Tag Archives: sadness

From Intent.com: Feeling the Sadness

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Much like the ocean, the mind is a vast world inside of our bodies- we have yet to fully understand it’s depths or its full power. Scientists still seek to understand the full effects of nature versus nurture, the distant impacts of our family tree on our behavior or how exposure to artificial light is changing our sleep patterns. Mental health has been a huge subject in our world recently as all sorts of variables (diet, hormones, random acts of God, etc) collide in creating sometimes highly volatile moments of experience. We are getting used to words like “depression” or “bipolar disorder” because we’re finding countless more friend, family and colleagues who live with them. If no one comes to mind, it is reported that 14.8 million adults in the US are affected by depression in any given year.

So what do we do? Continue reading

What Do You Do When You’re Down?

Depressed“If you had just a minute to breathe and they granted you one final wish, would you ask for something like another chance?” –Traffic

 

Life is a journey with many twists and turns, switchbacks and cliffs. And even though we can intellectualize that there will be ups and downs, why is the idea of falling or failing (as some people see it) so terrifying?

Because of competition we internalize being “right,” doing things “right” as the basis of our self worth, and the very reason why anyone else would want to be with us. But to be perfectly right and do everything perfectly right means we don’t take any real risks or chances. Then there we are, toiling away at a ho-hum existence, wondering what the hell it’s all for?

As I inched closer to my late twenties I found that all the parties, work, money and vacations in the world did little to mask a very sickly feeling I couldn’t shake. It was the feeling of regret. I wasn’t even thirty and I already had regrets! Yikes! I had regret for not being true to myself and living the life that felt good for me. For years I unconsciously kept the charade of my perfect-looking life going, even to myself, and wondered why I felt dead inside, unable to see my creations were based on what I thought everyone else expected of me.

And then – because sooner or later the chickens always come home to roost – I fell far from the image of perfection I’d gotten used to portraying, and a most surprising thing happened – I landed on my feet.

Ok, I hit the ground hard and bounced a few times, before I landed on my feet. But it was then that I realized one of life’s universal truths. It doesn’t matter how many times you fall; it matters what you do when you’re down.

The single thing that allowed me to land on my feet was the willingness to change. The very definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. It was the willingness to let go of being “right” and “perfect” which opened me up to one of the planet’s most secret treasures – ART. I shudder sometimes remembering LBA: Life Before Art. It was a dark place, mucked up with fear, competition and apathy. If you’ve been following along for awhile, you know I didn’t believe myself to have one single creative bone in my entire body for the first 31 years of my life. But, as I bounced, I discovered not feeling creative stems from, really, really wanting to be perfect and right. The truth is creativity is an innate human quality. It is a flow of energy that courses through our bodies and needs to be expressed. When we aren’t expressing we literally don’t feel like were enough, and attempt to fill ourselves up with more stuff: more work, more lovers, more clothes, more money, and so on.

Whereas in the throws of inspiration I’ve found there is no place I’d rather be and there’s nothing I’m lacking. To express creatively means getting comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. If you can suspend your judgment and give yourself permission to be the beginner, it’s the place where your life begins. Life gets exciting when we take chances because it’s there in that vulnerable moment and the triumph over that discomfort where we expand our vision of self. It’s the place where we grow, come alive and feel inspired! It’s the place where we want to shout “Yes! This is who I am and why I’m here!”

I’d be fooling myself if I thought my path didn’t have many more impending twists and turns, and cliffs and switchbacks on the horizon, and I do get scared sometimes. But being scared and doing it anyway is my best understanding of courage. And I take comfort in knowing as long as I have the ability to evolve, adapt and be the beginner I’ll continue to land on my feet.

Are you in mid-fall? Bounce? Or have you landed for the moment?

From Intent.com: I intend to celebrate!

This Week: My intent is to celebrate!

Do not regret growing older.
It is a privilege denied to many.
-unknown

birthday
This summer has been a mess.

