31  Anti-Stress Biohacks

Part 2
Anti stress biohacks

The Definitive Guide To Biohacking Your Stress 

Author AJ James
 The Final And Most Powerful
Stress-Busting Biohacks Part 2

Let's jump right back into it with number 15... 

Let's See Some More Biohacks
Anti-anxiety education

15. Exercise

Running for mood improvement
Healthy Psychological Benefits

Boost Your Mood

 

Okay, you know this

There is a good chance that you've never heard of Bacopa, Hypericum, or even Schisandra berries but I'm keenly aware that you're no doubt educated as to the effectiveness of exercise on mood.

That being said, it's a hugely important tool in biohacking your stress levels that is well worth considering and I'm going to do my best to make you consider trying it if you don't already do some form of exercise.

It works

Before I detail the various studies on the effectiveness of exercise on stress reduction, I can personally attest to experiencing massive (and I don't say that lightly) mood improvements sometime after exercising.

Around 30 minutes post-training whether it's karate or with weights, I feel happy, motivated, and accomplished.  I really do wish those that haven't experienced this could try it for themselves.

It's fun

I know that as soon as some people see the word "exercise" they shrug, deflect, and maybe roll their eyes at the idea.  There's definitely a stigma that training has to be painful and laborious if not torturous and it couldn't be further from the truth.

Something as simple as throwing the frisbee around at the park can elicit positive health benefits and doesn't require you having to run a marathon or bench 400 pounds.

Time to take a look at exactly why exercise can help you to manage your stress levels...

Stress-lowering effects
Why Exercise Improves Mood?

Stress-lowering effects

Reduced stress-hormones

It goes without saying that stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline play an important role in human survival.  The problem is that in doing so, they tend to sacrifice longevity for instant cellular catabolism and energy.  Which is fine when you're running from a tiger.

Modern life means being exposed to a lot of different types of stressors that are mostly not potentially fatal but our body can release stress hormones nonetheless.

In an interesting article by Harvard Medical School, the conclusion is that exercise can help to reduce the release of the aforementioned hormones adrenaline and cortisol.  (63)

Serotonergic and noradrenergic

According to a study by Frontiers in Psychiatry into the effects of exercise and physical activity on anxiety, regular exercise not only reduces instances of anxiety and depression but increases levels of serotonin (the happy hormone) in people who take part. (64)

First choice treatment

In the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, exercise is considered to be a front-line treatment for mild depression comparable and preferable to pharmaceutical prescriptions. (65)

Eliptic orbiter training for happiness
What Sort Of Exercise?

How & What To Choose

Walking

This may be the cheapest and most available form of exercise for most people across the globe.​

Whether it's brisk or at a relaxed pace doesn't seem to matter as far as mood benefits go.  

If improving fitness levels is of interest then a brisker walk will help that, too.

Sport

Without a doubt, sport can be one of if not the most fun way to exercise and gain biological and psychological benefits.

Not all sport needs to be competitive and a lot of low-key, just-for-fun sports clubs operate for the many people who want to play but don't want to face intense competition.

Cycling

Riding a bike is a really great low-impact exercise that can be a godsend for anyone with knee issues who find walking to be a bit much.

It may be price prohibitive for some but kitting oneself out with the most expensive bike and dressing replete with full aerodynamic lycra is completely unnecessary if just getting some exercise is your goal.

 

Appropriateness

Your ability and interest play a huge role in which exercise is right for you.  It's best to find something fun that you can both afford and perform given whatever level of health you have.

Exercise related cautions
Exercise Cautions?

What To Bear In Mind

 

Injury

If you sit on the couch and never ever move there's a good chance you'll never get an exercise injury.  What you might find is a whole host of other potential illnesses presenting themselves from your lack of activity.

Yes, sports, exercise, and even mild movements can contain a risk of injury but the risk can be mitigated by choice of activity and some basic caution. 

Ability

Not everyone can run sprints or wants to squat the weight of a small truck in the gym.  ​

The good news is that there are sports and training facilities available for most levels of ability.  

If Paralympians can find a sport, I'm fairly sure you'll find no excuse to seek out the right exercise for you.

Enjoyment

The easiest way to stick to an exercise regimen is to do something that's fun.  Try a few things if you need to and pick the ones that you enjoy the most.​

As with any mention of training, be sure to consult a physician before embarking on any exercise program.

So, to summarize:

> Exercise reduces the stressful hormones cortisol and adrenaline

> Exercise boosts mood through increased serotonin

> Find an exercise that is safe and that is enjoyable for long-term use

AJ's Biohack Rating:​

[8.8/10] 

AJ's thoughts on exercise for mental benefits

AJ Says:

"Training is a huge part of my life.  The positive mental benefits have held me in good stead during tough times and the physical benefits of being fit are pretty much immeasurable"

Who likes to relax?   This might help...

14. Magnesium

Mg Magnesium Mineral
Mineral Mood Mastery

Boost Your Mood

 

Essential

Magnesium is essential to life as we know it with magnesium ions playing a fundamental role in the creation of the DNA and RNA in all living species on the planet.  Suffice it to say, you need this mineral.

Enzymatic mechanisms

Magnesium operates as a cofactor in at least 300 enzyme systems that govern a wide array of biochemical reactions in the human body. 

Nerve impulse conductivity

Magnesium helps to assist the utilization of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes, which is important to nerve impulse conduction and heart rhythms. (66)

Widely supplemented

By now if you didn't already know, you understand just how vitally important Magnesium is to many biological functions but its effect on stress is why we're interested so let us take a closer look at exactly how this mineral can help with biological stressors and anxiety...

Serotonigenic calm
How Magnesium Helps Stress Levels

What The Science Says

Serotonigenic

Magnesium plays a large role in the processing of the neurotransmitter serotonin.   One of the effects of Magnesium deficiency can be a reduction in the efficiency of serotonin production which may have a cause and effect relationship with mood control. (67)

Magnesium and depression

According to a 2006 study, a neuronal environment low in magnesium bioavailability may result in inefficient calcium ion functioning causing a potential decrease in the regulation of neuronal nitric oxide production which could subsequently create neuronal damage manifesting as depression. (68)

Adequate Magnesium intake might help to prevent these particular forms of damage-based depressive disorders.

21 studies

It appears that in a systematic review of twenty-one studies on the link between Magnesium and mental health, the conclusion (aside from reverse causality) seems to indicate measurable improvements in mood for those who have adequate Magnesium intake. (69

Magnesium Cautions
Magnesium Cautions

Is Magnesium Safe?

Recommended magnesium intake

The recommended daily intake for adult men ranges from 410-420 mg.

The recommended daily intake for adult women ranges from 320-360 mg.

Excess Magnesium

The body tends to deal with any extra magnesium fairly efficiently which the kidneys process the excess for expulsion in the urine.

There are a couple of side effects for some people who have too much.

Diarrhea

In some rare cases for some unfortunate people, Magnesium can cause bowel issues such as diarrhea.

 

Arrhythmia

In rarer cases, exceptionally high doses could put some people at risk of heart arrhythmia.

Cardiac Arrest

It's difficult to find a single documented case where this has happened so it's possibly more theoretical, but a large enough (ridiculously high) dose of Magnesium could potentially cause cardiac arrest.

Magnesium sources nuts
Magnesium Sources

Where to Find This Mineral

 

Seeds

The best natural sources of Magnesium are found in both pumpkin and chia seeds.​

Nuts

Peanuts, almonds, and cashews are all very high in Magnesium.​

Vegetables

Spinach and potatoes are good sources.​

Beans

Black beans and kidney beans are also good sources.

Supplemental Form

There are many Magnesium supplements available in powder, capsule, or pill form.

