By Nick Osipczak - Founder of the RAISED SPIRIT Organic Hemp Lifestyle brand.
Mental health is a hot topic at the moment, and it’s worth considering, why? Why are so many people struggling with their mental health? I was asked to write this article, but was hesitant. People are looking for a simple answer, but this is a complex subject. People generally want a one-sentence-cures-all answer, but this is not possible.
Before I upset anyone, I want to put forth the following disclaimer.... these opinions are my own, and based on my experiences. They do not relate to ALL cases of mental health, but they do relate to the vast majority.
My background is in the martial arts. The traditional (non-sporting) martial arts were developed to train the mind, body and spirit, and to keep the balance between all three. Martial arts were a way of life which initially helped the individual prepare to perform masterfully in life-or-death situations.
Later in the journey, the rewards of study would help lead the practitioner to reach states of inner-peace, transcending the worries of the world and passing on their wisdom to the next generations of martial artists
The biggest general fear in the human species, is of death. By directly facing the fear of death head-on, one can gain immense insight into how to live a fuller life.
If you want to know more about martial arts, watch Kung Fu Panda - classic.
Martial arts aren’t the only systems developed to balance mind, body and spirit... Yoga, Qi-Gong, Tai Chi and numerous meditation practices are amongst some of the other popular options that millions of people around the world use everyday to manage their wellbeing.
I am not someone claiming to be immune to mental-health issues, on the contrary, I have gone public before saying I believe EVERYONE has mental health issues! That’s because I recognise that we all do STUPID things frequently... which you wouldn’t do if your mental faculties were operating at full capacity. The difference between me and most people, is that I know I can do something about it when my mental health is not up to my standards of where I want it to be. I can usually sort
myself out in 2-3 days. I can also mess up my mental health with 2-3 days of “bad” choices.
Most people feel like a victim with their mental health, and take no responsibility. Then they start taking anti-depressants, drinking excessive alcohol, sleeping pills, etc, etc... which in my opinion is a very bad response to the situation and totally not necessary. But information is key, and the powers that be would rather have a sick population that fill their pockets, than a healthy population.... now THAT
is mental health!
Right now in my life, I am in a chapter of high-stress which requires more delicate management of my mental health. This period has been going on for over a year already, and I predict will continue for about another 2-3 years. The important point to note however, is that I consciously CHOSE to put myself in this position, knowing full-well that it would be extremely stressful and last a few years.
Why would I do that? Because:
Without struggle, there can be no success. The greater the goal, the bigger the price.
I have faith, gathered through experience, in my ability to manage both physical and mental stress, to keep the levels from tipping over the edge.
No stress forever is no good... you have to put yourself out of your comfort zone. This is where the magic happens.
I like a challenge, and am playing the “long-game”... investing more of my time and effort now to create a setup which will allow for periods of relaxation later, up to the lengths of my choosing.
There can be many triggers to mental health issues, but in my opinion, the majority of them can be traced back to one of two categories:
- the individual’s overall physical state of health. I use the word physical here to imply the body. However, the mind (mental) will also greatly benefit and improve in health through disciplining of the body. If the body is not in decent condition, it becomes much more challenging, although not impossible, to have a healthy mind. The mind and body are so closely linked, it is hard to tell where one starts and the other ends. By improving the condition of one, the other improves too. Take posture for example... Just by consciously improving your posture throughout the day, so too will your mood and mental performance
improve. I would go as far as to say that 90% of the mental health issues in the world would disappear if our population became physically strong and fit.
- Aligning the mind and body with the spirit. Here we are talking about life-mission, destiny, love. Service to others. Living without thought-of-self at the front of mind. First you get the mind/body right, and then you are free to live your higher purpose.
I am aware that we are discussing topics that are not familiar or comfortable to some people. Some might deem certain words of phrases “wishy-washy”, “pie-in-the-sky”, “philosophical” or “spiritual gibberish”, but I implore those people to remain open-minded. After all, these are all questions and topics that we will ponder later in life, too frequently for the first time on our death-beds.
I would suggest that NOW is the time to contemplate these questions, as we will benefit from them for the rest of our lives instead of our last few remaining hours on planet earth, AND be able to help bring more awareness into the lives of those around us.
How many humans are out-of-shape physically? Seriously... as a percentage? When I was a kid, it was starvation that was the main problem, but now it is over-consumption. And this is just in 3 decades.
What kind of environments do the highest populations of out-of-shape humans live in? What do these populations eat? What do they drink? How much movement does their daily lives involve?
Compare the human species to ANY animal species. When I say animals, I am referring to animals in the wild. How many of those animals are moving around out-of-condition compared to the rest of their species? VERY few animals are “out-of-shape” when considering the shape they have evolved to be. Why the disparity?
