I stopped drinking alcohol more than two years ago.
Shortly before I stopped, consuming alcohol in the slightest quantities started giving me a headache, and my usual excitement and desire to drink disappeared completely, which led me to quit.
But I’ve sure had some enjoyable times when I’ve been under its influence.
I vividly recall the first time I got really ‘high’. It was September 2014. My PG roommate and I decided to go to the liquor shop and buy a bottle. But to our disappointment, the shop had closed by the time we reached there.
We didn’t have a vehicle, so we couldn’t go far. The only place close by that was open and serving liquor was a shady looking bar called Sapna which we feared was a place frequented by the local goons.
We were desperate for a drink, and Sapna was our only hope, so we decided to go in.
Once inside, we realised it was not as bad as we had imagined, and we slowly warmed up to the distinct ambience there. Both of us ended up gulping down three shots of vodka along with some chakna that they gave us for free.
We then decided to walk back home. But once we reached halfway, we thought we should probably have had one more. So, we turned around and went all the way back.
The waiter who served us was amused and almost laughing when he saw us back there, and we ordered a shot of gin each.
We came back to our place (PG) and spoke for a while with the landlord’s son on our terrace. He was a friendly guy and good company.
I was lying on the terrace and looking up at the stars and telling my roommate and landlord’s son, "Wow! The sky looks sooo beautiful!"
The landlord's son replied, yeah man, that’s what alcohol does to you. This made me stop and wonder if I would have felt the same way if I hadn't drank, and if it was indeed the alcohol talking.
But one thing was for sure. Though I had drank alcohol a few times before, this was the first time I was getting such a kick out of it.
That’s the day I realised why many people are crazy about alcohol because it can alter your mental state and make you feel a heightened sense of aliveness.
Even if only for a few fleeting moments, we like to experience a feeling of transcendence from our worries and mundane concerns of everyday life.
But I’d say that there are completely healthy and natural ways to reach such a state without adversely affecting your health and consciousness. Here are five such ways.
Music is a magical and harmless drug that can instantly elevate your mood and give you a natural high.
Music is one of my favourite things in the world, and few things have touched and moved me as deeply as music.
Whether it’s listening to music, singing your heart out or playing an instrument, immersing yourself in music can be a deeply pleasurable experience.
I’d like to recommend two tracks that I love which transports me into an altered state of consciousness. One is Light my Fire by the Doors, especially the instrumental section with the organ, guitar and drums solo. Another is Karuna by Remember Shakti (the track starts at 0.31 seconds – 15.48)
Exercising releases chemicals in the body such as serotonin, dopamine, endorphins, norepinephrine all of which help to boost your mood and make you feel great.
Since I’ve made a habit of exercising daily over the past three years, I’ve seen a big difference in my mood and energy levels during the day. I’ve observed that the more I exert myself and make myself sweat while exercising, the better I feel by the end of it.
Immerse yourself in nature
Once a week I like to head to a nearby island to take a walk, sometimes by myself or with friends. What I love about this place is it’s deserted, surrounded by trees, and since it’s right next to the sea, it’s usually windy.
Cool wind is a big mood enhancer for me and sitting there, looking out into sea, catching the sunset, and feeling the cool breeze on my face makes me peaceful, inspired, and alive.
I’ll usually be lazy to make an effort to go there, but I always end up feeling better once I go.
Immersing yourself in nature, whether that’s going for a trek or heading to the beach, can be a simple and effective way to lift your spirits and make you feel good.
When I initially started meditating over seven years ago, I was surprised to discover just how being present in the moment without thoughts could feel so good.
Similar to exercising, practicing meditation releases hormones such as dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin in our body, all of which help to promote a feeling of wellbeing.
Many people can be hesitant to practise meditation since they may strongly believe that sitting down for a few minutes is beyond them.
But practising meditation need not be difficult and frustrating.
As I have mentioned in a previous article - 4 Easy Ways By Which Anyone Can Meditate, you can meditate with the use of music, using guided meditations, repeating a mantra or staring into a candle flame. Using these methods can help you enter a meditative state more easily.
Breathwork / Breathing Exercises
Holotropic Breathwork was developed by psychiatrists Stanislav and Christina Grof in the 1970s to induce altered states of consciousness.
After LSD became illegal in the late 1960s, the Grofs, who had been advocates of the therapeutic effects of LSD, developed Holotropic Breathwork to enter psychedelic-like states without using drugs.
In the largest study done on the effects of this breathing method (conducted on a group of 11,200 people over a 12-year span), 82% of people reported feeling transported to another place or time.
A breathing technique that I practice is called the Wim Hoff method, which like Holotropic breathing, is a breathing exercise influenced by Indian Pranayama breathing techniques.
When we are stressed or in pain, many of us turn to intoxicants to numb ourselves or make us feel better. While they may provide a short-term solution, being dependent on them can become problematic.
What's great about all of the methods mentioned above is that apart from being easily accessible and elevating your mental state, they are also excellent ways to overcome stress.
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