Discover more from Dr. Syed Haider
The Promise of Prozac Without the Pill
Note: this is part one of a functional medicine/alternative medicine “woo woo” (imagine me hand waving with a funny face) post, but these techniques have worked for me and others, so they deserve to be out there in the wild competing for headspace with all the others people are googling for. They were particularly useful for me when dealing with long COVID in mid 2020.
How to fix a broken brain in 7 minutes a day
What used to be termed mental illness has become so prevalent that for many it is the new normal. Humanity, especially in industrialized nations over the last century has experienced something akin to what the allegorical frog coming to a slow boil does – such a slow and gradual worsening of mental health, spanning so many generations that most haven’t really noticed the dramatic downward slide.
An alarmingly high percentage of children are now being put on psychiatric drugs as early as 2 years of age. A brain developing with this chemical crutch may become utterly dependent on it for normal functioning.
But the pharmaceutical solutions are blunt instruments at best, not a satisfying substitute for a really healthy, well-functioning, independent, and resilient brain.
Over the course of this series of articles I’ll discuss some ways of restoring normal function without resorting to medication, and hopefully lay the groundwork for getting off the meds if they were already started.
After some preliminaries, the main focus of this first article is a series of 4 exercises that can restore healthy function to the nervous system in 7 minutes a day – if practiced diligently over the course of 3 to 12 months. Subsequent articles will focus on some amazingly effective short-term fixes, lifestyle changes, and underlying issues that might need to be worked up and addressed.
As always when dealing with chronic relapsing or remitting illnesses a good place to start is with a really good doc.
#1 – Get a Good Doctor
If you have severe persistent symptoms that have been resistant to treatment then nothing can beat a good doctor.
If you don’t have a good doctor, then keep looking, they do exist and it’s not so much about degrees, awards and reviews as it is about having a healing presence and a healing touch – this is not something that can be easily taught. When it’s missing nothing else can make up for it, but when it’s there almost anything they give you may work.
(I know it sounds like hocus pocus – until you meet one.)
As a Sufi teacher said once of his preferred physician: even if he just gives you a candy you’ll start feeling better. So find that candy-giving provider and discuss your symptoms, what might be the underlying cause, how to address it, and plan out a treatment course.
I know many patients are sick and tired of medications that don’t work well and have bad side effects. That’s one reason I’m writing this and the following articles in this series, but please whatever you do, don’t make any changes to your medications without speaking to a licensed medical professional.
This is especially important if you have been on medication long term, but should not be ignored even after a short period.
I’ve seen people end up dead who ignored this advice and we have all probably heard a similar story.
It is possible to taper off, but it can take years, not weeks, and often requires adjusting other things at the same time to support your body on its healing journey.
Finally, there is generic advice, like a blog post, and then there is on-the-ground reality. When the bullets start flying all your best-laid plans can go up in smoke and you need a great general in charge to get you through.
Every Disease Has a Cure
The most important refrain to keep in mind is this: every disease has a cure (but not so every patient).
It means that if you weren’t born with it, but developed a problem during the course of life, you can retrace the steps, reverse the injuries and recover your health. Without this starting point in your mind and your provider’s mind, it is usually impossible to make real progress.
So know that there is at least one path and almost always a multitude that leads back to health. The main principle this relies upon is that the body and mind naturally heal. If you cut yourself it closes up and stitches back together – unless you cut yourself in the same spot every day.
Healing does have its limits and takes some time and with repeated attacks, the body settles into a pattern of dysfunction, like a chronic non-healing wound.
But even then the underlying template of healthy function remains, waiting for the roadblock to be removed so the ambulances can come and carry away the dead and the work of rebuilding can begin.
So the “cure” of a disease essentially consists of removing what is causing harm, be it environmental or mental, and then using some technique, supplement or remedy to facilitate the body’s innate healing power.
What about those patients that can’t be cured? In most cases it’s one of two things: either the curative regimen exists but they haven’t found it, or it exists and they don’t want to take the bitter medicine.
So, in the case of diseases of the brain and psyche, there is a lifestyle and medical regimen unique to you, your genetic makeup, environmental exposure, and trauma history, which will reverse your symptoms entirely; you just need to discover what that is.
You can travel the way yourself, but you must be persistent and diligent in developing a scientific research mindset because you will need to track symptoms, change variables, monitor progress, track things down, look things up, etc.
You also have to keep an open heart to be ready for those moments of serendipity that will come when you begin your search for healing and to allow for true healing of the mind to occur.
A Healthy Heart
No discussion of the psyche would be complete without mentioning the “heart”.
Often spoken of, but seldom really considered or even understood – just what is meant by an open heart or a closed one for that matter?
The heart is of prime importance in all cultures and is more than a lump of flesh, the word really refers to that faculty within us that yearns for some things and is drawn towards them and is repelled by others and rejects them – regardless of where that faculty actually resides, it is termed the heart, and the sensations of intense yearning or repulsion characteristic of the heart are often experienced in the chest where the physical heart sits.
