I have found that many of the systems and paths that we have carved out for us in life, or that we follow, can improve our skills but may sometimes dull our creativity or even cover up things in life that we feel truly passionate about.
We may learn that following a path and acquiring achievements and recognition from doing so is the kind of happiness that we think we need. We forget what it feels like to be truly ignited by something, or we sacrifice pursuing that as we consider it less important.
However, I don’t think there’s anything more important.
Sure, we have to make a living and that requires us to make sacrifices sometimes. But, we still are in charge of getting our priorities straight and creating a life for ourselves that may be the “road less traveled by” but allows us to be our best selves and give to the world and ourselves all of our potential.
And, this kind of awareness helps us to truly appreciate life and what we are here for. It brings us out of the mud and makes us feel alive again.
Adulthood doesn’t have to be dull, systematic, and dominated only by to-dos.
There should be an undertone of joy, even amidst all the ups and downs.
Learning How to Appreciate
In thinking about what “becoming alive again” REALLY means, I realized it boils down to one primary attribute: appreciation. You have to learn to appreciate what’s in front of you. Being grateful is talked about a lot these days. However, it’s not just a matter of turning on your “grateful” switch. It’s often not simply just an intellectual process.
It’s very much an awareness that unfolds with really seeing and understanding what comes together in our lives to make us healthy and happy. In other words, it might take some work.
For example, once I tuned in enough to my body to see how good it feels when I eat food with wholesome ingredients (not processed, no added sugar), that represented a very real kind of awareness that made me appreciate healthy food that is doing good for my body.
At the bottom of all of this is us. We have to learn to get in tune with our selves and the rest will follow.
Here are seven things I thought of that can help uncover that feeling of becoming alive again (note, most of these need to be done regularly and require effort and patience. But if done, they will make a huge difference in your life.):
Appreciate your food. Take a moment to think about where your food came from, be thankful that you have it, and chew slowly. Try to observe, and enjoy the process of eating. This took me a long time to do. But I noticed that I started naturally doing it in my times of highest awareness and clarity – like after spending time in nature.
Observe the cause and effect of all situations in your life. Take a look at what happened to lead you where you are today. If you are happy in your current situation in all regards, that’s great. If not, observe the circumstances that took place to lead you where you are today, and where you might be able to make changes to an entirely different path that will lead you to entirely different place.
Watch your mind. This one is the biggest one and I could write a book about it (and many have). But, your mind is the tool with which you create your perceptions and shape your life. Do not hold on to negative thoughts. We all get them, but practice letting them go. Observe and see how your perspectives might be telling you what you can or can’t do, or how life should or should not be. You don’t have to do anything here, but learn to watch.
Experience more. Try new things. Things that might connect you with others, or show you something about yourself. It could be as small as trying a new food you were hesitant to try. Dare to go outside your comfort zone. You’re not getting anything from being in it.
Start paying attention to gut reactions. Learn to say no. I always considered myself a pretty in-tune person, but I realized that just by habit I was often dismissing my own feelings on things. It can actually be a difficult process to differentiate between “this feels like something I should do, not that I’m excited to do,” if we’re always used to putting away our own feelings.
Evaluate your life goals. What kind of goals are you setting, and why? What are you looking to achieve, and why? Is it something that you feel will make you more fulfilled on a deep level, or is it something that you think you should be doing to get ahead? I remember thinking years ago that I just wanted to hit a $50k income goal and that that’s all the money I would need in life ever. Now that I’ve hit that income goal and grown a little wiser, I’ve realized it is so not about the money. We all need it and more is better, but I realized that thinking in terms of money was getting in the way of me focusing on creating a life that fulfilled me, regardless of the income. It is kind of a trick; you have to reverse engineer this thinking. You have to go after what you enjoy doing the most and focus on your talents, and not worry about if it will make you enough money or not. Things will then fall into place.
