be addictive.

Because of the failure of conventional therapies to manage psychological pain, many patients have been turning to acupuncture. This old Chinese treatment has been used to treat pain from a variety of causes with good success. Most of the literature on the benefits of acupuncture has looked at acute causes of pain but its role in the management of psychological pain has not been fully evaluated. The few studies published on the benefits of acupuncture for psychological pain appear confusing, with some reports indicating that the treatment works and others claiming that acupuncture does not work for psychological pain. Most of the older acupuncture studies with large numbers of participants were not randomized and the outcomes of pain relief were not always quantified, hence data from these studies are difficult to assess. Overall, these older studies have indicated that about 50% of patients with chronic or psychological pain do obtain some pain relief over time. Unfortunately, the studies did not indicate which patient would benefit from the treatment.

So what is the present status of acupuncture for psychological pain?

Recently researchers analyzed 6 studies involving 462 patients who had chronic pain. The patients were between 52-63 years of age and received treatment for a minimum of 8 weeks.

Unfortunately, the quality of evidence from these studies was low because the treatment was not compared to sham acupuncture and the participants were not blinded. The number of participants in some studies was small. Overall, the researchers stated that they simply did not have evidence to refute or support the use of acupuncture for chronic or psychological pain.

However, since the treatment is relatively safe when done by an experienced practitioner, it may be an option for an individual who has failed to respond to other conventional pain treatments.

Dr. Lucy Chen, a specialist in pain medicine and a practicing acupuncturist who works at the Harvard affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital states, “I think the benefit of acupuncture is clear, and the complications and potential adverse effects of acupuncture are low compared with medication.” More important acupuncture is not as costly as drug therapy nor does it cause physical or psychological dependence. So for patients with psychological pain, it may be worth a try.

 

References

  1. Research Finds Acupuncture Effective for Chronic Pain.(2018, May 21) https://www.aafp.org/news/health-of-the-public/20180521acupuncture.html
  2. Vickers AJ, Linde K. Acupuncture for chronic pain. JAMA. 2014;311(9):955–956. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.285478
  3. Yang Z, Zhao L, Xie X, et al. The effectiveness of acupuncture for chronic pain with depression: A systematic review protocol. Medicine (Baltimore). 2017;96(47):e8800. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000008800
  4. Vickers AJ, Vertosick EA, Lewith G et al. Acupuncture for Chronic Pain: Update of an Individual Patient Data Meta-Analysis. J Pain. 2018; 19(5): 455-474.
  5. Ingraham P. Does Acupuncture work for pain. (2018, Jun 13). https://www.painscience.com/articles/acupuncture-for-pain.php
  6. Ju ZY, Wang K, Cui HS, et al. Acupuncture for neuropathic pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;12(12):CD012057. Published 2017 Dec 2. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD012057.pub2
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St John’s Wort (SJW) also known as Hypericum perforatum is a shrub that has star shaped yellow flowers, leaves and stem commonly found in Europe and the US. Historically, it has been extensively used medicinal herb. The flowers and leaves contain active ingredients ‘hyperforin’ and ‘hypericin’ and new research suggests that taking the whole preparation (rather than just the two ingredients) is more beneficial.  Described as a nervous system balancer and restorer it helps to ease anxiety, tension, seasonal affective disorder, mild to moderate depression and menopause. Beyond its emotional effects, SJW is also used to bring relief from physical pain and tension.

Herbal history has shown SJW to widely treat low mood, anxiety and depression. SJW’s mood elevating properties comes from its ability to increase levels of serotonin, a chemical found in the brain. Often serotonin levels are low in people with depression. Studies also show that it improves quality of sleep, which is a significant problem in people with depression. They also exhibited less sadness, helplessness, exhaustion and headache.

Unknown to many SJW has many uses beyond mental health benefits. SJW also has antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and pain relief properties. In herbal medicine specific indications include trauma and damage to the nervous system either via an injury or viral infection e.g. neuralgias, sciatica, Bell’s palsy, pinched nerves or trauma to head and spine. With its antiviral and analgesic effects it is ideal for conditions like, shingles or herpes infections.

