Welcome back for Part 2 of our top biohacks for beating depression. In Part 1 we took a close look at essential oils, different types of food and also a specialty type of yoga called Yin yoga that many biohackers are using. All three reduce feelings of depression, anxiety and stress and increase feelings of joy, calmness and tranquility by hacking into your body’s biology, specifically the brain.
In Part 2 we’ll take a look at Mediation, Alternate-Nostril Breathing, and Adaptogenic Teas that can boost your mood, calm your anxiety and put a damper on your feelings of gloom and doom. This is biohacking in its most basic and, in our opinion, best form. Using something to change your body’s biology in a positive way to get positive changes in your life. Enjoy Part 2.
Adaptogens, which we’ve spoken about in another article, are different herbs and roots that can balance, protect and restore the human body. They’ve been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing for centuries. One of the best features of adaptogens is that they focus on your body’s stress response and help reduce the production of cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’.
Several scientific studies have shown that there are many negative effects of having elevated cortisol levels on a long-term basis. They also showed that the thyroid gland, adrenal glands and practically every other physiological system in the human body are negatively affected by a constant flood of cortisol.
Dr. Brenda Powell explains the use of adaptogenic plant-based herbs and roots this way; “Adaptogens help your body handle stress. They’re meant to bring us back to the middle.” Dr. Powell is co-medical director of the Center for Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute.
While they can be cooked or consumed as supplements in things like smoothies, the most efficient method to get the best effects from adaptogens is through brewing them in a tea. There are plenty of teas being made with adaptogenic ingredients on the market today, that’s for sure. You can find many at your local health food store and even at regular grocery stores.
One thing to keep in mind is that many health food stores also sell the specific ingredients alone so you can make the teas yourself, or combine ingredients. Here are some of the best adaptogens to use in your quest to biohack your depression:
Tulsi (aka Holy Basil)
Tulsi promotes calmness and reduces anxiety as well as restoring your body to balance and increasing immunity.
One of the more powerful adaptogens, ashwagandha is said to lower blood sugar levels, increase brain function and reduce cortisol levels. It also has been shown to fight symptoms of depression and anxiety and help your body balance its response to stress.
Studies have shown that American ginseng can sharpen your cognitive abilities, reduce stress and also fight inflammation. It’s composed of 11 different types of plant roots.
Rhodiola Rosea supports both your brain and heart balance, balances your mood, increases your endurance and, like the other adaptogens on this list, decreases symptoms of depression.
Licorice root is a very powerful anti-microbial and antiviral as well as a powerful anti-stress and depression reducing adaptogen. Licorice root can also soothe your digestive tract and help your lungs and respiratory health.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Lion’s Mane mushrooms have been shown to promote creativity and productivity as well as help you concentrate and focus. It’s also been linked to long-term brain health and cognitive support.
Used by the ancient Inca and Peru, Maca root is one of the most powerful stress-relieving adaptogens. It’s also a powerful energy booster as well as very helpful for men who have ED as it boosts libido and sex drive. (And, let’s be honest, if you’re having great sex there’s no way you can be depressed.)
Matcha is said to contain up to five times more L-Theanine than regular green teas. L-Theanine is a neurotransmitter that has very calming effects and also provides sustainable energy.
How to Biohack your Depression with Adaptogenic Teas
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use adaptogenic tea to reduce your feelings of depression.
Step 1 – Purchase an adaptogenic tea that includes one of the adaptogens we talked about above
Step 2 – Make tea following the instructions on the label.
Step 3 – Drink the tea in a comfortable location while you zone out and listen to calming music
Step 4 – Do this every day at least once or twice. Before bedtime is a great choice because it will help you to get to sleep faster and sleep deeper
Step 5 – Feel better. You should feel the effects of most of these teas relatively quickly. If you aren’t getting the results you want with one type of adaptogen, try another and then another until you find one that works for you
Meditation is one of the oldest biohacks known to man. Wall art found in India from nearly 7000 years ago depicts people sitting in a posture that is very reminiscent of meditation and, around 1500 BCE, the first written evidence of meditation was seen.
The reason that meditation is such a great biohack for depression is that it’s one of the easiest ways to “silence your mind”. In other words, it can close your mind to the negative thoughts that are sometimes at the very root of depression.
