Top 9 Supplements to Decrease Anxiety




Anxiety is one of the most common mood disorders (if not the most common) and definitely one of the top conditions I’ve seen in practice. I always ALWAYS advise lifestyle changes as first line treatment, which include exercise and eating healthy foods, but when that is not enough I will recommend certain supplements before jumping straight to medication.

I don’t love anxiety medication in general because some of them can lead to serious problems, such as addiction (ie. Xanax), and most can cause too much of a calming effect. Anti-anxiety medications also come along with a whole list of side effects (some more pronounced in certain individuals than others) and can end up causing more problems than what the individual started with. So for someone with mild to moderate anxiety, lifestyle changes and supplements are a great way to get your mood back in check.



Below is a list of the most effective and safest supplements I have come across and recommend.


1. Vitamin B12

What: Vitamin B12 helps with the production of major neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine, which work to modulate mood and decrease anxiety. Read more about this here.
Dose: 1,000 mcg daily as methylcobalamin sublingual, lozenge, or spray
How to take: Morning




 

2. Vitamin B6

What: This vitamin assists with the production of the major neurotransmitters that regulate mood, which include serotonin, dopamine, and GABA. Vitamin B6 specifically assists with the production of serotonin’s direct precursor, 5-HTP – the more there is of 5-HTP, the more serotonin that can be made. Read more about Vitamin B6 here.
Dose: 2.5 mg daily as pyridoxal-5-phosphate
How to take: Once or twice daily

3. L-theanine

What: This amino acid activates GABA in the brain to induce calm without sedation. Read more about this here.
Dose: 100+ mg daily as L-theanine
How to take: With food

 

4. Lemon balm

What:​ This is an herb that may help to decrease stress and induce more feelings of calm. When combined with valerian root it’s anxiolytic and anti-insomnia effects may be pronounced – read more here.
Dose: 600 mg or 60 drops tincture daily as Melissa officinalis
How to take: Once daily




5. L-tyrosine

What: This is an amino acid that helps to boost dopamine and norepinephrine, which are neurotransmitters that help to calm the mind and decrease anxiety. Read more about L-tyrosine here.
Dose: 500 mg 1-4x daily as L-Tyrosine
How to take: With food




6. DHA/EPA Omega-3 Fatty Acids

What: Omega-3 fatty acids decrease inflammation in the brain which may help to lessen anxiousness and perceived stress by the brain. Read more about this here and here.
Dose: 2,000+ mg daily as combined DHA/EPA
How to take: With a meal




7. Passionflower

What: This supplement helps to boost GABA in the brain, which is the neurotransmitter responsible for promoting calm and relaxation. Read more about passionflower here and  here.
Dose: 200 mg nightly as Passiflora incarnata
How to take: 60 minutes before sleep (can make sleepy)



8. Chamomile

What: Chamomile as a supplement has been shown to be an effective treatment of decreasing anxiety. Read more about this here and here.
Dose: 500 mg 1-3x per day as Matricaria recutita or chamomilla
How to take: Bed time (also good for promoting relaxation before sleep)




9. 5-HTP

What: This compound is the direct precursor to serotonin (main neurotransmitter involved with stable mood) and helps to boost serotonin levels in the brain. Read more about 5-HTP here.
Dose: 100 mg 1-3x daily as 5-Hydroxytryptophan
How to take: With a meal

 

Always speak to your health care provider before trying any supplement and be cautious whenever trying a new supplement because you don’t know how you will react.



8 Simple Ways to Combat Depression and Anxiety Naturally




While anti-depressants and other medications can definitely be life-saving for people suffering from depression and anxiety, there are also many natural ways to help lift your mood.

Here are 8 easy and effective natural ways to help combat acute depression and anxiety: 



 

1. Exercise


The very best thing you can do for yourself is to get up and start moving. This does not mean running around with your kids, no, not the same thing. This means taking at least 30 minutes for yourself to decompress without distraction. The movement helps to get the anxiousness physically out of your body, while at the same time suppressing stress hormones and releasing feel good hormones and natural pain killers. Daily FitBot gives you daily workouts that don’t require a gym!