Set aside time for things in your life on a regular basis. Before bed, I made a sort of routine to light candles, turn off all electronics, read a book and drink tea. This has given me a happiness I didn’t have before. It allows my body to relax and contemplate the day. I’ve realized that constantly being distracted by electronics can create a stress response and not allow us to truly relax, even though you may not realize it at first.
When I was younger and a good thing happened in my life, I was always full of wishes for it to last forever. I’d say to myself “please PLEASE let me have this person in my life forever!!!” or what have you — I’d plead and beg to myself that things wouldn’t change and that it was something I could keep, in its exact state, as it was in that moment. I’m sure most of those of you reading this can relate.
It’s like that first love you had that was unlike anything you had ever experienced and allowed you to experience a whole new range of emotions and maybe made you feel a little more grown up, like you could say you finally knew what this “love” thing was all about.
It might’ve helped you form your identity by having this new experience with another human being and made you feel more important, because you were getting extra validation of your actions and your existence with this close relationship, and through each other you begin to meet new people who see you not just as an individual but a unit.
But as I have gotten older, the passage of time has told me the necessity of change. However, it has also shown me how resistant some of us still are to it. Even as we age, most of us have a plethora of external circumstances that continue to validate our actions. We learn to look to external sources — be it people, structures and systems such as school, accomplishments, careers, and what have you — as tools to measure our existence by.
It’s hard to ignore, because it happens by habit and by growing up in a society with structured systems that each of us plays a part in. Everything becomes a matter of relativity to something else; we’re making less money than someone else, we’re a different color than someone else, we didn’t accomplish a certain number of degrees compared to someone else, and thus the list goes on forever…and in even more subtler ways we might not immediately recognize.
We might be in and out of relationships that put us in different life situations where we have varying social statuses or introduce us to situations that are new and we discover new dimensions to add to what we understand as our identity.
Sometimes we notice how other people (or groups of people) react to us as a person and use that to understand ourselves or our placement in this world. Our identity really ends up becoming the sum of comparisons against something else, or a sum of the reflection of others’ opinions. And sometimes, we forget to learn how to look beyond all of it to reveal the source.
It might sound in words more simple than it is, but it is really complex, because from the time we were born, we have been introduced to life on earth and society as it is in this current state. We learn to understand ourselves only in the context of the current state of our world. If we don’t naturally explore other ideas frequently in our minds, learning to uncover our core can be a major undertaking.
These days, I use meditation and frequent contemplation to discover what deeply rooted perceptions I might have that were built from the time I was a kid or during days where I didn’t know better. I try to observe my day-to-day emotions and actions and see where they might be stemming from, or what is provoking them.
In my opinion, there is nothing more valuable than the evolution of the self. Relationships of all kinds, achievements and the like are important, but if they are becoming a hindrance to your potential, this is likely an issue or will become one. Healthy relationships and circumstances should be helping you to propel you forward, or should at least be supportive as you reach new heights in your understanding of your self.
And without change, we would suffer. We’d never grow, be pushed out of our comfort zone, and come to understand the world in new ways. We’d never reach new heights of happiness or release the chains of our mind that might be holding us back.
If change comes knocking at your door, open it with welcome arms and remind yourself that it might be the opportunity of a lifetime, even if it’s disguised behind a veil.
“I do not accept any absolute formulas for living. No preconceived code can see ahead to everything that can happen in a person’s life. As we live, we grow and our beliefs change. They must change. So I think we should live with this constant discovery. We should be open to this adventure in heightened awareness of living. We should stake our whole existence on our willingness to explore and experience.” — Martin Buber
In Part 1 of the article (as linked above), I really wanted to emphasize the importance in first recognizing anxiety for what it is, maintaining a healthy and proactive attitude towards it, and also stress how important just getting in basic needs are (i.e. proper sleep, proper diet, exercise, proper lifestyle). Seriously — it’s no joke. These are the most important core things to cover in treating anxiety.
