You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings.Elizabeth Gilbert
I adore this quote by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s a reminder of how temporary and transient moments of happiness or feelings of “arrival” can be. As soon as we feel like we have achieved it, completed it, or gotten “there” (wherever “there” is), the moment fades. Other feelings, like sadness, stress, unworthiness, and fear might creep in. This is normal- this is life. And it can feel 10x more intense if you suffer from depression.
When we think about depression, often the first thing that comes to mind is chemical imbalance (particularly serotonin). A lot of research has been done about what causes depression, and evidence points to the idea that the relationship among brain chemistry, mood, thinking, and behavior is such that the arrows of causation point in both directions, not just one (Kirk Strosahl & Patricia Robinson, The Mindfulness & Acceptance Workbook for Depression).
Put simply, this means that behaviors impact brain chemicals, and brain chemicals also impact behaviors. It’s a reciprocal relationship.
It’s really difficult to say that depression is exclusively caused by a chemical imbalance- because how we move, what we ingest, what we watch on TV, and what we think about all directly impact our brain chemistry on a daily basis. It’s both.
We all have genes that we are born with that predispose us to certain things, which include mental health conditions; however, your environment on daily basis directly impacts how these genes are expressed. You can start doing things today to change how your genes express themselves. Through meditation, for instance, your brain waves change. They enter a more restful state that allows for healing to occur in the body and for stress hormones to calm the heck down. How cool is that?? Our brains are amazing.
This is good news for those suffering with depression.
How you behave impacts your brain chemistry- meaning that you do not have to be a passive bystander to the current state of your brain and what’s going on in there. This means that there is something you can do about the way you feel, rather than committing yourself to the belief that your brain is unchangeable, and that you have to live with these feelings forever. Our brains are plastic and ever-changing.
In order to cultivate more joy, happiness, and freedom, sometimes it requires being relentless in the pursuit of feeling even just a little bit better.
Some days you might just wake up feeling mentally or physically horrible. Take note of the feelings, offer them non-judgmental acceptance, and be open to what messages your feelings carry. Give them space to be.
AND…When your feelings have had their time (whether that be hours, days, weeks, or even years), eventually you will reach a moment where you might decide it’s time to shift gears and focus on even small steps in the direction of healing.
That’s when the RELENTLESSNESS comes in. Some days, that might mean taking a few deep breaths and telling yourself you’re doing great. Other days, that might be yoga, singing at the top of your lungs in the car to the emo music you loved in high school (Empty Apartment by Yellowcard is my personal favorite song to belt out in the car when I’m stressed) or journaling all that hard stuff out. Sometimes it’s all of those things, repeatedly, in order to get through the day. And maybe you cry a few times throughout that process because damn, this shit is hard, and painful, and it’s not easy. Maybe every hour you have to take a second to give yourself a pat on the back for getting through.
Let me be clear- depression and any form of mental illness is a battle every day. It’s not as simple as just “trying harder to feel better.”
Because no one chooses these feelings. What I hope you take away from this is the idea that there are things you can intentionally and strategically do to improve your mood state even just slightly. I doesn’t mean it’s simple or easy. But the bottom line is, we have to start changing this myth that we are passive receivers when it comes to our health.
We can do things every day to impact our health, change our brain chemistry, boost our immunity, and strengthen our bodies.
You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings.
Back to my girl Elizabeth G. for a minute. We have got to participate relentlessly in our lives, every day, in order to cultivate more goodness. It’s not a passive act. It’s not luck. It’s repeatedly doing the hard thing. And when you keep doing the hard thing, and pushing the limits of what you think you can do, and learning new ways to take care of your mind and body, you start to see change. It creates a domino effect that can lead you to places you never thought you could go.
Part of my job is to share novel ideas, cutting-edge research, and information about how we can take charge of our mental & physical health, and ultimately our lives. Stay tuned for the next post with some tips about how to be relentless in your pursuit of feeling better, and I would love to hear from you if you need some support in this process.