I left a new job and went back to a job with not enough hours to pay my bills. I upgraded from a studio apartment into a wonderful two bedroom apartment only to have to move a month later and found a new place with only 4 days to spare. I lost a grandfather and a grandmother. Between time, money and distance, I wasn’t at  either funeral. I cried a lot. I was very stressed. I probably made my friends wish they were deaf so they couldn’t hear my whining.

My birthday is on Friday. I turn 28. WHAT? Yes. It’s the oldest I’ve ever been.

Birthdays have always been a big deal in my family. That’s something for which I’m super grateful. After the past three months, I’m even more grateful for a time to stop and celebrate. I can start with the fact that I’m alive. Considering the number of people lost every year to disease, war, and random acts of God – making it another 365 days deserves some attention. It was 365 more days to call my mom so she could tell me what our family dogs had gotten into that day. It was 365 more days to go see comedy shows with my best friend and lay on a California beach just because. It was 365 more days to enjoy things like pumpkin pancakes and Easter candy and Thanksgiving dinner. Not everyone gets to say they’ve had 28 Christmases, 28 birthday parties, 28 anniversaries of waking up on this Earth another year.

I intend to celebrate because gratitude and happiness are good for your soul. There are legitimately terrible things that happen every day. In LA, sometimes it’s a struggle just to get groceries into your house without putting your back out. The unfortunate part is that terrible things have this way of being so loud and in your face. They seem bigger than the wonderful things, but trust me, they’re not. You can spend 24 hours focused on the dent on your bumper, the watered down coffee at work, the obnoxious person who just called to yell at you on the phone, or you can spend that same amount of time thinking about pictures of puppies on Instagram, drinking chai tea lattes with coffee ice cubes or telling someone how much you love them. You get the same amount of time everyday. Spend it thinking about things that won’t give you an ulcer or make your hair fall out.

I intend to celebrate because cake is good. And presents are good. And people you love paying for your dinner at fancy restaurants? Also good. Celebrate whether or not it’s your birthday. Because it’s good.

***

This is the inaugural post in MeLissa’s weekly column where she’ll explore the power of setting intents in her own life and for those around her. She will also news from Intent.com and guest intents that have inspired her. Want to be part of it? Sign up at Intent.com and start sharing your intents! 

3 Ways to Feel Loved When Your Relationship is Ending

relationship difficultiesMost of us have been trained to believe that when a relationship ends, we lose the love of the person who we once felt so loved by. This belief is an instant misery-creating lie that is simply not true. The truth is, love is impossible to lose. Yes, you feel pain because of this breakup, but not because you’ve lost your former person’s love. You hurt because endings of any kind are sad. You hurt because you have lost the dream of what could have been. You hurt because the loss stirs up your own fears and past pains. You hurt because there is an empty space in your life that wasn’t there before, a space that you’ve been told is the loss of love, but it’s not.

The space you feel is an opening for more love to come into your life – starting with the love you have for yourself, and then expanding to include all the love that the world is just salivating to give you. Love is everywhere, when you are open to receiving it, and when you know where to look. Opening to love can be hard during a breakup, but I know no better medicine than love for mending a bruised or broken heart.

If you are interested in taking yourself off the pain train and moving into a space where you can honor your sadness and at the same time feel more love, happiness and possibility, then read on and put these three Love-Generators to work for you:

1. Tell yourself the truth. You are not losing love. You are ending a relationship.

Do yourself a BIG favor and be honest about why your relationship ended, and don’t make it about love. Love is an easy excuse when you don’t want to be real about why your breakup is necessary to stay true to the most important partner in your life … you.

Love is indestructible. It may get masked or deeply buried under feelings of anger and disappointment, but even in the most gnarly circumstances, love never disappears, it just goes into hiding.

Relationships are dynamic, they are always changing form, and sometimes in order to be happy, two people have to go their separate ways – which has nothing to do with love. Relationships end not because the love dies, but because the intimacy, trust, respect or connection fades, because the contract with each other completes, or because you each want and need different things from life. Not all relationships are meant to ‘be forever,’ if they were, you’d never meet anyone new.

Make a list of all the reasons why the ending of this relationship is GOOD for you, necessary for you to live the life you were destined to live. Then, take an act of self-love and state the reasons out loud. Self-honesty is self-love.