Several scientific studies have described SJW ‘s analgesic and antinociceptive properties for use in pain conditions.  Animal studies have shown low dose SJW to block pain stimuli in acute and chronic pain conditions. In another study comparing SJW to morphine in rats showed that SJW has notable antinonciceptive activity for neuropathic pain but could also be useful in enhancing the effects of morphine.  There are however legitimate concerns for drug-herb interactions such as; anti-anxiety, antidepressants, barbiturates, contraceptives, certain chemotherapy, immune suppressive drugs and statins. Therefore SJW’s ability to manage pain at low doses greatly reduces this risk.

SJW can be very effective in the treatment of mild to moderate depression, but particularly helpful if there are additional pain symptoms e.g. fibromygia where both anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties can offer added support to the condition.  Dosage is 900 mg a day. Its use is generally safe if you are not taking any prescription medicine. If you are then you may need professional health advice to guide you.

 

 

Are you familiar with waking up felling sluggish, groggy and irritated after pulling an all-nighter, staying up till wee hours, or finishing a night shift?

Unfortunately, apart from feeling exhausted and lethargic, improper sleep does more harm to our health than we assume. We are not only paying fines for sleep deprivation in terms of lack of focus and bad mood; it has greater consequences for our long-term health.

The Vicious Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Despite rising awareness about the importance of proper sleep at night, health disorders associated with lack of adequate sleep are on continuous rise. It is estimated that approximately 1/3rd of human population suffers from health hazarding effects associated with poor sleep, working on computer and stress.

Alone in the US, approximately 50-70 million people are suffering from chronic health problems linked with sleep and wakefulness. Diabetes, heart diseases, obesity, and shortened life expectancy are the most common health disorders linked with poor sleep at night.

Research studies conducted on a group of volunteers state concluded that people getting inadequate sleep are at higher risk of falling victim to chronic diseases such as impaired control of blood glucose, increased inflammation, increase blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. According to these epidemiological research studies, long term sleep deprivation is also linked with the development of health problem in people who are initially healthy.

Why Sleep Matters?

Usually, while we are sleeping, our body goes through a healing process; it provides a much needed energy boost to our body in order to effectively carry out hundreds of routine functions.

In order to function properly and sustain healthy energy level throughout the a day, a person needs good sound sleeping of 8 hours at night. Sometimes, our day starts with sluggishness and fighting for energy; usually, it happens due to inadequate sleep that prevents our body from getting sufficient relaxation.

Mental Well-Being

Critical mood disorders including depression, mental distress, stress and anxiety are linked with chronic sleep deprivation. Adequate sleep keeps us focused at work by improving mental clarity and reducing stress level. As per a study, mental exhaustion, sadness and depression are correlated with people getting less than 4 ½ hours of sleep per night.

Diabetes Prevention

Research studies point out to a strong connection between development of diabetes and getting less than 5 hours of sleep. It increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by adversely affecting the way our body utilises glucose.

Immune Boost & Sex Drive

Adequate sleep improves our body’s immune strength and saves us from health problems associated with a weakened immune state. Lower libido is common among men and women not getting enough sleep at night. Sleep apnoea in men is associated with lower libido due to lower testosterone levels.

Healthy Heart

As per research studies, if a person is suffering from hypertension, even one night of sleep deprivation leads to increased blood pressure the following day. Poor sleeping pattern is well known to be associated with stroke, increases blood pressure, and the development of many cardiovascular diseases including coronary heart disease. Adequate sleep improves our cardiovascular health and helps in reducing high blood pressure.

Healthy Weight Loss

Sleep promotes natural weight loss. In truth, sleep deprivation means putting on more and more weight. If you are sleeping less than 7 hours, it increases your chances of gaining more weight.

Increased Life Expectancy

It is not surprising that sleep deprivation is associated with lower life expectancy. Epidemiological studies narrate that sleeping 5 hours or less at night increases mortality risk by 15 percent.

So what’s you are going to pick? Heart disease, obesity, diabetes, shortened life, or a soothing, relaxed sleep at night?

