A Drug-Free Prescription for Mental Health

As we enter the beginning of a new decade, we are now on the cusp of change. When we consider the last decade which brought with it the election tampering, increasing global and regional climate crises and the return of extreme political division within communities, it can be quite easy to become depressed or anxious. In many western countries, there has been a significant spike in the use of antidepressants, with doctors in England giving out over 70 million prescriptions in 2018 alone.

In my practice as a Buddhist monk and spiritual advisor, I regularly assist people struggling with their own mental health concerns. While the causes and conditions may vary, the common theme among all of them is that they are looking for a way out of their suffering. A way to truly be at peace and know inner happiness.

It’s with this in mind that I’m excited to announce a new cure! I’m recommending all readers take my special prescription: A Drug-Free and Kindful Prescription for Mental Health. Depressed? Anxious? Don’t drop your therapist, but do add to your therapeutic routine by trying my special concoction!

There are countless recommendations for physical health including great things like a healthy diet with cruciferous vegetables, fruits, and the reduction of fats and processed foods. Exercise and some fresh air also work wonders. And if you have a bacterial infection, you’re likely to be prescribed antibiotics. But what about your mental health? Where is the special pill you can take to feel happy? This is where my tincture comes in. Not only am I going to sell you on my tincture, but if you continue reading, I’ll even tell you how it’s made, what all the ingredients are, and how they work in synergy!

If you know a bit about tinctures, you’ll know that every tincture has a combination of various natural elements, usually derived from a plant base and distilled in ethanol. These elements have to be mixed in the right proportions to ensure the appropriate synergy and desired effect. Similarly, the Happiness Tincture has a combination of equal parts good deeds, speech and thoughts, left to ferment through meditation, and warmed at an appropriate temperature using smiles and laughter. All of these ingredients must be consumed together for maximum results.

This means speaking in a way that is gentle and kind, and saying things that will uplift others rather than put them down. Doing things that will be of benefit to yourself and those around you, such as giving generously when the opportunity arises, and avoiding work and actions which might cause loss of life, physical or psychological harm. Nurturing the positive thoughts that arise in your mind, and avoiding investing mental energy in thoughts of self-blame or anger. And most importantly, fermenting these ingredients through a formal meditative practice of at least 15 minutes per day as a way of checking the effect these ingredients are having on your mind, and in turn building the mindfulness and awareness to better notice when you’re not taking one of these important components of the tincture. Finally, remembering to laugh and smile, at all the good, ridiculous, annoying, frustrating exciting moments, and everything in between. The more you smile, the more people will know you’re taking your tincture!

Still not convinced? Myself and many of my disciples have put this unique medicinal cure-all through rigorous lab testing in our own lives. I do have to caution you that this tincture is highly addictive, with one of the most commonly observed side effects being that you become a source of success and happiness for others around you! As you smile more, others smile more! When you refrain from negative, harsh or gossiping speech, and act in a way that is kind and gentle, people feel comfortable around you. Everyone is just like you, wanting to be safe and happy in their own way. Being around someone that refrains from harming others signals to those around you that they can be safe, free and emotionally open in your company. In turn, you feel more loved and accepted by having people being themselves around you. And when you meditate, you recharge and rest your mind so that you can freely continue to be a source of joy for others without feeling drained or exhausted.

You’ll also be happy to know there are no contraindications with my magic tincture. Pregnant? Your baby just might come out smiling too! Currently on other medication? Not a problem – keep taking what the doctor prescribed, the tincture will still be effective. Hypertension and stress? You’ll be happy to know our formula has the lovely side effect of helping with that too.

Not only are we practically giving this away, we’re also telling you exactly how we make it. I believe firmly in transparency, and my secret recipe is in fact, no secret at all. There are four key steps to making this tincture at home:

1. Prevention
2. Elimination
3. Cultivation or Development
4. Preservation or Maintenance

Let’s go through each of these step-by-step.


If you’ve ever gone hiking in the remote wilderness of British Columbia, you’ve likely seen warnings notify you of the likelihood of black bears. These native animals, although rather cute and cuddly at first glance, prove to be extremely territorial and deadly to unsuspecting hikers. If you take your safety and wellbeing seriously, you’re likely to be on guard upon seeing the rather ominous sign warning of impending bear territory. Perhaps you’ve even come prepared, walking with bear spray and a warning bell, and reviewing the appropriate methods of scaring off this large animal, such as linking arms with a travel partner and making loud noises.

Similarly, you may also have noticed orange markers along your hiking trail, notifying you where the path ends. If you’re walking with a hiking partner, that trusted friend is likely to warn you if they notice you’ve accidently stepped off the path, for fear that you may get lost or come into contact with unpleasantries such as poison ivy.

These warning signs are meant to act as deterrents or means of prevention, ensuring that you don’t engage in conduct which might be harmful to yourself or the nature around you. These types of signs exist everywhere. Travelling on the subway, you may have noticed the “mind the gap” sign, or the electronic “don’t text and drive” and “buckle up” signs on the highway. These types of signs also exist in our mind.