Know this. You are loved. Always. And that love, starts and end with you. It’s ridiculous to give the power of feeling loved away to another, when you have the power to feel loved at will inside of yourself.

2. Mourn the loss of the dream, not of the person. And remember your dream didn’t die.

We often cause ourselves more pain than needed during a breakup because we misplace our mourning energy and end up grieving more than we need. We’ve already established that the love lives on, so you can take “loss of love” off your mourning list. You can also take off ‘grieving the loss of my ex-person’ – because they are not dead, they just aren’t sleeping next to you anymore. What is dying and important to grieve is the loss of the DREAM you had for this relationship. Your hopes, intentions and co-created dreams came to a crashing halt when the choice was made to end the partnership, and the loss of those dreams is where much of the pain lies. But when you aren’t clear that’s it’s the lost dream you are mourning, you get all caught up in trying to change and control things you can’t.

So be sad. Get angry. Move into acceptance and surrender that this particular dream is gone. But don’t stay stuck there. Keep your mind out of dramatic thoughts like “My relationship is over!” or “I’ll be alone forever!” or “What if he finds someone else and loves her more?” Thoughts like these create unnecessary pain – kind of like poking your tongue into fresh dental work. Ouch! It hurts. Don’t do it.

Move your focus from what you can’t control – bringing the old dream back – and dive into what you can, reconnecting with the dream you have for your life! The ending of one dream means the beginning of another, and you still have the power to dream forward the life your heart and soul want.

When you dream yourself forward, you create more love in your life because you are telling yourself that you are worth dreaming for. And you are. Yes, the dream of your former relationship may have ended, but your dreams for yourself didn’t, so why would you give up on yourself? If you aren’t dreaming yourself forward, who will? Love yourself enough to move towards your dreams.

3. Find proof that love exists everywhere. Fill your life with love.

While you might not be receiving the oodles of physical love you once did from your former mate, he/she is not the only love source on the planet. The worst thing you can do during a breakup is starve yourself from love… that is the surest way to get your Inner Mean Girl all riled up with rants like, “You’ll never be loved again.” Which of course, is a straight up lie.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to find proof of love and fill your life with it. You live on a planet that is abundantly full of love – it’s everywhere – and it’s your job to see it, ask for it, and let it in. The more love you surround yourself with, the more love you will feel, and the easier this transition will be for you.

Here is your shopping list of love generators. Put the list up somewhere you can see it, and make sure each week you are getting your fill.

  • Connection. Connection creates love. Be with people who love you. Not to talk about ‘the relationship’ or fix you but just to be with. Walk. Snuggle. Play. Let them love on you.
  • Smiles. Show those pearly whites to anyone you can – baristas, strangers, the person sitting next to you on the bus – and when they smile back, let the love in. When they don’t – and some won’t – smile anyway and send them love. A great way to feel love is to give it.
  • Music. No sappy love songs, only inspiring, uplifting music for you. Turn it on, dance it out. This is an instant way to turn your obsessive mind off and open your heart to love. India Arie is my fave.
  • Animals and Children. Like instant shots of love, hug a puppy, look into the eyes of a baby, pet a kitty, and just feel their innocence and love permeate your cells.
  • Self-Love. Do nice things for yourself. Take yourself on dates. Do the things you love. Take a risk. Remind yourself of why you love you. Make an I-Love-ME list – 108 reasons why you love you. Keep it in your purse, and on hard days, read it to yourself. Instant love.

Orignally posted in April, 2011.

 

How Do We Become Strong And Confident From Within?

jana and the surf

First, be one with yourself. Accept yourself. Love yourself. Society conditions, educates, and “civilizes” each of us in such a way that we begin to condemn ourselves. For example, society states that you should not be sad. You should be happy. If your truth is that you are sad, you repress the truth, and become something you are not; you become phony. This phony side of you is what society accepts. A division is created within yourself.