 

References:

NHS. Why lack of sleep is bad for your health. NHS, UK. 2018. [Online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/why-lack-of-sleep-is-bad-for-your-health/ [Accessed 5 March 2019]

Harvard Medical School. Sleep and disease risk. 2007. [Online] Available at: http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences/sleep-and-disease-risk [Accessed 5 March 2019]

NIH. Sleep deprivation. NIH. 2016. [Online] Available at: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/sleep/conditioninfo/sleep-deprivation [Accessed 5 March 2019]

Neurocore. How sleep affects mental health. Neurocore. 2018. [Online] Available at: https://www.neurocorecenters.com/blog/how-sleep-affects-mental-health [Accessed 5 March 2019]

 

Stress and Anxiety is a very common presentation, ranging from everyday life stress of crossing the road safely, or more serious worries like a life threatening illness, divorce or loss of a loved one. However for some even in the absence of notable stressful event there is still anxiety. There is no logical reason for the anxiety but every little event weighs them down physically and emotionally. Social events are an uphill struggle and going to work is equally challenging.

No matter the cause of the stress, instinctively the body reacts by initiating a “stress response” and your body is flooded with stress hormones. Your muscles tenses up, there is rapid breathing, and adrenaline increases your heart rate and elevates your blood pressure. Cortisol increases blood sugar (glucose) levels and increases its availability to the brain.

Challenging situations are part of daily life, and so there is a need to have the necessary capacity and ability to manage stress. Therefore developing more positive, healthier ways to respond to stress becomes paramount.

Invoking a “relaxation response” is a good way to counter act stress. There are many different ways of doing this, and you will need to find the one technique (or a few) that work best for you. Initially, it will feel strange, but with regular practice you will gain confidence and create a source of relaxation and calm that is free to use and available day or night. Practicing relaxation has many benefits including;

  • Slows down breathing rate
  • Lowering heart rate and blood pressure
  • Improves digestion, maintains normal blood sugar levels
  • Reduces production of stress hormones
  • Reduces muscle tension and improves blood flow to the muscles
  • Enhances confidence and calm, reduces anger and frustration,
  • Improves sleep and energy levels

Here are five relaxation techniques that help initiate a relaxation response.

1.  Conscious breathing. Breathing is a simple but very powerful tool. Research has confirmed a link between breathing to relaxation. Specialised brain cells constantly monitor our breathing sending signals to other parts of the brain. It can differentiate between sighing, yawning, gasping, sleeping, laughing and crying.

The 4-7-8 Breath technique is the perfect antidote to stress that can bring on relaxation in a very short period of time. It does not require any equipment and can be done anywhere and in any position, but start practicing by sitting with your back straight. This technique may not be suitable for people with breathing problems.

During the exercise the tip of your tongue should lie and just touch the upper front teeth. Then, before starting exhale completely through your mouth.

  1. Inhale quietly through your nose (closed mouth) to a mental count of four.
  2. Pause and hold your breath for a count of seven.
  3. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight. This is one breath.

Now repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths. The time spent on each breath cycle is not important, but the ratios of 4:7:8 is key to good practice. With practice the breaths can be slowed down with deeper inhalation and exhalation breaths.

 

2. Body scan.  Together with the breathing technique you start to become aware of your physical body. Starting from the top of your head you start to ‘feel’ each part of our body, becoming more aware of it thus enhancing your mind-body connection. Gradually you work all the way down the body. Becoming aware of the body helps to release muscle tension and enable relaxation. This technique may not be suitable for people who have difficulties with their own body image.

3. Visualization.  In this relaxation technique, you close your eyes sitting or lying down in a quite spot and create mental images of calming or peaceful places or experiences to focus on and take a visual journey there. You can be in the forest or at the seaside, imagining the sounds, touch and smell e.g. feeling the warmth of the sun or smelling the fresh countryside air.

4. Mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation can help with anxiety, depression and pain control. It focuses on being in the present moment reminding us of its importance, rather than dwelling on past or future concerns. You will need to find a quite space, sitting comfortably focus on your breathing whilst concentrating in the ‘here and now’.

5. Prayer. If you are religious or spiritual repeating a silent short prayer or phrase along with focused breathing will help relaxation and calm.

Other relaxation techniques include; tai chi, qigong, yoga, music and art therapy, walking, biofeedback and sports. There are a number of home remedies you can also try. For additional help complementary therapies like; massage, acupuncture, and reiki may be helpful.

Learning relaxation techniques takes practice, but is an extremely useful skill. Be patient, practice daily for 10-15 min. If you are really short on time than even 5 (full) minutes every day will make a difference. Try different ones. Start with the breathing technique and once you are comfortable with it then expand into the other techniques.

