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// At Loras College

Becoming A Happier You In 5 Steps

Om...Omm...Omm...

Ceila

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Becoming happy starts with no individual, but yourself. Enough resentment and insecurity! The journey to mindfulness is now. Although the journey of self-improvement can be intimidating, spending the rest of your life being someone you're not should scare you way more.

Now clearly, at 22 years old, I have absolutely no idea who I am, but I have a good inkling that some aspects of who I am currently are not true, reflective characteristics of my soul. Often, I feel separated from my being, not in tune with my soul.

I believe not only are the distractions around us to partially blame, but our own consistent willingness to live numbly.

We may be fully functional, moving and breathing, but if we are not truly conscious, are we living? I have, and still do continue to move about, never really appreciating or savoring, not really living. Days pass, I perform socially, repeat.

There are very few days when many of our academic institutions actually encourage and grant opportunity in exploring and learning about our world and ourselves. Also, if you think about it, our lives are essentially mapped out for us when we are born: You will enroll in school by the age of 3, and if you are a promising product, you will not leave until you are 40. You will be hired by a corporation, retire and then your physical body will die.

Where is the room for our mental, spiritual and emotional growth in this already developed and federally enforced plan? As industry becomes more rigorous, your mental health suffers. There will be a drastic increase in antidepressants and anxiety medication. Since there is a lack of consideration for the actual individual in this plan: mental health budgets are butchered, prisons filled and GMOs infest every ingredient. It is easy to understand why antidepressant sales in the United States exceeded 130 percent in 2015, compared to 2013.

"Prior to treatment, patients diagnosed with schizophrenia, depression and other psychiatric disorders do not suffer from any known "chemical imbalance." However, once a person is put on a psychiatric medication, which, in one manner or another, throws a wrench into the usual mechanics of a neuronal pathway, his or her brain begins to function...abnormally."

Prescription drugs are not the answer for maintaining mental health or creating mental health. There is a huge lack of research in regards to these drugs actually creating a healthy mental environment. In every instance, the drug has only been seen to subdue the characteristics. There are very little tests that show a healthy mental habit being formed after prescription drug use. There is also little evidence to even show that mental illnesses are solely a cause of a chemical imbalance. Although modern society may shove this fallacy in the arms of patients, the reality is that it is simply untrue.

Despite what the slick advertisements say, psychotropic drugs have no known measurable biological imbalances to correct -- unlike other drugs that can measurably alter levels of blood sugar, cholesterol and so on.

Mental health, though, much like physical health, can be improved by the individual. Now I know that seems strange, since you have to use your brain to help mend reactions and feelings caused by your brain, but it is do-able! Taking proper productive steps towards improving your overall mental health, creating healthy brain activity and recognizing your consciousness is all necessary in becoming or maintaining your happiness! In taking the steps manually as opposed to popping a pill, the results are far more permanent, with only healthy side effects.

1. Meditate.

Meditation creates a purposeful mental concentration and mindfulness that provides the individual an opportunity to truly experience the present. Although it may seem that everyday we are "present," simply viewing the world from a body and genuinely being submerged in every wave, pulse and movement is completely different. By focusing on your conscious purposefully, you regain attention, vision and mindfulness. You will also gain much needed peace, as you silence your brain and live fully within the moment. Tune in to your soul and the world around you.

Stress can also cause a number of health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, hair loss, depression, anxiety and unfortunately, many more. One of the most frequent occurrence during stress is the release of cortisol. The hormone releases the "flight or fight" response in a stressful situation after being exposed to chronic stress previously in their life. By your body consistently releasing this hormone, your immune system will plummet. It is important to remain as stress free as possible to not only ensure your own happiness, but to prevent future diseases. Creating a grasp on the chemical and appropriated responses to stress, one can begin to overcome their depression and anxiety.

Because most bodily cells have cortisol receptors, it affects many different functions in the body. Cortisol can help control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, help reduce inflammation and assist with memory formulation. It has a controlling effect on salt and water balance and helps control blood pressure. In women, cortisol also supports the developing fetus during pregnancy. All of these functions make cortisol a crucial hormone to protect overall health and well-being.

