Biohacking is defined as optimizing your health and well-being by hacking your biology, getting your body to do things more, less or differently than it normally does. It involves using a wide variety of techniques and methods or drastically changing what you put in and on your body.
Biohacking is also, quite frankly, defined another dozen different ways depending on who’s writing the definition, and involves methods that, occasionally, are far outside the realm of what most people would call ‘good medicine’.
Indeed, biohacks runs the gamut from, say, meditation, which is scientifically proven to be beneficial for your health, to coffee enemas, which basically involves shoving coffee grinds up your derriere and may or may not have any benefits (but will make your morning go smell a bit better than usual).
All kidding aside, biohacking does offer help for many of the diseases and conditions millions suffer from on a daily basis. Lack of energy and mental sharpness. Weight loss and anxiety issues. Low libido and lack of concentration. There are even biohacks that can help slow the progression of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, and many of them demand more studies and scientific research.
Several biohacks have also shown promise to help a condition that, today, is like a scourge on the land. A condition that affects millions of people and negatively alters millions of lives every year. We’re talking about depression, the modern pandemic that affects nearly 7% of the United States population and costs billions of dollars in lost wages, lost careers and, sadly, lost lives. Over 16 million Americans suffer from depression, especially younger folks from 18 to 25, causing untold misery. (Those numbers alone are a cause for depression in and of themselves.)
Today’s article focuses on biohacks to help beat depression and we can’t think of a better, more valuable way to put these biology changing methods to work. Indeed, biohacking seems like it was custom-made to help decrease depression as scientists believe that the major cause of this modern-day curse is an imbalance in the brain’s chemicals.
If you’re suffering from depression, or you know someone that is, the biohacks that we’ll share today may be very helpful. In some cases, they may even allow you or someone you love to get off of their depression medication and help their depression naturally.
That being said, if you’re under a doctor’s care for depression please don’t do or try anything without first consulting with them and getting their approval. Now relax, take a deep breath, grab a nice cup of green tea and let’s take a look at those biohacks!
Biohacking Depression with Yin Yoga
Now, before you say “Dude, yoga?!” hear us out. This one is a bit different from the yoga we all know. Yin yoga, like ‘regular’ yoga, is based on ancient philosophies and principles passed down for generations in China and other areas of Asia. The effects of Yin Yoga, however, have been compared by many to the effects of acupuncture as far as what it can do for your mood and depression.
The big difference between Yin yoga and ‘regular’ yoga is that the poses that you put your body into with yin yoga are held for much longer, from 2 minutes up to 5 minutes. The key is to hold the pose as motionless as you can, pushing yourself past the point of discomfort until you reach a sort of deep, tranquil state.
Several studies have shown that yin yoga has a notably positive impact on both stress and anxiety as well as significantly reducing depression. The reason why is believed to be that yin yoga can activate your parasympathetic nervous system, calming your body and lowering your heart rate. (The autonomic nervous system is the opposite, triggering your fight-or-flight response.)
A Good Yin Yoga Pose to Try: The Reclined Butterfly
Here are step-by-step instructions to perform this yin yoga pose and biohack your depression.
- Sit on the floor with your legs extended. It would be best to do this on a carpet, rug or yoga mat
- Bring the bottoms of your feet together and let your knees fall to both sides of your body, making a butterfly shape with your legs
- Slowly lie on your back on the floor. (You can also use a rolled-up towel under your low back if you like.) Once you’re lying back, place your hands on your belly or to your sides
- Stay in this position for 2 to 5 minutes. You might not be able to go for 5 minutes the first few times until your muscles have sufficiently stretched, so start at 2 minutes and work your way over a few days up to 5 minutes
Biohacking Depression with Essential Oils
This might be one of the most simple and easy biohacks you’ll ever hear about. (You’re welcome.) It involves using essential oils. In point of fact, it involves sniffing essential oils (deeply and repeatedly). Here’s the reason why; when you use your nose to smell something, it produces a very distinct response in your body’s limbic system. Memories that are associated with the smell then trigger an emotional response in your body, reducing your depression and increasing your well-being. It’s simple, easy, affordable and, if you like things that smell amazing, very pleasurable too. (We love it around here!)