In this section though, I want to cover some of the ways you can treat anxiety naturally on top of these. After 10+ years of anxiety and different medicinal treatments (including being on an anti-depressant for the majority of the time), I would still argue that in many cases, despite how uncomfortable and terrifying anxiety can be, you don’t actually need to be on an anti-depressant. The availability of natural remedies out there is plentiful and they can help balance your brain chemicals. That in combination with healthy eating, exercise, and sleep, can cure it all together.
If your case is severe enough and you need something as strong as an anti-depressant, then that’s one case you’d want to go for it. Sometimes you need to take something stronger and fast-acting in order to function at work or school. Trust me, I’ve been in those shoes. That’s another case where anti-depressants can help. The problem is, it’s easy to get psychologically dependent on them.
The real difference is that doing it the natural way is more work and can take longer to see the results. Healthy eating requires work, consistent exercise requires work, getting enough sleep requires discipline. Watching your mind and how it bubbles up thoughts that create anxiety is work and discipline. But you will be so much healthier and feel better all around, and you’ll also feel stronger and more motivated to overcome anything! The payoff is huge and much longer-lasting. It will ensure that you can deal with these things properly in the future, and your brain will also be better chemically equipped to deal with anxiety and stress.
Doctors will be quick to put you on an anti-depressant when you might not need to be. They typically don’t specialize in natural remedies, so it’s just not going to be suggested as the main course of action. Research online and trial and error with different natural remedies is really what it’s going to take.
Below is an article paraphrased from thecalmclinic.com that will explain and introduce some natural remedies.
What “Natural” Means
There are many different types of natural anxiety treatment options. The term “natural” simply means “without chemical medicine,” and this opens up hundreds of different doors that you can choose from to reduce and prevent your anxiety.
Natural Medicine is Still Medicine
The most important thing to understand is that the most “natural” way to treat anxiety is without any type of medicine at all. Many people turn to herbal supplements, for example, because these supplements are not made from manmade products, but medicine is still medicine, herbal or not. The safest possible way to cure anxiety – and the most natural way to treat anxiety – is with some type of therapy or exercise that does not involve any type of herbal or medicinal treatment in any way.
Keep that in mind as you consider alternative options to prescription anxiety medications. While an herb or mineral may improve your anxiety, they still affect your body, and are not truly as natural as learning new coping mechanisms and ways to control stress.
The Non-Medicinal Therapies
For those that are willing to commit to some type of treatment that isn’t plant or medicine based, the following are the most common and effective treatment options:
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is the type of therapy with the most research and the one that is highly recommended for anxiety and depression. But the other therapies may also have some benefit. Others prefer similar, but otherwise “alternative” therapies, including:
There are also some unusual therapies, like laughter therapy, that can help some people with their anxiety. These types of therapies have considerably less research support, but many swear to their ability to reduce the effects of anxiety and other mental health problems.
Remember, these types of anxiety treatments are completely natural in a way that not even herbal medicine can provide. In addition, you should never take any type of supplement or medication without combining it with some type of long term coping treatment, like therapy. All types of medicines only provide temporary relief, and in the end you need to make sure you are committed to some type of treatment that will help you cope with anxiety for years to come, not just for the day.
Herbal Therapies for Anxiety
Of course, when most people think of natural anxiety treatments, they think of herbal medicine, because herbal medicine is considered a natural way to “treat” different disorders. The good news is that there are many different herbal medicines for anxiety. However, always talk to your doctor before taking any type of herbal medicine, as some of them may interact with other medications. Never take any herbal medicine with alcohol. The most common types of herbs for anxiety include:
Kava is the king of natural anxiety treatments, and the only herb that has been favorably compared in scientific studies to some of the most well-known prescription anxiety treatments.
Kava has an active ingredient known as kavalactones, which is believed to improve GABA levels and prevent epinephrine from overwhelming the body while leaving serotonin and other important neurotransmitters untouched.
Kava is powerful enough that medical experts strongly advise avoiding any other type of herbal supplement or medicine for anxiety while taking kava, because the effects may become too strong and cause significant drowsiness and other side effects. Kava also interacts very strongly with alcohol in a way that can damage the liver, so no one that uses kava should consume any alcohol while on a kava supplement.