 

Finally, spring may have just sprung. The long, cold and damp winter has not been kind to our bodies with exacerbations of arthritic and rheumatic pains and nasty cold and flu viruses in the air. Dark and cloudy days and staying mostly indoors have deprived us of sunlight and vitamin D. Your body may need just a gentle nudge to get it back into the seasonal flow.

 

Here are 12 signs to look out for, and the reason for you to spend a little bit of effort getting your health back on-line.

  1. Weight gain, a few extra pounds gained over the winter overeating indulgence.
  2. Tired and sluggish, can’t think properly, ‘brain fog’ and poor concentration.
  3. Emotionally feeling stressed, low and lethargic.
  4. Tired eyes, dark circles around the eyes or puffiness around the face.
  5. Digestive discomfort or bloating and heartburn.
  6. Poor sleep. Difficulty falling or staying asleep, or waking up tired and unrefreshed.
  7. Drinking alcohol in the evenings to unwind or relax.
  8. Stopped attending the usual exercise, sport, yoga, and dance or meditation class.
  9. Eating more processed food or ready meals, and less fresh fruit and vegetable.
  10. Appearance of spots, dry skin patches or exacerbation of allergies and eczema.
  11. Headaches
  12. Body aches and pains.

To get yourself back on track, here are some things you can do.

  • Shift that body: It is a known fact that physical activity promotes the release of ‘endorphins’ also know as feel good chemicals. It relaxes the muscle and joints and invigorates the mind, thus preventing low mood and depression. Movement also improves the body’s blood circulation but also lymphatic flow which is important for our immune system. When we move our muscles act as a natural pump, helping blood to return to the heart, whilst the lymph flow is increased by 15-30 times. Our bone density responds to high impact movements (like jumping), making them stronger. Exercise also helps with weight management.
  • Good sleep regimen allows the body to rest and recuperate. The body has a natural circadian rhythm which is linked to the release of hormones and regulation of body functions. Research has shown that when we are awake the brain is in a state of inflammation, and sleep helps to reduce that inflammation.
  • Hydration, the body is 70% water and the blood and lymph circulation is dependent on it. Avoid dehydrating drinks such as tea, coffee, fizzy drinks and alcohol.
  • Clean up the diet by minimising processed and high carb foods especially bread, cakes, biscuits and fatty and fried foods. Avoid sugary foods.  Freshly cooked foods are much preferred. Regularise your eating and increase fruit and vegetables and essential fats found in fish, seeds and nuts.
  • Mindfulness is an excellent practice to manage stress and emotional distress. It calms and relaxes the mind and body.
  • Friends and Family is important for our well-being. Enjoy some relaxing or playful time with them.
  • Supplements can help to make up for loss due to increased stress, but also normalise existing body levels. Stress increases cortisol levels, which makes you eat more thus contributing to weight gain. In particular it also uses up B vitamins, vitamin C and minerals magnesium and zinc. It also affects the digestive microbiome of good bacteria which is extremely important for our immune system, so increasing pre or probiotic intake through food or supplement can help.
  • Therapies like massage, acupuncture, yoga is extremely beneficial for well being. They give an extra boost to health. Their importance is even more so when the usual self-management or health changes may not be sufficient. They are an added dimension to the overall treatment to facilitate and focus on health improvement to get added benefits to getting better.

 

Fibromyalgia  is a chronic conditions that causes widespread pain in the body. It is accompanied by increased pain sensitivity, extreme tiredness, muscle stiffness, sleep difficulties, headaches, functional impairment e.g. memory and concentration (known as “fibro-fog”) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The cause of fibromyalgia is not well understood, but genetic, automimmune factors,  traumatic events and stress are contributory. Treatment is limited to improving function using pain medication, antidepressants and antiepileptic, supported by physical and talk therapy.

Although there is no cure for fibromyalgia, acupuncture can provide respite from symptoms.  One study found that 1 in 5 people suffering with fibromyalgia use acupuncture within a period of 2 years after diagnosis. The WHO recommend acupuncture for treating fibromyalgia but conclude that more research is needed.

