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5 unconventional ways to reduce anxiety and depression

Mental health challenges are through the roof across the world after more than a year of Covid. If you, or one of your loved ones, is struggling with anxiety or depression, you are definitely not alone.

A conversation over drinks on Friday night led me to compile a list of unconventional tools to help with anxiety and depression. Here five approaches that have all been shown to effectively reduce levels of anxiety and depression:

1. Get up at the same time every day and eat a fat- and protein-rich breakfast

Jordan Peterson found “many clients whose anxiety was reduced to subclinical levels merely because they started to sleep on a predictable schedule and eat breakfast” as he writes in his book “12 Rules for Life”.

He highlights the importance of having predictable daily routines in regulating our emotional states. The first, and most fundamental element, he advises is to get up at a similar time every day – no matter the day of the week.

With regards to breakfast, he prescribes “a fat- and protein-heavy breakfast as soon as possible after they awaken (no simple carbohydrates, no sugars, as they are digested too rapidly, and produce a blood-sugar spike and rapid dip)." It’s all about regulating our blood sugars so that we do not have significant spikes and dips, which considerably and directly affect our emotional state. Interestingly, our susceptibility to sugar highs and lows increases when we have been under prolonged periods of stress – as is currently the case for most of us given Covid. As such, through this period of time, it is even more important to eat in ways that stabilise our blood sugar.

2. Eat “sun-coloured” foods

According to Don Tolman orange and yellow wholefoods have the power to considerably shift our moods. Fruits like pineapple, bananas, oranges, mango and lemons are all great. Ideally mix several together!

Green leafy vegetables and dark chocolate (>70% cocoa content) are great too as they increase the serotonin levels in our bodies. Serotonin is known as one of the “happy hormones” as it serves to create feelings of satisfaction, happiness and optimism.

3. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and traditional meditation practices

According to Dawson Church from the National Institute for Integrative Healthcare scientific studies have shown that EFT is extremely effective at treating anxiety, depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD). In fact, it has been shown to be more effective than various medications.

Essentially, EFT enables the body to break the cycle between a specific trigger and the associated fight and flight response. In this way EFT allows us to process and heal experiences that may be causing the mental health challenges.

Traditional meditations such as the Buddhist meta (loving kindness) practice or the Hawaiian Ho’oponopono forgiveness ritual are also powerful tools to shift our emotional states. You can find excellent meditations for both on InsightTimer.

4. Get sunshine, fresh air and walk in nature!

Getting outside and moving our bodies never fails to lift our spirits, especially when the sun is shining. Yet, a brisk walk in the rain can be equally as rejuvenating. Also consider taking off your shoes and sock and stand with your bare feet on the ground in the forest or on a meadow to ground yourself and feel tension and anxiety literally flow out of you.

5. Create a daily gratitude practice

Tapping into gratitude is one of the most powerful ways to shift our state. Mary Morrissey teaches that there are three levels of gratitude: being grateful

1. “if and when” we have something

2. “for" the things we have in life; and

3. “in life”

All of them serve, yet the effectiveness with which the gratitude shifts our emotions increases as we move from 1 to 3, with the last by far being the powerful. For the real magic happens when we can start to be grateful for the things that are not as we wish them to be, for what the challenges and hard times are teaching us.

In just a few days, a regular gratitude practice does wonders for our emotional well-being.


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