So, to summarize:

> Magnesium is one of the most important substances on the planet 

> Magnesium may alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety and help elevate mood

> There are many sources of dietary Magnesium and supplementation is widely available

AJ's Biohack Rating:​

[8.8/10] 

AJ lecturing on magnesium for relaxation

AJ Says:

"I take supplemental Magnesium twice per day for the massive benefits such as migraine prevention, muscle relaxation, mood elevation, and neuro-hormone efficiency."

Next is another anti-anxiety remedy that is au naturel...

13. Lemon Balm 

Lemon Balm plant
Natural Stress Relief

Mediterranean Might

 

Herbal remedy

Another excellent herbal remedy on this list of stress-fighting biohacks, Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis) is a natural anti-anxiety plant that might be able to help fight psychological stressors.

Hailing from the Mediterranean

Lemon Balm is native to the Mediterranean area and some surrounding lands.  The name "Melissa" means honey bee in Greek and Lemon Balm's oldest name (Melissa) was earned by the plant's ability to attract honey bees.

Two millennia of popularity

Melissa Officinalis (Lemon Balm) has been used for over 2000 years as a mood-improving remedy often used in teas and tonics.

Tasty tea

Many people enjoy Lemon Balm tea by itself or in a preparation with other ingredients.  The taste is pleasant and has a very subtle (not overpowering) lemon flavor.

Melissa Oficinalis examined
What Is Lemon Balm?

Melissa Officinalis

Part of the mint family

Rather than actually being part of the lemon family, Melissa Officinalis is a member of the Lamiaceae (mint) family of plants.

Once used by nuns 

It is believed that in the 17th century, Carmelite nuns from France used to create a concoction that was used as a wellness tonic called Carmelite water also known as miracle water.

It is still popular in some European areas as an anti-stress, anti-fatigue remedy as well as a therapeutic for headaches and migraines.

Oils, aromas, & extracts

Lemon Balm can be found in many preparations all around the world.  You can find essential oils and aromatics as well as herbal remedies that contain Lemon Balm leaf and its extract.

Time to take a look at how Lemon Balm might relieve the effects of stressors and boost mood...

Neuro boosted mind
How Can Lemon Balm Relieve Stress?

Neuro Boosting

Neurotransmission

Acetylcholinesterase is a naturally occurring enzymatic substance in the brain that affects neuronal transmission and can negatively affect memory and can impact mood. (70)

Lemon balm may help regulate brain levels of acetylcholine which can perform an inhibitory effect on acetylcholinesterase, potentially reducing the negative effects on mood and memory.

Anti-anxiety support

In a 2004 study on the attenuation of laboratory-induced stress in humans, those subjects who were administered Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis) were found to exhibit a measurable improvement in calmness, alertness, as well as a large increase in cognitive performance. (71)

The potential application and use of Lemon Balm as a calmative appear to have solid foundations but the additional boost to cognition could make it very useful for students attending stressful tests. 

Premenstrual tension

Lemon Balm shows some promise in the relief of PMS symptoms.

According to a recent Iranian study (2015) of 100 high school-aged females, those girls who received 1200 mg of Melissa Officinalis per day had a significant reduction in PMS symptoms showing the calming, anti-anxiolytic effects of Lemon Balm to be very effective. (72)

Safety question
Is Lemon Balm Safe?

Cautions

Nausea

In some rare cases, those who consumed Lemon Balm may have experienced nausea and related issues.  This could be due to several factors including the size of the amount consumed and the possibility of interactions with unknown co-factors.​

Light-headedness

Lemon Balm may create a sedative effect that some could perceive as light-headedness.​

Appetite

Some people report an increase in appetite after consuming Melissa Officinalis.​

As per any new supplemental dietary additional, medical advice is advised.

So, to summarize:

> Lemon Balm is a very old calmative remedy dating back over 200 years

> Studies show a sedative, calming effect as well as cognitive improvement support

> Side effects appear to be rare and mostly mild

AJ's Biohack Rating:​

[8.9/10] 

Aj's opinion on lemon balm for calming

AJ Says:

"I've had Lemon Balm in everything from tea to ice cream and find the taste extremely subtle but enjoyable. I use Melissa Oficinialis with Chamomile to have a very relaxing pre-bedtime tea. ."

Time for something you can do almost anywhere when you're feeling stressed out...

12. Meditation

Meditation for your mind
Relax Your Body

Relax Your Mind

Serenity

For centuries, meditation has been used to achieve calm and mental clarity.  Its benefits have been used for everything from relaxation, to complete awareness.

Ancient wisdom

Religions across the globe have used meditation for contemplation and emotional well-being.  

Faiths such as Hinduism and Buddhism are frequently accosted with meditating practitioners.

Effectiveness in stress reduction

As cited by the studies below, meditating can help reduce stress and induce a state of calm.

No money required

Unlike supplements, and some other expensive equipment used to find calm, relaxation, and stressfulness reduction, meditation can be achieved with little-to-no expense.

Let us take a closer look at meditation and how it might help to relax your body and relax your mind...

Meditative mental state
What Is Mediation?

The Meditative State 

Definition

It's always been a subject of great debate as to how meditation is defined.  There is some conjecture but the vast majority of people associate meditating with using a relaxing pose and clearing the mind of thoughts or focusing on something specific.

Debating the styles

There are a lot of differences between how mediation should be implemented and what is the most effective method according to varying sources but for the purposes of this biohack, it's best to look at the scientific studies and which methods they used to find effective stress relief.

Some mediation focuses on mindfulness and concentrating on surrounding while other styles may require concentration on a single object or thought.

Cross-cultural

As mentioned above, many cultures and religious practitioners used meditation with a large contingent of followers performing daily meditation routines. 

Poses can range anywhere from kneeling in the pose most westerners would be familiar with all the way through to lying in the prone position.

Positive impact 

With many people in the western world trying meditation and finding positive benefits in countering stressful mindsets, studies have become both more frequent and more rigorous in nature.​

Let us take a look at how studies on mediation show conclusive effectiveness...

meditative trance
How Can Meditation Fight Stress?

The Science Of Meditation

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) 

Although there are many mindfulness-based meditation varieties out there, one worthy of note is MBSR or mindfulness-based stress reduction.  

According to a systematic review of randomized controlled trials, MBSR was shown to have significant effects on calming, psychological anxieties, immune cell count, gene expression, and antibody response. (73)

Trauma support

In a 2012 systematic review of meditative therapies for reducing anxiety, studies of individuals with anxiety disorders and other psychiatric disorders were shown to exhibit significant improvement in mood, trauma reduction, and anxiety levels. (74)

Medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) control

Citing a Harvard Medical School publication, it appears that the mPFC or medial prefrontal cortex becomes excessively active on depressed people. (75)

Meditation may reduce the depressive hyperactivity of the mPFC leading to a reduction in the symptoms of depression.

how to achieve mindful awakeness
How To Get Started?

Beginning Tips

 

Getting started with mindful meditating

It really doesn't require a lot to start meditating immediately.  

There are a couple of steps to follow to jump right in.

Find your position

You can kneel, lie down, or cross-legged, depending on whatever is comfortable for you.  Kneeling may have to most benefits for breathing most efficiently.​

Decide on meditation length

Set yourself a time limit.  It's completely up to you and can be anywhere from 5 minutes to a whole hour.

Control your breathing

Take controlled breaths, inhaling deeply and exhaling with slow, purposeful breathing.

Close your eyes and be mindful

Next is the awareness phase of your surroundings and the relative proximity of things near you.  You can choose a single object or sound and focus on said on=bject or sound integrating your thoughts on what they are.

You can move to other objects around you focusing on the reality of their existence and your own. 

The key is to remain purposefully breathing, mindful, and relaxed.

There really are a lot of ways to perform meditation but this may be the easiest way to start.

