A reprint of a useful and classic column written in 2006…
Guide To Self Latest Methods for Dealing with Sadness
Dr. John Schinnerer
Guide To Self Life Coaching
A great day to you and welcome to Guide To Self where you learn the latest ways to deal with sadness!
As many of you know, my wife and I recently had our fourth child, a girl named Molly Marie. She is now six weeks old which means weve gone six weeks without much sleep. My wife and I are exhausted. The other three children are jealous to one degree or another. And my mood recently took a nosedive.
So today, Im going to share with you steps you can take to defeat depression, sadness, a funk or whatever you want to call it.
Sadness is Different for Men than for Women
Be aware that sadness takes different shapes. Typically, sadness appears as anger and irritability in men and comes out as sorrow and melancholy in women. So it looks different when I get down from when my wife gets down. I tend to get more irritable and less patient. I feel overwhelmed more easily. I have a harder time staying in the present moment. My thoughts take me to the past or the future more quickly. My energy level is low. My body aches more. And I get less joy out of my daily routines.
So I want to share with you what exactly is going on in my life. I want to make you aware of what it takes to cause a road bump in my emotional path. I told you about not sleeping well for six weeks due to the baby. Thats a big one. Sleep disturbance is enough to mess up anyones mood. In my case, lack of sleep led to a cold and sore throat.
On top of that, Im not a wealthy man. In fact, nearly the opposite, Im in debt. I have not made money doing this radio show. So I pay for the privilege of sharing my knowledge with listeners. Roughly 2 hours per day are spent preparing for the show. I book my own guests. I write my own scripts. I respond to emails and letters.
Also, Im currently in charge of two companies. Im working on corporate taxes which I dont particularly enjoy.
I see several clients daily for coaching where I deal with other peoples problems most of the day.
Im trying to find the time to finish two books.
At night, once the children are in bed, I add radio shows to the website and do the programming.
My wife is now back to work 3 days per week as a hairdresser. This means that two mornings a week, with the help of a nanny, I juggle a newborn and a 5-year-old.
My house is partially torn up due to a contractor who left the job half-finished. So were now in the process of drawing up new plans and finding a new contractor.
Right now, it feels as if every relationship in my life is consuming my energy. And Im running on empty. So Ive been exhausted and bummed out the last couple of days.
So what do I do?
How does a psychologist break out of a funk?
Ill tell you how. Dealing with sadness that stays with you for a few days or weeks may require a lifestyle change for you its about dealing with your whole person diet, exercise, faith, mind and relationships.
Top Ways to Deal with Sadness
First, I never stop exercising. Even when my mind is trying to find a way out of it, I will at least walk for 20 minutes. Its critical that you exercise twenty minutes a day for mood and longer than that if you want to lose weight. This can be as simple as climbing the stairs at work twice a day, or walking for 20 minutes. When Im working out, I will think about getting rid of all my fear and anger. Exercise is one of the best ways to work negative emotions out of your body.
Second, I remind myself of what is truly important by determining what is really important and what is not. How do I do this? I ask myself the question, Will this matter a year from now? Most of the time, the answer is No, it wont matter. Its one of the ways we can learn to be less emotionally reactive and more thoughtfully proactive. If youre like me, you have to train yourself to behave in healthy ways because most people did not learn these tricks growing up. So you need to retrain your brain. As you learn to respond more effectively to minor inconveniences, it leaves you more positive energy to respond to actual crises. This is known to many as wisdom – the ability to deal well with your own suffering as well as help others with theirs.
Third, I focus on everything for which I am grateful my wife, my children, my dog, my friends, my coworkers, my God, my health and so on. It is critical that you learn how to appreciate life. Life is a gift that has been granted to us. The more we appreciate and cherish the gift, the more we understand what a magical journey life is. Your thoughts matter tremendously in this equation of emotion.
A study done at NIMH focused on the power of thought and emotion. The brain activity of ten normal women was monitored under 3 different conditions.
The researcher recorded each persons brain activity when they were thinking neutral thoughts, happy thoughts, and sad thoughts.
During the neutral thoughts, nothing changed in the brain.
During the happy thoughts, the limbic system, or the emotional brain, cooled down, and became less active resulting in a more relaxed and energized state.
During the sad thoughts, the limbic system, the emotional brain, became aroused and active which has negative effects on your body tense muscles, quickened heart rate, perspiration and so on.
Think about the last time you felt happy. How did your body feel? Your muscles relax, your hands become dry, your heart rate slows, and you breathe more deeply. Your body reacts to EVERY FEELING YOU HAVE! This is proof that your emotions matter!
Fourth, welcome the feeling of sadness. It is there for a reason. There is a message or lesson involved in the emotion. Your job is to figure the message out. Once youve accepted the feeling, let it go, breathe it out. Emotions are meant to be temporary.
One of my main difficulties growing up was that I could sense or pick up the emotions of other people. I was intuitive even as a little child. The problem is that no one teaches you what to do with that emotional energy. And its very draining.
I used to think of myself as a container for negative emotions such as anger, sadness and fear. What I found is that thinking of yourself as a container for emotions is not a healthy way to picture it. Its much more helpful to think of yourself as a net which catches positive emotions and allows negative emotions to pass through. Keep in mind that these are just emotions. Emotions are not permanent. They are not intended to remain with us. They are just passing through.
Fifth, as the human brain is easily altered, I change the music I listen to. Once I have made up my mind to change my mood, I purposefully listen to upbeat lively music. I watch only comedies. Realize that your brain is incredibly open to suggestion. Not only can music and television alter your brain, as I mentioned, your very thoughts and feelings have the ability to change the physical make-up of your brain.
