In her book How To Stay Sane, Phillipa Perry summarizes what she's seen in people who have improved their mental health. If you were to improve your physical health, we all know what to do: eat healthier, exercise more, get enough sleep and get medical care as needed. But what are the four things to do if you want to be less anxious, less angry, more productive, more content?
October, 2012 ), there's much more known on how to lessen insanity (therapy, meds, activities, skill-building) than on increasing sanity. You'd think they're the same, but they're not. The goal of most depression treatment is not "being generally happy," but rather "spending less time in abysmal misery." Or, physiologically, eating more. Cognitively, having fewer suicidal thoughts.
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I understand why. I do. When you are depressed, just getting to "upset" is a miracle. Here's a scale designed on a blog by a person with dissociative identity disorder trying to describe their experience with depression. She called the blue stage the "cookies and french fries" stage and said she doesn't feel anything above purple, or hadn't in a year.
1. Self-Observation. This is also called mindfulness, or conscious awareness. You can do it running (she says she learned it best when preparing for the London Marathon) or sitting, cooking or lying in bed. When you get better at it, you are accepting of yourself and non-judgmental about your actions and experiences. The key is separating your thoughts, sensations and emotions to take note of them. There's that pinky toe rubbing against my shoe. Jealous thoughts triggering a fight with my daughter. Worry about school making my stomach clench.
All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten was published, I thought it was cute. Most people did. Also in many ways true. Sharing, caring, all little animals in the classroom tanks eventually die as do we. But the book itself takes on more depth, including how adults are socially complex and it's hard to find our way.
“Hide-and-seek, grown-up style. Wanting to hide. Needing to be sought. Confused about being found.” ― Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common ThingsThe Mixed-Bag Buddy And Other Friendship Conundrums"). Often the ambivalence peaks around times like weddings. This certainly has happened with me. Phillipa points out that one or more of these can be romantic partners or children, but they don't have to be in order to be happy. An obvious point, but one we sometimes forget when lonely.
Her glasses, and her book, make me cheerful. Since I was a child of the seventies, I'll use our catchphrase and hope you are having a good day.