Although you do not choose for this chemical to be released, you do choose what you do with this situation and how you react to future situations. Staying mindful throughout your process is important in recognizing and appreciating your improvements.

man meditating

2. Yoga.

Through meditation's mindfulness, the practice of yoga emerges. Yoga is disciplined body poses that not only help you relax, but helps strengthen and tone your body. Although many of these poses can be challenging, do not be discouraged. The challenging nature of yoga helps with the internal strengthening of your being. Endorphins, along with serotonin, are also released during yoga, which has been proven in improving mood, as serotonin is a neurotransmitter that essentially lets every function in your body talk to each other.

When you're not feeling particularly happy, try to make your yoga practice about joy, and invite it back into your life, pose by pose, breath by breath. Mild depression can be eased with rejuvenating, playful yoga postures. Backbends, like the slight one in crescent, are proven to release endorphins.

By engaging in this practice, you are putting your mindfulness to physical action. You may fall, wobble or fart. Regardless, keep with your journey and be mindful of your progressions. Beginning to appreciate who you are as an individual, your persistence, strength and improvement are necessary, as well as guided by yoga.

If you cannot make it to a yoga studio, or simply do not wish to be around people, there is an awesome YouTube channel by Yoga With Adrienne, where she does a multitude of videos. Ranging from weight loss to stress relief, she even offers yoga detox videos to help promote healthy functions of your organs!

3. Eat healthy.

Your diet is a crucial factor in both your physical and mental health. Although we are spiritual creatures, our organs and tangible objects that make up our being, and they require certain nutrients to function properly. Now, this does not mean an entire diet of salt or GMOs (eating chemicals all day everyday affects your brain activity). One study tested pesticides on GMO crops by feeding the genetically modified food, which our entire diet consists of, to rats. In both acute and chronic levels of Roundup being used as a pesticide on the crops, researchers found:

"Taken together, these results demonstrated that Roundup® might lead to excessive extracellular glutamate levels and consequently to glutamate excitotoxicity and oxidative stress in rat hippocampus. They also found that the herbicide affected the enzymes ERK and CaMKII, the later of which is an enzyme whose dysregulation has been linked to Alzheimer's disease.[ii] Additionally, acute exposure was observed to have the following three effects:
  • Increase the amino acid glutamate into the junctions through which neurons communicate (synaptic cleft), which, when released in excess levels, can exert excitotoxic/neurotoxic effects in neurons.
  • Decrease the neuroprotective antioxidant glutathione.
  • Increase 'brain rancidity,' i.e. lipid peroxidation, characterized by excitotoxicity (overstimulation of the neurons) and oxidative damage. "
  • Try a diet that will pull you away from chemicals, dairy and flesh. Eating as raw as possible is a great way to avoid unhealthy foods. If you groan at the sound of organic, you might want to take this step, as the food you are and have been eating for years is severely addictive. Imagine fueling a car on pie fillings, then complaining when it won't move.

    4. Appreciate.

    Spending time every day to think about what you appreciate in your life and about others is a great way to shape your psyche. Imagine how much time is already spent thinking of things that we do poorly, what needs to be done and anxiety on how others evaluate us. Letting go of the constant worry and appreciating not only your surroundings, but yourself, will drastically aid in improving mood. Your attitude will go from stressed to grateful, regardless of the circumstances.

    So many of us live in a perpetual state of wanting more—more money, more shiny new toys, more things. And we chase those material possessions with more gusto than we pursue what’s been empirically shown to increase happiness: more joy, more experiences and more time.

    Taking the beginning steps to harboring a positive outlook can help aid in ending the consistent release of cortisol. Remember, you deserve to be happy! Forgiving yourself and others is one way of showing appreciation for the beauty of life around you.

    5. Stop smoking cigarettes.

    Although cigarettes may feel like they are releasing anxiety, they actually are creating more. Nicotine has been shown to restrict blood vessels, actually raising your blood pressure, and ultimately your stress levels.They also dehydrate you, so while you are stressed and crying, adding a Newport on top of your meltdown is not the wisest for your health. Adding incense infused with essential oils in place of cigarettes, or vaping a highly concentrated CBD wax, there are actual "cloudy"-filled, stress-relieving options. Cigarettes are just not one of them.

    You cannot enjoy life if your body is literally being suffocated and damaged at all times through the day.

    Ceila

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