If you have considered psychiatric medication at one stage in your life, you are not alone. Studies show that 12% (that’s one in eight) adults are currently receiving mental health treatment and many of those are on a journey with medication. However, you will be pleased to know it is possible to transform your relationship with yourself and the world around you by incorporating these natural self healing techniques without the need to reach for medication.
Along with proposed benefits, it’s important to be aware that all medication comes with its own risks and downfalls. It’s really important to consider these side effects as they can occur after both short term and long term use. The exact side effects depends on the specific medication being used however the common negative effects of antidepressants, anti psychotics, mood stabilizers, benzodiazepines, and sleeping medication should all be considered.
If you're dealing with some mental health issues, don’t worry as it is never too late to easily incorporate the some natural, self care exercises into your life. We’ve brought you a run down of our favorite techniques to use below:
Meditation is about training your awareness and exploring a healthy sense of perspective. It isn’t about silencing your thoughts and emotions but instead learning how to observe them without judgement. When we meditate we utilise the power of mindfulness by using our breathing to refocus the mind and remain anchored in the here and now.
You can learn to meditate without any equipment and in any location - all you need is a space to invite calm. It’s like learning any other skill and will take practice to become comfortable, but think of it in a similar way to going to the gym to strengthen your muscles.
The benefits of mindful meditation are far reaching and is heavily supported by science. There are thousands of scientific studies which have proven that meditation can have a positive impact on your mental, physical and emotional health.
To learn more about how to meditate check out the app Headspace which is perfect for beginners and will help guide you through your journey. If you are looking to use meditation to improve your sleep quality, reduce stress and anxiety or improve focus then Calm - the #1 app for sleep, meditation and relaxation could help you.
Exercise is lifestyle modification that has been proven to positively improve mental health. Studies show that it can help to reduce anxiety, depression whilst also improving self esteem and cognitive function. This accessible lifestyle change has significant benefits for everyone, especially those who are looking to support their own mental wellness.
Any form of exercise works by increasing the blood circulation around the body and in particular increasing blood flow to the brain. This flow brings positive effects to the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis which plays an essential role in keeping the body balanced and in haemostasis. To put it simply, by moving you are helping to create balance and unity within your functioning body and will flood yourself full of positive endorphins, dopamine, adrenaline and endocannabinoids.
You don’t need to dedicate a huge chunk of your day towards it as all you need to feel the benefits is just 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on 3 days a week. That could be swimming, running, cycling, walking, hiking, dancing, yoga or simply gardening just to name a few.
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Have you ever felt butterflies in your stomach when you have been nervous? That’s all down to your vagus nerve and its connections between your intestinal system and your mind, also known as the gut-brain axis. The two organs are connected both physically and biochemically. Trillions of microbes that survive in our gut produce chemicals which will affect how your brain functions and are also connected to your body’s immune system.
It’s proven that what we eat and drink effects the way we think, feel and react. As with every other organ, the brain requires fuel. In this instance it requires complex carbohydrates, essential fatty and amino acids, vitamins, minerals and hydration through water in order to thrive.
There is a rapidly increasing abundance of clinical research which backs the important role nutrition has to play in positively aiding mental health and wellness. Studies show good nutrition can aid in managing mental health illnesses such as anxiety, depression and schizophrenia.
Check out what World Health Organization (WHO) recommend makes up a healthy diet here.
EYE MOVEMENT DESENSITIATION AND REPROCESSING (EMDR) THERAPY
Eye Movement Desensitization (EMDR) is an interactive psychotherapy technique that uses rapid eye movement (REM) to alleviate stored trauma within the body. Whether you are aware you are storing his burden or not, this approach invites you to heal emotional trauma through the use of rapid eye movement. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognize the importance and effectiveness of this approach and praise its ability to encourage emotional healing.
EMDR involves stimulating rapid eye movement whilst revisiting a previously traumatic experience. The presence of this previously negative experience is dissipated as the individual is distracted by the rapid eye movements and therefore the memory breaks its attachments to previously emotionally charged stress responses which in turn helps to alleviate distress.
If you are curious about the benefits of this interactive method then head over to Virtual EMDR to find out more or search for other professionals providing this service online.
Tapping therapy is known as a emotionally freeing technique which is based upon a combination of traditional Chinese acupuncture and modern psychology treatments. It works in a similar way to EMDR in the sense that it requires the individual to visualize a stored memory which is associated with emotional pain or trauma whilst using a tapping technique on hot energy points within the body. These points are known as meridian points and include using the side of your hand to repeatedly tap on the following areas: between your eyebrows, at the side of eye, underneath your eye, under nose, on your chin, over your collarbone, under your arm and finally on top of your head - on repeat.
This technique works by putting your body back into a relaxed, parasympathetic response state which allows your body to relax and maintain healthy immune, digestive, reproductive and endocrine systems.
You can get access to over 4 million tapping meditations through The Tapping Solution app - which aims to help you relieve your stress and anxiety and empowers you to take steps to protect your own mental health and well-being.