Psychological pain exists because you are divided, at war within yourself. As a result, life becomes complicated. When you lose touch with your inner truth, and are living from a divided self, pulled this way and that, by your desire to please and be accepted by others, you find yourself  lost, isolated, and deeply unhappy. You create challenges, adversity, and difficulties to keep yourself distracted and to   prove to yourself that you are worthy.
If, however, you are able to live your sadness with total authenticity, the division disappears.

For example: you are sad; that is the truth of this moment. But your conditioned mind says: “You have to be happy. Smile! What will people think of you?”

Here is the problem: you pretend, you act, you repress the truth. The phony becomes the ideal. How can you know, and love yourself, if you don’t accept yourself?

Live your sadness in total authenticity, and you will be surprised. A miraculous door opens in your being, because the division disappears. Sadness is there and there is no question of any ideal to be anything else. There is no effort, no conflict, no war. “I am simply this” and there is relaxation. And in that relaxation is grace, and joy.

Psychological pain exists because you are divided. Pain means division, and joy means no-division. You might be thinking: how can feeling my sadness bring joy? It looks paradoxical, but it is true. Try it. However, please note: accepting your sadness with an agenda to feel joy, is not going to work. Joy arises through your authentic expression of sadness.

Joy is a by-product of being authentic. Joy is a natural consequence of being united with your sadness, because it is your truth, in this moment. In the next moment you may be angry: accept that too. And the next moment you may be something else: accept that too.

Live moment to moment, with acceptance, without any division, and self-love, self-worth, self-confidence arise within you, naturally, and automatically.

Drop all ideals of how you should be, and accept who you are, in each moment. The journey of self-acceptance starts with becoming aware of your feelings, and allowing yourself to feel your feelings. We are human. Feeling is a part of the human experience.

Get used to feeling because feeling is to LIVE, feeling is to be ALIVE. When  uncomfortable feelings arise: allow, experience and accept. On the other side of your sadness, hurt, and despair is your magnificent, brilliant, luminous spirit, which is not damaged. Your spirit is love, and when aligned with your authenticity, guides your life with grace, and ease.

Accepting yourself, warts an’ all,  helps you become strong and confident from within, so that no matter what other people think or say, you are deeply rooted in your own self-worth. Your feelings are the key. Love is always waiting on the other side. The only thing blocking you from receiving more love is your resistance to feeling your feelings.

Are you thinking: I don’t want to feel because I don’t want to be hurt any more?
 I understand. I went through this very same experience.  As I allowed myself to start feeling, something wonderful happened. I began to feel more love,  to laugh, and enjoy my life more. I was  liberated  from a prison of pain and opened up to more self-love, self-worth, and self-confidence, AND  to receiving more love from others.

Inner strength and confidence are an inside job. When you get to the point where you can accept yourself, the need for challenges, adversity, and complications, just falls away, because you don’t need to prove your worth any more to yourself.

Meditation: Accept Yourself– 4 minutes



Benefits: In the very experiencing of your feelings, a spaciousness is created, and miracles can occur. Trust that, even when you feel miserable, on the other side of the misery, is love. Our natural state is love. All we have to do is accept who we are, in any given moment, and love is there.

Start gently, with compassion for yourself.

Sit,or lie down, whichever is most comfortable for your body.

Breathe, relax your body, open your palms upwards, in a receptive posture.

Allow your feelings, whatever they are, without judging, condemning or criticizing yourself.

Accept what is happening, in each moment, without wanting it to be different. When you fight what is, you make it worse. You are the way you are: accept yourself with joy, with gratitude.

I look forward to your comments.

Envy as a Catalyst for Change (Part 2)

139378542_825107ffa3Click here to read Part 1!

Once you recognize envy for what it is, use it as a catalyst for change. Figure out exactly what it is you envy your friend for that you lack. Maybe it’s as simple as needing a little excitement in your life or maybe it’s the beginning of acknowledging the need for a real, substantive change that makes the day into night. It’s up to you to process, fertilize and transform your envy into the fuel that propels positive change or the blissful acceptance and appreciation that demonstrate that you are truly becoming the person you admire most.

