I am a firm believer in a layered approach to productivity, living a healthier and potentially happier life. A layered approach to progress is like living in snow country. When it’s 30 below zero (I’ve actually lived in such conditions) you have to dress in layers. It’s the same when it comes to addressing a stable emotional, spiritual, mental and physical life. Some of you might only need a couple of layers, while some of us might need several. After all, everyone handles cold weather differently.
Locals might be so used to the weather, that they’re almost immune. Others can live in the same area for the same amount of time and can never get used to how cold it is. Then there are times when it’s so damn cold, that wearing layers is the difference between life and death, no matter if you claim to be thick skinned or not. My main pursuit is happiness, as my main struggle has been my ongoing battle with depression. I know many creative people and artists who struggle with depression. But what I learned is that it really does take a layered approach. You have to try every angle and you have to tackle each life area and analyze it, to see if there’s something that can be improved.
I wrote recently about how gratitude doesn’t erase depression. No, not solely, anyway, but that doesn’t mean that gratitude in conjunction with other approaches can’t help. And even if it’s the slightest advancement, you’re still taking baby steps towards improvement. You can’t go wrong with progress. Even the smallest victories ought to be celebrated.
One of the hardest things is reining in your thought process, especially when the waves of despair wash over you. It can happen at any time and does not need triggering from traumatic experiences or circumstances. Your despair can feel the exact same way as if someone had just died. Inside, the body doesn’t know any different. But, it’s the same with triggering joy and happiness. You can be as happy as someone who just won the lottery and you might not have a penny to your name. Your internal body doesn’t know the difference. It’s the same emotional resonance.
Neuroscientists have discovered that the same area in your brain lights up when you are doing drugs as when you are in love. They can literally look at two brain scans and not tell the difference. Your body cannot tell the difference, either. Researchers found that your orbitofrontal cortex, the area associated with pleasure and arousal, is triggered regardless of the emotion. You can feel fear, sadness, happiness or whatever and the same region of the brain is activated.
This proves my point that the smallest of things can seemingly feel the same as something that might be a huge catastrophe. This is why it’s essential to understand how vital it is to take small steps towards changing up your approach towards your mental health goal. This can equally be true when it comes to personal and professional goals. Einstein said it best, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different response.” It’s essential to listen to your body and to pay attention to clues. When you are hungry, your body tells you that it’s hungry. You might even feel light-headed. Some of us can equally get grumpy. So, you listen to your body and eat. When you’re tired, your body tells you. Low mood is essentially low energy because everything is energy. So, if you are feeling melancholy it is a clue. Your body is telling you something.
I found that it’s good to act. Move. Take action. I try to evaluate each area: Mental, physical, spiritual and emotional. If I feel that dark, gloomy cloud approaching I go for a walk. If I’ve already gone for a walk, I see if I can read something positive or uplifting. I talk to or text a friend. I listen to an inspirational podcast or Ted Talk. I work on a project that makes me feel productive.
Recently, in trying this approach I found that those dark clouds dissipate and the sun breaks through. I also just started taking a super complex B vitamin, liquid vitamin B12, 5-HTP (which helps increase serotonin levels in the brain) and Mucuna pruriens, which help to balance mood. I additionally take a multi-vitamin, Omega 3 and extra vitamin D because it also helps greatly with serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain. These are all natural. Therapy and medication if need be equally helps. But, personally I feel that medication should be reserved as a final resort. Whatever you do, don’t stop doing everything else that helps as well.
The Bottom Line:
All of the combined adds to the layered approach towards healing. Some things might not work alone. But, you can bring all your coping mechanisms together to create a decent plan towards, at the very least, alleviating drops in mood. Small steps might not feel like they are working initially, but over time if you work at it a little bit each day you’ll get to a point eventually where it gets easier. I haven’t mastered any of this. I really mean it when I say it truly takes daily effort. Just like you, I have to eat and sleep every single day when my body tells me to. It takes tenacity and hard work to fight for your right to be happy because our emotions can often trick our brains into thinking that we’re not capable of it. I believe that happiness and a balanced mood is possible. But, there’s just not one magic formula or pill or mantra for it, unfortunately.