 

2. Meditation


Constant thoughts of the past and worry of the future are the hallmark of anxiety, which is why clearing your mind through meditation can be so effective. Give MeditateBot a try and start forming your daily meditation habit today!



 

3. Yoga


Also considered a type of meditation, focusing on your breath with movement helps to relax tense muscles and clear your head through the mind-body connection. Taking a deep breath also allows more oxygen into your body and to your brain to allow you to think more clear.



 

4. Make plans


The worst thing you can do is sit at home by yourself thinking about how depressed you are or going over and over something in your head. Get out and check out that new band, meet up with friends for brunch, whatever it is you like to do to, get out of your apartment.



 

5. Watch your favorite show


Reality TV gets a bad wrap for being brainless and mind numbingly dumb, but sometimes you just don’t want to think, and the best thing you can do for yourself is to sit back and relax and watch something ridiculous that has nothing to do with real life.



 

6. Eat healthy


Many people will turn to unhealthy food when they are feeling down or anxious. Think about your future self and how much worse you will feel after inhaling a pint of ice cream or pizza. You may not feel amazing after eating a bowl of vegetables with a lean protein, but you certainly will not make yourself feel worse. For a daily reminder to be “Healthy”, try out HealthyBot today!



 

7. Avoid the news


Turn off CNN and avoid trolling through Facebook or your Twitter feed, because chances are you are going to see something you do not like. Studies have shown that Facebook can cause feelings of depression and even more loneliness due to the social comparison.  And if you do find yourself down a Facebook hole, just remember that Facebook is not reality, it is a place for people to present their best self (in most cases), and no everyone is not always on vacation or getting engaged.



 

8. Avoid binge drinking


A glass of wine or two a day is considered to be heart healthy. However, many people turn to excessive alcohol intake to “numb feelings” or to be able to sleep. This will make you feel a thousand times worse the next day for a couple of reasons. One, alcohol is a depressant in itself and will make you feel more depressed. Two, when you drink alcohol before bed this inhibits deep REM sleep, and you will wake up less rested and more anxious the next morning regardless of how many hours you spent in bed.




 

11 Must-Read Books To Help You Become More Mindful





To help you in your mindfulness journey, we’ve rounded up 11 of our favorite and most accessible books on mindfulness. Each will help you apply various techniques to your daily life and bring peace within. 

1. Declutter Your Mind: How to Stop Worrying, Relieve Anxiety, and Eliminate Negative Thinking

Feel overwhelmed by your thoughts? Struggling with anxiety about your daily tasks? Or do you want to stop worrying about life?

The truth is…We all experience the occasional negative thought. But if you always feel overwhelmed, then you need to closely examine how these thoughts are negatively impacting your lifestyle.

The solution is to practice specific mindfulness techniques that create more “space” in your mind to enjoy inner peace and happiness. With these habits, you’ll have the clarity to prioritize what’s most important in your life, what no longer serves your goals, and how you want to live on a daily basis. And that’s what you’ll learn in Declutter Your Mind.  Get it here



 

2. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values 

One of the most important and influential books written in the past half-century, Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a powerful, moving, and penetrating examination of how we live . . . and a breathtaking meditation on how to live better. Here is the book that transformed a generation: an unforgettable narration of a summer motorcycle trip across America’s Northwest, undertaken by a father and his young son.

A story of love and fear — of growth, discovery, and acceptance — that becomes a profound personal and philosophical odyssey into life’s fundamental questions, this uniquely exhilarating modern classic is both touching and transcendent, resonant with the myriad confusions of existence . . . and the small, essential triumphs that propel us forward. Get it here



 

3. When Breath Becomes Air

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated.

When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality. Get it here



 

4. Balance: Angie’s Extreme Stress Menders Volume 1

Coloring time is calming time! Best selling coloring book artist Angie Grace invites you to relax and explore the intricate and exquisite world of stress mending circular whimsical art. Stroke by stroke, shade by shade, tension and worries fade away as you transform Angie’s beautiful black and white lines into your own unique, personal and beautiful keepsake art piece.