Jealousy is a bit harder to use for your own enlightenment but perhaps that much more important for you to understand and take control of turning the tables. It’s not always going to work: Your bestie’s engagement ring is going to be hard to stomach if the love of your life just broke up with you any way you look at it. But it can be a useful exercise in figuring out exactly why you are so soured. Start by asking yourself some tough questions.

If you are feeling jealous it’s because you lost something. But what exactly did you lose? Each instance of jealousy is merely a stimulus for you to examine your life, and while Plato’s words suggested the unexamined life is not worth living, the over-examined life may not be the way you want to live either. Assuming your friend isn’t marrying your ex, you’re not really losing anything tangible.

The truth is what you have lost is an idea – about yourself, be it about your own desirability or your (perhaps totally unrealistic) previous vision of your future. Whatever it is, go ahead and figure out how you can regain what you actually lost…not the man but the love you felt. Chances are if you and Mr. or Mrs. Wonderful broke up before you could go the distance down the aisle it’s because those things weren’t really on offer in the first place. So maybe you didn’t actually lose anything, and the jealousy and envy provided an opportunity for a productive new future… one in which you actually know what you need and want.

Jealousy is often a reaction to what cognitive behavioral therapists refer to as projecting the future. You see your friend happy and you predict –irrationally, that you will never be that happy. Remind yourself that you are not, in fact, clairvoyant, and your friend’s happiness can actually add to your own, and that your thought pattern can use a readjustment to see potential, not pain.

Of course, not all envy can be turned on its head but the truth is, not all envy is painful or even negative. In some cases, you can not only use your envy but also enjoy it. Think about it. Is there anyone you hate more than Gwyneth Paltrow, with her Vegenaise and her handmade this and that and her smug and perfect skinny, blond, rich everything?

Still, the majority of what you hate is not hate at all. It’s envy but the fun kind, the kind you and your friends can giggle about and yet still, in the back of your subconscious mind, recognize that there’s a decent quinoa recipe on her Web site you could probably pull off, and you could go to the gym or prioritize what the jealousy and envy brought so clearly to your mind. So thank you, Gwyneth. We may hate you – or really, just envy you – but you are making us better despite yourself.

Often, of course, it’s not that easy. Envy can eat at you. Jealousy can indeed become a monstrous force, a dark green cloud that throws a pall over moments that should by all rights add to your happiness, not slice a blade through it. The feeling that the grass is forever greener over the hill you can’t climb needs to be replaced with climbing lessons or gardening lessons so that you get what you want instead of nagging dissatisfaction.

But the truth is, the monster is not that ferocious. Just by recognizing it you have sapped its strength, turned it docile, made it into your pet, to be taught and tamed and ultimately to make yourself stronger by serving your needs and wants…now that you know what they are. The grass you fertilize may become the envy of the neighborhood. Then walk magnanimously over to the other side of the street …. and teach your neighbor how to do the same thing.

Brave Teenager’s Manifesto on Depression and Why We Need to Talk About It

DISTRESS

Kevin Breel has been living two lives for years. In one, he’s a smart, accomplished young man with friends and family who love him. In the other, he is someone who suffers from depression, and has for the better part of six years.

This may come as a shock, Kevin says, to the people who know him. After all, on the surface his life is great. Everything is fine; everything is going well. But underneath the surface, he “struggles intensely” with a condition that many of us know all to well and yet no one wants to talk about. Why is this?

Depression is stigmatized in our culture, Kevin says, and yet it is a massive issue. According to the World Health Organization, one person in the world dies by suicide every 40 seconds. Worldwide suicide rates have increased 60% in the last 45 years, and it is the second leading cause of death for people aged 10-24. On top of that, suicide attempts are 20 times more frequent than actual suicides, which means there is a staggering number of people in the world who are hurting, suffering, and desperately needing help.

Kevin uses a powerful analogy: When you break your arm, everyone runs over to sign your cast. When you say you’re depressed, everyone runs in the other direction. This has created a world in which we don’t understand mental health, we don’t understand our emotions, and we certainly don’t understand depression. Watch Kevin’s poignant TEDx talk:

In order to heal our hearts and our communities, Kevin entreats that we speak up, speak out, and learn to love ourselves. In the spirit of Suicide Prevention week, let’s not waste a minute to reach out to our fellow humans and spread the love.