Just like all your other appetites and traits, that aspect of your psyche or self can be healthy or diseased. A depressed person has no lust for life, an anxious one is distressed by otherwise mundane thoughts and events – these are inherent problems of the “heart”.
The heart can become used to liking what is not beneficial and hating that which is. But usually, regardless of how far gone a person may be, there is a true whisper of intuition left there that will say: this is right and this is wrong.
If you can listen and hear that voice and follow it that is what is meant by having an open heart. If you shut it out and persist in what doesn’t feel right inside because it feels good or looks good or everyone else is doing it, then you’ve closed off your heart.
Another important thing to know is that a healthy heart is attached to what is beyond physical reality – it’s a platitude that true happiness doesn’t come from the physical – but it bears repeating because every year our society becomes more obsessed with appearances and things.
Even some seemingly immaterial things like “success” and “recognition” are not necessarily beneficial or a source of any lasting satisfaction, happiness, or contentment.
Many people also confuse pleasure for happiness. The unbridled pursuit of pleasure is a disaster for the heart and the bane of true happiness. If pleasure brought happiness then every addict would be ecstatic.
As with anything worth doing, changing the heart is easier said than done, but it’s what’s really important with disorders of the psyche. If the heart doesn’t heal nothing does. And if you heal the heart everything else follows.
When working on problems of the heart, there are two approaches that must be taken simultaneously. One: lessen the suffering now, and two: work to resolve the underlying problem, which will usually take some time, but when that effort comes to fruition the first tack is no longer necessary and real healing has happened.
Suffering or pain is always a message that there is something harmful happening that needs to be stopped.
In matters of the heart that something can be complicated and seem very confusing because you are too close to see it clearly, so having a good therapist or counselor who can help cut through the extraneous details and hone in on the pith of the matter can be crucial for many people.
While that kind of work and effort is important and has its place, many people have tried and not been able to resolve their problems fully, while many more just don’t have the time or resources to put into such explorations.
What is necessary is a starting point that works at a really deep level to shift everything, a springboard that really gets things going in the right direction.
And that’s what this article is really about. A shortcut if you will. A centuries-old technique that bypasses a whole lot of effort and pain.
This is a long term fix that rewires the body, heals the nervous system and restores you to psychological and neurological health, all for just 7 minutes of minimal effort every day. #FixYourBrokenBrain #7MinuteMentalHealth #DrSyedHaiderCLICK TO TWEET
The Holy Grail
I have seen nothing that works as well as what I’m about to share with you. I have tried everything and seen everything tried.
Then, somewhat disabused of the notion that modern medicine had all the answers, I traveled the world searching for something effective and eventually learned this knowledge directly at the hands of masters in the East and West.
The real benefit of learning it in person was not the details of what to do and how to do it, but a heart-to-heart connection – the transmission of certitude from one person to another that this really works. This is really valuable.
The masters of the past used to closely guard knowledge like this and insist that students prove themselves before revealing it. The cliche from kung fu movies of the student left out in the rain and snow for months at the door of the master while being berated and told to leave on a daily basis is of course based in fact – this sort of thing really used to happen.
The point was to erect a high barrier, not for laughs, but in order that those who climbed over and gained access knew deep down in their bones that this was really something worth sticking to and doing religiously.
So click here to sign up for the one time low price of just $99.99!
Just kidding. But seriously what can I say to convey a sense of awe that something so simple and brief can have such profound healing effects? The exercises are ridiculously simple and it feels like nothing is happening while doing them, and I would even venture to say no one really knows how they work (but don’t worry, speculation below).
I can tell you though that it’s much more than the placebo effect. I’ve seen profound changes occur in a short span of time – patients utterly debilitated and unable to function socially who were restored to normal functioning and mental health by simply committing to 7 minutes a day of waving their arms around in the air and smiling a few times.
The benefits usually take anywhere from 1 to 6 months to be noticeable and sometimes up to 12 months – so you have to just make the decision to do them and stick to it.
In the meantime you can also practice many techniques for immediate relief, but once this kicks in you will find you won’t need to do anything else on a daily basis to keep your problems at bay, you will in effect be back to normal.
Write a journal on your way and you’ll be shocked at the changes you see when flipping back to the beginning, or at minimum fill out a quick symptom questionnaire before starting and once a month. This is important because we all tend to forget how bad it was, and then stop doing what helped fix it in the first place. Make a point to remind yourself.
4 Simple Exercises in 7 minutes
All that preamble was your high wall, and congrats: you made it over. So without further ado below is a series of brief chi kung movements and breathing exercises, comprising the most effective long-term treatment I’ve ever seen for any psychiatric or nervous system dysfunction be it stress, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, OCD, sympathetic dominance, you name it.
1. Lifting the Sky – Deceptively simple, but one of the most widely taught and effective chi kung techniques. This is your warmup. First taught to me by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit of Malaysia, you can learn this very effective 1-minute technique online for free at the link above from one of his students Sifu Anthony Korohais, who is himself a master and also one of those I met during my extensive travels.
Follow this immediately by:
2. The 12 nerve exercises described by Dr. Stephen Chang in his book The Complete System of Self Healing Internal Exercises. Dr. Chang comes from a family lineage of healers of the highest order – at one point court physicians to the emperor of China.
