It strikes me that us modern-day humans have lost something.
We’ve lost our innate sense of self-responsibility when it comes to managing our mood and mindset.
Nowadays, rather than taking it upon ourselves to do something proactive to create a more positive state, we actively seek those labels of dis-ease and sink into them. We go to the doctor, get prescribed our chemicals and pop them with regularity, safe in the knowledge that we can’t help it — we need the medicines because we’re depressed and there’s nothing we can do about it.
Except there, is, isn’t there?
In all the years I spent working with shamans and medicine people, learning about those ancient tribal methodologies to regulate mood and promote self awareness and accountability, there was a huge amount of importance placed on taking control of our mindset and emotions. So much had to do with learning to know ourselves at a deeper level, so that we might control our thoughts, rather than our thoughts controlling us.
They’d have a whole raft of tools (many of which I now carry and use to help and support my clients) to help regulate and control our mindset and outlook and, instead of looking for external factors to blame, they’d take absolute ownership for everything in their lives, which enabled them to create change.
Prescriptions for change
Outside of working with spirit and energy (which might be a teensy bit too ‘woo’ for this article, though a fascinating subject to explore some other time), if someone was depressed, anxious, stressed, they’d be given tools and exercises to help them to take back control. The ‘prescription’ might include anything from creating habits to retrain the brain into a more appreciative mode (the same stuff so many modern-day practitioners talk about as if it’s some new invention to tap into the brain’s neuro plasticity), getting outdoors and connecting to nature, drinking more water, or dancing, singing or breathwork to change gear on an emotional and psychological level.
However much we come up with fancy new terms to ‘science up’ some of these techniques for a modern-day audience, people have been practising them for aeons!
Those old wise people probably didn’t know about neuro plasticity, endorphins, melatonin or circadian rhythms (or, at least, they wouldn’t have used that language), but they were using the tools decades before our boffins were ‘discovering’ them, creating training programmes and churning out therapists, apps and franchises.
Pills or pro-active positivity?
Let me make something crystal clear here — I’ve taken the anti-depressants route when I needed to, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Hey, never say never — if I couldn’t shift things enough on my own, I’d seek the professional support I needed. I’m big into complementary therapy, not alternative. Nothing needs to be binary here; we can use a mix of different tools — be they man-made supplements or natural exercises — to get to where we need to be. It’s all medicine.
What I’m saying is that instead of working to create the energy and mindset we need for more optimism, we’ve largely become used to popping a pill and becoming the label the medics have so kindly gifted to us.
If we’re ‘DEPRESSED’, for example, it doesn’t always mean we need to stay that way for life or that we can’t take positive action ourselves to help us come further into balance. Trouble is, I’m seeing far too many people not taking any self-responsibility outside of popping the pills at the right time every day.
We’ve become disconnected from our bodies. Our heads are ruling the show and getting more and more pissed off that our bodies aren’t doing what we want them to, even when we throw pills at them, or, maybe, a little bit of therapy and CBT.
If we were just willing to work towards healing our head/heart disconnect and recognising that, alongside the support from our doctors, we might also effect positive change by our own actions, I reckon we’d be well on the way to moving metaphorical mountains.
In very simple terms, our bodies are complex machines and, like any decent piece of kit, they have buttons to tap into different functionalities. The only difference is, our human form doesn’t have those keys clearly marked — we have to find them and learn how to switch between our different modes.
If you’re reading this and want to learn some tools to help improve your own mood, I’m going to share some with you now. Some of them might seem ridiculously simple, but give them a go anyway. I’m only sharing techniques that have worked for me — they might well work for you.
One word of warning — these are NOT a replacement for medical treatment, for those of you who are far enough along the path to be working with specialists or under your GP for treatment. Remember what I said about these not being an either/or. If you need to take prescribed drugs, take the prescribed drugs… just be willing to try some of these as well — you might find developing some new habits will help.
Oh, and one other tiny thing to bear in mind: if you have health conditions that exercise, or anything else mentioned here, might impact, please check with your doctor first.
Here goes — my list of simple techniques that might just improve your mood:
Change Body, Change State
This is one of the techniques I learned from those medicine people I worked with — and it’s precisely what I was doing when I grabbed that dumbbell. It doesn’t need to be a massive workout though. The concept is pretty simple: if you’re in a funk, the worst thing you can do is sit in it. Do something — anything — to move out of it. Get up and go for a walk. If walking’s an issue for you, do something with your arms — wave, clap, lift things, anything to get you moving. Dance. Exercise. Just move!
Drink More Water
I’ve written about this one before. I’m convinced that low mood can be connected to dehydration. And it’s not just me. Hit up Google! Studies have shown that dehydration may cause low mood, fatigue and depression. Have a drink of water first thing in the morning and get into the habit of having water close by to sip during the day. If your mood starts to dip, drink more water. One other point here — look at how backwards we might have it: if we’re feeling tired, we grab a coffee, and we know caffeine is a diuretic, whilst it might actually be dehydration causing the fatigue. Try drinking more water instead of an americano.
I’ve found that writing it all out can help. I keep a ‘brain dump journal’ next to my bed and, if I wake up feeling overloaded, I pick up the journal and pen and just start writing. Don’t think about what you’re going to write and don’t edit yourself — just let it flow until you come to a natural stop.
There’s loads of research to suggest that getting outdoors and reconnecting to nature can positively impact your mood and overall health. Look up ‘forest bathing’ and ‘earthing’ for starters. Really connect with all that is around you. Don’t stop to take that picture for Insta — that’s a different kind of connection, and not the one we’re seeking here! Thinking of all I learned on the medicine path, the different elements all carry different teachings too — water represents the flow of emotion, for instance. Let the air blow those cobwebs away and get some natural light and warmth from the sun too. There are so, so many benefits to getting away from technology and into nature.
One of the tools I learned early on when I was learning about shamanism and the medicine path was to list five things I appreciate every morning. Just five things I’m grateful for. It could be as simple as my cat’s purr to the smell of fresh baking bread, having limbs that work or sunshine peeping through the curtains. If we form a habit of listing five, or more, things we appreciate every morning, we start to train our mind to be more positive. This is one of those techniques people connect with neuro plasticity, yet it’s been around for far, far longer.
Yep, I know I mentioned it in the first point, but this is just about exercise in its own right. Whether it’s joining a gym, working with a personal trainer (I do this for accountability, more than anything else), doing Couch To 5K, walking, or working out at home, exercise releases all those endorphins we spoke about earlier, and that can have a really positive impact on your mental health.
Please remember that none of these points should be used in place of speaking to a professional. Speak to your GP if you need to. Talk to friends and family if you’re feeling low. Tap into one of the multitude of support organisations in your part of the world.
Don’t try to bottle everything up when there are so many people and groups ready to help and support you.
This article is not intended to replace medical advice and, again, for the record, I’m not a doctor — I’m just someone who’s been through the mill and threw herself into learning how to feel better in future and help others do the same.
I hope this helps you too.
Until next time,