You have to be cautious what you expose yourself too. Your senses take in over 4 billion bits of information per second. You are only consciously aware of 2,000 of those bits per second. This means that your mind is constantly taking in seeds and you are not even aware of it overhearing conversations, televisions playing in the background, commercials you try to ignore, music lyrics and so on. So your emotional state, your thoughts, your judgments all have a tremendous effect on what information you are consciously aware of.
When you are touched, you have a physical sensation. When you feel an emotion, you also have a physical sensation in your body. Every physical sensation, every thought, every feeling is written into your brain. The more times you have it, the more deeply it is written into your brain. So the longer you spend immersed in sad feelings and morose thoughts, the more your body becomes accustomed to that state of being. The more your body becomes accustomed to it, the more it wants to remain there. The harder it is to break out. While you want to welcome the feeling and embrace it, you also want to breathe it out as soon as possible. Dont spend too long wallowing in self-pity.
Sixth, work in sprints go two hours and then break for ten minutes. Give yourself a break every two hours at least. Our brain works best that way. Its difficult and less effective to work eight hours straight.
Seventh, stay in the present moment. Train your thoughts to stay focused on the present moment. When you find Gremlin thoughts coming to take you to the past or the future, redirect yourself to the right now and right here.
Eighth, stop using toxic elements. This includes alcohol, caffeine, marijuana, cocaine, nicotine and sugars. Caffeine and nicotine have been shown in brain studies to decrease overall blood flow to the brain, making most symptoms worsen over time. They also decrease the effectiveness of many medications and increase the number and severity of side effects. Most of the substances we reach for when sad act as central nervous system depressants anyway. When youre already depressed, you dont want to add fuel to the fire with alcohol or marijuana.
Ninth, add Omega-3 to your daily diet. Omega-3 stabilizes mood & improves overall brain functioning. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids crucial for growth and development. My favorite, and one of the most studied nutrients, is the Omega-3 fatty acids. About 60% of the brain is made up of fats (lipids) that make up the lining of every brain cell. Omega-3s are required by the brain to an extraordinary degree. They cannot be produced by our bodies but must be ingested via diet or pills. They are found in large, fatty, cold water fish, olive oil, and canola oil. Omega-3s help turn down the volume of communications between brain cells (similar to the action of a mood stabilizer). Documented benefits of Omega-3 oils include improved mood, clearer thinking, more serenity, better concentration and focus, and better vision.
Tenth, add B Vitamins and folate in particular to your supplement regimen. Published studies have shown a relationship between B vitamins and depression. Increasing levels of B vitamins are highly likely to improve your mood.
Eleventh, add ginseng. Ginseng is popularly touted as a way to beat stress, improve vigor and simply feel better. The main idea with ginseng is that it helps when your body is stressed. Stress occurs anytime you are challenged above and beyond what your body is used to. An Olympic skier wont ski faster by taking ginseng. Hes used to that stress of exercise. A working mother of two kids wont notice a difference. Shes accustomed to her daily routine. However, throw in a new baby, or an ill parent, and youve just spilled over into exhaustion. Thats when ginseng does make a difference – when you have to push beyond your limits to the point of exhaustion. Ginseng helps increase your resistance and prevent exhaustion.
Twelfth, breathe I have covered deep breathing in previous shows. This is the deep diaphragmatic breathing where you breathe into your abdomen, not your chest. Focus on pushing out all of the air in your lungs. The goal is to fill your lungs 100% with fresh air on each breath.
Just as with your thoughts and feelings, you want to be constantly aware of your breathing every second of every day. Remember, weve already shown it is possible to split your conscious mind in two parts. One part you can use to tend to the daily demands of your life. The other part must be used to monitor your breathing, your thoughts and your feelings. With practice, it can be done.
Thirteenth, dont isolate yourself. As much as you can, surround yourself with family and friends.
Fourteenth, go easier on yourself. Learn self-compassion. Speak to yourself as you would a young child.
Forgive yourself for your mistakes and shortcomings. Picture yourself as a small child. Now picture yourself parenting yourself. Forgive yourself as you would like to have been forgiven as a child. Mistakes are merely learning opportunities. And learn to forgive others.
Let go of anger and disappointment by writing a letter forgiving the individual who has hurt you. Holding on to the anger only harms you. Forgiving enables you to move on and get past the hurt.
Fifteenth, return to nature. This is a great way to reconnect with your soul. Just take a few minutes, go outside, breathe in deeply, and look at the birds, the trees and the grass.
Sixteenth, get your sleep. Research has shown that adults need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep. Adolescents need 9 to 9 1/2 hours per night. No more, no less. If you are too far on either side, you are playing with fire. Sleep too little you risk exhaustion. Sleep too much, you risk lethargy and depression.
Seventeenth, do something for someone else. Altruism is perhaps the most powerful way to snap your mind out of a funk. Focus on someone besides yourself.
To sum up, there are at least fifteen things you can do immediately to pull yourself up and out of a funk. These include taking supplements such as Omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and ginseng, getting your 8 hours of sleep, daily exercise, staying in the present moment, and more. Remember to welcome the feelings that you have. Dont repress them. That leads to physical troubles such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Rather, be aware of them, listen to them, and let them go. Think of yourself as a net through which emotions pass and not as a container for feelings.
More information on sadness and depression and ways to overcome them may be found at the Guide To Self website at http://www.guidetoself.com.
Guide To Self(C) 2005-10.