Have you or someone you know suffered from depression? We would be honored for you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Suicide Prevention Week: Depression – Shedding Light on the Darkness (Part 2)

98831359_49ede3af3bClick here to read Part 1!

Rebalancing yourself in the face of depression can take several forms:

  • Be aware that you are depressed and seek help.
  • Treat your body well, including exercise.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Get enough sleep, meaning a minimum of 8 hours a night.
  • Address situations that would make anyone sad, such as the wrong job, a bad relationship, normal grief, and serious loss. Don’t passively wait for time to heal your wounds.
  • Regain a sense of control.
  • Claim your sense of self – depressed women in particular may show a pattern of giving away too much of themselves in a relationship, leading to a sense of weakness and low self-esteem.
  • Examine your reactions to difficult situations. You will often find that reacting with helplessness, passivity, retreating inside, and turning passive lie at the root of your depressed state.
  • Spend time with people who give you a reason to feel alive and vibrant. Avoid people who share your negative responses and attitudes. Depression in some sense is contagious.
  • Rely to a minimum on antidepressants and apply your main efforts to other therapies. Pills should be as short-term as possible. They work best in removing the top layer of sadness so that you have a clear space to address the real underlying issues.
  • Talk about your problems and share your feelings with those who can listen with empathy and offer positive steps.
  • Make friends with someone who has recovered from depression or is handling the condition well.
  • Find a wise person who can help you to undo your most negative beliefs by showing you that life has other, better possibilities.

Because everything on this list requires a choice, bringing yourself back into balance means that you are aware enough to make decisions and have the ability to put them into practice. Quite often depressed people feel too helpless and hopeless to face the right choices, in which case outside help is needed, meaning a therapist or counselor who specializes in depression.

Here’s a general picture of how to make a plan for your own healing.

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, works as well as medication for many people. It may be used alone or in combination with other forms of treatment. Studies have shown that psychotherapy can cause changes in brain function similar to those produced by medications. Focused, goal-oriented forms of therapy such as cognitive-behavior therapy appear to be the most effective in treating depression.

Diet may play a part in protecting against depression. Mediterranean countries have low rates of depression compared to countries farther to the north—and it isn’t just because they get more sunlight or have a more relaxed way of life. One large-scale study tracked almost 3,500 people living in London for 5 years and found that those who ate a Mediterranean diet were 30% less likely to develop depression. Researchers speculate that the foods in the Mediterranean diet may act synergistically together. Olive oil, nuts, and fatty fish are rich in omega-3 and other unsaturated fatty acids, and fresh fruits and vegetables contain flavonoids and phytochemicals that are full of antioxidants and folates (B vitamins).

Aerobic exercise is a very effective for depression. It’s been shown that moderate aerobic exercise done just 30 minutes a day, three times a week, can reduce or eliminate symptoms of mild-to-moderate depression and can help with severe depression.

It’s well known that exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, the “feel-good” chemicals (which function as neurotransmitters). Less well known is the startling effect of exercise on the structure of your brain. Exercise stimulates the creation of new nerve cells in the hippocampus, your brain’s center of learning and memory, so that it actually increases in size. This is especially relevant because depression, unless countered with effective therapy, causes the hippocampus to shrink in size. Exercise has also been shown to raise levels of serotonin and norepinephrine and to multiply the number of dendrite connections in neurons.

Yoga has been shown to lessen stress and anxiety and promote feelings of well-being. Communication between your body and your mind is a two-way street. Certain yogic practices can signal the brain that it’s all right to relax and prompt the parasympathetic nervous system to initiate the relaxation response. For instance, slow, deep, conscious breathing is also a vital element of yogic practice. This form of breathing is very effective in prompting the relaxation response to counter elevated levels of stress hormones. Someone with depression might be advised to practice “heart-opening” postures that elongate their thoracic spine. They may be told to stand with their shoulder blades drawn together so that their lungs are lifted and they are able to breathe more freely. An important component of yoga is paying close attention to what’s going on in the body at all times and locating and releasing any areas of tension. Yoga should ideally be practiced with the guidance of an experienced teacher.