What would cause an animal to be in poor physical health?
Pets can be out of shape. Easily. Why?
They have been taken out of their natural habitat and their diet and movements are now dictated by their owners. Do this for a few generations, and the species will begin to lose its acumen for the best kind of movement and foods it should select. Suddenly, the pet has it “easy”. It doesn’t need to worry about finding its own food, nor shelter, not worry about predators. It thinks it has hit the
jackpot, and can lounge about all day, be taken for a short walk every now and again chasing a ball, and be fed at regular intervals. DANGER. WARNING.
Try and seek out this lifestyle yourself, which is the very lifestyle we are being sold on ALL THE TIME and this is a sure way to ill health, BOTH physically and mentally. Guaranteed it will lead to an unfulfilling life, where you fall way short of your potential, create little of value, and end your days in a constant state of regret. Harsh for some, but you will thank me later.
Let’s rewind a bit, and contemplate ourselves. That’s right – the human species. Where do we come from and how long have we been around? Now THAT’S a hard one, which we do not have the
But we do know that:
- We have been around for AT LEAST hundreds of thousands of years in our “homo sapien” format, whatever that means.
- Our ancestors, as believed by most scientists, have been around for millions of years.
Now, consider how long humans have been staring at screens, going on the internet every day, playing computer games, or posting on social media. How long has light pollution dulled the stars in the sky for? How long since TV replaced fire, dancing and singing as the central evening’s entertainment? How long has it been since we stopped living in small communities?
Let’s give it a generous 200 years to cover the above questions.
What is my point?
My point is that humans have been doing things a certain way when it comes to movement, diet and contemplation for a long, long, long time and only in relatively VERY recent history, did we start doing things a NEW way.
This new way of doing things it TOTALLY different to before, but our biology is still almost completely formed of experiences from the traditional way. And now we have health problems on a MASSIVE scale. Physical, mental and spiritual health problems. Take any organism out of their natural habitat,
and they too will experience all sorts of distress.
How have our bodies and minds evolved over the eons?
We have a big brain and 4 limbs. We can run, jump, climb and swim. We can build and create art.
We can ponder the meaning of life, write poems and stories. We can sing, laugh and dance. We can make tools. We can create languages. We can make fire. We can farm. So many talents, all accumulated and refined over the generations practising the skills, movements, sounds.
We have evolved eating food grown from the earth. Fruit hanging from the trees, fish swimming in the sea, animals roaming the land. Eating gloriously fresh, nutritious food, with gratitude as we fill our bellies on days where we know we are safe to rest and digest afterwards, or on the move little by little if there is the threat of danger.
We evolved close to violence. Murder. Rape. War. There is no point burying our heads in denial. This is where we have come from. This is how our nervous system has been hard-wired – exposed to daily threats of sudden tribal slaughter in the most terrible ways imaginable.
We have evolved to be able to traverse immense miles of hostile terrain, carrying heavy loads, surviving great periods of time without food or sleep.
We have evolved with a deep connection to the natural world around us, being able to sense the spirit in all things... fire, rivers, mountains, plants and animals. We learnt which plants healed us, which plants could kill our enemies, and which animals could feed us, and become allies.
Most likely this is more subject-matter than you were probably expecting from a mental-health article, but I hope you can appreciate that in order to heal ourselves, we have to understand who we are and where we come from.
Otherwise, we are clutching at straws in the dark.
We must be masters of our minds. The mind is a powerful tool that should be used by us when we want to employ it. If it is not tamed, then it will go rogue, and we will suffer. There are too many forces in play in the modern world pulling the mind in all different directions. The captain of a ship doesn’t just hope that the wind will steer their ship to the preferred destination.
Anxiety and depression. These are the 2 main symptoms of an unhealthy mind.
How Do We Master The Mind?
Meditation is the simplest answer. What are the prerequisites for meditation? The ability to hold one’s attention for a prolonged period of time... AKA, focus. Is it any wonder that the skill of focusing is lacking in our species in our modern era of digital electronics and consumerism?
Which generation has grown up most affected by the ever shortening lengths but quicker successions of media stimulation? The children. And the children are the future of our species.
Once we have the ability to focus, we can then rest our attention on something which has a natural rhythm.... like our breath. Following the inhales and the exhales, over and over again, like observing the waves coming in and returning to the ocean. The more we do this, the more time we are spending in the PRESENT. This is the goal – to become more present. Like animals. Like plants. Like
the universe. Alive, aware. Seeing things as they really are.
The mind will continually wander off during the practise of meditation, which is perfectly normal.