Not all kava is created equal. Grocery story kava teas and droplets are unlikely to be powerful enough to provide you with the benefits you are looking for. Kava is fat soluble, meaning it needs to be taken with food or butter, and doses range anywhere from 150 to 300 kavalactones per day (far more than are generally supplied in grocery story varieties).
But kava is also not believed to have any side effects when taken as directed, has no addiction risk, and no withdrawal symptoms. It’s a great way to combat anxiety without the long term implications of benzodiazepines and other prescription anxiety treatments, and something you and your doctor may want to strongly consider.
Valerian root is unlike kava, in that it doesn’t have anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects necessarily, but it does provide relief from the symptoms and is believed to have fewer interactions than kava does.
Valerian root is used as a sleep aid, and is generally not considered a natural treatment for anxiety. But the effects of valerian root are ideal for the type of symptoms that those with anxiety deal with, including muscle tension, a sense of agitation, and active thoughts. Valerian provides a level of relaxation that can help those with anxiety sleep more restfully as well. Since sleep is an incredibly important part of dealing with anxiety, this gives valerian additional benefits.
Never Just Take a Supplement!
Remember, never focus just on supplements alone. They’ll only help you manage your anxiety. Cure it by partnering them with effective coping strategies.
Passionflower is a very light version of kava, and recommended for those that are either not ready to commit to kava or do not experience that much daily anxiety and would prefer something less powerful.
The ingredients in passionflower are said to have a very mild anxiolytic effect and sedative effect, which is believed to come from its role in GABA production and regulation. Passionflower has seen less research than kava and other available natural options, but it’s used worldwide as an effective natural anxiety treatment option.
Magnesium is not an herb, but a mineral that is present in many foods. Unfortunately, millions of people have a very low level of magnesium intake, because it has been essentially stripped from most modern diets – especially in the United States and developed countries, where farming and food production practices eliminate the vital mineral from most food ingredients.
Low levels of magnesium are rarely responsible for anxiety itself, but may be responsible for some of the physical symptoms of anxiety. Not only do low magnesium levels cause issues like unusual feelings throughout the body, but anxiety can actually decrease your magnesium levels (magnesium is burned up during times of stress).
So taking magnesium at your doctor’s discretion is a smart idea for many people that may find that their most distressing physical anxiety symptoms disappear, thus making it easier to cope with the mental part of anxiety.
Other Natural Treatment Anxiety Options
The above herbal supplements are not the only natural options available. There are many other types of alternative anxiety options as well. A brief rundown includes:
Homeopathic Remedies – Homeopathy is an often misunderstood alternative treatment. It’s the belief that a very, very diluted amount of elements that cause a condition like anxiety can cure it. Homeopathic experts believe that diluting things like arsenic and nicotine, among other things, to the point where only the smallest amount of the element remains will cure it. There is little evidence that homeopathic remedies work, but they remain popular nonetheless.
Reflexology – Reflexology is the belief that pressure to certain points on the hand can relieve stress in the rest of the body. Reflexologists utilize these pressure points in a way that many believe has a very calming effect for all types of stresses.
Magnet Therapy – Another interesting form of therapy is magnet therapy, also known as magnetotherapy. Magnet therapy believes that placing various magnets on your body will move elements around and provide you with therapeutic properties.
Other natural treatment remedies include aromatherapy, acupressure, Reiki, and more. There is no limit to the number of natural treatments that currently exist in the world today.
Many of these natural treatments for anxiety have never been researched. Generally, it is best to commit to a well-studied treatment, because your anxiety is not something to leave to chance. Nevertheless, many people support the use of the above treatment types, and so those that want to try an alternative treatment have their pick of many interesting and unique therapy options.
Partnering With An Anxiety Cure
It’s important to remember that the term “natural anxiety treatment” refers to anything that doesn’t involve prescription medication. It’s not just herbal remedies and alterative medicinal solutions. It’s crucial that you recognize that those types of treatments are only quick fixes. You always need to commit to some type of treatment that prevents and cures anxiety, not just manages it.