So, to summarize:

> Mediation is a fairly loose term for a lot of techniques that can relax/calm your mind

> Studies show calming, anti-depressive mechanisms take place during a meditative state

> It's easy to start and requires very little training or equipment if any at all.

AJ's Biohack Rating:​

[8.9/10] 

AJ summarizing meditation biohacking

AJ Says:

"Coming from a martial arts background, I know meditation plays a huge role in my training and breathing.  I really enjoy mindfulness meditation and often practice gratitude during my meditative state."

How about another potent plant for improving mood?...

11. Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola Rosea adaptogenic
Botanical Booster

Adaptogenic Assistance

Botanical antidepressant

Many people strive to use only natural therapeutic products wherever they can.  The reason for this can sometimes be based on a perception of a usually larger amount of side effects from synthetic pharmaceuticals.​

Rhodiola Rosea is a natural plant that appears to have many healthful compounds some of which may have very beneficial effects on mood.

Natural relief

People who seek out natural products often have their health in mind but many people are just anti "big pharma" for whatever reasons personal to them.

A lot of people don't want to need a prescription to acquire an anxiolytic mood booster and for those folks, Rhodiola Rosea may be a source of natural relief.

Easy to obtain

Going back even only a few years and you'd have found Rhodiola difficult to obtain but with more studies showing effective use case scenarios and wider popularity, it's become much easier to try Rhodiola Rosea for yourself.​

Let us take a closer look at what Rhodiola is and how it might help you whether you're stressed out or not...

King's crown
What Is Rhodiola?

Regal Rosea

King's crown​

King's crown or Rhodiola Rosea is a perennial flowing plant that has been commonly used in traditional medicine for centuries. 

Rhodiola Rosea is known by quite a few names internationally including King's crown, Aaron's rod, Arctic root, lignum rhodium, orpin rose, golden root, and roseroot to name a few.

It's important to know that there are a few common names in case purchasing a Rhodiola supplement that may have a slightly different title.

Packed with polyphenols

Although polyphenols are a bit of a health industry buzzword, there are a lot of scientifically proven beneficial polyphenolic compounds. 

Among the 140 chemical components found in Rhodiola are the polyphenols gallic acid, kaempferol, proanthocyanidins, quercetin, and chlorogenic acid as well as a few other potentially mood-improving compounds.

Cold climate plant

It appears that Rhodiola thrives in cold temperature climates such as the Arctic in addition to mountainous areas in Europe, Asia, and North America.

So, that's what Rhodiola is and where it comes from which means it's time to look at how this polyphenol-packed plant can help fight stress and elevate mood.

The Science Of Rhodiola Rosea​ in the brain
How Can Rhodiola Mitigate Stress?

The Science Of Rhodiola Rosea

Neurotransmission & neuroendocrine support

According to a recent 2015 review of Rhodiola Rosea L. as a putative botanical antidepressant, it appears as though some of the active components play a role in the regulation of cellular stressor mechanisms which affect neurotransmission and neuroendocrine functionality as well as molecular networks that affect mood and emotional disposition.​ (76)

Adaptogenic anti-anxiolytic

In another study into the effects of Rhodiola as an adaptogen, the results concluded that Rhodiola Rosea may have a positive regulatory effect on monoamines, beta-endorphins, and opioid peptides production and activity. (77)

Cognition & mood

In a clinical trial on mood and cognition, the results show that though participants showed no increase in cognitive ability, there was a measurable change in mood and stress-related symptoms. (78)​

rhodiola cautions
Is Rhodiola Rosea Safe?

Cautions

Low side effect profile

It appears that Rhodiola Rosea is quite tolerable for most people but there are a couple of side effects worth listing but not limited to:

Lightheadedness

Some people may find the sedative anti-stress properties as being tantamount to lightheadedness.  This would vary individuals and their tolerance to Rhodiola.​

Pregnancy

Though there are no long-term studies showing danger during pregnancy, it would be wise to reduce or eliminate the use of Rhodiola Rosea during terms.​

Dry mouth

Some people in rare cases develop dry mouth.

Immuno-stimulatory

For people with immune system sensitivity, Rhodiola's ability to stimulate the immune system may be a caution to be wary of.​

Like any supplementation product, medical advice should be a requirement before initiating a new regimen.

So, to summarize:

> Rhodiola is a cold-climate plant used in many traditional medicines

> Studies show positive benefits for mood improvement & controlling stressing

> Rhodiola Rosea may be very tolerable with a small array of known side effects

AJ's Biohack Rating:​

[9.0/10] 

AJ rating rhodiola's effectiveness as a calmative

AJ Says:

"I'm a big fan of Rhodiola not only for its effectiveness during stressful times but for its concomitant effects on hormonal balance which I'll be writing about in a future guide"

Next is a former secret mood improver for Polynesian royalty...

1o. Kavalactones

Kavalactones
Polynesian Plant Power

Happy Botanical

Pacific islands' secret

For centuries, people from the Pacific Islands have used Kava (which contains kavalactones) as a relaxing, sedative-like drink. 

 

Until very recently, it's been a bit of an unknown quantity in the west but with more recent studies available and an ever-expanding international marketplace, Kava is far easier to obtain than ever before.​

Reserved for kings

In the past, Kava was once so revered as an anti-stress plant that in some cultures it was considered only fit for royalty because it was believed that average folk would not be able to handle the effects.

Short-term anti-anxiety benefits

In this review of Kavalactones, you'll see studies that show that consuming Kava can be incredibly helpful for short-term anxiety and the effects are well worth consideration.

First, let's take a brief look at what exactly Kava and Kavalactones are...

Kava plant
What Is Kava?

Piper Mythisticum

Kava Kava 

​Kava (Piper Mythisticum) is a small shrub plant that is traditionally grown for its sedative, relaxant properties.  

The active ingredients, Kavalactones, take about four years to reach optimum concentrations, so, it's a plant that has required much patience in preparation for its harvest.

Polynesian native plant

This Polynesian native is known by different names among the various islands of Polynesia such as Kava Kava, Awa, Yaqona, Ava, Saqua, Yagona, Seka, Malok, & Malogu, but is best known internationally as just Kava.

Intoxicating pepper

Kava's classification name "Piper Mythistcum" is derived from the Latin words intoxicating pepper because it's noted intoxicant-like effects at certain levels of consumption.

So, now that we understand what Kava is and where it comes from, let's take a look at how Kavalactones can help counter stressful modern living...

Science of kava and gaba modulation
How Can Kavalactones Alleviate Stress?

The Science Of Kava

GABA modulation

Although there are about 18 types of Kavalactones found in Piper Mythisticum (Kava) the 6 active compounds dihydrokavain, dihydromethysticin, desmethoxyyangonin, kavain, methysticin, and yangonin, are the constituents that appear to elicit the anti-anxiolytic, stressfulness-reducing effects.

It appears that these Kavalactones have multiple mechanisms that may result in the lowering of stress levels including improving GABA modulation, norepinephrine efficiency, and inhibitory effects on MAO B (monoamine oxidase b). (79)

Study on anti-depression 

In another empirical study into the effects of Kavalactones (and Hypericum) on depressive disorders, consumption of Kava was found to have a beneficial effect on anxiety levels. (80)

Possible preferable to drugs

In a clinical trial on herbal supplements and the effects on psychological stressing and anxiety, over 1000 participants were administered Kavalactone-containing supplements and the results showed that the natural anti-anxiolytic mechanisms of Kava could be superior to the more sedative pharmacological benzodiazepines.  (81)

Is kava safe?
Is Kava Safe?

Cautions

Kavalactones 

It's important to differentiate between the Kava plant and the active compounds (Kavalactones).

