Aha! moments

The last couple of days I seem to have emerged from my depression to a degree. It’s a relief. I still don’t feel 100% but I’m a lot better than I was.

I was listening to podcasts at work last weekend and during an interview I heard Paul Chek say that things in the natural world need a winter season, that it’s an important part of the cycle of living. That really struck a chord with me and got me wondering if that was what was happening when I lost all motivation and just slept or vegged out. Once I reframed the depression into a resting winter phase I stopped fighting it and worrying about it and now it seems to have lifted somewhat. Unexpected but also cool.

I love it when I hear a certain phrase or read a particular quote and it just sears through my muddled thinking with a sharp-pointed dose of utter clarity. Aha! moments. Lightning bolt moments. Whatever you want to call them. I’ve had three in the last few weeks although I can’t remember having had one for quite some time before that.

The first one also came whilst listening to a podcast. Robert Lustig M.D. was being interviewed about his latest book, The Hacking Of The American Mind. He pointed out that most people conflate the concepts of pleasure and happiness. Pleasure=happiness, right? Keep chasing the pleasure and the happiness is sure to follow, right? Marketing tells us so. Social media tells us so. Everybody and their dog is telling us so. But it’s a flawed concept.

I was stunned. How could I have got something that simple so wrong? It actually stopped me mid-lift with a dozen tins of soup at face level while I said ‘OMFG!’ out loud. Luckily nobody was around ;D

Pleasure is dopamine driven. Happiness is dependent on serotonin. This is a seriously simplified version of it of course but it serves as a basic representation of the issue at hand. Addictive and excessive pleasure chasing (booze, drugs, food, gambling etc) elevates the levels of dopamine which in turn down-regulates serotonin. So, excessive pleasure chasing actually = less happiness, not more. Of course, it’s one of those fine seesaw balances that human biology is so dependent on.

You also can’t remove the effects of dopamine and hope serotonin and happiness will soar. In his book he writes about a short-lived Parkinson’s drug trial that had this effect and some of the participants fell into severe depression or even committed suicide. Dopamine – and pleasure – is still an essential part of the balance it seems, as long as it doesn’t try to take over. It goes without saying, I’d highly recommend a read of his book. It’s written more with food in mind than alcohol but it still made total sense and I found it extremely helpful to clear up my own thinking.

The second Aha! moment was the winter phase realisation which opened this post.

The third happened a few days ago and involves quotes from The Miracle Of Mindfulness by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh.

During one of my long inert phases flopped out on the sofa I was trying to observe my thinking and work out what was getting in the way of me being motivated to do anything. Any possibility I presented brought up a stream resistance and judgement which talked me out of doing anything.

Shall I do some housework? No, it’s boring and dull. Once it’s finished it’s just time to start it again; it’s pointless, there’s always more dirty laundry or dishes. I’m depressed, I want to be entertained not be slaving away.

Shall I cook some healthy food? Ugh, too much effort and what was I just saying about dirty dishes?! Takeaway is so easy and tasty, I don’t care right now if it’s healthy or not.

Shall I go for a walk? Then you’ll have to see other people. People are shit. They’re loud, inconsiderate, rude, mean etc. It’s just easier to stay home, on the sofa. I’ve got no energy anyway, balls to that.

Shall I do some creative work? I don’t know, it seems like hard work. I’ve lost my way a bit with all that. I’m not getting the results I want. It’s all too much effort, just stick Netflix back on.

Those are just a few examples. It was an eye-opener how negative and fear-based it all was. It became clear that the only place my conscious thinking mind was taking me was where I already was, sprawled out of the sofa with box sets and the cat. Fortunately I managed to switch the TV off and fire up my kindle which is when the next improvement happened.

I’ve thought I’ve known about mindfulness-of-breath meditation for many years now but one simple line in the book suddenly brought a new and deeper understanding:

‘Our breath is the bridge from our body to our mind…’ I switched from the breath just being a ‘thing’ to be used as a focus for meditation to realising that devoting a portion of my awareness to always staying aware of my breath I could also be aware of my body and of being in the present moment no matter what was happening around me. I have been doing this for a few days now, as often as possible, not just during meditation sessions. It’s making a huge difference.

The next line that made an impact seemed to provide an answer to the mental quandries I wrote about earlier, the fears and resistances that keep me from carrying out even the simplest tasks. ‘The feeling that any task is a nuisance will soon disappear if it is done in mindfulness’. Oooh! how appropriate. And it does seem to work. I’ve been making my awareness of my breathing my number one priority as much as possible and the last few days I’ve been out and about running errands, catching up on shopping and laundry, cooking healthy food, making breakthroughs and defining my creative directions. No mental pushing necessary. What a difference, it’s almost unbelieveable.

What’s odd is that I’ve had this book on my kindle for at least two years but never got round to reading it. When I was in my low moment on the sofa I talked to my version of a higher-power-thingy and asked for guidance on how to move forward and break out of this state. I have no idea why I just suddenly had the urge to read this particular book but now I’m wondering why it took me so long. I have a comedic image of my infinite-light-being-guide-whatever doing a huge long face-palm groaning, ‘It’s on your kindle dumbass!’ LOL! Oh well, better late than never.

I hope you all have a few Aha! moments of your own this weekend. Sober hugs and strength to anybody who’s struggling and wondering if it’s all worth it. It is, keep going. Keep warm and take care xx

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20 thoughts on “Aha! moments

  1. S_MW November 11, 2017 / 9:59 am

    This is brilliant. I read it after I replied to your comment on my blog – and I realised that this was me too! “Those are just a few examples. It was an eye-opener how negative and fear-based it all was. It became clear that the only place my conscious thinking mind was taking me was where I already was, sprawled out of the sofa with box sets and the cat.”

