Psychostimulants: They Might Give You Happiness; They Might Give You a Heart Attack

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Psychostimulant: an agent with antidepressant or mood-elevating properties.1

Think I’m talking about Adderall or crack cocaine? Nope – what I’m talking about … you probably take a hit of at least once a day.2

Coffee is your crack. At least I hope so. If you’re using crack, I recommend switching to coffee. It’s a bit safer.

Coffee is a psychostimulant – a class of drugs that have been proven to improve mood. That’s why certain psychostimulants, like Adderall, are used to treat depression34.

But dealing with drugs is never simple. These drugs, coffee included, are widely abused – we like feeling good and we can’t help but consume more. Taking too much at the wrong time can produce negative effects; not the least of which are anxiety and heart failure. Because you’re addicted, you may not notice – or even care (I’m talking about the anxiety; I’m hoping you’d notice the heart failure). Benefiting from a psychostimulant is not as simple as  something like exercise, where more = better.

That’s why we’re going to take a closer look at two in particular: Coffee, which you’re all probably familiar with, and a possible amplifier or substitute, Cold Showers.

Coffee – Oh so good!

With the right dosage and consumption schedule, coffee can improve your mood by 10%.5

It can also increase anxiety and jitteriness by as much as 30%-40%.

4x Anxiety + Amit (that’s me) = Breakdown

I avoid caffeine like the plague. I have to – it gives me extremely unpleasant anxiety, and anxiety is a mood killer. If you’re taking caffeine even though it gives you anxiety, you’re ruining your mental and physical health. You’re harming yourself in the both the short and long-term. Unfortunately, if you’re taking coffee because you can’t function without it, there are no easy alternatives. In that case, at least take your coffee in a way that maximizes the benefits and minimizes the negatives.

If you are a habitual coffee drinker, a portion of the boost you get from caffeine is because of withdrawal alleviation. Even a mild coffee habit can create biological addiction.

Space out your consumption by 6 to 8 hours.  More frequent consumption builds tolerance and can lead to withdrawal symptoms, which can worsen your mood and energy levels and create anxiety. In one study of coffee consumption, those who drank coffee in the morning and then again two more times, four hours apart, actually felt worse than the control group. Those who drank coffee just twice, once in the morning and once eight hours later, had the best results.2

Don’t drink coffee 4 to 6 hours before you sleep. You may think its not impacting your sleep. Let’s get real – it is. You may still find it easy to go to sleep, but the quality and depth of your sleep is hurting.

Sleep quality is one of the most important contributors to mood. Not only can caffeine mask sleep issues by providing artificial stimulation, caffeine can perpetuate a cycle of degrading your sleep, which in turn makes you more tired and requires you to consume even more caffeine.

It may be incredibly hard to cut back to twice a day and to avoid it at night, but it’s worth the effort.

Now let’s jump to another psychostimulant.

Cold Showers, the Caveman’s Coffee

Two Wednesdays ago, I couldn’t fall asleep. I couldn’t fall asleep the next night either. Or the night after that.

That Wednesday, I drank a Starbucks venti coffee,  and I had taken two cold showers, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. HUGE mistake!

Cold showers are being explored as anti-depressants and mood enhancers.  There are some complicated theories out there suggesting that the cold activates hormesis or shocks the central nervous system. The science so far is highly circumstantial7,8,9,10, so I’ll just stick with what I know from personal experience.

Cold showers wake me the f*ck up! They get my adrenalin flowing, they spontaneously elevate my mood, and they create anxiety.

That sounds a lot like what psychostimulants do.

Cold showers are like a triple espresso, but free.

If you’re looking to bring your energy to the next level, add in cold showers. They’re also a fun way to build self-discipline. If you’re like me, in the face of pain you don’t really have much discipline. I can’t handle the cold straight up. To make it more manageable, I cycle between hot and cold, slowly increasing the length of the cold after each cycle.

Straight up or mixed, coffee and cold showers are a quick way to infuse a bit of energy and happiness into your daily routine – just don’t overdo it!

 

This is post 1 of the Month of Happiness. Check out the rest!

Day 1: Psychostimulants: They might give you happiness; they might give you a heart attack
Day 2: How to Harness the Power of Laughter: An Easy, Effective, and Infinite Source of Joy
Day 3:  Three Good Things, A Small Gratitude Exercise for a Large Boost of Happiness
Day 4: The Right Way to Fake a Smile For Health and Happiness
Day 5: Emotional Contagion: 5 Ways to Get Your Environment to Work for You
Day 6: Ditch Porn – It’s Playboy on (Dopamine Draining) Steroids
Day 7: Why I “Remain” an Introvert, Though the Science Suggests Extroverts are Happier
Day 8: Yoga – It Isn’t Just for Female Hipsters
Day 9: Watch More TV; It Makes You Happy!
Day 10: Kaizen: Accomplishing Big Goals with Tiny Steps
Day 11: Omega-3 Supplementation – Good For The Heart & Vitamin Shoppe’s Bottom Line
Day 12: Good Sleep: Not Optional for Happiness and High Performance
Day 13: One Tab at a Time: 7 Tips to Browse the Web More Mindfully
Day 14: Optimism, The Blind Man’s Gamble
Day 15: A Story of Change, The 5 Willpower Techniques That Create Action
Day 16: Zest, The Spice of Life… or is it?
Day 17: Exercise: Better than Zoloft
Day 18: Relaxation: The Magic Tonic That Cures Headaches & Relieves Indigestion
Day 19: Spirituality for the Irreligious – Getting the Benefits Outside the Cathedral
Day 20: Meditation – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Beautiful

 

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Kaylee

I am sooo with you on this one, Amit. Caffeine gives me anxiety like crazy!! Of course I still drink it every so often (like when I’m going out to breakfast), but even then I feel myself cutting back or switching to decaf. It’s just not worth the stomach turning jitters.