It appears that kavalactones are very safe when extracted from the whole plant but some parts of the plant itself may have side effects.  

Liver damage

Some studies with pretty weak methodology have shown a correlation in Kava use with liver damage but unfortunately, some people in those studies were on medications that have proven side effects that happened to be... You guessed it - Liver damage. 

It appears that Kava is safe for people with healthy functioning livers but may not be recommended for people who have existing liver conditions.

Dizziness

Controlled supplementation can offer a possible relaxant, mild anti-stress experience but large doses such as drinking raw Kava drinks in excess can be a little too relaxing leading to dizziness and sedation that could be quite dangerous when operating a vehicle and machinery.​

It appears that Kava in its extracted Kavalactone form is safe for most adults but like any supplementation regimen, a medical professional should be consulted before embarkation.

So, to summarize:

> Kavalactones come from the Kava plant native to the Pacific Islands

> Clinical trials show Kavalactones offer several stress-reducing mechanisms

> It's mostly safe for anyone with a healthy liver

AJ's Biohack Rating:​

[9.1/10] 

AJ speaking of the benefits of kavalactones on stress reduction

AJ Says:

"Kava is part of my relaxation calmative supplementation stack and it's one of my favorites.  It doesn't necessarily seem to last long but the effects are immediate and very satisfying"

The next anti-stress biohack works almost like magic...

9. Self Neuro-Manipulation

Self neuro-manipulation
Resetting Your Mood

Tricking Your Mind Into Happiness


Who doesn't want to be happy, right?
No one wants to be stressed out of their own volition.  It's something that happens to us and we either have the tools to deal with it or we simply don't.


One of the truly amazing facets of the human mind is the ability to kind of manifest reality in a way that is wholly beneficial to mental health.   In this biohack, we'll take a look into shaping our mood based on some particular physical exploits.

 

A simple smile

Did you know you can manipulate your brain into believing it is happy with something as simple as a smile?

It's a pretty exciting idea that we can push the neuro-reset button with a facial expression but in the case of smiling it really is a matter of creating positive neural activity based on actions.

Humor, laughter, & smiling

There are a few things you can do to create this self neuro-manipulation (SNM) but facial expressions are the most powerful which is why we need to understand the power of a smile and the scientific rationale behind its effectiveness.


let's take a closer look at how smiling can affect your mood...

Effect of a smile on the brain
The Science Of A Smile

Reality Imitating Life, Imitating Reality

 

Meta Mind Manipulation
It's an extremely meta thought, the idea that when we smile, we actually convince our brain that we're genuinely happy (even when we may not be).


Studies show that the change in neural activity when we smile has an impact on stressor hormones like cortisol and happy hormones like dopamine.

Research into happiness

In an interview with Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert on the results of long-term happiness, it appears that there is a far better understanding of the neuroscientific dynamics of happiness than most people would believe. (81)

There are many coalescing factors that create happiness but one of the most simple ways we can manipulate our mind is by smiling, which convinces the brain that we are indeed actually in a positive mood (82)

Contagious positivity

It appears as though the power of a smile is such that when you see others (or they see you) smiling that it can have a "contagion" like effect and spread from person to person. (83)

it would be easy to extrapolate from this information that surrounding yourself with positive people would have considerable effects on your mood as would being in constant contact with those who are negative.

Happy mood from laughter
Could Laughter Be The Best Medicine?

Tickling The Funny Bone

A little humor is a powerful thing
Just as positive facial expressions beget positive psychological benefits, the purposeful action of seeking real smiles can work wonders to manipulate moods.

 

Life is a far better prospect when you can make fun of awkward situations.  It's all too easy to get discombobulated over minute social interactions and situations and turn things into a "woe is me" picture. 

Mocking Minor Minutiae
The power to mock the little things in life and throw your own humor into the mix is an exceptionally effective tool in not only dealing with some degree of social anxiety but also in finding relief and even interest in some of the situations you may otherwise avoid with fear.


Watch comedies
Dramatic TV shows and movies can be hugely entertaining with twists and big pay-offs for the attentive viewer but they're a double-edged sword for people with high stress levels.


As odd as it may seem to some, when your favorite character dies it can actually have a legitimate negative psychological effect on you for possibly some time. 

 

Easier viewing
With comedies, it's a must less risky proposition.  It's often light-hearted laughs and some interesting observations thrown in for good measure with very little chance of inducing typical stressors.


So, if you're looking to augment your smile, you need only find a good comedy or watch one of the many talented stand-up comics at a club or even comedy specials.

How to self neuromanipulate
Being Proactive

Utilizing Neuromanipulation


Is it really that simple?
To be honest, of course not.  Try telling someone who has just endured horrific levels of stress to just "smile".  That sort of pointless platitude only works to make the suggester feel like they've made a contribution.


The reality is that to biohack your mood with smiling, you need to be in a certain frame of mind and that's not always going to be the case.  There's a time and a place for everything and just as dropping jokes at a funeral is a surefire loss, picking the right time to employ self neuro-manipulation is the key to its effectiveness.

A smile in less rocky times

For those times where you need an anti-stress boost and have the wherewithal to do it, smiling is a simple, free, and possibly effective solution to elevate your mood.


You can even try it right now while you're reading this. Or, go watch a decent comedy special like Dave Chapelle or Bill Burr (two of my favorites).  Or, whatever floats your boat, really.

So, to summarize:

> Neuro-Manipulation involves tricking the brain into believing it is happy

> Autonomous smiling is an easy and efficacious form of self neuro-manipulation

> Exposing yourself to comedy in order to laugh and smile is a kind of secondary SNM

AJ's Biohack Rating:​

[9.1/10] 

Aj recommending laughter for mood

AJ Says:


"It's all about having a mental toolkit.  Somedays you can just think about smiling and you can grin from ear to ear, sometimes you may have to work on it but at least it's a possibility"
 

Biohacking without using aminos is just not biohacking...

8. L-Theanine

L-Theanine molecule
Amino Action

Natural Relaxant

 

Plant extract amino

It's no secret by now that I really have an affinity for naturally occurring biohacks.  That isn't to say that something made in the lab can't be effective, but there's usually a premium price attached and the possibility of untested long-term side effects.

One of the fundamentally exciting things about plant-based extracts is they're often accompanied by centuries of human consumption well before the testing phase which means a lot more is potentially known.

L-Theanine's role in fighting stressfulness

Like every biohack on this list, L-Theanine has scientific evaluation showing effectiveness and efficacy in helping to manage the stressors that can wreak havoc on not just your psychology but your cellular biology at the molecular level.   Fighting stress matters.

Historically helpful

As you're about to find out, L-Theanine has been used for centuries, albeit unknown to the consumers of the plant that it is most popularly found in.   Its role in relaxation, combating anxiety, and assisting mental fortitude has been recently well documented in multiple studies and that's where we'll begin...

scientific evaluation of l-theanine
The Science L-Theanine

How It Can Help Your Stress Levels

 

How L-Theanine helps against stressors

The mechanism by which L-Theanine ( Gamma-ethylamino-L-glutamic acid) works as an anti-stress agent lies in its ability to bind L-Glutamic acid to existing glutamate receptors in the brain which can play a key role in affecting mood.

According to a Japanese study of the effects of L-Theanine, subjects showed a reduction in the heart rate (HR) and a positive salivary immunoglobulin A (s-IgA) reaction - Both indicators of sympathetic nervous system attenuation. (84)

Study on anxiety management

A clinical trial on the management of subjects' anxiousness showed L-Theanine may be effective as a therapeutic tool in controlling anxiety using as little as 200mg per day which is promising considering the ease of acquisition for this naturally occurring potential anti-anxiolytic. (85)

Possibly improved cognition

Another study on the effects of L-Theanine concluded that not only does it have the potential to improve mood as well as sleep quality, but also may increase synaptic plasticity which might have a concomitant effect on intellectual capacity (of sorts). (86)

Green tea calmative
Sources Of L-Theanine

Where To Find It

Mushrooms

The plain truth is that there just aren't many edible sources of L-Theanine but one that's pretty easy to obtain is fungi.   Mushrooms contain enough L-Theanine that consuming 173 grams per day could have stress-relieving properties.