The exercises themselves are 2000 year old movement patterns interspersed with a lot of smiling that legend has it were brought from India to China by Bodhidharma, who taught them to the Shaolin monks.
I learned the exercises directly from an ordained Daoist priest who is one of Stephen Chang’s successors, but they are very adequately described in his book with drawings showing how to perform them. If you sign up for my practice you may be able to convince me to share a very amateurish video I made of these for my mother – but no promises!
3. Standing version of the combination deer/crane/turtle exercise (the same book as above and same video offer applies).
The deer exercise is renowned in the east for restoring youthful vitality by energizing the endocrine system. For the purpose of combining it with the other two exercises, it is basically just a kegel – squeezing the anal sphincter as tight as you can.
The crane exercise is famous for regulating the autonomic nervous system, and is simply a form of deep abdominal breathing – the belly goes all the way out on inhale and then gets sucked all the way back in on exhale
The turtle exercise is said to prolong life by restoring proper functioning to the entire nervous system and for our purposes consists of touching the chin to the chest hunching up your shoulders while tucking your pelvis up and then throwing your head and shoulders backward while arching your back and rocking your pelvis forwards.
So all together now: Try to hold a kegel while standing with your thumbs held inside your fists. Breathe in and push your belly out while tucking your chin to your chest. Then breathe out and suck your belly in while tossing your head up and arching your back. The strength of the kegel contraction may wax and wane a bit which is OK.
There is one difference from the description in the book: do the belly breathing fast, not slow, and breathe in through the nose in 2 or 3 short breaths until lungs are completely full and the belly is pushed out and then breathe out in 2 or 3 short breaths through the mouth with somewhat pursed lips, to make it forceful, until the lungs are completely empty and the abdomen is sucked in. For the turtle part of the exercise, do the full movement of the head, neck, back, and shoulders. Do 40 full breaths all at once, or if really out of shape split it up during the day until you can do it all in one go. A warning: combining these 3 exercises with fast breathing will look and sound very, very, very silly. It will also take a few days to coordinate properly. Don’t worry about it, just do it! You’ll start to like it, and for extra credit do it 3 times a day.
4. At some point in the day or night the liver/spleen exercise (same book and video).
From the Chinese perspective, the energy of the liver is in charge of growth, expansion, and overcoming obstacles, while the spleen is our center and in charge of our resources and nutrition.
This exercise basically consists in rubbing the hands together to warm them then rubbing the right hand up along the edge of the rib cage on the right and down along the left then rubbing back in the other direction with the left hand. Rinse and repeat a total of 36 times in each direction – why 36? That’s a long story for another day.
And there you go. It takes longer to describe these than it does to do them – just 7 minutes – I’ve timed it.
If you stick to these you’ll be feeling like a different person in a few months, I guarantee it. At that point re-read the journal entry describing how you felt at the beginning every few months just to remind yourself where you started, and continue doing them for at least 10 years, or better yet the rest of your life.
But You’re a Medical Doctor for God’s Sake
OK, why does this work? Most of us in the modern world just can’t accept something without a story that makes some sort of sense.
Here’s one: acupuncture channels have been documented in some studies to conduct bio-electricity through various tissue planes and the actual points have also been shown to be more conductive than surrounding tissue.
The flow of energy in these channels helps the body function properly and specific chi kung movements help to stimulate flow along those channels.
The reason this is so is because of the piezoelectric effect – electricity created by the mechanical deformation of a crystal lattice.
That amazing crystalline structure is created in bodies by the particular arrangement of proteins that make up our connective tissue. The connective tissue surrounds all muscles, bones, blood vessels, and internal organs – it basically separates all discrete structures in the body.
So just by moving your body you create bio-electricity that runs in channels through your connective tissue and this is thought to be essential for proper functioning.
Here’s another story: every cell in the body is connected to every other cell in a bio-tensegrity structure. If you push on one spot, insert an acupuncture needle, or just move a muscle, to some degree that movement is propagated throughout the entire body and affects not just every cell but every molecule and even every atom.
Massage therapists know that a tight muscle in your neck can cause a migraine in your forehead and massaging out that knot can relieve the headache. But often when massaging the knot in your neck you’ll see muscles down the arms start to twitch, and you might even feel a muscle in your leg start to jump – that’s biotensegrity in action, the connections made by connective tissue – because everything is connected.
So no wonder certain movements and breathing patterns can have profound effects on health and functioning.
We also know for a fact that deep breathing regulates the autonomic nervous system, and smiling, even if forced, lifts your mood and decreases inflammation.
Now, can I poke holes in all the above? Yes, certainly and so can you with a bit of google power and some time.
But beyond all the stories and rationalizations the real reason these exercises still exist and are utilized is that they have worked like a million bucks for more than 2000 years.
This medical doctor’s advice: use what works and junk the rest.
Stick to this as long as it takes, and in order to get you through until the results show, the next article will cover the best short-term solutions I’ve found to keep you sane until you get your brain back.