Meditation can be a useful treatment for both stress and mild-to-moderate depression. Numerous studies have examined the effects of mindfulness meditation, designed to focus the meditator’s attention on the present moment. One study measured electrical activity in the brain found increased activity in the left frontal lobe during mindfulness meditation. Activity in this area of the brain is associated with lower anxiety and a more positive emotional state. Subsequently, the researchers tested both a group that hadn’t meditated as well as the meditators for immune function. They did this by measuring the level of antibodies they produced in response to a flu vaccine. The meditators had a significantly greater reaction, which indicates they had better immune function.

I know that the easiest solution is to pop a pill, and in this country powerful forces back up the promise that drugs are the answer. Keep in mind that antidepressants only alleviate symptoms, and that in the long run couch therapy has proven just as effective in changing the brain responses associated with depression. The real goal should be to rebalance your life, gain control over the disorder, understand who you are, and elevate your vision of possibilities for yourself. All of that is harder than opening a pill bottle, but every positive choice leads to real healing and a much better life in the future.

 

For more information go to deepakchopra.com

Follow Deepak on Twitter

PHOTO (cc): Flickr  / madamepsychosis

Originally published October 2011

Envy as a Catalyst for Change

GoodnightFrom Othello to Cinderella, Toy Story to Snow White, envy and its kissing cousin jealousy have always gotten a bad rap. It is, in the words of the evil Iago, “the green eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.”

But the truth is, envy and to a lesser extent jealousy, can be useful, and even productive emotions that don’t always lead to poisoning one’s beautiful stepdaughter or murdering a beloved spouse. The eminent British mathematician and philosopher, Betrand Russell, said that while envy is one of the most potent causes of unhappiness, it’s also at the foundation of how democratic and egalitarian societies are developed.

How come so much contrast? His view counted on the genesis of the emotions and the ability to then work at altering the context. We are good at altering the context when we don’t like something, but what about when we want it? Now. Like an Oompa Loompa, give it to me!

In other words, the trick to generating happiness out of the despair and maliciousness created by envy and jealousy is in identifying where the feelings come from – what really generates them and in what you do next. Are you willing to do the work necessary to improve your life or will you be passive and wallow in self-pity? Stated simply, envy and jealousy can help you realize what it is you really need and want, but you still need to do the work to make the proverbial lemonade.

In some cases, the first step is determining whether what you feel is envy or jealousy. While the words tend to be used interchangeably, they do have subtle, crucially different meanings. By putting your emotional experience into either the envy or the jealousy bucket, you’re on the way to understanding and using it in a positive way.

Envy is about what you don’t have. It is a lack, a longing, a hole to fill. Envy is what you felt as a kid when your sister got the bigger bedroom and as an adult when your best friend added another boat to her collection, won the Pulitzer or scored a pair of Jimmy Choos on sale. It is the entire plot of the “Real Housewives of New Jersey” and the reason we sort of hate Sheryl Sandberg, though we appreciate the advice.

Jealousy is about the fear of loss…it is about what you want to keep – your boyfriend, your status as the best lawyer in the firm, being the go-to parent on the PTA or ranking doubles champion at the club. It is how you felt when your parents paid more attention to your sister or when your spouse paid more attention to, well, anything. Jealousy makes you crazy, while envy makes you unhappy. While both are personal, one makes you feel depressed and the other makes you wish other people were depressed. You can’t be jealous of Sheryl Sandberg, unless the job she leaned into happened to be yours.

Of course, neither feels good. It seems petty, often pathetic, a clear indication that we are not the people we want to be, and so, on top of the discomfort of envy we often add an unpleasant layer of guilt – anger at ourselves for having this tacky, weak emotion. If we deal with it at all it is only to try to talk ourselves out of it or bury it deep in our psyches and pretend it’s not there.