Tea

Most tea leaves contain L-Theanine such as black tea and the white variety but green tea is the most significant source.

There are other plants that do contain decent enough quantities of L-Theanine but unfortunately, the plants themselves are simply not edible and unfit for human consumption.


Supplemental form

For those that want convenient access to L-Theanine and do not wish to consume copious quantities of mushrooms and green tea, you can quite easily purchase the supplemental form in a very convenient pill or powdered form, allowing you complete control over how much you have.

is l-theanine safe?
Is L-Theanine Safe?

Potential Cautions

Sleep disturbance

Although L-Theanine has been shown to actually help improve sleep quality, there are very rare cases where some people experience the opposite effect as intended.

Nausea

Again, a rare occurrence, but in some people, consumption has led to self-reported feelings of nausea

Drowsiness

Any substance that can induce relaxation and calm has the potential to make a certain proportion of the general populous drowsy.   This can be a great thing if you're taking L-Theanine at night prior to bed but not so much if you have a higher proclivity towards drowsiness.

 

So, to summarize:

> L-Theanine assists glutamate uptake in the brain causing mood improvement

> It can also help with cognition and sleep quality

> Mushrooms and green tea are the main consumable sources outside of supplements

AJ's Biohack Rating:​

[9.2/10] 

AJ speaking of l-theanine's anti-stress properties

AJ Says:


"I drink a lot of decaf green tea for the anti-aging benefits but also take L-Theanine before bed during times of increased stress. "

 

 

Next up are some exceptionally important vitamins that help to manage stress...

7. B Group Vitamins

Stress-busting b group vitamins
Stress-Busting B

Vitamins That Really Help

More than just hype

There's no doubt that health supplement companies can be about as trustworthy as "big pharma" when it comes to hyping products and being deceitful about their efficacy.  This is why as a biohacker, I look for serious scientific studies that are published to the public for rigorous scrutiny, and B group vitamins are very much in that category.

Sure, there is a degree of popularity and hype surrounding B groups vitamins and their effect on stress and anxiety but the science appears to be pretty well grounded as to their effectiveness.

B group vitamins have the evidence

When it comes to the sheer weight of research, few anti-stress supplements have the body of evidence to support the oft-made claims of therapeutic benefit that Vitamins in the B group possess.

Readily available

It's always pleasing to know that something effective is easy to procure, unlike new fads that are often untested and overhyped.  It's pretty simple to either get B vitamins from food or supplements.

Let's take a look at the science behind these stress-busting compounds...

one-carbon metabolism
The Science Of B Vitamins

One-Carbon Metabolism

How B group vitamins may counter active stressing

The mechanism by which B vitamins may help deal with stress appears to lie in their role in one-carbon metabolism meaning B group vitamins play a measurable role in neurotransmission regulation of the key mood chemicals serotonin and dopamine. 

Meta-analysis studies

In a comprehensive summation of studies into the effects of B group vitamins on stress and anxiety, a 2019 review concluded that his vitamin group can play a key role in mood status in most cases with the exception of depression. (87)

Major health benefits

B vitamins play a role in the prevention of HCy build-up through their role in methylation reactions.  Through HCy mediation, B vitamins may prevent mitochondrial damage and potential disease pathogenesis. (88)

Salmon source of vitamin b
Sources Of Vitamin B

How To Find More

Salmon

Wild-caught salmon is one of the best natural sources of several B vitamins.  If you can, avoid farmed salmon as the nutritional difference is considerable.

Leafy green vegetables

If you're looking for plant-based sources of B group vitamins then leafy green vegetables may well be your best option with spinach and romaine lettuce being good sources of (B9) folate but not a wider range of B vitamins.

Beef Liver

This is well known to be a treasure-trove of nutrients, beef liver has a broad spectrum of B vitamins.

Supplementation

There are some really effective B group vitamin supplements on the market that can give you the most broad-spectrum access without having to eat specific foods which may be more hit-and-miss.

Are B Group Vitamins Safe?
Are B Group Vitamins Safe?

Potential Cautions

Excess B6

B vitamins are water-soluble meaning they don't accumulate well in the body but also buffering the potential for toxicity at excess levels.

Pyridoxine (B6) can be dangerous at high levels, though this would require singular doses above 200-300mg which would be nearly impossible to get from food consumption and only with a purposeful abuse of Vitamin supplement recommendations.

Excess Niacin

There is a lot of exciting promise with the use of Niacin for several areas of therapeutic benefit but this has led to some people's "mega-dosing".

If you're taking a whopping 2000mg of niacin there are some health concerns that may arise, though few people ever wander into this category of high consumption.

B12

There is a school of thought that excess B12 may spar with calcium leading to reduced calcium availability but again this is theorized to happen at high supplementation levels.

So, to summarize:

> B group vitamins may help relieve stress and counter a dangerous build-up of HCy

> Wild Salmon is the best source but supplements may be easier to control dosage

> Problems with B vitamins appear to be only at extremely high levels

AJ's Biohack Rating:​

[9.2/10]

AJ recommending vitamin b

AJ Says:


"I take a B group vitamin supp with my first and last meal of the day to ensure maximum utility and nutrient processing.  I love wild salmon but prefer to get my B vitamins in an easier form"

 

 

Next is an amazing compound that has really exciting anti-stress applications...

6. Phosphatidylserine

Phophatidylserine molecule
Powerful Pro-Mood Phospholipid

Cortisol Counter

A new contender for supplemental stress-counters

We require a certain amount of naturally occurring phosphatidylserine (PS) to maintain optimal nerve-cell membranes and myelin. 

 

As we age, certain biochemical-based deteriorations occur, impairing neurotransmission and potentially affecting mood as well as the obvious cognitive decline.  Phosphatidylserine may help to halt the aforementioned decline and possibly have a seriously positive effect on mood when supplemented.

Exceptional & effective

The studies on phosphatidylserine are relatively new but across the board appear to show effectiveness and the potential to be a serious market contender in mood enhancement supplements.

Exciting applications

Not only does phosphatidylserine have evidence to show it could help fight stress and anxiety but there's emerging evidence to support its usage as a potent nootropic cognitive booster.

Let's take a look at the science behind this exciting phospholipid substance...

Neuroprotective chemical
The Science Of Phosphatidylserine

Neuroprotective Cognition Booster

Fighting neuro-biological decline

Functional neurotransmission plays a key role in mood and happiness.  Any decline or obstruction in the optimal mechanisms of neurotransmitters can seriously hamper both cerebral ability and temperament.

According to a 2014 study on phosphatidylserine (PS), supplement (exogenous) PS can not only halt biochemical decline but can actually reverse the process, improving neurotransmission which may play a significant role in explaining why PS can mark a measurable improvement in mood. (89)

Reducing stress-related cortisol production 

In another study on phosphatidylserine's effect on stressors, participants who had received PS supplementation were found to have lower cortisol levels and lowered stress-activated adrenals. (90

Major cognition improvements

In another study on the efficacy of phosphatidylserine, subjects who had been given supplemental PS were observed to perform complex cognitive tasks at a measurably improved rate after being exposed to induced stressors.  

It appears as though the management of cortisol through consumption of exogenous phosphatidylserine had a commensurate effect on those subjects' cognitive output. (91)

Egg source of phosphatidylserine
Sources Of Phosphatidylserine

How To Find More

Egg Yolks

Organic, free-range egg yolks are a good source of phosphatidylserine and may just be the easiest food-based way to consume more PS.

