Do you find yourself anticipating the time of day when you can kick back and relax with a beer, glass of wine, or cocktail? Do you also feel there are better ways to lower stress and feel better than drinking? Everyone wants to eliminate stress and elevate mood, but alcohol is not a particularly safe or healthy option for everyone. You might want to explore these alternative means of arriving at a better feeling and frame of mind without the unpleasant side effects of alcohol consumption and intoxication. These great approaches are completely legal, completely natural, and good for your body and mind. [This article, “5 Great Ways To Reduce Stress And Elevate Mood Without Alcohol” was originally published in HealthXWire]
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If it’s stress relief you’re seeking, adaptogens may provide the answer. Adaptogens are plants, herbs, and mushrooms that help your body’s response to stress. They’ve been used for this purpose throughout human history. These natural substances aim to improve your overall well-being.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, adaptogens can:
- Alleviate stress
- Regulate emotional reactions to stress
- Boost the immune system
The most effective adaptogens for stress management include:
- Ashwagandha–A study in the Indian Journal of Medicine found people taking 300 mg. of ashwagandha root twice daily experienced a drop in their levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
- Schisandra chinensis–A review in the Swiss journal Pharmaceuticals reports that the use of Schisandra chinensis can help those dealing with stress-induced depression get back on a normal sleep schedule.
- Siberian ginseng– According to the Journal of Ginseng Research, ginseng “effectively regulates the immune response and the hormonal changes due to stress, thus maintaining homeostasis.” That’s the state of all body systems staying in balance in order to function correctly. It adds that while ginseng suppresses the occurrence of psychological diseases such as anxiety and depression, it also prevents stress-associated physiological diseases.
Keep in mind that adaptogens, like most supplements, are not FDA-regulated. Although they are available at pharmacies and your local supermarket, there is no guarantee the products contain ingredients at the potency listed on the label. For that reason, perform basic research on adaptogen products and brands to ensure you are purchasing a quality item. If you are taking any medication, whether prescription or over-the-counter, ask your doctor whether your adaptogen of choice may interfere with these drugs.
It’s no secret that exercise reduces stress and boosts mood. That doesn’t mean you have to spend several days a week at the gym or go into serious training. Mild daily exercise, such as a walk or stretching, provides this relaxation, as well as overall health benefits. Even after just five minutes of moderate exercise, you should find your mood improving.
3. Alcohol Alternatives
Nationwide, people are changing their relationship with alcohol. There’s a name for it: sober-curious. From Dry January to the growing popularity of non-alcoholic adult beverages, there’s no question the wind is blowing in the direction of alcohol alternatives. It turns out that the perceived health benefits of moderate drinking are pretty dubious. Not only do the risks of alcohol outweigh any benefits, but hangovers get old pretty fast. The non-alcoholic adult beverages look and taste like the real thing–from German Rieslings sans alcohol to aperitifs and sparkling mixers.
Then there are social tonics, such Hiyo, featuring organic adaptogens, natural nootropics, and functional botanicals. These mindful tonics can help raise your mood and find your own way to happiness. Some social tonics contain caffeine, which can improve mood and energy levels. Others, with mushrooms, melatonin, and other ingredients, help imbibers mellow out.
The bottom line is that more people are opting to become California sober. That’s a broad term meaning cutting down on alcohol while replacing consumption with less harmful substances.
Cannabidiol or CBD, is a chemical found in cannabis or hemp. Unlike cannabis, CBD doesn’t contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient producing a high. It is marketed as a method of obtaining the calming effects of cannabis without feeling high.
When stress is making life difficult, using regular amounts of CBD throughout the day can offer relief. Anxiety often isn’t a daily issue but rears its ugly head at different times, such as before giving a presentation at work or whenever the focus is specifically on you. Keep an oral form of CBD on hand and take some at least 30 minutes before the stressful event to help you relax and stay focused.
Serotonin, or 5-hydroxytryptamine, is a neurotransmitter found in the body linked to mood regulation, sleep, libido, and social behavior. It’s often referred to as “the happiness hormone.” The most prescribed types of antidepressants are known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), which work by increasing the amount of this chemical. SSRIs include such well-known brands as Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft.
According to a Brazilian study published in a 2014 edition of the journal CNS & Neurological Disorder – Drug Targets, researchers found CBD exhibited antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects in animal models. CBD was found to directly affect the 5-HT1A (hydroxytryptamine) serotonin receptor, promoting an antidepressant and anti-anxiety effect. The anti-anxiety medication buspirone, marketed under the trade name BuSpar, has a similar effect.
How much CBD should you take? CBD dosage depends on different factors for each person, including their age, gender, weight and whether they are also taking prescription or over-the-counter medications. The good news is that most people do not experience side effects from CBD, and taking too much, while not recommended, will not result in long-term harm.
If you’re not familiar with CBD, start slowly and work your way up to an effective dose. Once you find the amount that offers symptom relief, stick with that. You’re aiming for the minimum effective dose, but that will vary with the type of relief you seek. For example, most people using CBD to boost mood and relieve anxiety and depression will not require as much CBD as those looking for pain relief.
The ancient practice of yoga provides many health benefits, among them stress reduction and mood enhancement. Yoga comes in many forms. For those primarily seeking ways to manage stress, hatha yoga is probably the best choice.
While yoga is generally a safe practice when performed under a trained instructor, there are certain contraindications. Ask your doctor before taking yoga classes if you have any of the following conditions:
- Blood clot risks
- Herniated discs
- Serious balance issues
- Severe osteoporosis
- Uncontrolled high blood pressure
While yoga is usually safe for pregnant women, it’s wise to avoid particular poses during pregnancy.
Animals are also a great stress reliever. That’s where goat yoga comes in. Your instructor takes you through poses while goat kids investigate and nuzzle you. Since goats are designed to climb, there’s a lot of that as well. That’s the reason baby goats are featured in goat yoga, since having a full-grown goat weighing 70 pounds or more walk on your back probably raises rather than lowers stress levels.
Gradually Cutting Back Can Work
Even if you’re not ready to give up drinking entirely, consider trying some of these stress reduction and mood-elevating alternatives while cutting back on alcohol consumption. It may prove easier to segue into other methods rather than go cold turkey with alcohol. An occasional drink, like an occasional cigarette, is unlikely to cause harm. However, we all know how easy it is to end up having alcohol control the drinker rather than the other way around. Odds are you’re likely to find an alcohol alternative that relieves stress and elevates mood far better than drinking ever did.
Important Note: The information contained in this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be construed as health or medical advice, nor is it intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any disease or health condition. Before embarking on any diet or program of nutritional supplementation, it is advisable to consult your healthcare professional in order to determine its safety and probable efficacy in terms of your individual state of health.