Category Archives: mental health

The Stories we tell Ourselves

Otto RainOtto, our puppy, needed to go out to potty today. He didn’t like the dreary, cold rain, so I sat him in his doggie play-pen and put an umbrella over the side of it. He still wasn’t happy.

These events made me think about the change in weather and seasons and how before you know it, it will be winter and then Otto will really hate going outside to poop.

For a person with a mood disorder the change in seasons can trigger symptoms. Winters used to affect me greatly, but not as much these days. I suppose some of this is due to changes in physiology and brain chemistry, but I also believe having a positive attitude and practicing an ounce of prevention can play a role. Now I look at winter differently.

It’s a time to try new chili or soup recipes in the crock pot, or watch lots of movies with my family since we are all inside more. It’s an opportunity for reflection and taking stock of what and who I’m grateful for, especially around the holidays. Candles are better on dark days and listening to Billie Holiday in the winter makes me nostalgic for my grandparents and for a time period I never lived in.

For preventing the winter blahs, I also have some strategies in self-care:

  1. Sitting under my sunlamp in the morning and using the time to meditate or read would be good.
  2. I can take Vitamin D. This is the vitamin we get from the sun. It helps with immune functioning too.
  3. Speaking of immune functioning, I can do everything possible to avoid the flu or a sinus infection. (Being physically sick makes me more vulnerable to depression).
  4. It’s a perfect time for me to try different hot teas. There are tons of varieties and certain decaf selections like chamomile are useful for calming.
  5. I can enjoy the changing color palate of nature while going for a walk. If I kick it in, I will get a serotonin boost too.

Don’t get me wrong. I know winter in places like the Midwest can be tough. In fact I

recently dusted off an essay I had written last winter about how on a bleak, cold day I had to trek to the grocery store and wasn’t happy about doing the mundane chore in the elements. Everyone shopping that day also seemed to be in a “blah” mood. Looking back, maybe I should have just used the experience as an opportunity to be nicer to the people around me in the store.

A therapist once told me, “It’s all about the stories we tell ourselves.” I can tell myself that the end of summer sucks, and rainy days suck, and winter weather and winter colds seem to last forever. Or I can tell myself a different story about how the changing colors of leaves are breathtaking and bare trees with snow on their branches are magical. I can remind myself the taste of peppermint tea is strangely wonderful, and the smell of veggie chili in our kitchen makes me feel content.

What story are you going to tell yourself as the seasons change?




Doppel Disco

Doppel DiscoThe opening guitar riff in “Sweet Home Alabama,” the drum solo by Kenny Aronoff in “Jack and Diane,” and listening to artists I love who possess amazing vocal ranges like Johnny Cash, Joni Mitchell, and Prince makes me happy. Who can’t be transported by the husky growl of Barry White or the upbeat songs from Saturday Night Fever where you can hear the high pitch harmonizing that can only be achieved by the brothers Gibb?

What is it about music that cheers me up?

Listening to familiar, well-liked songs can release dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is considered to be a “pleasure chemical,” and is a neurotransmitter stemming from the striatum, the same part of the brain that is associated with deriving pleasure from food and sex.

While I’m not condoning drug use, this makes me think of the phrase “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll,” which stemmed from the Ian Drury single, but went on to massive usage.

There was a time when I was manic and the last thing I needed was more dopamine in my brain. I listened to my iPOD so loud that now, years later, I’m pretty sure I’m experiencing hearing loss. Perhaps I should have appreciated music then in moderation, but when you’re as manic as I was, nothing is done in moderation.

A quote from Elton John is, “Music has healing power. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours.”  It definitely has the ability to transport you. For me, listening to music combined with physical activity such as power cleaning is a great way to break through a funk.