I am not a doctor. I am a guy who is looking for an answer. Each of the following has worked for me greatly. Maybe they can work for you. I urge you to do more research, if you’re still skeptical. If you aren’t sure if we can learn how to hack PTSD and TBI, neither am I. For the last four years, I’ve kept alert for clues that could help. I strive to find things that are both affordable and widely accessible.
Being Kind to Others, Being Honest, Drinking Water, Volunteering, and Cleaning up your AO.
- Breathe Better
So there’s this guy who once climbed Mt. Everest in his shorts. In very similar spandex euro swag, he ran a marathon above the Arctic Circle in the winter. At the direction of scientific researchers, just for good measure, in the summer he ran a marathon without water in the Namib Desert after drinking only 2 cups of coffee. Where I’m from, we would call him, “straight gangster.” He holds 20 something world records and once maintained his core body temperature for almost 2 hours, while covered in ice. If it sounds like I have a man crush, I do. Oh and the amazing thing. Wim Hof says anyone can do it. He even took a group of cancer patients old enough to collect a senior citizen discount at the local IHOP, in their shorts, and bathing suits to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in the winter. How you ask. All through the power of breathing. As Wim says at the end of one of most interesting documentaries ever filmed, “breathe it’s for free.”
Wim Hof created a self taught technique which closely resembles one of ancient times used to cultivate “Chi” in China and “Chakra” in India or “Tummo” if you’re a Buddhist, maybe even “Kundalini” if you’re a yogi, who knows. I had heard of these things. He was the first to really marry the power of breathing with academia though. He incorporates his technique, with the harsh realities of nature, specifically the cold. His method shows a multitude of health benefits. It’s pretty simple too. It takes very little time in the big scheme of things, 30 deep nasal or mouth inhalations with slight exhalations, saturating the body with oxygen then exhaling fully and holding. While you hold you focus on being mindful of the moment. This process is then repeated to one’s personal satisfaction. The feelings and sensations felt during these exercises can be transcendental even religious. Think runner’s high without all the running.
- Joe Rogan Experience
For me, there is no better way to activate a child like love of learning than riding the wavy cool sets of the Joe Rogan Experience. There is no easier and more accessible way to belly laugh your way into a better day and away from PTSD, than the southern California based free media source. The Joe Rogan Podcast is the most honest approach to entertainment out there. It’s long form conversation with nowhere to hide, no idiotic censorship, and no false hope. It can really help a person achieve a mindset geared towards personal development.
Covering a variety of topics with some of the most interesting and intellectual guests imaginable; Joe Rogan is quickly becoming not only one of my favorite human beings in the universe but one of the most important platforms for both Veterans and free thinking humans alike. Whether it be a Marine Veteran speaking truthfully from the inside of Baltimore Police Department, or a Green Beret speaking about the benefits of testosterone replacement for traumatic brain injury, or maybe a former Sailor who is now one of the world’s foremost addictions specialist. No matter how poignant the argument it’s always about spreading love and positivity.
Whether you want to know about psychedelic plant medicine, or how the brain of war veteran reacts to alcohol following concussion, or you just want to laugh your ass off, there is a place to find it. And again at the bargain, rock bottom price of free with the purchase of a cell phone, internet connection or a public library card it’s a solid deal. With its downloads in the tens of millions, The Joe Rogan Podcast blows more minds than Chris Kyle’s wet dreams, if you’re not checking it out, you should. Trust me there is no better way to kill the dead time of the day. Whether it be folding laundry, doing dishes or stuck in traffic, just give it a shot, it has something for everyone and its way more reliable than the VA. Go ahead improve your day.