White Beans

If you're looking for plant-based sources of phosphatidylserine then adding white beans to your nutritional program may help you acquire a little more PS.

Organ meats

Offal such as liver, kidneys, and sweetbreads may also offer moderate sources of PS if you are happy to consume them in reasonable quantities.

Supplementation

The easiest way to obtain an exact amount of phosphatidylserine is obviously in supplemental form.   You can find very reputable companies that provide clinically proven dosages that may help you with mood improvement.

Is Phosphatidylserine Safe?
Is Phosphatidylserine Safe?

Potential Cautions

Bloating

Some people have self-reported feeling bloated at high consumption levels.

Sleep

Other people have noticed that the positive cognitive effects of PS may hamper the ability to fall asleep.

Medicine contraindications

There are possibly some minor contraindications with pharmaceutical drugs so talking to a professional physician should be the first course of action to prevent potential issues.

So, to summarize:

> Phsotphatidylserine help neurotransmission which in turn may improve mood

> PS lowers the stress hormone cortisol and may improve intellectual performance

> Safety concerns appear mild but there may be some interactions with select medications

AJ's Biohack Rating:​

[9.3/10] 

Aj speaking of Phosphatidylserine's exciting potential in biohacking

AJ Says:


"Of all the supplemental biohacks, this is one of those I'm genuinely the most excited about with the applications being worth investigating further."

 

 

Time for a calming action you can perform regularly...

5. Gratitude

Gratitude journal
Power Of Positive Pro-Action

Real-World Results

I don't know, AJ - Sounds a little cheesy

I've heard many people talk about gratitude and to be perfectly honest, it sounded kinda hokey, and lacking in measurable results. 

 

BUT - The closer I looked at the studies of gratitude, the more I was impressed by the observable effectiveness.

I've always stated that I don't care how something works, only that it is effective, and having looked at the research and tried it for myself, I have to put it this high on the list of anti-stress biohacks.

Positivity

Talking about positive thinking is a bit like flogging a dead horse at this point.  Almost everything said about it has been stated repeatedly but gratitude is a different beast.

It's one thing to try and be positive about everything day in and day out until you get burned out by a harsh world, but where gratitude differs is that no matter how bad things are, there is a focal point of something you can appreciate that's very real.

Studies back it up

Nothing makes this list without a hefty amount of scientific research, so, let's look a little closer at why gratitude can help to counter stress and anxiety...

The science of gratitude
The Science Of Gratitude

Neuro-Positive

Neural network functional connectivity

In a 2017 study on the effect of gratitude on neural connectivity, researchers discovered that the result of gratitude and appreciation-based thinking lead to neural activity (including stimulation of the right middle temporal gyrus and amygdala functional connectivity) that caused a lowering of the participants' heart rates. (92)

These results appear to indicate that when concentrating on grateful thoughts through employing gratitude, we are able to significantly affect biological changes that improve stress levels and lower stress-related hormones. 

Gratitude and well-being

In a 2010 summation on the effects of gratitude exercises on well-being, Doctors Lori and Randy Sanson explain that those people who express gratefulness are observed to be psychologically and biologically better off and that said expressions of gratitude have a direct and measurable effect on well-being. (93)

According to a leading expert

Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis and an eminent scientific expert in the field of gratitude studies states that “The practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life,” 

Emmons cites physical improvements in cholesterol markers, blood pressure, kidney function, and cardiac activity. (94)

Happy and grateful
Gratitude & You

Gratefulness Can Biohack Your Stress

Improve your health

As cited above, gratitude has very real, measurable effects on many important biomarkers of health.

It appears that resentment and negative thoughts can carry serious potential health effects.

Stress levels

According to the studies mentioned above, being operationally grateful can counter and reduce the effects of stressfulness and the associated hormonal reactions. 

This is where that cliché "the power of positive thinking" becomes a legitimate healthcare tool and not some phrase lost in the white noise.

Gratefulness and your world

The exciting "byproduct" of employing gratitude in your life is that you may actually find several areas of your personal world that are blessed and it may make you far more mindful than before. 

 

This can create a positive spiral of cognitive appreciation.

Using gratitude diary
Using Gratitude

Where To Begin

Gratitude Journal

Some people like to keep a journal in which they write daily about positive things and reaffirm those things which they are grateful for

Meditation

Another popular form of gratitude expression is to simply meditate while ruminating on all the things you are grateful for and truly appreciate.

Gratitude partner

There are many people that have a gratitude partner that whom they speak outwardly about those things they are grateful for on a regular basis. 

 

This can be a little easier if you are in a romantic relationship but you can simply suggest the idea of gratitude partnership to a like-minded friend.

So, to summarize:

> Gratitude has an observable effect on lowering stress levels

> Gratefulness has many health benefits

> It's a simple action to take considering the positive results

AJ's Biohack Rating:​

[9.3/10] 

AJ enjoys gratitude

AJ Says:


"This is the biohack I was most skeptical about and the results surprised me.   I'm not exactly comfortable with anything remotely cheesy as my filter for that sort of thing is low but I can state emphatically that gratitude & appreciation have had positive effects for myself and others I know that took the leap"

 

 

Next up, is the literal power of feeling...

4. Therapeutic Touch

Therpeutic touch connection
The Power Of Connection

Relieving Stress With A Touch

Yep, you know this one is true

Ever wonder why people with free hugs signs get so many strangers to cuddle them? 

Human beings crave touch.  It's something that we develop from the youngest age (in utero, actually) and never unlearn.

The power of the human touch has measurable therapeutic applications and relieving stress with touch is the focus of this biohack.

Something we need

It's more than just a mildly pleasant sensation - Touch changes us at the molecular level and without the touch of another person, it may shorten our lifespan, leaving us susceptible to illness, and affecting our mental well-being.

So much more important than most people know

Touch is the very first human sense we experience in the womb, so, it stands to reason that it would have a huge psychological effect on us as both young and adult human beings.   

Let's take a look at the amazing power of the human touch and how it can help with stress and anxiety control...

touching link
The Science Of Therapeutic Touch

The Missing Link

Stress is killing us

According to an analysis in the Encyclopedia of Stress (2007), it's estimated that up to 90% of visits to a physician are the direct result of stress-related manifestations.  Suffice it to say, stress is dangerous.  (95) 

This same source proposes several conditional approaches to the management and control of stress including the use of therapeutic touch as a contributing factor to alleviating anxiety and the concomitant and related illnesses.

Why touch matters

Oxytocin (OT) is one of those feel-good chemicals our body releases at various junctures and during times of touch and connection, we get the benefits of OT.

OT (oxytocin) has measurable positive effects on stress levels and is so powerful that is it prescribed exogenously for birthing contraction regulation in pregnant women who are often accompanied by extreme feelings of relaxation and pleasure possibly due to adrenocorticotropic effectuation (96)

The non-peptide hormone

Immunohistochemical science has discovered that magnocellular neurons of the hypothalamic paraventricular and supraoptic nuclei are the neurons of origin for the oxytocin released from the posterior pituitary.

This mechanism appears to indicate oxytocin's role in the modulation of pain perception which could go further toward explaining why the release of OT through touch may reduce stress through positive perception-altering dynamics. (97)

Happy heart
Touch & Your Well-Being

How You Can Improve Your Life

 

Improve your health

As cited above, therapeutic touch may play a role in preventing certain illnesses that are the result of stressfulness-induced malady.

The idea that 90% of doctor visits are because of stressors that do more than just psychological harm is an observation so huge that its ramifications should be widespread throughout the community.

