Redefining “Getting High”

chasing a high

As human beings, we thrive on those rare feelings of total elation and happiness. You know, those times when you feel a burst of energy and zest for life that makes you believe you can take on the world? It’s in our nature to chase the kinds of experiences that will provide those pleasurable sensations for us, which is unfortunately why so many people get hooked on dangerous and addictive substances. And once an addiction takes hold, a person will begin building a tolerance by having to take more and more of the drug each time in an attempt to capture the feeling of the very first time they used.

People all around us are sacrificing everything chasing the kind of “high” that an addictive substance gave them in the beginning, eventually becoming dependent for as long as they continue down that path. The reason so many people fall victim to this cycle is not because the “high” is so great that it’s worth losing everything for, but because the effects of stopping the substance are unbearably painful. The entire chemistry of one’s brain changes to be reliant upon the drug to function, so take that away and it also removes a person’s sense of “normalcy.”

We all have the desire to elevate or change our consciousness, to break free from the mundane and typical ways of thinking and behaving in exchange for a new internal experience and a fresh way of looking at the world. The problem is, so many people seek to do this through dangerous, harmful, and destructive ways. The worst part is that these methods do not positively change our mindset for good or stimulate personal growth in any way — in fact, they cause us to regress dramatically. So how can we as human beings fulfill this desire to explore a different state of mind and body without using harmful substances? We’re going to redefine and re-explore what it means to “get high,” and share some healthy ways that we can push the limits of our bodies and minds to reach a new state of consciousness.

Tommy Rosen, a yoga instructor and addiction recovery expert says, “My definition of getting high is ‘to engage in an activity of any kind that brings about a shift in consciousness, which is to the benefit of a person both in the short term and the long term.’ If your form of getting high brings you short-term gain and long-term loss, then it does not fit my definition of getting high.”

Short-term gain and long-term loss being addiction, which alienates a person and destroys relationships and health. For example, a person might feel great while smoking pot. After all, it helps with numbing a lot of mental and physical pain we experience in our daily lives. It helps us forget about all the bad in the world… but it doesn’t last. When the high dissipates, we are left yet again with the same problems we had before, having made no real lasting progress.

These substances do a lot to repress painful memories and feelings, but in doing so they allow us to run from our demons instead of standing up and confronting them. Recognizing the negative thoughts and habits you have and deciding to deal with them in a healthy way is when the true healing begins. Here are just some of the ways you can “get high” according to Tommy Rosen’s definition:

Eating Well

alternatives to getting high

Science has shown time and time again that your brain functions so much better on a healthy diet. “Eating high-quality foods that contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects it from oxidative stress — the “waste” (free radicals) produced when the body uses oxygen, which can damage cells,” said Dr. Eva Selhub, Contributing Editor for the Harvard Health Blog. Not only can eating a balanced clean diet help with your cognitive functioning, but your body will thank you for it as well.

Exercising Regularly

In another article from the Harvard Health Blog, the positive effects of exercise and movement are cited along with optimal nutrition. Exercise improves mood and sleep and reduces stress and anxiety, which are typically the result of cognitive impairment. Study participants who walked briskly two times per week for one hour each saw a massive improvement in brain functioning and mood from this 120 minutes of moderate intensity exercise. The article says that if 120–150 minutes seems daunting, even just starting with a few minutes a day and working up from there will help you reach your goal.

Venturing Out into nature

Sometimes all you need is a change of scenery to get your brain working in a new and different way. Even just getting out of the house can do wonders for a stagnant mind.

Volunteering/Helping Others

Being able to feel as though the work you are doing is meaningful will give you a sense of purpose and drive. And positive interactions with other human beings can boost your mood and leave you glowing all day long.


It might sound campy to some, but mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce blood pressure, improve anxiety and depression, and even help with quitting smoking. And some research suggests that meditation may physically change the brain and body and could potentially help to improve many health problems and promote healthy behaviors according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.


Yoga can provide a lot of the same benefits as meditation in that it allows you to practice breathing techniques and mindfulness. It also has the added bonus that it gets your body moving as well.


Journaling can help you work through your thoughts and issues on paper, and also track your mental states and progress in recovery.

Going to a 12-Step Program/Meeting

The structure and camaraderie of 12-Step programs can assist you in opening your mind and changing the way you think. You will learn healthy coping techniques and be held accountable for using them.

Perhaps the most challenging part of dedicating yourself to “getting high” using the aforementioned methods is that it will take hard work and a lot of time to start seeing results. This is why it is so important to keep in mind the concept of short-term gain and long-term loss (using harmful substances) VS short-term loss and long-term gain (pushing through the initial struggle to form long-lasting positive habits). Sticking with a healthy, consistent routine is the only way to truly recover, but we promise it is worth it.