6 Free Medicines for your Mental Health
The virus outbreak has changed how we see the world. It has exposed us to not just physical threats but mental illnesses as well. The economic crisis and the financial burden are yet to be calculated but we all can sense the looming recession that the pandemic will leave us with even after we have overcome it. Despite the doom and gloom and amidst incoming inflation, there are still some amazing antidotes all for free – that we can fully utilize to ensure better mental health.
Let us give you a glimmer of hope in this glum time as we bring to you unlimited resources that you can use for the rest of your life at ZERO cost and as and when you want them.
We present you 6 free-of-cost highly beneficial medicines for your mental wellbeing:
Table of Contents
“Learn from flowers-always angle towards the sun”
― Maureen Joyce Connolly
The sun ushers in a new day and brings in free gifts for all, if we are clever enough to cash in. Being in the sun has a lot of health benefits and what more – it’s absolutely free. Scientists have found a direct link between sunlight and the rate of serotonin production in the brain. An increase in our serotonin levels helps us maintain a positive mood and a calmer mindset. Similarly studies have shown that decreased sun exposure can lower the serotonin levels which can lead to major depression.
Sunlight – our first free medicine – helps in regulating serotonin and melatonin which in turn affects our mood and consequently our mental wellbeing. Melatonin researcher Russel J. Reiter, University of Texas Health Science Center, encourages everyone to get enough sun exposure “…it’s important that people who work indoors get outside periodically, and moreover that we all try to sleep in total darkness. This can have a major impact on melatonin rhythms and can result in improvements in mood, energy, and sleep quality.”
Be a flower, blossom wide with the sun!
“In the end, it’s not about how many breaths you took.
In the end, it’s about the moments that took your breath away.”
When you are in a state of panic, fear or anxiety, the first physiological change occurs in your breathing. In fearful situations, we automatically start taking shorter and quicker breaths resulting in hyperventilation. So if our breathing becomes shallow in a scary situation, could reversing our breathing have a reversing effect? Rightly so. Researchers believe that changing our breathing patterns can actually reduce levels of stress and anxiety.
When we take deep breaths, there is an increase in the flow of oxygen in our bloodstream as well as the brain. Slowing down our breathing automatically lowers our heart rate and it also helps release endorphins – the calming hormone. At the same time, diaphragmatic breathing helps lower cortisol levels – the stress hormone. It is breathing that keeps us alive, and correct breathing can keep us mentally healthy too.
Related Article: 5 DOMAINS OF HAPPINESS -UNDERSTANDING THE PERMA MODEL
“If you don’t make time for exercise, you’ll probably have to make time for illness.”
― Robin Sharma
Exercise is your free antidepressant available to you 24/7. Blumenthal and his colleagues conducted a series of randomized controlled trials on a group of sedentary adults who had been diagnosed with Major Depression to determine the mood-exercise connection. These subjects were further put into four groups: supervised exercise, home-based exercise, antidepressant therapy, or a placebo pill. The result after four months of treatment showed that patients in the exercise and antidepressant groups had reduced symptoms of depression compared to the patients on the placebo.
Exercise increases the serotonin level as the physical movement increases blood circulation to the brain. Serotonin is the happy chemical that antidepressant medicines target to alleviate symptoms of depression. Exercise also helps fight depression as people can feel a sense of achievement after engaging in a physical activity. You don’t have to hit the gym or enroll in an expensive fitness training, just walk around the block for a half-hour. You can also exercise indoors: jump, squat or hop… and get your dose of happy chemicals, absolutely free.
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh
Our natural response to happy times is a smile. So, would smiling make us happier? Numerous studies have confirmed the interrelation of smiles to happiness. The physical act of smiling can release the happy hormones – dopamine, endorphins and serotonin, which is also what we expect the anti-depressants to do. What more, smiles are not only free of cost but free of any harmful side effects as well, unlike the antidepressants.
This is a readily available experiment for you. Next time you feel stressed, force yourself to crack a smile – even if you have to hold a pencil with your teeth to force a grin – the effect in the brain is the same. Our brains remain unaware of whether the smile is genuine or not, and it releases the feel-good hormones based on the movement of muscles in smiling. Thus, you trick your brain to think you are happy and so your smile can be the source of your joy.
“Sleep is the best meditation.”
― Dalai Lama
Life’s best solution and the world’s greatest panacea – sleep. Sleep is the reward that you deserve after a hard day’s work or after you have been awake all day. Sleep is how you give your body a rest to recover and rejuvenate for a new day tomorrow. The list of things that can go wrong, both physically and mentally, because you are sleep deprived should be enough for you to reconsider the elements you are losing your sleep over.
Studies have shown that sleep deficit can aggravate the symptoms of depression, seizures, high blood pressure and migraines. A study conducted by Dinges et al (1998) showed that people enjoyed a positive boost in their mood when they slept for 7.5 hours which decreased significantly when the same subjects were allowed to sleep for only 5 hours. This could be because the brain is active even when we are asleep. As we sleep, our brain starts working on tissue repair and muscle development. Also, sleep time is when the brain flushes out toxins and removes waste products from brain cells.
So sleeping on it actually helps!
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)
To help you sleep well and enjoy all the benefits as a result of sleeping, you could practice Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) which helps your muscle tighten and relax to achieve optimal relaxation. Although Edward Jacobson introduced this technique in the 1930s, this is a highly recommended practice even today. Spending 10-20 minutes every day on PMR can make you calm and help you relax.
Sit down in a comfortable position. You will be working on each muscle group in the order given below, relaxing for 10 seconds after each muscle group.
Eyes: Close eyes tightly for five seconds.
Jaw: Clench jaw tightly for five seconds.
Head: Slowly rotate your head in a circle to the left for three rotations. Rotate to the right for three rotations.
Shoulders: Pull your shoulders up toward your ears and hold for five seconds.
Neck: Pull your chin to your chest for five seconds.
Arms: Hold your arms out like you are pushing against a wall for five seconds. Then drop your arms.
Fists: Squeeze your fists for five seconds.
Stomach: Tighten your stomach muscles for five seconds.
Thighs: Tighten your thighs for five seconds.
Calves: Flex your calves for five seconds.
Toes: Curl toes to tighten for five seconds.
The physical aspect of tensing and tightening of muscle groups followed by loosening and relaxing them can help you become mentally calm.
All in a day’s work
Sleep and depression have a strange relationship – on one hand the symptoms of depression worsens when sleep is reduced and on the other hand depression can cause sleep disturbances. In any case sleep can get better with a little exercise and PMR which will help ease depression. Add a little sunshine and fake a wider smile to breathe deeper and better. Mix and match the above medicines every day and reap maximum benefits!
Indulge in the absolutely free resources above and take care of your mental health. Start taking control of your health right from the time you wake up till you hit the bed. No matter how difficult the circumstances, count your blessings and celebrate the free-flowing resources that you will always have right within you and within your reach.