The key is to continuously and consciously bring the attention back to the object of focus. The repetition of this exercise also teaches us to attach less and less importance to the wanderings of the mind, which is looking for any and all distractions, and over time as those distractions become less
and less appealing, they can fade into the background and allow the primary attention to be based more in the present.
To be in the present means not being in the past or projecting into the future. It’s OK to do both of these things, but if we spend too much of our time in the past or future, then we suffer.
We all know someone who for too long has been trapped “living” in the past, and the results are usually anger, resentment, bitterness, regret, guilt, depression, etc.
We all know someone who spends too long projecting into the future, and the results are usually anxiety, worry. The VAST majority of things we worry about will never happen. I’d rather, and am, be someone who overshoots what they think is possible, than someone who undershoots. Get yourself into a situation and figure it out in real-time. This is a skill that builds with practice.
Life is a continuous series of challenges whether you want it to be or not, so fear nothing and steam on straight ahead! Deal with the real challenges in front of you rather than battle the imagined ones in your head.
People want to feel secure, but as nothing is certain in life, it is a far better strategy to become comfortable with uncertainty.
Master the mind, and it is easy to master the body. Lose control of the mind, and all areas of your life will spiral out of control. This is not an exaggeration, it is literal.
Do animals live the majority of their time in the past or the future as opposed to the present? No.
They are too busy collecting food, taking care of their young, relocating due to the seasonal weather changes, etc, etc. And if they do have some leisure time, they want to maximise their enjoyment/relaxation before hitting the grind again. AKA, they don’t have the (luxury?!) of dealing with our “1 st -world problems”, they are too busy living.
Are we so different to animals? What makes us different? Pondering these questions help us understand ourselves more deeply, which can illuminate our path out of suffering. Most animals are operating the majority of their time at a “survival”-level of consciousness. This means day after day, focusing their attention on acquiring the required sustenance, reproductive procedures, avoiding predatory attacks, and having somewhere safe to rest and recover.
And we, as humans, need these life-basics in place too in order to continue as a species. But as humans, we are also capable of more than just living in “survival” mode. We can establish am routine/system which meets our basic needs, freeing up time and energy to move into “thrival” mode, which is where the spiritual dimension of our being comes into play.
So, how do we summarise what the basics needs are for humans, which are still relevant in our modern era as much as they were in the traditional days, to ensure that we are providing our bodies and minds what they have evolved to want/need?
STRENUOUS EXERCISE - the more our bodies are capable of performing a variety of strenuous activities at the drop of a hat, the more our appetites will be rebalanced. “Strenuous” is relative. If you are 75 years old and you find walking a mile is doable, then 2 miles might be your version of a strenuous activity. It doesn’t have to be everyday, but it does need to be regularly. To keep the “body” in shape, but also the mind disciplined (master of the mind). Think back to the old days... the village needs to relocate immediately under threat of destruction. You can either “get with the going or get gone.” Get a sweat on, open the lungs, feel the heart beating. This does NOT mean trying to become a body-builder. Think lean and versatile. Strong AND flexible. Mix it up, be spontaneous,
surprise yourself. Everyday is a new opportunity.
REAL FOOD – not processed food. Primary drink = water. Feast occasionally, fast occasionally. Know what hunger is. Know restraint. Fuel the body for the activities it needs to perform. Think about what exercise you did yesterday, what you are doing today, what you are doing tomorrow and fuel accordingly. Think about what season it is, and what food would be growing locally back in the day.
Energy expenditure and fuel required - it is a feedback system. If you overeat too often, and are putting on the pounds, then this will negatively impact your strenuous exercise abilities.
STRESS – consciously expose yourself regularly to stressful situations. Good news – this can be covered at the same time as you strenuous exercise... two birds, one stone. Cold water exposure, new business venture, new hobby... whatever you want to do but have been too scared to try...
move towards it consciously and exposure yourself to a stressful situation. It is most often WAAAYYY less stressful to do it vs the stress involved in worrying about it. The more we get out of our comfort zone, the better we become at it, and can handle ever more stressful situations. It is all relative...some people find stepping out of their front door stressful.
Build the resilience. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Develop your “F*** it” switch. No regrets. Better to have tried and failed than to never
have tried at all. Without fear, there can be no courage. All the clichés.
Stress is tension: opposing forces. By removing the force in one direction (usually fear), you can reduce stress. The more you practice consciously exposing yourself to stressful situations, the more peaceful your default state will become. That’s why it’s best to get your stressful situation out of the way first thing in the morning, as the rest of the day then becomes a breeze.
