Finding your Balance
Updated: Sep 17, 2019
We can affect, but cannot control, what happens to us in life. We can, however, reduce the distress we experience when things don’t go the way we would like them to.
We're going to look at some things you might do to help you maintain a healthy balance.
There is a negative correlation between our level of serotonin (released when we experience pleasure) and the level of cortisol (released when we are stressed). As our Serotonin level increases, our cortisol level reduces.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for rewarding behaviour, reinforcing behaviour and balancing moods.
Effective Coping Strategies
It is important to use a variety of coping strategies to manage life’s inevitable ups and downs. Relying exclusively on a particular strategy, or using it for too long, results in our chemical receptors becoming desensitised, setting up a cycle of diminishing returns that reinforces thoughts that “nothing works” and increases our feelings of helplessness.
Serotonin responds to novelty. Essentially, the brain gets a bit of a boost in order to process new experiences. So changing up the experience stimulates the release of serotonin and lifts your mood. Using our five senses, and words that describe the thoughts and feelings that arise when we experience different sensations, we can train ourselves to break some of the negative cycles that drain the energy and joy out of our lives. Combining different sensations, increases the effect - Listening to bird song is good, listening to bird song while lounging in the sun in a sweet-smelling meadow is better...
Herbs, spices, honey, dark chocolate, lips, skin
Cut grass, wood shavings, honeysuckle
Sunsets, distant hills, faces of models
Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Major
petals, warm sand, smooth skin, soft skin
When we are depressed we often don’t feel like doing anything, find it hard to decide what to do each day and can end up doing very little.
Make a list of things you want to do. Then plan out an action list, start off with the easiest task at first and don’t aim too high. For example: aim to walk for 15 minutes rather than a half-marathon, or wash the dishes rather than spring clean the whole house. Don’t set yourself up to fail! You can build up your activity over time.
Work through your action list and tick off what you’ve done. At the end of the day you’ll be able to look back and see what you’ve achieved.
On your daily action plan write down all events of the day, put a B next to those which have given you sensual pleasure and an A next to those activities where you felt you achieved something and did well (and don’t forget L, A, N, C and E!)
Laughter (and Tears)
We hear a lot about the science telling us that laughter is good for us, but we don’t hear so much about the benefits of having a good cry.
Emotional tears contain leucine, enkephalin (associated with pain) and prolactin (associated with stress) and crying has been seen as a good way of getting rid of these chemicals.
Laughter increases the levels of immunoglobin in the blood and, after only a few moments of laughter, the levels of life-threatening sediments in the blood are reduced. Laughter also appears to intercept signals from the hypothalamus (concerned with emotion) to the frontal cortex (concerned with planning and decision making).
Negative feelings are normal. We all feel them. We will all continue to feel them at times.
To help start practicing willingness to accept negative feelings:
Notice when you start to feel the normal body response to unhelpful thoughts
Don’t struggle or fight with the feelings and thoughts, just let them be and they will pass
Vitamin B: The B-complex vitamins are essential to mental and emotional well-being. They cannot be stored in our bodies, so we depend entirely on our daily diet to supply them. Alcohol, refined sugars, nicotine, and caffeine destroy B-Complex vitamins, so it is no surprise that many people may be deficient in them.
Vitamin C: Subclinical deficiencies can produce depression, which requires the use of supplements. Supplementation is particularly important if you have had surgery or an inflammatory disease. Stress, pregnancy, and lactation also increase the body's need for vitamin C, while aspirin, tetracycline, and birth control pills can deplete the body's supply.
Magnesium: Deficiency can result in depressive symptoms, along with confusion, agitation, anxiety, and hallucinations, as well as a variety of physical problems.
Calcium: Low levels of calcium cause nervousness, apprehension, irritability, and numbness.
Zinc: Inadequacies result in apathy, lack of appetite, and lethargy. When zinc is low, copper in the body can increase to toxic levels, resulting in paranoia and fearfulness.
A large part of our sense of self is driven by group membership and social identity. If a drug provided that same level of improvement as social group therapy, you could sell it for a lot of money.
Makes us feel less tired
Improves our ability to think clearly
Distracts us from unhelpful thoughts
Uses up adrenaline
Gives us a sense of achievement
Stimulates the body to produce natural anti-depressants
Makes us more healthy
Stimulates our appetite