Natural Highs

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"Natural" can mean a lot of things these days. Coffee, alcohol, nicotine, marijuana and even cocaine are all provided by Mother Nature but they are not on our recommended list. By natural we mean substances that are both legal and good for you. Such substances work with your body's design, not against it. Used correctly they can balance and increase health and energy rather than deplete it.

"Feel good" substances permeate our culture. In an average week Americans drink 3.4 billion cups of coffee, 1 billion cups of tea, 4.5 billion sugared and/or caffeinated soft drinks, 2.3 billion alcoholic drinks, smoke 8.25 billion cigarettes and consume 845,726,369 pounds (or about 420,000 tons) of sugar and 20 million pounds of chocolate. On top of this we take 20 million antidepressants, puff our way through 25 million joints and pop one million tabs of Ecstacy.

All that popping, pouring and puffing would not be so popular unless it worked. In fact, these substances can boost our energy, relieve our anxiety, help us recover from a hard day's work and escape our less than perfect reality. Unfortunately these highs evaporate all too quickly, leaving us to cope with a nasty aftermath of mood swings, emotional depletion, physical exhaustion and even addiction.

Imagine living in a world where you feel happy, alert and energetic more often than not -- a place where feeling "high" and at one with the world is the norm, where getting high is healthy and nonaddictive. Does this sound like science fiction? As we will see, it can be as simple as child's play, where it all begins.

Pass any playground full of five- or six-year-olds and you are immediately struck by the bubbling energy that radiates from this running, laughing, shouting sea of children. They embrace the world and interact with it in a way that many of us have forgotten. We seldom find a young child who is the least bit shy about singing, dancing or drawing in front of others. But how many of us would even contemplate doing the same?

Spontaneous and positive, children are naturally high. They will go out of their way to enhance this, too, by swinging on swings or spinning in circles until they collapse. Even their crying and angry outbursts are an essential part of this spontaneity. As we approach adolescence, however, we become "socialized" and lose some of this seemingly innate capacity for fun and pleasure.

As adults, we adopt repetitive and rote behaviors; we surrender and become numb to life. We forget to smell the flowers (sensory awareness), appreciate our loved ones (an open heart) and forget the excitement of finding new ways of doing things (mental flexibility). But are these losses inevitable? Is it possible for us to experience the reopened, spontaneous and energetic joy we once had? In Natural Highs we discuss how we can once again embrace this more childlike state. One vital key to sustaining mood, energy and connection is to be aware, present and open to new ideas, behaviors and perceptions.

In the book you will discover everything you need to experience a natural, childlike high. We include a range of techniques and nutrients designed to promote sensory awareness and mental flexibility, as well as to restore and maintain your energy level. You will then be able to find your own perfect combination of diet, nutrients and activities for staying naturally high, including:

? Hangover-free alternatives to relaxing with a beer, martini or a glass of wine. ? Natural, nonaddictive ways to get the same energy kick that you get from coffee, tea or tobacco. ? Safe, natural and effective alternatives to Prozac and Valium with no side effects. ? Natural nutrients to help take you to higher states of awareness and connection without the side effects of drugs. ? Nourishing foods that Can replenish and restore your brain, depleted by stress or excessive drug and alcohol use. ? Natural substances that help you escape addictions, including some that you may not even realize you have.

You will quickly see that natural highs can be healthy, nonaddictive and as easy as taking a quick trip to the supermarket, drugstore or health food store.

Altering Mind, Mood and Energy
At this point you may be questioning whether it is even natural to feel this good all the time. It certainly is not the norm in our culture. And in fact, evidence suggests that depression and anxiety may offer evolutionary advantages. Our ancestors knew that maintaining an edge and keeping a vigilant eye out for enemies had great survival value. Being too blissed-out might make you some predator's dinner. Despite the absence of this ongoing threat, many of us still are on edge, anxious and/or depressed. If this sounds like you, the good news is that there are natural, mind-altering supplements and techniques that can help you to break your patterns and create new and happier responses to life's inevitable changes, disappointments and surprises.

How Naturally High Are You?
We believe it is possible to be high--firing on all cylinders, inspired, enthusiastic, happy, calm and alert--much of the time. Our Natural High Program shows you how to sustain the right biochemical, physical and psychological conditions. There are four steps to being naturally high:

1. Achieve optimum brain nutrition.

A good diet and the right supplements provide you with the necessary building blocks for brain cells and neurotransmitters which are the mood, mind and memory molecules. You will also be able to balance your blood sugar, which acts as brain and body fuel. This helps you to break your dependency on substances that interfere with normal brain chemistry and deplete your energy.