Pain intensity was noticeably reduced after 10 weeks using tailored acupuncture treatments at weekly intervals in a multicentre trial conducted in three primary care centres. Participants were randomly assigned to real acupuncture or placebo, whilst continuing their medical management.  A total of 153 participants completed the study. The acupuncture group reported a 41% reduction in pain, compared to 27% in the placebo group. The effects were still apparent at the end of 12 months, reporting 20% and 6% reduction respectively. Other measures of anxiety, fatigue and depression were also significantly reduced at 10 weeks.

A review of multiple small studies concluded that acupuncture was safe to use for fibromylgia. Electro acupuncture was more effective than manual acupuncture for pain and stiffness, well-being, sleep and fatigue. Effects lasted up to one month.

Acupuncture is well knows to be effective in reducing many types of chronic pain, including arthritic, rheumatic, headaches. It releases feel-good natural pain killers in our body called endorphins. These same chemicals are also released after orgasm, thus leave us with a relaxed warm afterglow.  Its ability to modify pain, reduce stress and enhance well being is ideal to tackle these fibromyalgia symptoms.  The insertion and twisting needle action also release adenosine, an anti-inflammatory chemical that lingers for up to an hour after the treatment.

It is unsurprising therefore that many people with fibromyalgia would be interested in trying acupuncture.  A  Personal story  from  one sufferer shows how acupuncture  can help change lives.  Despite the mixed results from studies, most suggest that it may have a beneficial role in treating fibromyalgia, which can be used without anxiety about its safety. It can be used on its own for symptom management, but often advocated in addition to other exercise or physical program.

 

Happiness can be one of the most elusive things to achieve, whilst in today’s world being stressed, anxious, depressed, confused and tired is easily done. It is almost ‘acceptable’ to be stressed, tired or have Brain Fog. If we decide, then we can be unhappy about everything, including ourselves. So much of it is a matter of choice. Do we decide to be unhappy about our……. weight, size, hair, money, job, home, weather and much more ?, or do we decide that we can be happy despite everything ?

Happiness is not a secret, it is a state of mind, and our mind is never constant but there are things we can do to help ourselves, and tilt it in our favour. Finding happiness can be quite simple; if you know where to look, but conversely is can be very elusive if you are focusing in the wrong places. People find pleasure and joy in different places, so the best way is to identify habits and things that give you satisfaction and enjoyment – and then make them a part of your everyday life. This could be restful long walks or invigorating running or swimming sessions, creative crafts, cooking or baking for pleasure, mindful meditation, relaxing music, singing or dancing, playing an instrument, or connecting with friends and family. Regular, small doses of pleasurable moments are much more fulfilling, rather than once in a life time holiday that lasts only for 2 weeks.

What do other people think about happiness?

Here are a few quotes

 “Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.”   Franklin D. Roosevelt

  “Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best”.   Theodore Isaac Rubin

 “If you wants others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, Practice compassion.”  Dalai Lama

 “Happiness is a choice. You can choose to be happy. There’s going to be stress in life, but it’s your choice whether you let it affect you or not.”     Valerie Bertinelli

“My greatest beauty secret is being happy with myself. I don’t use special creams or treatments – I’ll use a little bit of everything. It’s a mistake to think you are what you put on yourself. I believe that a lot o how you feel about yourself and your life. Happiness is the greatest beauty secret”.    Tina Turner

Start your happiness mission today!

Today is the day you start being happy-  Now is the right time- This is the moment you change things and start being happy. Don’t wait till ‘later’ or ‘tommorow’ !

“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.”     Jim Rohn

Make a Happiness plan

  1. Self-awareness: Be aware of who you are and identify things that you get pleasure from regardless if it is big or small.
  2. Being physically active: Choose a regular physical activity, whether is walking or swimming Physical activity releases endorphins (feel good chemicals) and boosts your emotional wellbeing. You might feel sore or tired after but you will have a sense of satisfaction and feel good.
  3. Be Creative: Harness your creative genius and express your thoughts and emotions. You will gain a huge sense of satisfaction from your creation e.g. art, crafts, drawings, decorating colouring.
  4. Complete a challenge or a difficult task- especially something you have always wanted to do.
  5. Connect with others: make sure that you spend time talking to your loved ones, in particular with your partner and children. Communication is key to all relationships.
  6. Socialise and enjoy time with family and friends.
  7. Appreciate and be grateful for all that you have, and what others do for you. Make a list of all that you are grateful for.
  8. Expressing gratitude is beneficial for our emotional health, and studies have shown benefits for better sleep and lower risk of depression.
  9. ‘Make someone else happy’- making someone else happy will make you happy. Start volunteering or help a friend or relative.