    I would never choose to read those kinds of things. I never listen to podcasts either, but as far as motivation goes, I have you haha. I KNOW how much better I’d feel if I only get up and get going. No time today though, unfortunately, but conscious effort tomorrow. X

    Liked by 1 person

    • tiredoftreadingwater November 11, 2017 / 10:55 am

      Thanks! I’m pretty nerdy when it comes to health and science related stuff like that. I love it šŸ˜€ If I manage to pass on any useful nuggets that that’s all the better.

      It’s certainly been an experience the last few weeks but I’m just glad that I’ve managed to learn from it and find a way to hopefully move forward with a more positive outlook.

      Have a good weekend and go kick tomorrow’s ass – maybe some autumn photography? x

      Liked by 1 person

      • S_MW November 11, 2017 / 10:59 am

        My camera’s broken. I’m gutted…maybe I need to get my arse in gear and get some artwork done! šŸ˜Š

        Liked by 1 person

      • tiredoftreadingwater November 11, 2017 / 11:32 am

        Oh no šŸ˜¦ poor camera, that’s not good.

        Somebody pointed me to creativemarket.com recently as a possible avenue for selling bits of illustration, design and arty stuff, I wonder if that could also be of interest to you for something to try on the side? I’m also looking at spoonflower for my pattern designs. Happy creating, have fun šŸ™‚

        Like

      • S_MW November 11, 2017 / 11:34 am

        Thank you! I’ll check those out. Gotta go to work now…BOOO!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. feelingmywaybackintolife November 11, 2017 / 10:32 am

    Wow! You cracked it! ā¤ ā¤ ā¤ Thank you!!
    I've been thinking about this for years and suspected the relation between excessive unnatural 'pleasure' and depression because it would seem like a natural, biological, spiritual rule (I mean, if I would be God I would create it this way to balance things out) but I never knew the 'up the dopamine, down with the serotonin' thing. Whaaaa!
    And haha, so I waited for proof to actually get up from my chair and start living again? Which is what I am going to do right now! Yeah! Well, whatever it takes is what it takes.
    May I re-blog?
    xx, Feeling

    Liked by 3 people

    • tiredoftreadingwater November 11, 2017 / 10:42 am

      Wow! What a lovely response, I’m so happy if it’s helped in any way. I haven’t cracked anything, it was far wiser people than me that did that – I just re-blogged it myself. I’m fine if you’d like to reblog it too, no worries, I’d be flattered xx

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Elizabeth November 11, 2017 / 12:19 pm

    OMGOSH! You hit it. I don’t know if you meant to be amusing but you sure got a few belly laughs out of me. We humans can sure be a bunch of sorry ass creatures! I remember reading The Miracle of Mindfulness when I was in my 20’s and had the same reaction- it changed my life and set me on my spiritual path. Paradox: in doing the very things I don’t want to do- self discipline, serving others through giving up my precious time, etc. I receive a peace and joy that surpasses any happiness I’ve known. Even through the storms. Happiness is fleeting where joy and peace come from deep inside of you. And are lasting. Love you, love your writing. ā¤

    Liked by 1 person

    • tiredoftreadingwater November 12, 2017 / 4:16 am

      I like to try and see the funny or ridiculous in situations that could otherwise be dark or depressing. I do admit to having a fairly twisted sense of humour too. I wish I’d read it 20 years ago but I suspect I wouldn’t have been ready for it back then. It’s awesome the effect it had on you, I hope it lasts like that for me too. Thank you so much for your loving words, right back at ya! Hugs xx

      Liked by 1 person

  4. ainsobriety November 11, 2017 / 4:22 pm

    This post is awesome. Yes, yes, yes! To it all.

    My personal belief is that happiness is over rated and contentment is really the goal of life.

    Thank you! Iā€™m off to read some books!
    Anne

    Liked by 3 people

    • tiredoftreadingwater November 12, 2017 / 4:21 am

      Thank you Anne, I really appreciate your lovely feedback.

      I totally agree with your belief there. It scares me that society sets us up to live without ever realising it though.

      Happy reading šŸ™‚ x

      Like

  5. Untipsyteacher November 11, 2017 / 10:28 pm

    I read a book, Happiness is a Serious Problem. It really opened my eyes to what happiness is and is not.
    Connecting breath to our everyday tasks is a wonderful idea. I suffer from the “this is too hard” thoughts myself, and just breathing into the day is a way to help myself.
    I am glad you are feeling better!
    xo
    Wendy

    Liked by 3 people

    • tiredoftreadingwater November 12, 2017 / 4:09 am

      Thanks Wendy. That sounds like another book for my reading list, thanks for the recommendation. All those ‘this is too…’ thoughts really get in the way don’t they. With the breathing I get closer to ‘this is what it is’ and just get on with it šŸ™‚ x

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hurrahforcoffee November 12, 2017 / 7:53 am

    Awesome.! Thank you for this post. You’ve slowed down the mind almost to pause – observed it and lifted yourself out of the depression. Sooooo cool. When the student is ready the teacher will appear, I’m a firm believer in that…I’ve had books for years that are only making sense to me now. Mindfulness, breathing…observing out thoughts as the witness are amazing tools. As addicts, we have low dopamine reserves in the brain, a result of years of drinking/drugging. We have to try stack the odds and raise it naturally by eating well and moving our bodies even when we don’t feel like it. Its easier said than done…I skipped my yoga yesterday.

    Liked by 2 people

    • tiredoftreadingwater November 13, 2017 / 1:13 am

      Thanks Hurrah! Maybe there’s a method to our book mountain madness after all? šŸ˜€ I’m definitely going to try to keep up the self care now I managed to get out from under the cloud though as you say, it’s not always easy. Hugs xx

      Liked by 1 person

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