This book has been drawn for connoisseur colorists and is suitable for adults and older children coloring with fine tipped markers, colored pencils or brush tipped markers. 50 delightfully detailed original designs printed on one side of the page. Get it here



 

5. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living

Through Dale Carnegie’s six-million-copy bestseller recently revised, millions of people have been helped to overcome the worry habit. Dale Carnegie offers a set of practical formulas you can put to work today. In our fast-paced world—formulas that will last a lifetime!

Discover how to:

  • Eliminate fifty percent of business worries immediately
  • Reduce financial worries
  • Avoid fatigue—and keep looking you
  • Add one hour a day to your waking life
  • Find yourself and be yourself—remember there is no one else on earth like you!

How to Stop Worrying and Start Living deals with fundamental emotions and ideas. It is fascinating to read and easy to apply. Let it change and improve you. There’s no need to live with worry and anxiety that keep you from enjoying a full, active and happy life! Get it here



 

6. The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself

Copublished with the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) The Untethered Soul begins by walking you through your relationship with your thoughts and emotions, helping you uncover the source and fluctuations of your inner energy. It then delves into what you can do to free yourself from the habitual thoughts, emotions, and energy patterns that limit your consciousness. Finally, with perfect clarity, this book opens the door to a life lived in the freedom of your innermost being.

The Untethered Soul has already touched the lives of countless readers, and is now available in a special hardcover gift edition with ribbon bookmark—the perfect gift for yourself, a loved one, or anyone who wants a keepsake edition of this remarkable book. Get it here



 

7. Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation

There is no better person to show a beginner how to harness the power of meditation than Sharon Salzberg, one of the world’s foremost meditation teachers and spiritual authors. Cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society, author of LovingkindnessFaith, and other books, Ms. Salzberg distills 30 years of teaching meditation into a 28-day program that will change lives. It is not about Buddhism, it’s not esoteric―it is closer to an exercise, like running or riding a bike.

From the basics of posture, breathing, and the daily schedule to the finer points of calming the mind, distraction, dealing with specific problem areas (pain in the legs? falling asleep?) to the larger issues of compassion and awareness, Real Happiness is a complete guide. It explains how meditation works; why a daily meditation practice results in more resiliency, creativity, peace, clarity, and balance; and gives twelve meditation practices, including mindfulness meditation and walking meditation. An extensive selection of her students’ FAQs cover the most frequent concerns of beginners who meditate―“Is meditation selfish?” “How do I know if I’m doing it right?” “Can I use meditation to manage weight?” Get it here



 

8. The Miracle of Mindfulness

In this beautiful and lucid guide, Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh offers gentle anecdotes and practical exercise as a means of learning the skills of mindfulness–being awake and fully aware. From washing the dishes to answering the phone to peeling an orange, he reminds us that each moment holds within it an opportunity to work toward greater self-understanding and peacefulness. Get it here



 

9. Wherever You Go There You Are

When Wherever You Go, There You Are was first published in 1994, no one could have predicted that the book would launch itself onto bestseller lists nationwide and sell over 750,000 copies to date. Ten years later, the book continues to change lives. In honor of the book’s 10th anniversary, Hyperion is proud to be releasing the book with a new afterword by the author, and to share this wonderful book with an even larger audience. Get it here



 

10. From Stressed to Centered

 

As your stress increases, the first thing to go is often what would help the most – your self-care. If you are feeling more tired, overwhelmed, distracted, or overextended lately, there is a simple first step on the journey to feeling better: read From Stressed to Centered: A Practical Guide to a Healthier and Happier You.

From Stressed to Centered offers a uniquely comprehensive approach to stress management and self-care by helping you understand and tackle your stress at all levels. It covers the trifecta of stress – assessment, management and future prevention!

Written by Dana Gionta, Ph.D. and Dan Guerra, Psy.D., two experts with over 30 years of combined experience, this groundbreaking book is solidly based on science and utilizes anecdotes, exercises, and practical strategies to help you:

  • Assess your current level of stress
  • Build up your resilience to future stress
  • Develop a lifestyle program of guilt-free self-care
  • Live a healthier and more fulfilling life

Get it here



 

11. Taming the Drunken Monkey

In today’s busy world, the mind can often behave like a drunken monkey―stressed, scattered, and out of control. Instead of falling victim to frustration and anxiety, learn to be calm, focused, and free of unwanted thoughts with this easy-to-use guide to mindfulness.

