16 million people in the US suffer from depression, and 42 million have an anxiety disorder. And even for the 80% of people who don’t have a mental illness diagnosis, it’s safe to assume that most still get sad or anxious from time to time.
Emotional ups and downs are part of life. There’s no magic cure-all to eradicate them. But there are lots of ways that we can learn to cope with our sadness, whether it's only temporary or part of a longer struggle.
Our lifestyle often holds keys to mood stabilization. Some common factors that we can use to uplift our emotions are:
- Healthy food – Science shows that there is a strong connection between what we eat and how we feel. Doctors often recommend eliminating added sugars, processed foods, fried foods, high-fat dairy and excess amounts of caffeine to help improve emotional well-being.
- Nutritional supplements – Several vitamin and herbal supplements have shown promise as natural mood enhancers. These include vitamins B and D, fatty acids, amino acid blends and St. John’s Wort, to name a few.
- Regular exercise – Movement is a good remedy to beat the blues. It’s long been believed that this is because exercise causes a release of endorphins (sometimes known as “happy chemicals”) in our brains. But recent theories propose that exercise may stimulate the production of anandamide, which is an endocannabinoid reported to create a feeling of euphoria, such as the "runner's high" that many of us are familiar with!
- Restful sleep – A good night’s sleep plays a big role in self-care. Think about how toddlers become cranky when it’s nap time. No matter how old we are, sleep is still an important part of being healthy and happy.
- Sunlight – Many people notice a correlation between their mood and the weather. Particularly, people who spend time outdoors in the sun may have an easier time maintaining a positive disposition than others.
Aside from these five core areas that support emotional health, there’s another remedy that many people believe to be effective in reducing sadness and easing anxiety – cannabis.
The evidence for cannabis and emotional health
Cannabis is taking the stage as the newcomer in the health and wellness, with patients and consumers everywhere confirming its benefits. While the medical industry may be lacking in formal studies to substantiate the effects that marijuana can have on our emotional well-being, that doesn’t mean that science has nothing to say.
A recent study of nearly 12,000 sessions found that patients reported 50% reduced depression when using cannabis for emotional well-being. The same study revealed that patients experience an average of 58% less stress and anxiety. Interestingly, women were observed to exhibit a significantly higher anxiolytic (stress-reducing) effect than men.
How Exactly Does Cannabis Help You Feel Good?
To understand marijuana’s “feed good” effect, you have to know a little bit about the human endocannabinoid system which is responsible for our mood, memory, cognitive processes, and so much more.
This system is comprised of cannabinoid receptors and endocannabinoids that bind to those receptors, creating responses within our bodies. There are two primary types of endocannabinoids. One of them we mentioned earlier – anandamide – has been shown to stimulate happiness, bliss and joy.
What makes cannabis such a powerful medicine is that it has phytocannabinoids that mirror the human endocannabinoid system. THC, the primary cannabinoid in marijuana, and anandamide are basically like twins. They both bond to our CB1 receptors, eliciting similar euphoric responses for most people.
Choose the Right Type of Cannabis for Your Emotional Needs
Cannabis is one of the most complex medicines discovered to date. The plant is divided into three subspecies – cannabis sativa, cannabis indica and cannabis ruderalis. Across those subspecies, there are thousands of strains, each containing various terpenes and more than a hundred different cannabinoids. These elements combine to create unique profiles for each strain that are believed to cause different effects.
So, choosing the right strain of cannabis for your emotional needs is a little more involved than running down to your local pharmacy to pick up some ibuprofen. The first step is understanding the basic differences between the three types.
- Cannabis sativa is a well-known for its uplifting and euphoric effects. When it comes to its emotional benefits, it is commonly used to increase happiness, promote a positive outlook on life, ease sadness and grief. Many people find it to be helpful in overcoming social anxiety. Because of its energizing tendencies, it’s typically recommended for daytime use.
- Cannabis indica on the other hand delivers a relaxing and sedative-like effect. It’s often effective at eliminating anger and keeping emotional outburst in-check. In small doses, it can be helpful in easing general anxiety. Most people find it is more suite for evening and nighttime use.
- Cannabis ruderalis is less common, because it contains only trace amounts of THC. This means that it does not provide the psychotropic effects that many consumers enjoy. The lack of THC means it typically used for purely medicinal purposes, including mood stimulation.
Each individual’s response to cannabis is determined by a variety of factors like their genetics, tolerance level and cannabinoid receptors. But this is a commonly accepted baseline of the effects that most people experience. The specific results you’re trying to get will determine which subspecies you choose.
The Best Cannabis Strains for Anxiety and Depression
Since there are only three main subspecies, choosing between sativa, indica and ruderalis is the easy part. Once you get past this, there are thousands of different strains. It can sometimes be overwhelming, even for experienced cannasseurs.
There are several websites that provide profiles of different strains, sharing information like the flavor profile, overall effects, medical benefits and consumer reviews. Our friends over at Leafly have a great directory that people can use to search for strains by mood, activity, healing effects and more.
Even though everyone’s experience is different, there are a few strains that are commonly used to enhance mood and reduce anxiety. Some favorites are:
- Blue Dream
- Green Krush
- Girl Scout Cookies
- Granddaddy Purple
- Jack Herer
- Lamb’s Bread
- Pineapple Express
…just to name a few!
In honor of closing out our emotional health month this February, Harvest's Arizona dispensaries have put together some great deals on flower so that you can stock up on strains that are popular for keeping anxiety and depression at bay. If you’re a fan of feeling happy and healthy all day long, stop on by and see what we have in store for you. Our team can help you identify the strains that are perfect for your emotional needs!