Dec 12 2019 . 14 min read

Seeking bliss this holiday season

Seeking bliss this holiday season

The ABC’s of finding happiness naturally

The ABC’s of finding happiness naturally

If the holidays tend to get you down and you aren’t finding the spirit, you aren’t alone. Holiday blues is a real phenomenon and seasonal depression is more common than you may think. Approximately 14 percent of Americans experience the “winter blues.” In another study, 38 percent of people surveyed said their stress level increased during the holiday season and, in turn, their anxiety accelerated, according to the American Psychological Association.

But the sads aren’t just seasonal. According to the World Happiness Report, which is performed annually by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations, the U.S. came in 19th, a one-place drop from 2018′s report and a five-spot drop since 2017′s. The report directly points to the country’s issues with addiction and high use of digital media as reasons for its declining happiness.

From A to Z we have compiled a guide of natural remedies for coping with the blues to beat back depression and anxiety that holiday stress can give rise to. Start here to effect good vibes and amp up solid dopamine and anandamide production.

Let’s Begin with A—as in Anandamide Anandamide is a natural cannabinoid produced in the human body that takes us to a blissful state. The compound gets its name from the Sanskrit word ananda, which when translated to English simply means bliss. Evidenced to act as an anxiolytic (anxiety reliever), anandamide is a neurotransmitter that’s believed to be the true cause of the euphoria related to cannabis and as such acts as a messenger molecule to different parts of the body. Anandamide is an endocannabinoid (“endo” means “within,” as in within the body), and it has a phytocannabinoid twin (“phyto” means “of the plant”). Anandamide is naturally occurring in the body, while THC, of course, is found in cannabis. Both of these cannabinoids demonstrate a strong affinity for binding to the endocannabinoid system’s receptors, CB1 and CB2. However, it’s the binding to CB1 that produces euphoric effects. Like a key in a lock, once a neurotransmitter binds to—or fits in—the CB1 receptor, it signals your body to create a sense of “bliss.” So how do you beef up your bliss-inducing anandamide production? Read on.

B is for Black Truffle Although this is admittedly a very expensive way to find joy, at about $95 per ounce, black truffle contains a “bliss molecule” similar to the substance that gives cannabis its psychoactive properties. Mauro Maccarrone, of the Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome, Italy, revealed the highly-prized fungi produces anandamide, a compound that triggers the release of mood-enhancing chemicals in the human brain, and does so using the same biological mechanism as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Talk about a fun-gi!

CB&D, of course We probably don’t have to tell you that CBD (cannabidiol) is one of the quickest ways to tamp down anxiety. Put a few drops of CBD oil under your tongue for about 45 seconds and the calm sets in. Just like anandamide, CBD is thought to interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors which are mostly found in the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system, respectively.

The exact way CBD affects CB1 receptors in the brain isn’t fully understood, however, it may alter serotonin signals. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter, plays an important role in your mental health. Low serotonin levels are commonly associated with people who have depression. In some cases, not having enough serotonin may also cause anxiety. The conventional treatment for low serotonin is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), such as Zoloft or Prozac. Enter CBD. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest people with anxiety may be able to manage their condition with CBD instead of an SSRI. We like the aptly named Be Happy, an organic herbal oil which contains vitamin B, California Poppy, hemp flower oil, and St. John’s Wort and can be taken orally or used topically, thegreenheartwellness.com.

e is for elevate Of course, reading your favorite cannabis magazine not only gives you helpful information and resources, but it also puts you in the highest spirits. If you’ve missed an issue, visit our archives at elevatenv.com/digital-issue.

Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings There’s a link between happiness and better health. Research has shown that positive emotions may have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. Happiness isn’t the only emotion that can help you stay healthy as you age. Feelings of excitement, amusement, pride, and cheerfulness you experience on a regular basis matter, too. In a study published in the journal Emotion, people who experienced the widest range of positive emotions had the lowest levels of inflammation throughout their bodies. So, start emoting.

Giving Scientists have discovered that feelings of gratitude can actually change your brain. Feeling gratitude can also be a great tool for overcoming depression and anxiety. According to UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center (yep, there is such a place): Having an attitude of gratitude changes the molecular structure of the brain, keeps gray matter functioning, and makes us healthier and happier. When you feel happiness, the central nervous system is affected. You are more peaceful, less reactive and less resistant.

In a University of California, Berkeley study, researchers recruited people with mental health issues, including people suffering from anxiety and depression. The study involved nearly 300 adults who were randomly divided into three groups that all received counseling services. But the first group was also instructed to write one letter of gratitude to another person every week for three weeks, whereas the second group was asked to write their deepest thoughts and feelings about negative experiences. The third group did not do any writing activity. Researchers found that compared to the participants who wrote about negative experiences or only received counseling, those who wrote gratitude letters reported significantly better mental health for up to 12 weeks after the writing exercise ended. The UC Berkeley researchers identified how gratitude might work on our minds and bodies, providing four insights from their research:

       •     Gratitude unshackles us from toxic emotions.