Stress control

If the aforementioned "90%" statistic is even close to being accurate it only goes to show the inextricable link between psychological and physical health. 

 

Controlling response to environmental stressors through touch may be a potential health staple in the future.

How to use touching for stress-relief
Using Therapeutic Touch 

Where To Begin

Hug a loved one (more often)

For some people, this would require little to no effort but for others who consider themselves to not be the hugging type, perhaps the health benefits could get you over "the line".  

Be mindful and be frequent.  Hug your loved ones at every opportunity for your health and theirs.

Hold hands

Now, don't get me wrong, you can do this completely platonically if you have the wherewithal to do so but failing that, if you have a romantic partner then the simple act of holding their hand more frequently can not only produce positive psychological benefits but may also strengthen the relationship.

Massage

There are many physical benefits to receiving a massage including increased blood flow, relaxation, and injury recovery but utilizing the massage purely as a form of physical touch may also reap some anti-stress benefits that could be an avenue to pursue for those people without close family or a romantic partner.

Pets

Bioahck number 22 was all about the ways in which animals can help with anxiety.   Frequent contact with a pet may give you some of the benefits of human touch. 

So, to summarize:

> Human contact can help improve mood and counter environmental stressors

> Therapeutic touch helps to produce oxytocin which may improve happiness levels

> Touch may dull our perception of physical and psychological pain

[9.4/10] 

Me speaking about human touch potential

AJ Says:


"I'm not saying grab a random stranger off the street and hug them, but I'm not not saying that either..."

 

 

Time for a subcontinental powerhouse for countering stressors...

3. Ashwagandha

adaptogenic ashwagandha plant
The Adaptogenic Anxiolytic

Anti-Anxiety Ashwagandha

Snowball effect

Of all the anti-stress biohacks on this pretty comprehensive list, few have seen a meteoric rise in popularity quite like ashwagandha (Withania somnifera).

This potent natural adaptogenic compound has become the go-to for people wanting lowered stress levels, better sleep, and a nature-based relaxant.  It seems to have become popular overnight but that's not true.

 

Indian ayurvedic medicine 

When some people hear natural or herbal remedies they can either be of the mindset to "run for the hills" or some are quite the opposite, having blind faith in anything that falls off a tree.

The good news for people who want solid scientific scrutiny, ashwagandha has both solid study-based efficacy and time-tested effectiveness giving it the best of both worlds.

Mitochondrial might

For most people, you learned of the significance of the mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell) at school as well as the vast importance mitochondrial function plays in human health.   

What you may not know is there is evidence that ashwagandha could potentially improve the health of mitochondria, making it one of the most objectively superior natural health products available.

Let's look at some of the research to get a better idea of how ashwagandha can boost mood and relieve stress...

Map of the planet earth
What Is Ashwagandha?

Where Does It Come From

 

Happy herb

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a natural herb whose leaves and roots are used in traditional Indian (the country) medicine,

It's been used for centuries for treating depression, sleeplessness, and as a virility booster.

Subcontinental 

It has historically been most popular in Ayurvedic medicine practiced in India but ashwagandha does grow outside of the Indian landscape and is found in some parts of the Middle East and Northern Africa.

A wide range of uses

Current studies have shown ashwagandha has noticeable effects on anxiety, cortisol, testosterone, energy, blood glucose, luteinizing hormone, and fatigue.

science of Withania somnifera - Indian ginseng
The Science Of Ashwagandha

"Indian Ginseng"

Anti-stress studies
According to a scientific summary on the effectiveness of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)  on a wide range of health issues, it was found to have measurably positive effects on subjects' psychological well-being. (98)

There are several chemical compounds in ashwagandha which scientists believe may be the catalyst for the anxiolytic properties such as alkaloids, steroidal lactones, and saponins, with the sitoindoside compounds VII-X and Withaferin-A believed to be the most important constituents.

Cortisol reduction

One of the most significant dangers of constant stress is the regular release of the steroidal hormone cortisol.

When overproduction of cortisol takes place, health deterioration often follows in an inverse relationship meaning control or suppression of the effects of this hormone can be highly beneficial.

In a 2019 published double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study, participants who took part were shown to have both lowered stress levels and a subsequently lowered production of cortisol. (99)

 

Hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis

Another study concluded that their observation of the improved mood and lowered stress levels of subjects may be due to ashwagandha's role of possibly modulating the H.P.A (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) axis. (100)

How to use ashwagandha question
Using Ashwagandha

Where To Begin

 

Dried root

FIt's possible to purchase Withania somnifera root and use cut pieces in a tea or drink mix.  It's probably the most cumbersome way to consume ashwagandha and it may be difficult to extract the active compounds in the amounts clinically proven to be effective.

Ashwagandha powder

This is the finely pulverized powder of the dried root.   It makes using it easier and the finer the powder, the higher the likelihood of absorbing the potent anxiolytic ingredients.

Ashwagandha Extract

This is the single most effective way to consume ashwagandha and is also the most effective.

Consuming Withania somnifera (ashwagandha) in extracted supplemental form means you get concentrated withanolides in a simple to-take pill or capsule.  This is very convenient as you can control exactly how much you have and you don't necessarily have to drink a "muddy" tea drink to get all the potent benefits.

So, to summarize:

> Ashwagandha is a traditional Indian remedy used for several healthful benefits

> Several studies show its effectiveness as a stress control supplement

> There are multiple forms you can consume but the extract is the most effective

[9.4/10] 

AJ endorsing Withania somnifera

AJ Says:


"I cycle this supplement pretty regularly for its impressive array of proven benefits but I always used the extract in capsule form - I've tried the drink with the roots and it's a bit like drinking liquid dirt, but if you like the good ol' taste of muddy water, go for gold"

 

 

Next is one of the most potential anxiolytics on the planet and you've probably never heard of it...
 

2. Mucuna Pruriens

Mucuna Pruriens Bean
L-Dopa

Potent Dopamine Support

Dopaminergic delight

Dopamine is one of the most important neuromodulatory molecules that humans produce playing a massive role in mood, choice, motivation, and control.

Mucuna Pruriens has become widely known in a very short space of time for its constituent L-Dopa or levodopa and precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Stress attenuation

It's on this list because of one specific property and that is its ability to help modulate and reduce the effects of a stressful lifestyle and the effects of negative stressors.

Further down, we'll look into the science behind why Mucuna Pruriens can help with stress attenuation and exactly what it does to improve mood.

Significant results

If it's number two on this very comprehensive list of anti-stress biohacks (even beating ashwagandha) then it's pretty safe to say there are plenty of science-backed results that show measurable assistance in promoting positive mental health.

Let's look a little closer at Mucuna Pruriens and how it may help...

Mucuna Plant
What Is Mucuna Pruriens?

Where Does It Come From

 

Velvet bean

Mucuna Pruriens is a legume from the Fabaceae family.  It's known in Asian culture, particularly Indian as a dynamic natural remedy and is used for several different maladies.  It has a "fruity" flavor with a slight tang in its aftertaste.

Subtropical

The Mucuna Pruriens plant can be found in all subtropical areas of the world where the outer pods are used in a similar fashion as a vegetable in cooking. 

The plant is rich in minerals, and antioxidants, as well as being high in protein at a 27% protein composition.

Another ayurvedic adaptogen

Again like the previous biohack ashwagandha, Mucuna Pruriens is a popular adaptogenic in ayurvedic medicine but its popularity in the Western world is very new and it's only recently starting to get the attention it deserves as a potential stress-relieving supplement. 

L-3,4-Dihydroxy Phenylalanine​ examined
The Science Of Mucuna

L-3,4-Dihydroxy Phenylalanine

Dopamine precursor

By weight, Mucuna Pruriens is made up of 5% Levodopa (L-3,4-Dihydroxy Phenylalanine​) a direct precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine.