Remember, you are in control of your own happiness.  Start your happiness plan Today !

 

Having depression comes with the feeling of being helpless when medication is your  only option. Thankfully, you are not limited to this and there are a number of therapies that can be used. These therapies can do a lot to fight back and they range from direct effects on brain chemicals responsible for mood, mind-body and physiological changes. Not all therapies are suitable for everyone, but most people will find that there will be some that will work for them.

Life Style Changes: Eating well, physical activity and getting sleep are crucial to good mental and physical health. Trying something new and set (realistic) goals for personal achievement.

Laughter Therapy: Develop a good sense of humour and laugh. Laughing gives you an instant hit of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that controls feelings pleasure and reward. Of course, laughing by yourself may be hard to achieve, so you can try to use a laugh phone app. One study by Loma Linda University researchers found that even the anticipation of a jovial laugh reduces the levels of stress hormone cortisol, which increases when you are anxious.

Planned rest and relaxation:  A planned period of relaxation “Time for myself” has profound benefits. This can be anything from 3 mins of quiet contemplation or 30 min of meditation, yoga, walking, tai chi, or anything you find therapeutic and relaxing e.g. reading, dancing, gardening or singing. Researchers have found that after a period of relaxation, shy men with social anxiety had lower heart rates after they interacted with people.

Essential Oils: Essential oils like lavender, chamomile, ylang ylang and bergamot are good for treating depression. Lavender has a calming effect and can be safely used in the home. A drop on the collar bone or on the chest, or gently rubbed into either side of the temple.  The odour is extremely relaxing and studies have shown that it induces calm.

Grounding: In the event of an anxiety attack  “do something tangible” to distract your brain e.g. pick up a pen and run your fingers along it, hold a ball or a paper weight in your hand. This works because your brain cannot be in two places at the same time and it will shift negative catastrophic thoughts.

Planned rest and relaxation:  A planned period of relaxation “Time for myself” has profound benefits. This can be anything from 3 mins of quiet contemplation or 30 min of meditation, yoga, walking, tai chi, or anything you find therapeutic and relaxing e.g. reading, dancing, gardening or singing. Researchers have found that after a period of relaxation, shy men with social anxiety had lower heart rates after they interacted with people.

Acupressure: Stimulating acupuncture points are known to make positive changes to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation. It also deactivates the ‘analytical brain’ which controls anxiety and worry. Research also shows reversal of stress related behaviour changes and biochemistry. Applying finger pressure, with tiny circular movements for a few minutes will stimulate the points. Stimulating these points can also be used as a grounding technique. Some useful points are; Lu 1, P6, LI4.

P6 acupoint.jpg Lu1 point Li4

Yoga: Research has found that yoga boosts levels of the amino acid GABA are higher in those that carry out yoga. GABA is essential for brain function which helps promote a state of calm in the body. Low levels of GABA is associated with anxiety and depression. Here is a video on yoga breathing techniques to reduce anxiety.

Tai Chi and Qi Qong: Tai Chi and Qi Qong is a form of mind-body exercise that originated from China. It is a form of ‘mindful exercise’ using slow meditative movements and breathing. Beneficial effects include; lowering of blood pressure, greater physical functioning and more likely to have reduction in depression symptoms. Here is a tai chi video you can try.

Tea: Chamomile is a good anti-anxiety tea with mild relaxing effects. Green tea is rich in L-theanine amino acid which lowers heart rate, blood pressure and ease anxiety. Lemon Balm has sedative effect therefore calms the nerves, but also beneficial for digestion.

Face the fear: Sometimes it helps to confront your ‘fear’. Understanding what you are scared of can best way to allay your anxiety. Talk to a friend or a mentor.

Supplements: There are a variety of supplements that can help anxiety and depression disorders. These include; multivitamins, essential fatty acids, B-complex, L-Theanine, GABA, 5-HTP and St John’s Wort. It is important to remember that supplements can interact with other medication therefore consulting a knowledgeable health professional is essential.

It does take effort to help yourself, but once you get started it becomes easier and gradually you will start to have Fun. when you reach this just remember “don’t stop” !

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