2. Keep yourself "fine-tuned" with natural highs. The reality of day-to-day life is that you will likely become stressed out or otherwise unbalanced. You will learn how to use natural substances to help bring yourself back into balance.
3. Think positively.
Chemistry isn't the whole story when it comes to natural highs. It is also about how we think. Ironically, while fear and anxiety seem to come easily, we often have to work harder to achieve happiness. Fortunately you can replace negative patterns with a more positive and uplifting frame of mind.

4. Adopt a naturally high lifestyle.

There are many ways to improve how you feel, specific lifestyle changes in the form of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual exercises. The Natural High Program is designed to make it easy for you to make and maintain the step-by-step changes in your life that will allow you to be naturally and consistently high.

Each of us is unique--an amalgam of genetic inheritance and a lifetime of experience. We may have inherited certain tendencies, for example, toward depression or anxiety. These tendencies, together with what we have learned in childhood and indulged in as adults, have programmed our body chemistry. This in turn affects our behavior. We may find ourselves, for instance, with a nonstop need for stimulation or a seemingly built-in inability to relax.

The good news is that none of this is set in stone. You can change.

Before you leap head first into the mass of information in the book, Natural High Questionnaires are provided which will help you to develop your personal natural high strategy.

How The Book Is Organized
Part One consists of three chapters, starting with the Natural High Questionnaires. The questionnaires will help you assess your own current needs, habits and patterns and to develop your own strategy for shifting to natural highs.

For example: How Stressed Are You? This questionnaire will help you recognize some of the signs and see where you fit in the stress continuum. Mark "yes" if the question applies more than half of the time. Score one point for each "yes" answer.

? Do you have difficulty relaxing?

? Do you often feel irritable?

? Do you worry about the little events of the day and find that you are unable to shut off your mind?

? Do you smoke or drink excessively (especially by other people's standards)?

? Are you competitive and aggressive?

? Do you find it hard to relate to people?

? Do you find yourself impatient with others?

? Do you eat quickly?

? Do you take on too much?

? Do you have difficulty delegating?

? Do you have aching limbs; tense muscles or recurrent headaches?

? Do you have a dry mouth and sweaty palms?

? Do you feel a lack of interest in sex?

? Do you have problems sleeping?

Scoring 1 to 5: Like most of us, you could use some practical ideas on how to calm down when challenges arise or you want to reach states of even deeper peace. If so, read on for some inspiring ideas.

6 to 10: You are quite stressed. Pay attention to these warning signs. This is the only body you have. Treat it well. You will see how to do this in the following pages.
11 to 14: You are very stressed. Clean up your act before there are serious consequences.
Other questionnaires in the book include: Energy Check, Mood Check, Memory Check and Connection Check.

We then introduce you to the basics of brain function. You will learn about neurotransmitters, the brain's "communication chemicals" that are capable of stimulating and relaxing you, lifting your mood and sharpening your mind. You will find out why some substances knock your chemistry out of balance, while others are good for you. We then give you the Natural High Basics, a core regimen of food and supplements that create the best internal environment for sustaining mood and energy. You will learn how to support your brain and body chemistry for maximum energy and balance.

Part Two is the heart of the book. It deals with the issues and substances that probably attracted readers to the book in the first place: Stress Busters, Energizers, Mood Enhancers, Mind and Memory Boosters and Making the Connection.

Each chapter presents its information in the following sequence:

How you would prefer to feel and how you might be feeling now.

What goes on in your body and brain chemistry when you feel this way.

The upsides and downsides of conventional substances that we use, such as alcohol and tranquilizers.

The natural alternatives that can produce the desired result without the downsides. We learn why they work, the research on their benefits and how to use them.

Finally, there is a straightforward action plan--clear and simple steps to achieve a natural high.

Part Three suggests other ways to achieve your natural high. You will see how breathing, meditation, exercise and sleep can raise mood and energy. We also look at positive thinking, sex and the life-enhancing uses of light, color, music and aromatherapy.

Part Four offers top tips on natural ways to chill out, boost your energy, lift your mood, enhance your mind and get connected. There is also an A to Z listing of the substances you can take to achieve a natural high.

Editor's Note: Natural Highs, by totalhealth editor Hyla Cass, M.D., and Patrick Holford, the United Kingdom's leading nutritionist, presents a breakthrough program of natural supplements and techniques that mimic brain chemicals to help you stay happy, relaxed and naturally high. Their remarkable research shows how to formulate the perfect "brain food" to improve how we think and feel, resulting in a greater sense of connections and joy in everyday life. Natural Highs is a must addition to your total health library. We thank Dr. Cass for presenting the following overview of this landmark work.

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By Hyla Cass, M.D.

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