When you meditate, the negativity in your mind is reduced significantly and your inner source of happiness and relaxation is increased. Even better, the more you meditate, the more this occurs, reducing your depression and increasing your joy.
One of the best things about meditation is that you can do it anywhere, at any time, and it costs absolutely nothing. You don’t need any equipment, you don’t need to purchase any products, all you need is a quiet space. Meditation also helps to increase your creativity and helps you to be less reactive to the things happening around you.
How to Biohack your Depression with Meditation
Meditation isn’t difficult, by any means, but it does take a little bit of practice to focus your mind and not let any thoughts intrude. Here is a 6-step process that can help you get started but do keep in mind that there are many different ways to meditate and this is only one of them.
Step 1- Choose your “mantra”
You might have heard of a mantra, which is a word or phrase that you repeat silently to yourself when you are meditating. We recommend that you choose a word that is not English so that it doesn’t trigger any additional thoughts while you are meditating. One of the most commonly used mantras is so hum, which is Sanskrit and means ‘I am’. You can also say the same in Spanish, which is ‘yo soy’.
Step 2- Find a comfortable location.
It’s best to meditate in a quiet location where the chance of being disturbed is minimal. You want to sit as upright as possible so use whatever you need to support yourself and your back. In fact, the biggest rule in meditation is that you are in a comfortable position.
Step 3- Close your eyes gently and take deep, slow breaths.
Once you’ve taken about a dozen, slow your breathing down to normal. Breathing in through your nose and exhaling through your mouth is best.
Step 4- Start repeating your mantra silently in your head.
A good method is to repeat one part of your mantra while you breathe in and the other as you breathe out. They should be as effortless as possible and you should listen to the rhythm of your body and your breath as you go.
Step 5- There’s no need to “empty your mind”
Many people believe that it’s wrong to have any other thoughts while you meditate but, as humans, this will inevitably happen. What you should do when they do occur is simply return to silently repeating your mantra. In time, as you practice meditation, this will get easier.
Step 6- stay in your comfortable position repeating your mantra for 20 to 30 minutes.
Once that time has expired, spend a few more minutes relaxing with your eyes closed, thinking whatever thoughts you like. You might also consider downloading a meditation app to help you. If you do, be sure to turn your phone’s volume on low so it doesn’t startle you.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Alternate nostril breathing, aka Nadi Shodhana, is a way to clean and purify the mind and body, balance masculine and feminine aspects and also has the ‘side effect’ of helping to reduce depression.
This is possibly one of the easiest biohacks you will encounter and simply involves closing one nostril while you use the other to breathe in and then reversing the process for the next breath. You can use this biohack to both calm your body and reduce your feelings of depression or energize your body, which we find extremely interesting. Here are a few of the benefits of alternate nostril breathing:
It Soothes Your Nervous System
When you focus on your breathing like this, using one nostril at a time, your brain registers that it should move from a stressed state to a relaxed state, turning on the parasympathetic nervous system to help you relax even further.
It Produces a Feeling of Calm and Tranquility
If you sometimes have a problem coming down all of the ” chatter” that’s going on in your mind, alternate nostril breathing can help. What it does is softens the intensity that you feel when you are emotional or in an overly emotional state. It also helps you to gain much greater control over your mind and your thoughts.
It Can Help you Sleep Better
If you have a lot of trouble sleeping because of all the “noise” in your head, alternate nostril breathing is perfect. It can calm you down before bedtime, reduce your stress and anxiety and calm your emotions too. All of these effects will help you to sleep better.
How to Biohack your Depression Alternate Nostril Breathing
Step 1 – Find a comfortable and calm place to sit with your legs crossed
Step 2 – Exhale completely and use your left thumb to close your left nostril
Step 3 – Inhale deeply but slowly through your right nostril and then close it with your right thumb
Step 4 – Take your left thumb off of your left nostril and breathe out through your left nostril.
Repeat this process back-and-forth, closing one nostril and using the other to breathe in and out each time. (Easy, right?!)
Thanks for coming back for Part 2, we hope you thoroughly enjoyed it and that you will be able to use the three biohacks we’ve talked about today to decrease your depression and increase your joy and love of life.
If you have any personal stories that you’d like to share with us about any of these biohacks for depression, please do, we’d love to hear them and share them with our readers.