There are so many situations that make us feel down it is not possible to summarize them in one article. But they all have a few things in common and usually the way of improving our state of mind is similar. In this article, I will suggest ways how to improve your mood and explain why you feel that way. In the end of the article, I will explain what depression is, and how we cure it nowadays.
The first question upon which the improvement depends is – do you feel down just now or more or less all the time? Our mood depends on external and internal factors, that is, we feel sad because we have such predispositions (or because of some past event that had major impact on us) or because something recently happened to us (e.g. death of a relative). Our level of happiness, or let’s call it our mood, is over months and years the same in average. The level changes with single events, but it usually falls/rises back to where it was before.
Above is shown a graph of recorded mood of a college student suffering from cancer. His cancer was cured at the moment where his mood peaked, but as you can see, his mood went back down in time (However, the average of high and low peaks improved).
Therefore, each person could be defined by his/her constant mood and if your mood is bad in long term, it probably means your brain is set up for this level. In any case, you can work on your mood with a therapist, or if needed, you can elevate the amount of your “happy neurotransmitters” (explained later in the article) in your brain by the help of drugs. If your mood is down because of a specific event, try to be strong and get through the period. Remember that the pain will go away in time.
We can also put these two situations together – our average happiness can be changed to better and to worse in long-term. Some events have that big impact on us. What you should take from that is that you can work on your happiness and elevate it permanently.
Now what makes us happy is not what we might think – we usually believe those things that create short-time high are those that make us happy. But truly, it is the things we can’t buy and that remain in our mind. For example, it is our view of the world, our goals, and our self-love. You can improve by yourself, with help of a therapist or with something between – there are lots of apps and online videos nowadays that can lead you the right way, such as meditation apps. You have to find the way that is most comfortable for you. But what is the most important – you must want to improve your mood. Sometimes, understandably, we do not want to improve it. But that’s not ok. We are hurting ourselves for no reason. If you think this might be the case for you, find help. Therapist will help you find your way to see things the right way – the way that is not hurting you nor others.
Once you are on the path to become happier, try these:
If you want to be happy, you must know what you are achieving and know your place in the world. You must be aware of your worth. Find out what makes you happy and make it your sanctuary. Of course, the goal has to be at the same time realistic. Once you have your goal set, you can start bit by bit working on your small goals which will lead you to the big one.
If you want to get done with your tasks, it is easier if you have a realistic daily schedule created. Adjust your schedule to your abilities and time.
If you achieve some small tasks, reward yourself. Don’t reward yourself if you haven’t done enough to reach your small goal, but reward yourself if you have done a lot, even though you couldn’t finish the task. Also, don’t work for this reward. Always remember, you are working for the final big goal, which is something you love, and which is what creates your worthiness and happiness. This reward is only a reminder of that you got a step closer to the goal and that you are hardworking and can be proud of yourself.
It might help you to tell your friends about your goals. Friends are often our support and motivate us. Also, it might push you internally, that someone else knows about your goal.
Whatever problem you have, it always becomes a bit smaller if you speak about it. That’s one reason why there are therapists. You might not need a therapist if you can do this with your friend or partner.
When thinking about your happiness or how lucky you are, think about your ability to smell the spring blooms, physical health, or any other good things in your life. There are so many of them. Often the problem is that we focus on the negative ones and forget the amazing things that are in our lives.
During workout our body releases endorphins, which are natural painkillers. Endorphins give us a short term high, but the power we see we have, the process of our body getting stronger and feeling better gives us better feeling about ourselves in long-term.
Not only the external body change, but also the internal body change following start of eating balanced healthy nutritious food makes us happy. Eating healthy makes us feel less tired, might reduce pains and diseases.
Medication should be the last way of treatment to turn to. You should discuss this with your therapist first and possibly see your psychiatrist/general practitioner. One option for improving blues which is in some countries available over the counter is St. John’s Wort. Before starting to take this pill either talk to your doctor or study the implications very well. This wort is strongly impacting reactions of other medication, so make sure it is safe for you. Also, it doesn’t work for everyone and cures only moderate and mild depression.
Brief Explanation of Biological Base:
As I said above, the happiness is created by neurotransmitters, which are chemicals transporting information in our brain. Each neurotransmitter has its own information to carry and appears usually in many parts of our brain, which is one of the reasons for side effects of drugs. The neurotransmitter “carrying happiness” is serotonin (mood, eating, sleeping, and arousal) which is together with norepinephrine (wakefulness and alertness) and dopamine (movement and posture) part of a group called monoamines. Simply said, the current theory is that too low level of (or low sensitiveness of receptors for) norepinephrine and serotonin causes depression. Individuals suffering from low level of dopamine have Parkinson’s disease, and those with too much dopamine suffer from schizophrenia. This is very simplified and at the same time we do not know the exact biological base of these diseases yet.
Depression is classified as a mood disorder, and its clinical name is Major Depressive Disorder. Its symptoms are a prominent and relatively persistent depressed mood, or loss of interest in all or almost all activities, for at least two weeks. Other symptoms include appetite disturbances, decreased energy, feelings of worthlessness or excessive (delusional) guilt, difficulty concentrating or thinking, and thoughts of death or attempts at suicide. These symptoms must cause significant distress or impairment in functioning in order to diagnose depression.
Nowadays for depression we use mostly medication called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors; e.g. Prozac), but it takes weeks for the drugs to work.
If you feel like you need to do something to feel better, don’t hesitate and try one of the mentioned steps or talk to someone – either a therapist or even just a family relative. How you will deal with your problem will depend on the level of your bad mood/depression. Bad mood is not something that makes you a bad or weak person. Almost everyone suffers with such moods throughout their life. Remember you are strong, and you can deal with it, either alone or with a guidance of a specialist.