Which Essential Oils Work Best?
There are hundreds of different essential oils but the top 3 for reducing your depression include lavender, frankincense and peppermint.
To use them, simply put 2 to 4 drops of any of the three oils on your hands, rub them together for a moment and then put them both up to your face, making a mask around your nose and mouth. Then simply breathe in and out deeply for as long as you like. Sitting down in a cross-legged pose and getting comfortable first is a great idea so that you can really relax and let the essential oils do their thing.
You can also use essential oils to give yourself a foot massage or, even better, have someone you love massage your feet for you. We think you’ll agree, getting a phenomenal (or even just decent) foot massage is one of the best ways to beat depression. (Just make sure you cut those nasty toenails first.)
Biohacking Depression with Food
What most folks don’t realize is that there’s a huge connection between diet and depression. In fact, a study in 2017 found that, when eating a healthier diet, most people with moderate to severe depression improved in as little as 3 weeks.
The reason why lies in the nutrients that food provides or, in the case of nutritionally deficient food, doesn’t provide. They include vitamins, minerals, micro and macronutrients and fats too. What’s incredibly interesting (as well as ridiculously ironic) is that the Standard American Diet, or SAD diet, is what’s causing a lot of depression in this country. (SAD Diet = More Depression. You can’t make this stuff up!)
Also, what’s fantastic about this biohack is that it’s simply a matter of changing your diet. Getting rid of foods that are nutritionally deficient and replacing them with foods that have the vitamins, minerals and nutrients that your body needs to feel great and put your mood back on an even keel.
Here’s a list of the most important vitamins, minerals and other nutrients your body needs to beat depression, along with the foods that contain them in the highest amounts.
Antioxidants Including Vitamins A, C and E
Antioxidants help eliminate free radicals in your body that can cause anxiety and depression. If you don’t get enough antioxidants, your anxiety and depression will increase. (It’s pretty simple when you think about it.) Here are the foods with the highest amount of antioxidants:
- Red Cabbage
- Beans of all kinds
- Dark chocolate
- Goji berries
You’ve probably heard about how lots of folks get depressed in the winter. A wide variety of scientific studies have shown that their depression (and maybe yours) is mostly caused by the fact that they don’t get enough vitamin D, otherwise known as the “sun vitamin”. The foods with the highest amount of vitamin D include:
- Coldwater fish
- Beef liver
- Fortified dairy products
Plus, sitting in the sun for 15 minutes a day will do wonders and costs literally nothing.
Some studies have shown that selenium can improve your mood, reduce your stress and anxiety and decrease depression symptoms. Foods that contain the most selenium include:
- Whole grains
- Brazil nuts
- Beef liver
We talked earlier about how scientists believe that depression is caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals. B vitamins help maintain your nervous system, which coincidentally includes your brain. Increasing the amount of B vitamins you consume is therefore a very brainy idea. The foods that contain the most B vitamins, including B12 and B-9, include:
- Dark leafy veggies
- Whole grains
- Dairy products
Scientific studies have found a link between depression and low levels of zinc. Interestingly, they’ve also found that people who are taking antidepressants get better results when they take zinc at the same time. The foods that contain the most zinc include:
- Whole Grains
- Pumpkin seeds
The millions of microbes tooling around in your GI tract are incredibly important. In 2016 a study linked poor microbiota in the gut to depression, including a lack of lactobacillus and an under-abundance of bifidobacterium. There are many probiotic supplements on the market that work quite well and, as far as foods are concerned, yogurt and kefir work best.
Quick note- If you want to get faster results, all of the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and healthy fats on this list are available in supplement form. Just make sure you choose a high-quality brand.
There are a few other biohacks for depression but we seem to have run out of room in the article. Mediation, alternate-nostril breathing, adaptogenic teas and mellowing out with music all work well too. (We promise to get to them in a future article so stay tuned to this Bat-channel!)
Now, here’s the thing; depression is nothing to laugh about. If you’re suffering, we hope that the biohacks we’ve shared will help you to get out from under your clouds and get back to being you again.
If you have any questions about biohacking or have a story about how they helped you, please let us know and share your story so that we can share it with others. Thanks!