Drawing from Western and Eastern psychology, health systems, and wisdom traditions, Taming the Drunken Monkey provides comprehensive instruction for developing and improving three basic behaviors of the mind: concentration, awareness, and flexibility. Discover the power of breathwork exercises based on yogic pranayama, Chinese medicine, and Western respiratory science.

Apply meditation and other mindfulness practices to your life for newfound focus, creativity, body awareness, and spiritual awakening. As you progress from novice to master, you’ll effectively enhance the health of your mind, body, and spirit. Get it here



 

8 Easy Meditation Tips To Help Beginners





Meditation has so many amazing benefits (that you can read all about here) to help improve your mind and body. Though many meditation beginners get frustrated with the difficulty of completing a practice without their mind constantly wandering – which is actually entirely normal!

Here are 8 tips that will help you begin and improve your practice:

 

1. Get Comfortable

Feeling uncomfortable throughout your practice will distract you and pull your attention towards it. Try using pillows and others props to help support an upright and attentive posture.



 

2. Relax your body

For your mind to be able to effectively concentrate on your practice, you need to begin by relaxing the body. Try taking several deep breaths prior to beginning your practice. This will help release the tension in your body.



 

3. Prepare your surroundings

It is important to find a meditation location that is free from external interruptions (think phones, tv’s, etc.). Find a private space where you know that you won’t be disrupted. Using headphones is a great way to minimize distractions.

 

4. Watch your breath

Focus on the inhalation and exhalation of each breath. By doing this, you’ll be less likely to have your mind wander. You can also count in your ahead with each inhale, then count back down with each exhale.



 

5. Re-center your focus

Your mind inevitably will wander during your practice, this happens to even long time meditation practitioners. Simply let your thoughts and emotions come into presence, observe that they are there (that’s all they really want!) and then let them go. Try and refrain from identifying and holding onto them.



 

6. Keep a half-smile

Adopt a simple half-smile throughout your practice. A ton of stress and tension is actually held in our facial muscles – a subtle smile can help relieve this.



 

7. Bring attention to your heart beat

Following your heart beat will not only help you from wandering your mind, but also brings an aliveness as our heart pumps blood throughout our entire body. Be grateful for the power of the heart.

 

8. Don’t judge your practice

You are never doing it “wrong”. Meditation beginners often get turned off because they feel they aren’t doing it right. Remember, there is really no wrong way to meditate – it is simply just you being at one with your own self.



16 Mindfulness Tips You Need To Know





Mindfulness has been shown to help with stress, depression, and overall well-being. Here are 16 tips to help get the most out of your day and be more mindful!

 

1. Mindful means living in the moment, observing feelings and thoughts from a distance, without judging them as good or bad.




 

2. Exercise increases the feel good hormones while at the same time decreasing stress hormones, and is one of the best ways to prevent and help with depression and anxiety.




 

3. Train your brain to stay on task by limiting distractions. Turn off your phone, sign out of your email, and clear your desk to concentrate on the task you are trying to tackle.





 

4. DID YOU KNOW? Listening to lyric-free music engages the attention regions of the brain.




 

5. Active listening is one of the most important communication skills you can have because it establishes trust and shows interest in what another is telling you. Active listening is not merely hearing words, but understanding and interpreting what is being told.




 

6. One way to concentrate and understand better what another is telling you is to try repeating their words in your mind as they are speaking them. This will reinforce their message and keep you more engaged.




 

7. When you try to suppress feelings of unhappiness, this leads to more anxiety and stress buildup in the body. Instead of suppressing unhappy feelings, practice mindfulness by acknowledging the feeling exists, and understanding what you can do to move past it.




 

8. If thoughts and tasks are going through your mind keeping you up at night, keep a notepad next to your bed to write them down instead of making mental lists.




 

9. The stress hormone cortisol is generally highest within the first thirty minutes of waking – combat this stress response by practicing deep breathing and meditation first thing in the morning.




 

10. Mindfulness can help you to accept criticism better because it allows you to slow down thoughts, breath, listen and hear what is being told, and respond in a more thoughtful manner rather than just reacting.




