How many of you are wondering what happen to the summer. It is now the first of October and while we still can have many nice days I am dreading the coming of winter. The winter blahs have always been part of my life come January or February but it feels like they are coming early this year. Maybe is because I was not able to do some of the things I wanted to do this summer because of time restraints and other problems, maybe it is because of other things I am dealing with, maybe it is the four deaths of family and friends last month, maybe it is not knowing how the holidays are going to be this year because of family issues or maybe it is time to evaluate some of my meds again. Whatever it is, I am not happy about it.
Finding the website Positively Sunny positivelysunny.com
could not have happened at a better time. Even better was a blog titled “The ‘blues’ may not be just in your head” by Kay Allison. Below is what I read.
“Therefore, you can’t think your way out of feeling down. Einstein said, ‘Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.’ If negative thoughts are running amok in your head, perhaps you need something more than positive sayings to change your mind. I do believe that positive thinking can be a powerful tool, but on its own it’s not sufficient to the task of helping me be fundamentally a happy woman.
I have had the propensity to struggle with feeling down since I was a little girl. I remember feeling sad and lonely at the age of four, the summer my family started camping. On those camping trips, my dad (normally very quiet and withdrawn) read aloud in front of the campfire at night. He read greatly compelling stories like The Hobbit or The Count of Monte Cristo with dramatic gusto and enthusiasm. Being four, I was put to bed mid-story because it was getting late. Night after night, I crept out of my sleeping bag into the corner of that cold, lonely canvas tent nearest to the fire so I could at least overhear some of the warmth and uncharacteristic liveliness of my dad. Being alone and separated made me feel so abandoned and rejected, I still get a lump in my throat thinking about it.
So, did I feel down because of the situation or did I feel down because I was already biologically predisposed?
On the physiological side:
A few years ago, I learned that people who struggle with the blues are likely to have similar physiological “bio-markers” or blood chemistry.
• For instance, many people who have mood issues have high levels of homocysteine (for which there is a blood test. Kathleen Johnson (my nutritionist partner at Positively Sunny) and Dr. Molly Roberts, a practitioner of integrated medicine, taught me that homocysteine goes up when you don’t get enough of the B vitamins folic acid, B6 and B12. High homocysteine levels have been found in people with depression. Although many labs consider a level under 15 to be normal, under 9 is optimal. Taking supplemental B vitamins (B6, B12 and folic acid) can help physiologically with this issue.
• Another bio-marker for depression is a low level of vitamin D (another blood test, this time for 25-hydroxy vitamin D). According to Kathleen, good results are over 50 nmol. If your level is under 20 (as mine was when I had it tested initially), it’s considered insufficient. I asked Kathleen to identify supplements that would help me address this issue and the B vitamin issue both. Because she wasn’t been able to find something she felt completely happy with, I asked if we could create a supplement that would combine the antidote for low levels of vitamin D along with the B vitamins to create something that would help with these mood issues.
• Thyroid malfunctions can also cause issues with mood. This is another battery of tests that your doctor can help you with. If you do have thyroid problems, your doctor can prescribe a program of action and intervention to address those issues.
• Last, clinical depression is thought to be related to hormones and other chemicals in your blood stream. I have been prescribed anti-depressants and I am grateful that I live in an age when they are available.
Through my own experience (corroborated by clinical studies), I’ve found that mood issues are triggered by stress and anxiety. It’s a one-two punch. First I’m anxious and stressed out, and then I’m down and struggling. I was on this anxiety-depression teeter-totter constantly for a while. Movement, regular movement, has been a stabilizing antidote for me. Today, I crave the endorphins and the vitamin D I get from sweating outside. What started as a way to look hot and not get fat has now become my way off the see-saw between anxiety and depression. Moving my body contributes to my fundamental level of happiness.
So, physically I am predisposed for mood issues. The good news is that there are ways to intervene with these physiological issues. Upon reflection, I also realize that I felt down as that little girl of four because I was disconnected on all kinds of levels: spiritual, communal and with nature.
Spirituality and Connection
I’m down when I’m cut off from the sunlight of the spirit. When I don’t have a clear channel to my spiritual source, I am more easily irritated. I’ve developed a spiritual practice that I engage in on a daily (or well, mostly daily) basis.
I honestly work to integrate my spirituality into all of my actions, acting in alignment with spiritual principles.
Being disconnected to the spirituality of nature contributes to my feeling down. Living in a place where I can see the mountains every day allows me to connect with something greater than myself. Those mountains were here for thousands of years before me, and God willing, they’ll be here for thousands of years after I die. It helps me transcend my own petty issues.
Creating community and connecting with people on a heart level is also a part of my spiritual practice. And one of the reasons I’m writing this blog.
Positive Thinking as a Spiritual Practice
I don't mean to minimize the power of positive thinking. I am a big fan of the Power through Constructive Thinking by Emmet Fox. Emmet Fox was a spiritual teacher in the early 1930’s in America, and his ideas profoundly influenced Bill Wilson, one of the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous and author of the book by the same name. He points to a spiritual law of substitution. That means changing your thinking by substituting a spiritual, positive thought for every negative thought you become aware of. It’s a powerful practice, spiritual in nature, which helps me simply change my mind.
A Complex Problem Needs a Multi-Faceted Solution
Feeling down stems from a variety of causes and conditions. So it makes sense that there is no “silver bullet,” one-dimensional solution. I have woven together our four basic principles to create a tapestry of fundamental happiness in my life, and I believe it can work for you, too. Eating positively, moving joyfully, acting spiritually and tracking vigilantly create a new level of awareness… the new level of awareness necessary to solve our negative thinking.”
I can so relate to some things she has written here but especially the anxiety-depression teeter-totter thought. Have also not been feeling the best. Have been trying to decide if it was because of the depressed mood or if there was something else wrong. After reading this have decided maybe a visit to the doctor is in order and will have a discussion about the physiological side of things. Have dealt with depression enough over the years, should know better than to ignore my body signals. However the other half has a problem with the D word and all that goes with it. (A topic for another time) Do have friends to talk to but it is time to find some answers and take my life back.
It is time to find the sun of life from behind the trees/teeter-totter of life.
It is time to "Open Up Your Heart And Let The Sun Shine In"