If you believe in and care about your mental health as much as your physical wellbeing, it’s important to recognize when these signs arise, and prevent activity which might lead to harm for yourself and others. If you notice anger or frustration with someone else arising, that’s a very clear warning sign. The feeling of tension in your chest, your face burning and vision blurring are all warning signs trying to pull you back from acting (or reacting), and telling you to stop! When this happens, consider these physical symptoms warning signs attempting to keep you on the safe path, or kind friends looking out for your health and safety. The feeling of craving, longing and addiction that comes with using a substance such as drugs or alcohol, the anxiety around being unfaithful, or the fear of retribution and guilt around inflicting harm upon another living being are all warning signs.

By committing to not engage in these harmful behaviours, we are in turn engaging in an important and necessary step in concocting the happiness tincture: prevention. We’re preventing unwholesome habits from developing in the mind, which would ordinarily form the causes for our future unhappiness. By preventing these habits, we’re safeguarding our current state of wellbeing. However, there’s more work to be done!


If you’re like the average human being/would-be-scientist mixing up this recipe, you’re likely using ingredients that already have some impurities in them. Perhaps you know you have a tendency to ignore the warning signs, or you’ve accidentally already stumbled into a dense forest thicket and are surrounded by bears! Maybe you’ve pricked yourself along some poisonous barbs along the way, and can’t seem to get the thorns of trauma out. Don’t take that as a reason to throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater! Your ingredients are still good and wholesome, but just need to be removed of those impurities.

This is where elimination comes in. First off, try not to repeat the actions that you’ve already done. You might notice yourself accidently losing mindfulness and repeating it a few times, and shouldn’t judge yourself for doing so. But rather, when you have periods of mental clarity, try to investigate why you took that path in the first place. Where there are already seeds of negativity in place, such as tendencies to speak harshly to others, deceive or harm, try to see what you can do to remove those impurities. If a doctor was aware of a tumor growing in your brain, but did nothing to remove them, that would be quite a negligent doctor! Similarly, try to remove the impurities in your mind. For more information on how to do so, see the next step!


Often times we want to get rid of the impure ingredients, but don’t know how to. This is usually because we don’t yet have access to the more pure and wholesome ingredients. In the previous step, we mentioned investigating the impurities. However, don’t just investigate noticing the bad things that misled you along the path, but rather, investigate all the times you didn’t take that harmful path! Pay attention to what good things you’ve done, and the effect that good actions produce in your mind. Think about the generous and kind acts others have done, and how that affects you, and see if you can replicate that.

Just as a farmer has to plant the appropriate seeds to yield the necessary crops, so too must you engage in the appropriate thoughts, speech and behaviour to yield the desired result of producing a happiness tincture. This means smiling often, not just at the good things, but remembering to smile and be kind to your pains and sorrows. Many of the harmful and destructive seeds we sow are often derived from past difficulties, trauma, pain and suffering. If we try to supress these weeds, they typically have a way of pushing through and suffocating us. Rather, we have to remember to smile at them. The warmth of our kindness to ourselves and others has a way of burning out any overgrowth of pain.

This also means developing positive physical and mental behaviours. On the physical side, things like exercising regularly, consuming healthy foods and avoiding intoxicants help, and go a long way towards supporting the mental side. On the mental side, engaging in a daily practice of meditation for even 15 to 20 minutes will begin to build positive momentum in your life. More importantly, it will help with the other steps in the happiness tincture, by allowing you to see where the negative mental patterns arise, and where they cease.

Finally, be the reason behind someone else’s success and happiness! By making your life a source of joy for others, you in turn will derive inner peace and happiness that can’t be taken away. As the wise say, “A bit of fragrance clings to the hand that gives flowers.”


Preservation and Maintenance
With the beneficial seedlings that are beginning to grow, it’s important to give them adequate water and sunlight. Notice the good traits that you have and are beginning to develop. If you’re in a state of particular despair, you may have a tough time thinking that there are any seedlings present. Sometimes a simple mental exercise can help. Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle, then label the left-hand side of the paper “things that are good about myself” and label the right-side “things I don’t like about myself.” Sit there and give it some serious thought. You may only come up with a few things for the left-side, and a whole heap of thoughts on the right-side. Perhaps you opened a door for someone recently? Add that to the list of good things! Maybe you listened to someone else’s problems, helped someone who dropped something, or even just showed patience when someone else was particularly frustrating. Add these to the list too!

When you’ve finally finished, you may find the left-side of the list is much longer than the right! And if not, not to worry, for the next step is the most crucial. Tear off the right hand side of the paper, crumple it up and throw it away!

The left-side with all your good traits and actions now becomes your points for preservation and maintenance. See if you can continue to repeat these good actions, and nurture these traits which you like about yourself! Using your mindfulness practice which we mentioned establishing earlier, try to notice times when you act in a manner that is in line with these traits.


Remembering the Practice

It’s important to remember these instructions. If a doctor prescribes you medicine, you take the trouble of filling the prescription at the pharmacy, and then you go home and lock the medicine away in the medicine cabinet and forget about it, the entire process of going to the doctor served little purpose, and the medicine is useless.

Similarly, it’s important to remember these instructions set out above. Recollecting the practice, and remembering to continually make efforts to maintain it, is what truly allows happiness to grow. No matter where you go, if you can maintain these qualities, you’re already where you need to be. You’re already enjoying the fruits of the happiness tincture!

bantheBy Bhante Saranapala
The Urban Buddhist Monk & World Civility Ambassador
Founder & President of “Canada: A Mindful and Kind Nation”