 

11. Slow down your eating and practice mindfulness with your meals – it takes about 20 minutes for your body to send a satiation signal to your brain.




 

12. When we are distracted or multitasking while eating, it becomes harder to listen to our body’s signals about satiety and satisfaction. With your next meal, limit distractions and pay full attention to the eating experience.




 

13. Avoid mind wandering while working out. Instead, focus on the muscles you are working as this will enhance the effectiveness of your workout.




 

14. Mindfulness allows for us to make better choices. When the mind starts wandering under stressful situations it makes it more difficult to think clearly, and we tend to react rather than reflect.




 

15. Practice mindfulness for a better complexion. Your skin is the largest organ of your body and is a reflection of what is going on inside. Everything from your mood to your daily meals can make your complexion clearer, smoother, and younger.





 

16. Heightened levels of the stress hormone cortisol increases inflammation and oil production, which leads to breakouts and inflamed skin. Lower stress naturally with daily exercise and meditation.




Happiness by Removing “Second Darts”





We’ve all been there before…sitting at the airport…patiently waiting at the gate for our flight to board…excited to kick off our “much needed” vacation…then the announcement…

“This flight has been DELAYED” Of course, just as soon as you hear the word “Delayed” a series of negative reactions ensue:

“I told her to book the earlier flight, why did she not listen and book this one!”
“This always happens to me!”
“Who is responsible for this!?”
“There goes my vacation!”[sound familiar?]

These reactions are referred to as Second Darts. Second darts most often serve no real purpose and disproportionately harm us compared to the inevitable first darts. Simply, they are a result of the mind reacting negatively to the experience.



 

When first darts don’t even exist


One of the saddest parts of all is that many first darts don’t even exist — they are entirely drummed up in our mind.

Have you ever thought about the scenario of your boss calling you into their office to tell you that you’ve been laid off. Perhaps you’ve been called out in meetings the past few weeks and are feeling less than comfortable about your work product. On top of that, you’ve heard rumors circulating around the office that layoffs are coming soon! So what do you do???
Naturally, you fire off a first dart → I’m going to get laid off. Then, the second darts ensue….

“How am I going to pay for my son’s school!?”
“We are going to have to move in with my parents because I can’t afford our mortgage!”
“The market is terrible, how the heck am I going to find a job!?”
“My wife is going to think I’m a failure!”



Wait. Wait. Wait. You are now thinking about moving in with your parents (which is more than likely depressing you and affecting your current mood) based of an entirely hypothetical situation — getting laid off. Doesn’t this seem crazy?

 

Negative reactions to positive events


Sometimes we actually react negatively to situations that are inherently positive in nature. Think about a time whenever something that was supposed to be great for you actually resulted in you thinking about it in a negative light.

So your boss just offered you a great opportunity at work to step up and take on a bigger role → you can’t stop thinking about whether or not you’ll fail and disappoint (second dart)…



“What if I look dumb in a meeting with Executives?”
“I’m not supposed to be in charge of something this important?”
Am I even smart enough to do this?
“So what’s happening in the brain”

​It is extremely important to realize that even just thinking about a first dart kicks off a series of effects on the body. To paint the picture a bit more, here is the chain of events that occur once a first dart is set off in the untrained mind.

 

First Dart: Getting laid off from work…

  1. The thalmus (this is the “relay station” in the middle of your brain) sends an alert signal to your brain stem — causing a release of norepinephrine throughout your brain.
  2. The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) sends signals to your major organs and muscle groups preparing them to“fight or flight”.
  3. The hypothalamus (the brain’s main regulator of the endocrine system) prompts the pituitary gland to signal the adrenal glands to release epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol — better known as the “stress hormones”.





