Emotional Health and Well Being.

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.

Four Dimensions of Ourselves

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“.

Rumination is bad for you; Meditation helps

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.

Resources:-

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.

Leave a comment

15 Comments

  1. Michelle

     /  November 22, 2011

    Thank you Dr. Chana. In the busy world we live in it’s easy to get caught up in our own negative emotions and to start feeling down, or to use anger as a way to defend ourselves against the world. I really like your words in method #10, and look forward to hearing more about your views on the connection between our health and faith and spirituality.

    Reply
    • The connection between between health , faith and spirituality is very important. It deserves more attention, maybe in the future I will do in depth post.
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      Reply
  2. Anonymous

     /  November 22, 2011

    Lovely blog H,

    “Being willing to feel one’s feelings is the only way through.” This was a statement made by a monk we know. He was referring to becoming free from the unsatisfactoriness we all experience, even subtly. Everything has an ending. In the birth of a child we often experience a most profound moment of joy witnessing such innocence, and yet there is a bit of sadness knowing that at some point he/she will be asking for car keys.

    Recognizing that the challenging emotions (which are immaterial and impermenant), will pass, is a first step. Knowing that our true self is a state of contentment and balance is the reassurance that this state can be reclaimed. Your suggestions of exploring the things for which a person is grateful and focussing on the positives helps to elevate from that toxic victim place and gives hope. People find so many ways to shift this place – exercise, meditation, acupuncture, Reiki, connectioning with supportive friends, extending, giving. All of these require intention and awareness, an important key to wellbeing. Isn’t it interesting that finding homeostasis, the place of contentment, our natural state requires commitment and determination (in the ancient language of Pali they call this Adhittana). It is so revealing about what habits we have cultivated and reinforced.

    Those mischievious little neuropeptides and the dance through entropy.

    Looking forward to more musings
    L

    Reply
  3. Doug Laver

     /  November 22, 2011

    Excellent insight! This idea of rumination being like an addiction had never occurred to me before. I also am looking forward to a book by Emilie White, which I heard about while listining to the radio, during one of my many recent sleepless nights, while ruminating. I have asked myself what these sleepless nights are about. Addiciton, depression, or maybe even loneliness! Thanks for the list of alternate strategies.

    Reply
    • Thank you for sharing your experience with us, also read Dr Weils book- spontaneous happiness. He talks about htis addiction.

      Reply
  4. Lisa C.

     /  November 22, 2011

    Dr. Chana,

    If you were to ask me what makes me, or would make me truly happy, it would definitely be to be granted the gift of proper, natural sleep. The kind of sleep that children enjoy, effortlessly, after a long day of playing outside. The sleep a woman has prior to the birth of her children.
    Proper, refreshing sleep is something, that in my opinion, is truly rare. For, you see, you can turn off the t.v., and the radio, send the kids to Grandma’s and unplug the phone, but how do you shut off your mind…….naturally?
    Sleep is such a beautiful, free gift, and so many people are not able to benefit from that blessed, uninterrupted peace. I LOVE to sleep, but seldom can I attain the kind of restorative rest that my body, and mind so dearly crave. Pharmaceuticals assist with this, of course, but this quality of sleep is dim compared to that of natural sleep.
    I have always likened sleep to life’s “pause” button….or considering the circumstance, it can also be life’s “fast-forward”. Proper sleep allows you to take a healthy break from the situation at hand, or it allows time to pass without the stress of watching the clock….and waiting………
    Sleep is always on my mind, from the time I wake up, until I jump into bed that evening.
    To me, true happiness does not come to me in the form of children, or money or fond memories, it comes after I wake up, feeling refreshed and renewed, smiling to myself knowing that I was blessed with a great night’s sleep. With a good rest under my belt, I can take on anything that life throws at me, without having to do so by fighting my way through the groggy haze that encircles me when I don’t sleep well…..if at all.
    Recent surveys have shown that most women prefer sleep to sex. Everybody has their own opinion on this, but I can totally see why rest is prefered to intimacy. Less fuss, more satisfying (at times). Sex you can get almost anywhere…..natural sleep….not so much.

    Thanks for allowing me to put my two cents in. Now, to try and get some sleep………..

    Reply
    • Lisa, Thank you for sharing what would make you happy. Having restful sleep is the very foundation of being happy. If we are not rested and feeling energized it is hard to imagine what would make one happy other then get a good rest. Sex would be the last thing I would want if I am deprived of sleep and proper rest. But once all the basic needs are met would that make a person happy? I am not sure. Happiness I think is much more then just having the basic needs satisfied. It is something to do with functioning well in any situation, that requires some insight and wisdom which takes a life time to cultivate.

      Lisa if you are having difficulty with sleep, you may want to try acupuncture or SAMe or Melatonin after after discussing it over with your doctor.

      Reply
  5. larry derkach

     /  November 22, 2011

    This is the best, most practical list I have seen for dealing with insidious habits and patterns of behaviour that work against sustainable mental health. Thank you. I wish I had had some of this understanding when I was dealing with serious depression 15 years ago, and had only medications to keep me functioning at all. But they are tools I can use today.

    Reply
  6. Jim Demas

     /  November 23, 2011

    Dr. H, good for you to take the time and effort to provide this kind of information. Your list of things to help people is very comprehensive. The best part is its simplistic nature. People have a better chance of making a change when something is explained in a simple manner, without big words. Over the course of my life, I have had two books that helped turn a corner and they contained many of your points.

    Look forward to seeing more. Cheers and regards. Jim Demas

    Reply
  7. Hi Dr. Chana! It’s Sable! Nadia’s friend 🙂 She sent me a link to your blog and I look forward to reading and following more of your posts!

    Reply
  8. thank you, I needed that

    Reply

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