In my last post on physical health I said it was hard to seperate it from the emotional health because they both effect each her. When we are physically unwell or in discomfort it is more likely our emotions are going to be impacted negatively. People with chronic medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, chronic back pain, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease have much high incident of depression then those that are physically healthy. Moreover,the people who are depressed tend to have worse outcome when recovering from any disease; for instance depressed people who suffered an heart attack will have worse prognosis as compared to those that are not depressed. Although the physical and the emotional sides are intricately linked , today I will be looking at cultivating healthy emotions that are likely to make people feel happy and content.
Most people have experienced recurring thoughts after having an argument with someone or ended a relationship under not so pleasant circumstances. We keep brooding over the situation and playing out different scenarios , if only I didn’t say that, if only I made more effort, if only I hugged more , or if only I was more help in the kitchen or in the garden, or if only I appreciated more what was done for me or if only I was more interesting, cleaver or witty etc; these never ending streams of possible ‘if only I’ continue for ever into the late hours of the night, you can’t sleep , then from nights it spills over into day , then weeks and months. If after this process of deep reflection one reaches a conclusion that there are no solutions to the problem and moves on, then there is good chance that the low-mood will improve. However, if the the processes continues even after one has come to the conclusion that there are no solutions then it becomes like an addiction, one just can’t stop going over the same theme over and over until all the useful , happy thoughts get crowed out of the mind , and this leads to much unhappiness, then to fear, anxiety and despair. This process actually has a name, it called “Depressive Rumination“.
The question is how does on get themselves out of this vicious cycle? Well there are ways and they work too! The methods I have listed are based on the various schools of psychological tradition; the positive psychology , cognitive behaviour psychology , mindfulness – based cognitive behaviour psychotherapy and eastern psychology. I will not go into details about them here but if someone asks by leaving a comment on the blog that they would like more details, then I will write in the future post. For now, I will just list the methods for getting out of the depressive rumination, and move towards the road to happiness. These methods require practice and some effort to get the most benefit.
1.Write a gratitude letter to someone who have been kind to you and then read the letter to them. This causes immediate feeling of happiness.
2. Write down three good things that are going well and the reason why for one week . This provides even longer lasting feeling of happiness.
3.Care for others. There are many studies showing that the happiest people are those who devote their lives to caring for others. Recently one volunteer at the hospital told me that she forgets about her problems when she volunteers and she feels so happy to have left her problems behind for few hours. Our society has become too self focused; such that we don’t even know our neighbours.
4.Focus on breathing. Feel the breath go in and out of your body, this will help to take your focus of unpleasant thoughts. It will relax and calm you.
5.Developing attention and concentration by focusing on the breath or by visualization; this in fact is meditation. These skill of attention and concentration is important because in those that have wondering attention tend to be sad . Instead of letting our mind wonder into the past memories and future fantasies, good attention and concentration bring the mind back to the reality of the present. This in fact is being mindful. Mindfulness helps deal with emotional problems, it can also make you more efficient,and skillful in anything you undertake, improves your relationships and allows you experience life more fully.
6. Avoid sounds that upset you and surround yourself with the sounds that make you feel good. One of my friend used to get annoyed with me every time I visited her with my cell phone still on; I changed my ways and both of us felt the peace of not being interrupted by the sound of my awful cell phone. Until she pointed it out to me I was used to carrying the cell phone with me all the time. I only realized how peaceful it was without it after I turned it off for the whole weekend. I was a blissful time. I have become more sensitive to the noise pollution since then, I try to avoid loud noises of the city , I turn off the tv more often , I am working on avoiding the computer but to date that has been challenging. I am sensitive not to listen to the music that makes me feel sad. This was reinforced when I went to see an opera, the music was beautiful but was very sad and I was already feeling sad before I went to the opera. When I came out I was almost suicidal …only kidding…but quite sad. I now try to surround myself with more nurturing nature sounds, bird sounds, sound of water fountain or the sound of the wind by the river.
7.Avoid watching bad news on TV or at least limit it, I don’t like senseless violent movies or horror movies either, they just don’t make me feel good.
8. Avoid information overload. Sometimes you end up picking so much irrelevant information your brain doesn’t no what to do with it, and has to sort out what is useful and what to ignore. It is tiring and you always feel as though you are rushing to keep up. So I try to ignore useless information overload.
9. Social isolation can be a major contributor to depression because by default we tend to slip into depressive thoughts and get addicted to ruminating. Good company and social interaction support emotional well being by stopping the depressive rumination . In the city even though there are lot of people there isn’t much social interaction because people are too focussed on themselves.
10. Cultivate spirituality by practicing your faith, by connecting with nature, by relating to your companion pets, by appreciating art and beauty, by putting others first but not to the point of your own detriment, by practicing empathy and compassion, by practicing forgiveness, by smiling and laughing, by cultivating silence, by choosing the right company and by feeling and expressing gratitude.
11. If, after trying all or most of the above suggestions, you are still feeling sad or not at peace then working with an psychologist maybe worth while. They may be able to change your pattern of thinking so that it doesn’t give rise to negative feeling and behaviour.
Until the next time, be happy and healthy.
Spontaneous Happiness ; by Andrew Weil
Mindsight -the new science of personal transformation ; by Daniel J. Siegel
PS: I will be posting articles either once or twice a week depending on the time availability.