4 Science Based Strategies for When You’re Feeling Down.
(or something like that)
I was reading an article the other day because I was feeling like sh*t and this article caught my eye as I was scrolling through my media feed.
This article was broken into four parts, each headlined by an action, and each part discussed scientific reasons why that action would help bring one out of a temporary ‘funk.’
(I say ‘temporary funk’ as this post is not meant to address the situation of those who suffer from clinical depression or other mental illnesses…just as I believe that the article was not meant as a replacement for seeking medical help, psychological therapy, or taking prescribed medications either.)
These are the 4 strategies as I listed them in my notebook, and the descriptions are my take on the information as it was presented in the article:
1.) Ask yourself: What am I grateful for?
- Even if you cannot ‘find’ anything, remembering to do so distracts/busies the mind enough to help you feel better.
- According to the article, worrying – as well as feeling guilt or shame – ‘rewards’ the brain centers, because the brain treats the process of worrying or feeling shame or guilt about a problem as a valid attempt to find a solution. The brain treats the worry as an activity – the brain thinks it’s doing something to solve the problem and to the brain, that’s all that matters is that it is doing something.
- So, the article stresses the importance of keeping one’s mind busy with what is good, as it is all the same to your brain, whether you are thinking of a solution or not.
2.) Label negative feelings.
- Give that awful feeling or idea a name; don’t suppress your feelings and emotions about it. It’s part of your brain’s process.
- When you suppress emotions, your brain still ‘knows’ it and your body still reacts to the emotion, whether you’ve allowed yourself to feel the emotion or not.
3.) Make a decision
- Making a decision reduces worry and anxiety, as your brain treats the activity of making a decision as ‘finding a solution’ – even if the decision/’solution’ is to allow yourself to feel a feeling for 20 minutes – and move on. Even ‘I will decide what to do on Monday’ will work – but you must decide and move on.
- Your brain treats the act of making a decision as a ‘successful’ attempt at a solution – and it calms your limbic system as a result.
- Even if it is not a ‘100% effective solution’ or even a procrastination (as in ‘I will think about what to do on Monday morning’ or even ‘I don’t know what to do but I will decide later’) your brain registers that as you have decided to do something.
- Why? Because actively choosing causes changes in attention circuits of the brain and studies have shown this in action: participants were asked to describe how they felt about an action, and then asked to choose how they are going to react to the action. The simple act of choosing (ie. verbalizing aloud) their reaction caused an increase of dopamine activity in the brain, and the more specific the decision, the more dopamine was released (such as the general “I am hurt, so I will cry” versus the more specific “I am hurt, so I will cry for 20 minutes.”)
4.) Touch people
- We need to feel love and acceptance from people. If we do not and we are rejected, it is painful. The brain registers this lack and this rejection as if we have experienced physical pain. According to science, rejection doesn’t feel like a broken heart; your brain treats the rejection like a broken leg.
- Touching someone that you love, even a pet – for 20 seconds or more – actually reduces pain: “A hug – especially a long one – releases the neurotransmitter and hormone oxytocin, which reduces the reactivity of the amygdala (the base of the pain center) in the brain.
I would link to the article – if I could find it – so I will keep looking for it, and update with it if I can…