 

How to avoid second darts


The good thing about all of this is that with a little bit of self-awareness and positive filtering of your thoughts, you can save your body and mind from the negative physiological and psychological impacts.Here are a few ways:




  • Accept the inevitable (first darts) — no use crying over spilled milk. Pain and heartache are some terrible aspects of life, but are outweighed by the greatness of it all.
  • Look on the bright side — find the positive side of what just happened. Your flight got delayed…go walk around the airport and get some exercise before you have to sit for 4hrs. You are getting laid off…finally you get a chance to find a job you actually want!
  • Be mindful of your thoughts — start by noticing when a second dart (or hypothetical first dart) arises and just acknowledge that it’s there. Over time, you’ll notice the second darts won’t try to come in anymore because they know you won’t grasp on to them. Try MeditateBot to start forming a daily meditation practice.
  • Practice makes perfect — your brain is a muscle and needs to be trained. The more you act or believe a certain way those neural pathways are strengthened.
  • Think about what’s happening in the brain — just knowing that these negative thoughts are sending signals to your body and causing unnecessary stress is sometimes all you need to catch them before you start.
  • Relax your body and breathe slow — by doing this you will activate the calming part of your nervous system and halt the fight-or-flight area.
  • Understand second darts are unnecessary — our brains have an evolutionary bias to focus on the negative. This was of course back when we roamed with deadly lions and bears and needed to focus our attention on what might harms us.

“There is only one way to happiness,” Epictetus taught the Romans, “and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.”
― Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living



15 Quotes To Help You Be More Mindful Today





When we think about mindfulness, the act of being mindful in our daily lives, we often refer to it as the state of being completely in the present moment. This means no mind wandering about the past or the future. It’s difficult, but important if we want to reduce stress and start to build that inner power to resist future stressors – which really do carry a negative impact on our overall well-being.

Here are 15 quotes to help get you into that mindful state and living in the present moment. Really take some time to think about each and apply them to your day.

 

1. “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” -Buddha




2. “Every morning ask ‘if today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” -Steve Jobs




3. “It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time.” – Sir Winston Churchill

4.  “Time is a created thing. To say “I don’t have time”, is like saying, “I don’t want to”.” -Lao-Tzu




5. “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” -Buddha




6. “How soon, not now, becomes never.” -Martin Luther

7. “Nurture your minds with great thoughts. To believe in the heroic makes heroes.” –Benjamin Disraeli


8. “Often he who does too much does too little.” -Italian Proverb 

9. “A great attitude does much more than turn on the lights in our worlds; it seems to magically connect us to all sorts of serendipitous opportunities that were somehow absent before we changed.” –Earl Nightingale


10. “The shorter way to do many things is to do only one thing at a time.” -Mozart

11. “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” -Buddha




12. “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” -Marcus Aurelius

13. “At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.” -Lao-Tzu

14. “What you focus on expands.” – Buddha




15. “Meditation is exercise for the mind.” -Chade-Meng Teng




Three Quotes To Help Answer Stoicism’s Two Big Life Questions





Stoicism, which spread throughout the Roman and Greek world until around the 3rd century AD, is a type of philosophy that focuses on personal ethics and how you can live your best life. Alongside the positive trends of mindfulness and self-awareness, many of the principles of Stoicism have come back into relevance as of late.





The Stoics (most well-known being: Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Epictetus) spent their time trying to find answers to the two major life questions below:

1. How can we lead a fulfilling, happy life?
​2. How can we become better human beings?

 

Here are 3 of my favorite Stoic quotes (without commentary) that help serve as a guide to these questions:



“If it is not right, do not do it, if it is not true, do not say it.” – Marcus Aurelius

“Failure to observe what is in the mind of another has seldom made a man unhappy; but those who do not observe the movements of their own minds must of necessity be unhappy. – Marcus Aurelius

“The bravest sight in the world is to see a great man struggling against adversity.” – Seneca




 

 

The Tiger and the Strawberry: A Short Zen Story About Living in the Present Moment





Let’s stop and have a think on this old Zen parable about living in the present moment…the only time that really matters!

One day while walking through the wilderness a man stumbled upon a vicious tiger. He ran, but soon came to the edge of a high cliff. Desperate to save himself, he climbed down a vine and dangled over the fatal precipice…

As he hung there, two mice appeared from a hole in the cliff and began gnawing on the vine…

Suddenly, he noticed on the vine a plump wild strawberry. He plucked it and popped it in his mouth…

It was incredibly delicious, the best strawberry he ever had!