Anxiety and fear dissipate quickly when countered with conscious breathing.
The signals our bodies use to tell us we need to cleanse ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally are multifaceted and often mirror symptoms we associate with illness. If we heed these signs, we not only feel better quickly but also stave off poor health before it can start. These quick fixes for common ailments can get you started.
1. Applying pressure to the acupressure point between the thumb and forefinger can release blockages causing pain, tension, and fatigue. You can relieve a headache naturally by squeezing for 20 seconds and releasing for 10 seconds, without letting go, four times.
2. To breathe freely, irrigate your nasal passages with a neti pot and warm salt water. As you clear and soothe the sinuses, congestion associated with allergies or infection will gradually disappear.
3. Apple cider vinegar is a powerful purifying and detoxifying agent. Soaking for 20 minutes in a warm bath infused with two cups of apple cider vinegar pulls toxins from the body and can clear blocked energy.
4. The foods you eat can have a profound impact on your outlook and mood. Eating a small yet satisfying meal rich in complex carbohydrates can lift your spirit and help you let go of feelings of anger, irritability, and depression.
5. Anxiety and fear dissipate quickly when countered with conscious breathing because concentrating on the breath enables you to refocus your attention inward. You can ground yourself and regain your usual calm by taking a series of deep belly breaths as you visualize your feet growing roots that stretch miles down into the earth.
6. Though tuning out can seem counterproductive, a few minutes spent lost in daydreams or listening to soothing music can help you see your circumstances from a new angle when you feel frustrated.
7. If you feel ill health coming on, brew a wellness elixir. Simmer three sliced lemons, one teaspoon freshly grated ginger, one clove freshly minced garlic, and one quarter teaspoon cayenne pepper in five cups water until the lemons are soft and pale. Strain a portion into a mug and add honey by tablespoons until you can tolerate the taste. Drinking this potent mixture of antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal ingredients three times each day can ensure your symptoms never progress into a full-blown illness.
Perhaps the shortest simplest advice anyone could give for energy and health is: Remember to breathe and relax.
(1) If you are sitting down right now, please stand up, stretch for a moment, and then sit back down. Please do this now. And only AFTER you have done so, continue reading.
(2) Consider: As you were standing up, rising to your feet — were you breathing? Or were you momentarily suspending (holding) your breath? (Most likely you were holding your breath as you rose). And how about when you were sitting down? Are you aware whether you were breathing, or holding the breath?
(3) Please stand up, then sit down, again. But this time:
Inhale your way up to your feet.
Exhale your way back down to a sitting position.
Do this for the rest of your life — and pay more and more attention to your breathing in the midst of everyday life.
Nearly everyone holds their breath at numerous times during the day — when pouring a liquid into a glass, posing for a photo, getting up out of a chair, or sitting down to the table, and many, many other occasions. So by remembering to breathe in a rhythmic, relaxed manner is key to energizing your body.
Walking and Rhythmic Breathing — Nature’s Best Exercise: Walking is one of nature’s best exercises and has myriad benefits. It is low impact, you can do it everyday for your entire life, and you already have all the skills and equipment needed. As George Trevelyan once said,”I have two doctors — my left leg and my right leg.”
Source: Excerpt from the online course: Master the Path of the Peaceful Warriorby Dan Millman.Available at http://www.dailyom.com
“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.”
— Lin Yutang
Do you feel a desire to simplify your life?
If you say ‘yes,’ then set an intention to reduce the demands, stimuli, interruptions and busyness in your life. We each have the power to do this – we simply have to begin to say ‘no’ to those activities that don’t directly serve what we want for our lives.
Everyone of this planet deserves to have some free time to think, relax and have fun. If you long for this, begin now to clear your plate and allow a new level of experience to happen in your life. Take charge. Eliminate time wasters. Make some decisions about what matters to you.
“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”
— Hans Hofmann