       •     Gratitude helps even if you don’t share it.

       •     Gratitude’s benefits take time and practice. You might not feel it right away.

       •     Gratitude has lasting effects on the brain.

(See our story about giving on page 33.)

Happy Place This place was specifically built for happiness. Mandalay Bay’s Happy Place is an interactive, immersive pop-up exhibit with larger-than-life installations and multi-sensory themed rooms that make it an Instagrammer’s greatest fantasy come true. Offering a noble mission of spreading happiness across the world, you can find your version of happy while exploring 12 rooms that feature everything from a unicorn and giant cookies to a confetti dome and flower room raining with chrysanthemums. happyplace.me.

iFast from your iPhone From endlessly scanning social media sites to checking emails 24/7, we tote around serious digital baggage day after day that wreaks havoc on both our mental health and bodies. A recent study published by the Public Library of Science found the more time a person spends on Facebook, the more dissatisfied they ultimately feel with their own life. By implementing a technology fast for even 20 minutes, you can give your brain, body and emotions a break from constant engagement. Unplugging and reconnecting with others IRL will enrich your life in ways your Facebook profile probably can’t begin to offer.

Joy The 2015 American biographical comedy-drama tells the story of Joy Mangano, a self-made millionaire whose Miracle Mop launched her into entrepreneurial stardom and made her infomercial royalty thanks to QVC. A modern-day rags-to-riches fairytale, you can’t help but root for Mangano as she pursues her dream of creating her own business empire one self-wringing mop at a time.

K for Kindness Here’s a really easy one: throw kindness around like confetti. Research shows that being kind to others can actually make us genuinely happy in a number of different ways. Deciding to be generous or cooperating with others activates an area of the brain called the striatum. Interestingly, this area responds to things we find rewarding, such as nice food and even addictive drugs. The feel-good emotion from helping has been termed “warm glow” and the activity we see in the striatum is the likely biological basis of that feeling.

Limonene & Linalool Cheer up with the serene-inducing Ls of the terpene world: limonene and linalool. Terpenes are the most common plant chemicals in nature. They are the aromatic constituents of all essential plant oils and are found in all spices, fruits and vegetables. Some researchers believe terpenes are the cause for euphoria and not THC.

Limonene, the most dominant terpene in many euphoria-inducing, mood-boosting strains of cannabis, has a lemony scent, as suggested by its name, found in the rinds of citrus fruits. Clinical studies with limonene and citrus oil have demonstrated a significant anti-depressive effect. Varieties such as Super Lemon Haze, Tangerine Dream and Gelato are high in limonene, as are OG and Bubba Kush varieties.

Linalool, found in lavender, is associated with calming, anti-anxiety effects. It is found in varieties including Bubba Kush and several purple indica strains. High linalool cannabis cultivars are scarce, but the distinctive aroma of Bubba Kush is due to its linalool and limonene content.

M = Music Who doesn’t hear the opening notes of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” and immediately feel a warm feeling bubble up inside? The use of music for self-regulation of mood and emotions has been known for centuries. Music therapy is known to do wonders for people who have depression. According to a 2011 study published in the British Journal of Psychiatrist, music therapy plus standard care shows steady improvement of depressive symptoms in the depressed. It is helpful in improving the general wellbeing of individuals, as well.

Neon Boneyard For those who find joy in the quirky side of life, this entry is for you. The neon signs at the Boneyard are already enough to illuminate our optical pleasure center but through February 15 an exhibition of Tim Burton’s original fine art called Lost Vegas will be on display to amp things up a watt or two. For the first time in nearly a decade, the renowned American film director, producer, artist, writer and animator has staged an exhibition of his original fine art in the U.S. Visitors to the Boneyard will find Burton’s artistic presentation to be a unique experience where Las Vegas’s former neon glory serves as both creative inspiration

and backdrop. neonmuseum.org

O is for, well, ya know When you orgasm, your brain releases a surge of dopamine, which is a hormone responsible for feelings of pleasure, desire, and motivation. Having an orgasm stimulates your brain in the same way as doing drugs or listening to your favorite band. “Sex is experienced as pleasurable and this is because the reward pathways in our brains are activated during and leading up to orgasm. These are the very same networks that are activated in response to drug use, alcohol consumption, gambling, listening to your favorite song or enjoying a delicious meal,” explains clinical psychologist Daniel Sher. Cognitive psychologist Kayt Sukel adds that the brain also churns out serotonin after an orgasm, a hormone known to promote good mood and relaxation. Ahhhhhh...