The cold showers, however, are something I might be able to do. Though I usually like mine scalding hot, I guess it couldn’t hurt to alternate with cold. If it’ll give me more energy, it’s sure worth a shot!

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Amit Amin

Yup – it sucks to be one of those people that can’t really handle caffeine. It made my previous job, where I had to work insane hours sometimes, way too difficult.

I totally feel you – I love it scalding hot too. So nice and relaxing :)
The problem with cold showers is that, at least for me, the more energy they give, the more anxiety. So I’ve recently been keeping the cold portion pretty mild (sort of like drinking light tea).

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Kaylee

It does suck. At least now you’re on your own time clock and don’t have to power through a crazy schedule. :)

Just wanted to let you know I tried the cool shower this morning… I didn’t know if it did much until I realized that I was excitedly talking to myself after I got out (vulnerable or embarrassing? I’m not sure, ha ha). It did give me a little energy burst! I’m gonna keep trying it, though I’m with you on the mild part – too cold and I’m like “Heeeellll no.”

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Peter

Would be interesting to hear your thoughts on ecstacy/MDMA. Recently, there has been evidence that these psychoactive substances can be used (under proper supervision) to treat depression. http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/08/24/psychedelic.drugs.depression/index.html

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Amit Amin

That is interesting… at some point or another I’m sure I’ll dive into the research. Thanks for the info.

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Linda Jo Martin

I don’t drink much coffee anymore. Even tea in the morning seems like too much sometimes! I do, however, take cold showers!

My reason is different than yours – I live in a remote area and our water heater runs on propane, which is very expensive. To save money we keep the water heater off most of the time. During winters we need to take warm showers and we’ll turn the heater on about a half-hour before showering. But during the summer, a cold shower is do-able.

Our water comes from a nearby creek, one that I’ve jumped into many times – at the swimming holes. So while I’m in my cold showers I think to myself that it is no different than jumping into the creek. That’s my way of psyching myself up for the shock!

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Amit Amin

Wow! That’s a great story, and completely different from my (and I imagine most people’s) experience.

You psych yourself for the shock by imagining something else quiet shocking! Wow! You’ve got guts for sure.

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Glori | Crazy Introvert

Thank goodness I rarely drink coffee! I’ve noticed that it sort of gives me palpitations so I avoid it.
And you’re right about the cold showers, Amit! I feel wide awake after one and feel more energized!

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Amit Amin

It’s great that you have that kind of self-awareness. It took me far too long to recognize that caffeine and my body don’t work well together. Palpitations are no good!

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Sarah | Holistic Hot Sauce

Hmm, maybe I need to try cold showers. I’ve tried to limit myself to just one morning cup of coffee – and that usually works out okay. Any subsequent cups don’t usually have the desired effect, and rather don’t make me feel very well. But I’m still experimenting with ways to perk up form the afternoon slump. Maybe a shower is the thing!

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Amit Amin

Not just any shower; a cold f*ck I want to scream shower :)

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Jt Clough | Big Island Dog

Cold showers are out for me for sure. I live in Hawaii for a reason. I don’t like cold! :)

As for coffee, Hawaii has some of the best in the world. In fact we grow, harvest and roast our own 100% Kona coffee. But that being said I’m a big proponent of taking care of adrenal glands. Its an underlying health problem for so many. Caffeine doesn’t do well with the adrenals.

I drink one cup of dark roast, nothing added in the morning, coffee. I look forward to it. That’s it though. Done for the day. For adrenal reasons I’ve thought of quitting all the time, like my commitment to no sugar. I’ve decided to let it stand as one of my few things I indulge in knowing it’s not really that great for me, or should I say my adrenals!
Entertaining post.
Mahalo.

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Amit Amin

That’s a really good point – adrenal fatigue is a health condition on the rise, and the growing popularity of coffee is likely one of the reasons.

But oooh you live in Hawaii – that’s great. I’m sure you’ll disagree with me on this, but I think cold showers (or cold anything), would really help you enjoy Hawaii more.

A few studies wanted to investigate the impact of temperature on mood (they compared california, florida, and a few normal places I forget…). Anyhow, even though people in florida and california both expected the people in california to be happier because of the better weather; they weren’t actually (according to self-reports). The reason was because the californians and floridians quickly stopped appreciating the warm weather. That’s why the seasons are such a great thing – if it was warm all of the time warm would become normal, and therefore no longer special.

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Dolly Garland

I love coffee. Let me rephrase…I loooooooooove coffee. Seriously. My addiction is that of habit rather than caffeine. It’s also psychological addiction, because I associate coffee with happiness. A cup of coffee, especially good cup of coffee at the right time, makes me happy.

I go to Starbucks, and I’m home. That’s why as much as I looking at unique stuff in all different countries, I do not mind America’s capitalist invasion with Starbucks all over the world. It’s familiar. It’s wonderful. I know what to expect.

Cold showers?? – not a chance in hell. I would rather not shower, and stink instead :P

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Amit Amin

lol Dolly. I’ve got nothing to say to an addict ;)

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Dolly Garland

I just did a post related to this on my blog, that’s probably why this insanity was fresh in my mind ;)

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Jane Robinson

I love a mug of coffee in the morning. No, I loooooooovvvvee a tall mug of coffee in the morning. But then I ‘m done. I do have a Coke in the afternoon though.

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Amit Amin

Caffeine is good stuff :)

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