At best, when we are trying to handle envy or jealousy we catalog all the wonderful things we do have, our professional accomplishments and personal blessings in hopes that it will make us feel better about what we still want that seems just beyond our reach or about what we are constantly terrified is slipping away. That’s not a bad thing, but let’s be honest: How well does that work? Does Katy Perry reminding herself that she is an international superstar and one of few women in the world who can pull off a bustier as evening wear really ease the gut clenching she experiences when she sees Russell Brand with that blond?

Instead of trying to get rid of the guilt, refocus on the matter at hand: The envy or jealousy itself.

Sometimes it’s easy to recognize. Your best friend lost 30 pounds and is suddenly turning heads. Jealous? Why yes.

Other times, it’s hidden behind layers of denial. Let’s say that same friend tells you she is going to spend the next two years traveling the world and living in a collapsible yurt. Something hits you in the pit of your stomach. You assume it’s merely worry. What exactly is a yurt anyway? Is it safe?

Well maybe you really are just concerned for her future, but maybe, just maybe, what you are really concerned about is your own. Perhaps that gut punch is envy. She is spending her life as she wills it…not at the mercy of her husband, boyfriend, children, boss or parents. She is living her own life. Wow…wouldn’t that make anyone envious?

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Suicide Prevention Week: Depression – Shedding Light on the Darkness

It’s not news that depression has become a kind of invisible epidemic, afflicting millions of people. We live at a time when depression is approached as a disease. That has a good side. Depressed people are not judged as weak or self-indulgent, as if they only need to try harder to lift themselves out of their sadness. Yet depression, for all the publicity surrounding it, remains mysterious, and those who suffer from it tend to hide their condition – the medical model hasn’t removed a sense of shame. When you’re in the throes of depression, it’s hard to escape the feeling that you are a failure and that the future is hopeless.

Before considering how to handle depression, let’s ask the most basic question: Are you depressed? The bad side of the medical model arises when people rush to be medicated because they don’t like how they feel. Doctors barely bother to get a correct diagnosis, because the easiest thing to do –and the thing that patients demand – is to write a prescription.

Let’s see if we can get beyond this knee-jerk reaction.

Becoming sad or blue isn’t a sure sign of depression. Life brings difficulties that we respond to with a wide range of normal emotions: sadness, anxiety, resignation, grief, defeated acceptance, helplessness. Moods are cyclical, and if these feelings are your response to a tough event, they will subside on their own in time. If they linger, however, and there seems to be no definite cause or trigger, such as losing your job or the death of a loved one, depression is accepted as the conventional diagnosis.

Depression isn’t one disorder, and even though an array of antidepressants have been thrown at the problem, the basic cause for depression remains unknown. For a diagnosis of major depression, which is more serious than mild to moderate depression, at least five of the following symptoms must be present during the same 2-week period..

  • Depressed mood (feeling sad or empty; being tearful)
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting, or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too little or too much)
  • Slowing of thoughts and physical movements
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
  • Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or specific plan for committing suicide

If you can count five or more of these as being present, know that your list must contain “depressed mood” or “diminished interest or pleasure” before you’d be considered medically depressed. We’ve come to recognize different kinds of depression that fit certain circumstances:

  • Dysthymia is mild, chronic depression. It must present for at least 2 years for a diagnosis of dysthymia.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that generally arises as the days grow shorter in the autumn and winter.
  • Postpartum depression begins after a woman has given birth and may get worse as time goes on.

Even though no one knows exactly what causes depression, it is clearly a state of internal imbalance. Balance is essential for the healthy functioning of both your body and your mind. The upsetting factors that make it more likely you will get depression form a long list: genetic predisposition, being female, death or loss of loved one, major life events (even happy ones, like a graduation), other mental illnesses, substance abuse, childhood trauma, certain medications, serious illness, and personal problems such as financial troubles. What these things have in common is that they disrupt the normal balancing mechanisms of mind and body. A treatment that aims at restoring balance therefore makes the most sense, and in tomorrow’s post I will outline measures for rebalancing.

Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow!

 

For more information go to deepakchopra.com

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PHOTO (cc): Flickr  / madamepsychosis

Originally published October 2011

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