During some biochemical interactions in the brain dopamine levels are blocked by preventing tyrosine's conversion to L-Dopa.  Supplementation with Mucuna and therefore its L-Dopa content may not only have neuroprotective properties but can also have a direct effect on dopamine levels and mood. (101)

CNS modulation

In a study of L-Dopa and 5HTP on patients with spinal cord damage, researchers were able to observe quantitative improvements in the regimentation of the central nervous system's corticospinal excitability. (102)

The promising result of this study was the quantifiable neurological results which have many wider-reaching implications than the original parameters of the initial study.

Scientific assessment

In a research assessment of the potential medicinal properties of Mucuna Pruriens, scientists observed a possible explanation for Mucuna's L-Dopa component and how it helps alleviate stress and anxiety.

It appears that Levodopa (L-3,4-Dihydroxy Phenylalanine​) may play an important role in countering the negative effects of neurotransmitter antagonists MAO-B monoamine oxidase B, COMT catechol-O-methyltransferase, and Ach acetylcholine. (103)

is mucuna safe?
Is Mucuna Pruriens Safe?

Possible Cautions

Contraindications

Mucuna is not recommended to be taken with MAO inhibitors or anticoagulant drugs, anticholinergics, tetrabenazine, or dopaminergics.

Gastrointestinal discomfort

In extremely rare cases some people have purported to experience mild gastrointestinal discomfort when consuming Mucuna Pruriens.

Diabetic Medication

Mucuna can be used to lower blood sugar but for diabetics, it may be important to not combine diabetic medication with the glycemic effects of Mucuna Pruriens.

So, to summarize:

> Mucuna contains 5% L-Dopa which has quantitative effects on lowering stress

> Several studies show effective use cases where Mucuna can attenuate anxiety

> It may affect some medications and a medical expert should be consulted before use.

[9.6/10] 

Me endorsing Mucuna bean's effectiveness

AJ Says:


"Probably my favorite supplement on this page, I've used Mucuna Pruriens (cycled) for maximum benefit over a long period of time - It's fantastic"

 

 

Next up, number one is finally here...

1. Sleep Discipline

Nice bed for quiescent rest
Quality Sleep Matters

Poor Sleep = High Stress

Yep it's that important

So, you've made it all the way to number one and it's about sleep?

Absolutely.  If you didn't already know, your ability to get a decent night's sleep on a regular basis plays a huge role in your mood and can seriously affect your cortisol levels.

Cortisol regulation

The worse you've slept, the higher your cortisol levels may be.  This could be an evolutionary function to protect you during times of danger where elevated cortisol could keep you alert and assist in breaking down aminos in muscle tissue for energy in fight or flight mode.

Danger danger

A lack of sleep can cause all sorts of health issues, but a chronic & constant lack of quality sleep is potentially lethal.

People with sleep deprivation problems can develop serious psychological issues stemming from imbalanced chemical modulation which may have an extreme effect on stress levels.

Let's look a bit more in-depth at the relationship between sleep and stress...

neurobiological modulation cycle
How Sleep Affects Stress?

Neurobiological Modification

Negative cycles

Unfortunately, stress and sleep are locked in a positive or negative cyclical relationship.

Lack of sleep can make you stressed out and being in a stressed state can make you lose sleep.  This can turn into a cycle of deteriorating mental health and psychological well-being.

Brain chemistry

A poor sleeping pattern can lead to tangible biological changes including increased cortisol, damaged hormonal output, and decreased neurotransmission efficiency.

 

In an excellent study of observable effects of the relationship between stress and sleep using polysomnographic technology, researchers recorded several measurable changes in the stress modality of the participants based solely on the amount and/or quality of their sleep. (104)

Utilizing stress reduction methods

This is where the biohacks on this page can help.  By using anti-stress biohacking, you can potentially improve the quality of your sleep by reducing stress.

 

By utilizing sleep biohacks, you can reduce stress by improving the quality/duration of your sleep.

Sleepy signs
Sleep Discipline

Biohacking Your Sleep & Stress

 

What is sleep discipline?

Sleep discipline is the vigilant and diligent steps you take to ensure you have done everything you can to guarantee a good night of sleeping optimally.

It requires discipline to take a few small but effective steps every night that can not only help you fall asleep faster but allow you to stay asleep and rest longer.   The effects this rest can have on stress mitigation are huge.

Putting sleep discipline into practice

It can be very easy to make a couple of changes to your bedtime routine that can help you in your search for soporific slumber.  

Something as simple as reducing your exposure to blue light on your technology by using blue light blocking apps at night can help trigger faster wake-to-sleep times.

Finding sleep biohacks to help

Well, just as this page is full of anti-stress biohacks, there is a comprehensive guide on biohacking your sleep that you can use by following the link.

There's a definite synergy in the way aiming to reduce stress and improve sleep can actually help each other.

Employing sleep discipline

Your sleep discipline is one of the major contributors to how well you sleep. 

 

There is often a myriad of things outside of your control but the idea is to make sure you take measurable action to ensure you counter the things that may deprive you of sleep whenever you can.

Without adequate sleep, your body and mind's ability to deal with stressors is severely diminished. Your sleep discipline will help your sleep quality and prevent stress.

Biohacking your sleep with science?
Biohacking Your Sleep?

Using Science

Consult the guide

In the link just above to my massive guide full of sleep biohacking tips, you'll undoubtedly find some that you can easily implement right away.

Make sure you bookmark these pages and do subscribe to my newsletter because I research brand new biohacks coming directly from the latest studies and you won't want to miss out on a single one.

Using this anti-stress guide

There's definitely an overlap in the use of some products for sleep and their effect on stress.  One of my favorite products is ashwagandha which not only lowers stress levels but I find has a really positive effect in helping me fall asleep.   

So, there are definitely a few biohacks that pack a 2-for-1 punch, so I'd recommend finding the ones that can do double duty for your personal needs. 

 

Do take the time to check out all the biohacking guides I've compiled because I'm sure you'll find some real gems that could help you significantly.

So, to summarize:

> Sleep and stress are inextricably intertwined

> Anti-stress biohacks may help you sleep

> Sleep biohacking might help lower your stress

[9.9/10] 

AJ recommending good quality rest

AJ Says:


"I can't recommend enough the need to get quality sleep.  It has massive prolonged effects on your psychological and biological health.  Take a few minutes every day and put a few of these biohacks to good use, it's so worth it"

 

 

Did You Find Something Useful?​

That's definitely a lot of information to take in.  My hope is that you'll get some real value out of these mood-improving changes you can make for yourself.

A lot of these biohacking tips are pretty actionable, so, you can start using them straight away without requiring too much setup or cost.  Some of them are a little more complex and may require purchases. The ball is in your court.

You have the power

Relax- You don't have to implement every single stress-countering strategy in this guide, straight away or at all.  It's important to realize that you have the ability to try one at a time and see what works and I really hope you do.

If you enjoyed this guide to biohacking your stress levels and want to learn more really useful biohacks then be sure to check out our other pages on Improve Evolve.

Please do take the time to show your support for our website by following us on social media. 

Implementing a plan
What you do with the information in this guide is up to you but, I'd thoroughly recommend that you start with a plan of attack.

List the things you'd like to try, bookmark this site, try one or two biohacks at a time and go from there.  

Make sure you subscribe to the newsletter to see the newest most cutting-edge biohacking tips.

View Anti-Stress Biohacks Part One

 

31 Anti-Stress Biohacks  Part 1 & 2- The Definitive Guide To  Biohacking Your Stress

By:

AJ James

AJ James Biohacker & Founder Of Improve Evolve

Biohacker​ & Founder 

IMPROVE EVOLVE

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