You know the feeling – you’re staring at the ceiling, unable to sleep, counting sheep that morph into an ever-growing to-do list. Or maybe during your waking hours you feel anxious, overwhelmed and just generally not yourself. These are symptoms of stress, and according to the American Psychological Association, the average stress levels in the U.S. rose from last year, as did the number of people reporting their stress as extreme.
A little bit of stress is a good thing, but chronic stress can lead to some serious health issues. Stress can lead to depression, brain damage, stroke, a weaker immune system, and weight gain.
In honor of National Stress Awareness Month, April’s Bulletproof Bullet Points will focus on how to hack your blues and enhance your happiness.
Psychedelic Therapy – Ayahuasca Helps Fight Depression
In the mid-sixties, the US government restricted the use of hallucinogens for scientific research. Despite some promising discoveries, most studies were shelved and largely ignored by academia. In recent years, there’s been a re-emergence within the scientific community around the idea of psychedelics as medicine. A recent study by the University of São Paulo examined the potential therapeutic effects of Ayahuasca, a psychoactive Amazonian brew known for inducing deep hallucinations and profound insights.
The study showed that patients’ symptoms of depression decreased significantly within an hour of ingesting Ayahuasca, improved even more a day later, and stayed just as low at a 3-week check-in.
Why were the plants so effective? A study from the early 90s found that Ayahuasca increased serotonin receptor sensitivity in the brain. The current most popular depression treatments are
SSRI drugs like Prozac that push your brain to release more of serotonin. SSRIs take about six weeks to kick in and actually deplete the brain of serotonin in the long-run, while Ayahuasca enables the brain to utilize it.
This is a promising finding, but if you are interested in Ayahuasca, make sure you do your research. Ayahuasca puts you in a vulnerable state emotionally and it’s illegal in many parts of the world, including the U.S. Like most psychedelics, it can do psychological harm if the experience goes poorly, which is why many people opt to do it under the guidance of a genuine Ayahuasca shaman.
Singing Makes You Happier & Healthier
A new study by Tenovus Cancer Care and the Royal College of Music found that the stress hormone, cortisol, dropped in cancer patients who sang for one hour in a choir. Singing had more than just emotional benefits – it also improved physical health. Singing patients created more cytokines, proteins that are essential for your immune system to function.
One theory is that singing tones your vagus nerve. The vagus nerve extends from the brain to the gut and connects it to many organs along the way. It transports messages in the body and plays a major role in your nervous system. Low vagal tone is associated with inflammation and illness, while vagus nerve stimulation can improve blood pressure and alleviate depression. If you aren’t into singing, try another method: breathing exercises, playing wind instruments, chanting and taking cold plunges all work. Here’s a quick guide.
Can You Buy Happiness?
Money can’t buy happiness, but how you spend your money may contribute to it. A study published in Psychological Science revealed that people who make purchases that align with their interests and personality reported greater life satisfaction. The study says, “that money can indeed increase happiness if it is spent the “right way” (e.g., on experiences or on other people).” Spending money on a vacation or experiences with loved ones creates memories and connections, which have a deeper impact on us than objects.
The study suggests that it is important to spend money on things that matter to you. So for example if you are extroverted, spending money to go out and socialize could improve your level of contentment. Or, if you are really into feeling good and staying healthy, spending money on high-quality supplements or delicious tasting coffee could make feel more satisfied. 😉
Stress and depression are ever-growing problems in the Western world. They’re particularly difficult to handle and it’s essential that people talk about them. Nutrition plays a huge role in mood. Happiness comes much more easily If you’re full of energy and your body is running well. A good naturopath or functional medicine doctor may also help you become happier.
Looking for more stress hacks? We’ve got plenty! Consider adaptogens, sensory deprivation, acupressure or biofeedback. Have a great week and subscribe below for more articles about how to upgrade your biology.