P is for the Panacea of Laughter The immune system-boosting, stress-lowering benefits of a good laugh have proven beneficial effects on various aspects of the body’s biochemistry including reductions in stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine. “Laughter appears to cause all the reciprocal, or opposite, effects of stress,” explains Dr. Lee Berk, an associate professor at Loma Linda University in California who has spent nearly three decades studying laughter. He says laughter shuts down the release of stress hormones like cortisol. It also triggers the production of feel-good neurochemicals like dopamine, which has all kinds of calming,

anti-anxiety benefits.

Q is for (Pop) Quiz We don’t have an entry for Q. Visit our Facebook page @Elevate NV and share a good answer for achieving happiness that begins with Q.

Runner’s High Yes, Runner’s High is an actual thing, and until recently it was commonly associated with the release of endorphins, hormones that essentially function as “pleasant painkillers.” But scientists from the Central Institute of Mental Health at the University of Heidelberg medical school in Germany have linked runner’s high to the endocannabinoid system and anandamide. The more a person exercises, the more the body releases anandamide. Anandamide, in turn, acts as a messenger molecule to different parts of the body. Like THC and many other cannabinoids, anandamide has been evidenced to act as an anxiety reliever. This results in the body being rewarded for exercising through increased dopamine, decreased pain, and decreased stress levels.

St. John’s Wort A wild plant native to Europe and Asia, it’s most commonly used to treat depression, anxiety, sleep problems, and seasonal affective disorder. While it’s usually taken orally in the form of capsules, tea or liquid extract, it can also be applied directly to the skin as an oil. In the U.S., it’s classed as a dietary supplement by the Food and Drug Administration and not approved as a prescription medicine for depression. The effects of St. John’s Wort on your body is thought to work similarly to antidepressants. Research suggests that a number of its active ingredients, including hypericin, hyperforin and adhyperforin, appear to increase the levels of chemical messengers in the brain, such as serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline which can act to lift and regulate mood.

THC We think you are probably already familiar with this one but good ole THC can lead to plenty of grooviness and good vibes as was evidenced by the entire decade of the ‘60s. That’s because anandamide interacts with the same endocannabinoid receptors that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) does which points to why some people are able to experience feelings of euphoria and contentment when consuming THC.

the U in You Smile! It makes you look ‘be you tiful’ and it can lift your mood. A smile spurs a chemical reaction in the brain, releasing certain hormones including dopamine and serotonin, says Dr. Isha Gupta, a neurologist from IGEA Brain and Spine. “Dopamine increases our feelings of happiness. Serotonin release is associated with reduced stress. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression and aggression,” says Dr. Gupta, who notes low levels of dopamine are also associated with depression.

V is for Volunteering Volunteering helps counteract the effects of stress, anger, and anxiety. The social contact aspect of helping and working with others can have a profound effect on your overall psychological well-being. Nothing relieves stress better than a meaningful connection to another person. Additionally, volunteering keeps you in regular contact with others and helps you develop a solid support system, which in turn protects you against depression. By measuring hormones and brain activity, researchers have discovered that being helpful to others delivers immense pleasure.

W is for Wild Thing Stroking your cat or dog can lower your blood pressure, make you feel calmer, reduce anxiety and improve your mood. That’s because playing with your pet increases the levels of the feel-good chemicals, serotonin and dopamine, in your brain. A study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found people recover from a stressful situation more quickly when they’re with their pets rather than with their partners or friends.

Xplaining the Chocolate Craving In 1996, researchers discovered that chocolate contains anandamide. According to researcher Daniele Piomelli of the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, the old wives’ tale that chocolate is an aphrodisiac may have stemmed from the blissful effects it can deliver thanks to anandamide. Researchers found anandamide in cocoa solids, which give dark chocolate its intense flavor. This suggests that the darker the chocolate, the higher the likelihood that it contains anandamide. In 2009, a team of nutrition scientists at the Nestle Research Center in Switzerland produced a study revealing the beneficial calming effects. Their results put the amount required to reduce the body’s production of stress hormones at 40 grams (about 1.5 ounces) of dark chocolate a day. Thus, validating chocoholics everywhere.

Y is for Yoga Studies have shown exercise greatly increases the production of anandamide (see A). Scientists believe that the natural highs of yoga arise out of the action of the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which has been called the body’s “natural valium,” and is known to calm things down and chill things out. During the practice of yoga, the yogi experiences high levels of anandamide, which has THC-reminiscent effects as well as the calming effects of GABA. If you want to double down on the bliss, consider doing yoga with the “kids” at Goat Yoga Las Vegas. goatyogalv.com

Zebra Don’t the dizzying black-and-white stripes adorning a zebra just make the corners of your mouth unconsciously turn up?