Flotation therapy is based upon the same principles as sensory deprivation. The treatment typically involves spending 45 - 60 minutes in a pool of body temperature water which is highly saturated in magnesium sulfate within a soundproofed, dark environment - this is often a pod or tank. The aim behind this technique is that you will be rid of any external stimulants and it encourages the feeling of being in a deeply relaxed state.
This type of exercise is also known as restricted environmental stimulation therapy (REST) which is designed to reverse the harmful effects of stress by resetting the body back into a relaxed state - rest and digest rather than fight or flight mode.
Studies have shown that this sensory form of treatment lowers the levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), lowers blood pressure and significantly improves overall sense of well-being after just a few sessions. It can benefit many aspects of your life including relieving stress, muscle pain, depression, anxiety and has been reported to increase levels of optimism and sleep quality. If you want to take it even further, why not experiment with visualization during your flotation sessions and see how it can improve your physical performance.
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The essence of talk therapy is heavily based upon using effective communication to recognize stress triggers and formulate strategies to alleviate these emotions. This type of therapy can help to make a significant difference in how you deal with emotions and can help to increase positive emotional responses.
By communicating, this tool aims to provide a calm, safe, non-judgemental space which allows and encourages discussions based upon emotions which would previously be triggered by the stresses of life. This type of therapy acts to help improve these emotions responses by developing strategies.
There are a range of talk therapies based upon the following five categories: behavioral therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, humanistic therapy, psycho dynamic therapy, and holistic therapy. Click here to find these techniques in more detail.
VAGUS NERVE STIMULATION
Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) is a medical treatment which is significantly more invasive than the other methods discussed within this article however studies have shown that it can have a huge positive effect on your body's stress response.
This technique uses the delivery of electrical impulses to the parasympathetic nervous system via the vagus nerve. By exercising and stimulating this part of your body, you encourage your body to remain in the rest and digest phase. The electrical impulses delivered work to increase your vagal tone, which in turn allows your body to relax quicker after exposure to stress. The more you increase this, the more improvement you will see in both your physical and mental well being.
You can stimulate your vagus nerve organically by using a number of techniques. One of the main ways to achieve this stimulation is through deep, belly breathing. You can also achieve this by OM chanting, loud gargling with water or loud singing. If you would prefer a subtle way to exercise your vagal tone you could use a device such as Xen which works by delivering micro pulses through headphones directly to your vagus nerve.
SPEND MORE TIME IN NATURE
Have you ever heard of eco therapy? It’s been proven that increasing the amount of time you spend amongst nature can positively impact your mental health and wellness. Natures calming influence can help you to feel a sense of belonging and sense of grounding rather than feelings of separation and detachment from the world around you.
By increasing the time you spend in nature, you can achieve greater calm whether that's walking through the forest, along a river, in your local park of even just in your own garden. Scientific studies have proven that access to open space has significant links with reducing the occurrence of mental health problems and is proven to improve mood and overall life satisfaction - all by simply taking some time outside and connecting with the world around you.
A dip in the ocean has been scientifically proven to increase our bodies' circulation of adrenaline and cortisol, also known as endorphins. These endorphins trigger the release of serotonin and dopamine which are neurotransmitters and the reason you get that feel good factor after a cold swim. Neurotransmitters regulate countless functions and processes in your body, ranging from sleep to metabolism.
Get involved in raising awareness about the healing power of the ocean by wearing our signature “Healing Wave” design available here.
A digital detox involves detaching yourself from technology - taking a break from your phone, disconnecting from social media and allowing yourself to reset. This detox allows you to take time to set your own personal boundaries and help you utilize technology on your terms rather than allowing it to become all consuming.
This method reduces your exposure to harmful artificial blue light projections which can inevitably lead to reduction in sleep and increased risk of disease. The screens of our digital devices emit harmful blue light which can negatively impact on eye health resulting in your eyes often becoming strained, dry and irritated. This blue light is also responsible for suppressing melatonin production and therefore upsetting your body's circadian rhythm - that's the body's internal clock that signals when it’s time to be be awake or get some sleep.
If you are unable to eliminate technology from your life completely due to commitments such as work then it has been suggested that by using blue light blocking glasses you can eliminate up to 30% of this harmful light.
All of the above techniques are simple, yet incredibly effective self care tools all of which have no negative side effects and are all relatively low cost. It’s important to remember that these are just a few natural health options that can be explored in order to avoid the uptake of psychiatric medication. It’s true that these options may not offer a quick fix but if you can find a technique that suits you will be able to utilize it in a variety of situations all whilst avoiding the introduction of harmful, unwanted chemical imbalances associated with psychiatric medications.
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About the Contributor
Lauren Williams is a sailor, nurse, and writer enjoying a simple life onboard a sail boat. She’s passionate about health, wellness and the ocean. She will be documenting every step of her journey on her Instagram page as she explores and looks to harness the healing power of the ocean.
(Disclaimer: please note that I nor the Blue Ocean Life Company are licensed medical professionals and for any guidance regarding medication and your health care, please consult with your doctor.)
- Before you take psychiatric medication | Mind
- Thriving-With-Nature-compressed.pdf (mentalhealth.org.uk)
- Meditation and Sleep Made Simple - Headspace
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