 

The Takeaways





  • The strawberry represents all of the amazing things around us in life. The vine symbolizes the timeline of life (between the cliff = birth; precipice = death). Choose to celebrate the strawberry (the good things in life), always.
  • Forget the past, don’t worry the future, and live in the present moment. Only by that way can we live happily.
  • Reminds me of this Mark Twain quote, “I’ve had many worries in my life, most of which never happened.”





 

 

MeditateBot: Creating a Daily Meditation Habit in Facebook Messenger





Over the past few years, Facebook Messenger has become the go to place for over a billion people worldwide to engage in their daily conversations. Though over the past year, it’s also quickly become the place where these same people are getting their daily news, weather updates, booking travel, style advice and much more.

This phenomenon began back in April 2016 when Facebook opened up their API for developers to create chatbots — programs to simulate human conversation. The rise of chatbots are giving brands an entirely new way to communicate with their audience at scale, a way that is so innately human…through conversation.



New Habits are Hard
When launching a new technology product, one of the biggest challenges is getting people to use it daily. New apps struggle with this often. Think about all of the times you’ve downloaded an app, used it once or twice, then deleted it or never opened it again. It’s hard to create that stickiness that keeps people coming back.

This same issue product makers face with getting people to use their apps daily, we all face in our lives with trying to creating a new positive habit.

Want to start working out? Ok, you go to the gym three days straight, then something comes up and you can’t make it, then again you miss it. A few weeks later the thought of going to the gym is so far in the back of your mind it never resurfaces.

In my opinion, the key to forming and sustaining any new habit is two fold:

  1. Making the barrier to entry as low as possible.
  2. Working it into your existing daily routine.

An Idea
As I thought through this with one of my own habit struggles, meditating daily, I decided to test the forming of a new habit by leveraging the power of Facebook Messenger — a place which already had my eyeballs as it was quickly becoming part of my morning routine for news, weather, etc.

The end result of a weekend personal hack-a-thon was MeditateBot — a Messenger chatbot that teaches the benefits of meditation, surfaces a variety of meditations, and even lets you schedule a daily reminder — all for free within Facebook Messenger.



I’m extremely happy to say that after 4 weeks since launch I have successfully meditated daily using MeditateBot. And more importantly, so have over 25,000 other people 🙂

Here’s how I made it habit forming enough for me keep it up a daily practice for 4 weeks and counting…

Schedule a Daily Reminder​

This feature is the linchpin to the entire experience. By asking what time works best for people and sending them a reminder daily at that time, they are empowered to make meditation work for theirschedule. At the scheduled time, a simple push notification is sent that gently nudges them to kick off their daily meditation.





I personally check Messenger in the morning while I’m eating my breakfast, so I schedule my daily practice reminder at 8:00am every day. It fits nicely into my routine and I know I’m not distracted at that time.

Analyzing the data of scheduling on MeditateBot, it was insightful to see that user’s reminders were almost perfectly distributed across all times throughout the day — morning, afternoon, and evening. This proves that everyone has their own “best” time. Make it work for you!

Showing the Benefits

Some people needed a little backing as to why daily meditation would be good for them, especially those that may have just stumbled across MeditateBot after it was featured in Messenger (grateful for that!)



Succinctly explaining the benefits of meditation, then having a CTA (call to action) immediately after to meditate has resulted in a >70% conversion to completing a meditation. Priming with benefits is important for driving action. 

Having Options, But Not Too Many

Too many options is too much, make it simple and don’t let the mind wander when the attention is already there. I’ve seen too many apps that have an endless amounts of options, this makes it hard to select the “right” one — which causes frustration (not a good primer for meditation!).

For MeditateBot I’ve kept the categories high level and made sure all speak for themselves. No explanation required for the three types:

  1. Breathing
  2. Body Scan
  3. Self Guided

Time Variations

Another important option in building a new habit is to not bite off more than you can chew. If you’re forcing yourself to do a 20 minute meditation daily out the gate, you will get frustrated. 
Why is my mind wandering? Is it over yet? Am I doing this right?

Having the option to choose a length that your willing to devote, keeps the barrier to entry low. Even getting 1 minute of that meditative state is shown to bring a heap of benefits.



I continue to believe in the power of technology applications that present themselves in channels where users already live — Facebook Messenger is just one, great, example of this. You can check out all of our creations for: Alexa, Chrome and Messenger — here