- Cold Showers
I once wrote about my winter ranger school recollections. For most people that know me I am what members of the regiment refer to as, “a cold weather bitch.” In fact the cold scares me. I hated it. My aversion was solidified by all the fun times I had stuck at places like, Ft. Picket, Camp McCall, and Cole Range no doubt freezing my ass off and hating my life. Cold showers are a lot like those memories. Well at first they were. I won’t lie at first they sucked but the body adapts quickly and you don’t even have to wait for the water to warm up anymore. And actually when I first started I went from warm to cold alternating 30 seconds at a time. So we cut down on time to get ready and we save water while not letting it run unobstructed into the drain. I know I wouldn’t be convinced either yet; but consider this.
Cold showers cause a sense of shock that creates deep breathing, increased oxygenation and a rapid movement of blood which leaves the body feeling euphoric and energized. Cold water improves circulation and activates an improved immune function. Cold also stimulates brown fats which increase our metabolism to warm our bodies causing weight loss. Not only does intermittent cold help greatly in the recovery process, decreasing inflammation in the body it also been shown to ease stress and actually stimulate an analgesic effect that can improve depression and increase daily functions. Simply put, it’s real hard to be upset about anything in an ice cold shower. The cold always puts everything into perspective.
- Intermittent fasting
I have a friend who can literally kill most anyone I know using just his body. He once described to me what it means for him to eat and nourish his body. In a primordial tone he explained, “It would have been common in nature, I feel like if, I train all day and then I only give my body a short window to consume what it needs, it’s a very natural process. When I train it sort of mimics the hunt, and then at night I feast and it leads to good rest.” He explained further how the process helps to clear the cobwebs of war following over a year in Iraq. I was curious so I told him I’d do some research. He smirked as if knowing what I’d find. You see my friend spends a lot of time researching optimization; in fact he is the only person I know that has listened to every single one of the 700 plus episodes of the Joe Rogan Podcast.
So here are few ground rules; try limiting food to only healthiest parts of things that were recently alive, i.e. plants, animals, fruits, probiotics, not Doritos, etc. You have to give yourself a window of like four to six hours a day to eat, usually at the end of the day. The rest of the time drink as much water as needed. It seems extreme but it is actually pretty easy to get used to if you decide to try.
About intermittent fasting; it has been shown to reduce inflammation which thereby aids with stress, fasting can help to preserve memory functioning and learning, normalize insulin levels and obviously reduce the extra weight in uncomfortable spots. A cool thing about fasting is that it can be done for as long or as little days as you want. Tim Ferris said something to the effect in his book, The Four Hour Body, that if someone can’t incorporate the method into daily life then it will not work. I don’t like wasting my time and I wouldn’t ask you too either.
- Sensory Deprivation and Meditative States
Sensory deprivation has gone hand and in hand with meditation as a method for personal and spiritual growth for longer than our history has had a way to record its events. In many ways a dark room and a long period of silence can stimulate the alpha brain waves and induce an overall sense of epiphany, creativity and well-being like nothing else. During these intense moments of introspection we are left alone with our thoughts. Essentially our brain is left to configure itself and we can sort out the parts of our lives that don’t often get the needed attention.
There are many things that we can consciously induce alpha brain waves and a release of the other little chemical incentives usually out of touch, like serotonin and dopamine, meditation is only one of them. For those that have never felt a flow state it can be a powerful experience but will take some patience. I find it really hard to sit still and relax and think of nothing sometimes. A much better way is floating. I first learned of flotation tanks during a long cannabis induced paddle into the deep waters of the Vice documentary section.
If you’re new to the Havok, and new to the world of self aid, you may have missed Kerry Patton’s article on his first flotation experience. You may even ask, Why are you even bringing it up, doesn’t that cost money? I know it does, but it’s another modality that has helped others heal their mind.
If you are a veteran who may be searching for a more holistic approach or whether you know one, feel free to forward this article and hopefully we can make some connections and make an introduction to sensory deprivation. All that I ask in return is a review of the experience of no less than 300 words in the comment section once the experience is complete. You don’t have to do anything other than contact me on twitter via DonovanRonin@stateofflowvets on Twitter or by finding me via Donovan Ronin on Facebook.
This was originally published on Nov. 9, 2015