Pipe smoking is a delightful way to relax and unwind. It can also be a faithful companion for meditation and deep thought. In fact, Albert Einstein once said, “I believe that pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment in all human affairs.” But can pipe smoking aid in the battle against stress or depression? Let’s take a look.
First, to begin to explore this question, we must understand that stress and anxiety are vastly different from depression.
What is Stress?
Everyone experiences stress at points in their lives. Stress is essentially how the brain and body respond to any demand. Every life demand is a type of stressor. For example, exercise, work, or major life changes can all be stressful.
While we generally think of stress in negative terms, not all stress is bad. In fact, stress can serve as a motivator. I am sure that you have heard people say, "I work best under pressure."
However, stress that is not managed properly can have negative effects on our health and well-being. Stress that is unmanaged can lead to anxiety, which is basically a reaction to stress.
Anxiety and stress can manifest themselves in different ways in different people. Some people experience digestive symptoms, while others may have headaches, irritability or related issues. Long-term or uncontrolled stress may actually contribute to more serious health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, and anxiety disorders.
Can Pipe Smoking Help Reduce Stress?
If you enjoy pipe smoking the answer is "yes." While this is not necessary thought of by the masses as a stress relief treatment, pipe smoking can have a calming effect and may reduce stress.
Most people who are looking to treat or reduce stress engage in activities such as meditation, exercise, deep breathing, or even doing a puzzle or coloring. Activities that reduce stress trigger changes in your mind and body. For example, exercising can release endorphins that reduce stress and trigger positive feelings. While deep breathing can aid in focus and relaxation. Essentially, these activities serve to interrupt your pattern of tension and help you to re-focus your mind.
Smoking a pipe can bring about the same stress-relieving results. When you are smoking a pipe, you are focused on the activity. You are also breathing at a slower and regulated pace. The whole act of packing and lighting your pipe can be a stress reliever on its own. When you use pipe smoking to interrupt your pattern of overwhelm, worry or mild anxiety, you can experience a calming effect that serves to reduce your overall stress.
Of course, if you are not a pipe smoker, you will simply argue that it is not a healthy source of relief and does not reduce stress or anxiey. However, as with much in life, don't knock it until you try it.
What is Depression?
Depression and stress are not the same animal. According to Psychology Today,
"When someone is depressed, his/her mind and body are in a state of tremendous imbalance. Brain physiology is altered, stress hormones are constantly surging, and almost all bodily systems are affected. This is why the symptoms of depression usually disrupt a person’s regular rhythms of mind and body. For instance, disturbances with appetite, sexual functioning, energy, concentration and memory, sleep, loss of interest and pleasure, sobbing and/or anger outbursts, feelings of guilt, loss of self-esteem, pessimism, and hopelessness are some of the more common symptoms of major depression (or what is technically called clinical depression)."
Pipe Smoking Cannot Help Depression
Pipe smoking or other stress relieving activities cannot cure or reduce depression. Take for example, the painter Vincent van Gogh, who was arguably one of the most famous artists the world has ever known. He was a pipe smoker. In fact, many of his self-portraits show him smoking a pipe.
Van Gogh suffered from depression and psychotic episodes, and while he searched for relief from his afflictions, including with pipe smoking, nothing was able to stop him from taking his own life. In an early letter to his brother, Van Gogh wrote, "Theo, I must recommend that you start smoking a pipe. It does you a lot of good when you're out of spirits, as I quite often am nowadays." The fact is that you cannot "fix" depression with stress relieving measures.
Depression is not something that can be reduced with deep breathing, exercise, or pipe smoking. Clinical depression must often be treated with medication or other therapies such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation ("TMS").
Clinical depression is not just a passing blue mood or a state of sadness. Rather it is a potentially debilitating, sometimes lethal condition that can destroy people by leaving them feeling hollow, worthless or hopeless. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in the United States, 20 to 26 percent of women and 8 to 12 percent of men will experience an episode of depression at some point in their lives.
If you or someone that you know is suffering from depression, professional help should be sought immediately. Depression is no joke and has caused many good people to take their own lives. According to CDC data, there are an estimated 40,000 annual suicide deaths attributable to depression. In fact, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, and depression is a major cause.
There are many ways people can reduce stress and anxiety, including through pipe smoking. However, it cannot treat depression. If you or someone you know are suffering from depression, please seek help. Don't try to manage depression on your own. Remember that you are not alone and help is available. Of course, if you are simply looking to reduce stress, and you love pipe smoking, a few puffs a day, may help keep the stress monster at bay.