Is stress the enemy? Not at all. We just need to know how to manage it. The only constant in our universe is change. If we do not change, we will be at odds with the universe, and experience stress.
We seek to be in harmony with the changes of the universe. How do we know when it is time to change? There must be some sort of signal. This signal is communicated as stress – feedback that something needs attending to.
We have replaced the frequent bouts of extreme stress from life-or-death situations from the old days with the constant background buzzing of relatively minor stresses of modern life. This background hum, fed by the media to fear all things and to desire more things, and the ever present wifi, electronics, caffeine, stimulation, results in most of us continually residing in the state managed
by our sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight mode), and rarely in the para-sympathetic state, which is when our bodies and mind can relax and heal themselves. Consciously enter a para-sympathetic state on a daily basis (e.g. via meditation, knitting, gardening) until this has become your default state once again.
CONNECTION – the opposite of connection is isolation. We can be physically isolated, but we can also be mentally isolated, even if we are physically close by to others. It’s ironic as the people who live in the most populated areas (cities) are usually the most lonely as they are lacking in genuine human connection. As a species, we NEED close connection to other humans, and also to the earth
and her creations. The mind’s primary trick that leads to suffering, is the illusion of separation – making one feel disconnected to our environment. All the wrongs throughout history that humans have been responsible for are because of a “me” or “us” vs “them” mentality. If you realised that harming others harms yourself, would you still do it?
The easiest ways to regain a sense of connection, are:
- to immerse oneself in nature (and remove “artificial” stimulation)
- human (also animal) physical touch. Sport, massage, hugs... don’t overthink it, just do!
I’ve already written a lot, and probably left more questions than answers in your minds, and I’ve not even mentioned CBD yet. I could write a book on many of the aforementioned subjects, but that is for later in life. For this article, like bamboo - which takes years to root before finally shooting out of the ground faster than any other plant on earth, I needed to lay solid foundations before bringing
CBD into the picture.
CBD is the hot topic of plant-medicine right now, but I want to be clear and say that there are MANY plants which can do incredible things for us. It’s just that majority of the known powerful plants are made “illegal” in the interest of governments and pharmaceutical companies who seek to swap health for profits.
CBD comes from the hemp plant, which has CO-EVOVLED with our species over thousands of years at least. This means that we have an intimate relationship with hemp, which has been used to clothe, feed, shelter and heal us for millennia. Hemp has helped us in many ways, supporting the proliferation of our population, and we have helped spread hemp around the planet too... a like-for-like mutually beneficial arrangement.
What is the essence of the hemp plant?
Homeostasis. This means BALANCE. Maintaining and restoring balance. It restores balance to the environment. There cannot be an organism unless there
is simultaneously an environment... so you could say there only exits organism/environment relationships, and never either one of these individually. The environment grows the organism, and the organism creates the environment. The environment that hemp grows in, and rebalances, is the same environment that we grow in – planet earth.
Hemp, more so than us, is connected to the earth. That is because of its roots, that grow down into the earth, whilst the stem simultaneously reaches for the stars. We, on the other hand, are susceptible to losing awareness of our connection to the earth, and forgetting that we come from the earth and one day will return to the earth, again – literally.
When we consume the hemp plant, in particular the flowers of the hemp plant, which contains the magical cannabinoids such as CBD (there are over 100 identified cannabinoids), we strengthen our connection to the earth. The CBD enters our endocannabinoid system, and begins regulating our homeostasis.
Whatever is “out-of-balance” can be helped. Need more sleep? CBD helps. In pain? CBD reduces the inflammation. Hormones? Yes.
Our awareness shifts away from the incessant thinking of the brain, and deposits more into the
feeling of our bodies as a whole. This helps bring us more into the present, reducing anxiety levels and increasing feelings of calm and peace. As the background white-noise of tension and fear reduce, we are able to more clearly see the woods-for-the-trees and can chose more wisely how to spend our time and energy.
So, we are gifted a helping hand in resetting our state, but now it lies with us to deploy our strategy based on (newly received?) information... what choices will we make today? Will we choose to move well, eat well, and proceed bravely towards our goals and aspirations?...Or will we succumb to feelings of doubt, inadequacy, fear, and strengthen old habits that enslave and deplete us?
This ability to choose is what makes us human. Choose wisely. You are more powerful than you realise and your choices lead to actions which have bigger knock-on effects than you can imagine. Chose a life of no
regrets. Live boldly.
“Look: here is a tree in the garden, and every summer it produces apples. And we call it an “apple tree” because the tree apples; that’s what it does. Alright, now here is a solar system inside a galaxy, and one of the peculiarities of this solar system is that—at least on the planet Earth—the thing peoples.” Alan Watts