Recently I had a very dark day and I just thought, “I cannot do this.”
And then I thought of all the other times I had thought that, and even though I had felt that way, life did not stop simply because I felt overwhelmed. I might have checked out of my mind for a bit and switched to autopilot, but life carried on and carried me along with it and then eventually… something changed. Something always changed.
Some changes may be for the good and some for the bad, but eventually even those changes will be overwritten by something else. Something will always change and one day you will wake up and you will have switched on again and it will be a not-too-bad day.
There’s a song in Ghost the Musical called “Nothing Stops Another Day“. It’s quite a forgettable song, but that line has been in my head for a while. Sometimes I resent life for dragging me forward when I just want to keep it in my bed under the covers with me, but then inevitably I am glad it’s brought me somewhere else.
Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
No one questions the need to brush our teeth each day, but how much care do we take to regularly floss our minds?
Whenever we eat, little pieces of food get stuck between our teeth. If we didn’t brush, they would build up and cause rot. Similarly, we consume vast amounts of information throughout the day, processing thoughts without paying any attention to them. These thoughts can be good or bad, healthy or destructive.
Whatever their nature, our thoughts also leave behind little fragments that build up over time and tinge our subsequent thoughts with their flavour, changing our ability to digest information and interpret the world.
If we are to protect ourselves from psychological cavities that poison our perceptions and cause us pain, we must take care to debrief regularly before an abscess develops and the rotting path needs to be extracted at the root.
An article published in the February 2015 issue of Molecular Psychology discussed a research study which found that the brains of people with major depressive disorder (MDD) produce less natural painkillers in response to rejection.
The brain’s μ-opioid receptor (MOR) system dampens physical pain and is believed to also dampen “social pain”. In the research, which compared the responses of medication-free MDD patients with those of healthy people, it was found that during social rejection, the MDD patients showed not only reduced MOR activity, but also slower emotional recovery. During acceptance, only healthy people showed increased social motivation, which was associated with a reward structure in the brain.
In conclusion, the study proposed that these weakened brain functions in MDD patients reduce enjoyment of positive interactions and impede emotional recovery from negative social experiences, thus reinforcing depression.
Our attitudes and beliefs shape our thoughts, so if we perpetuate them over time we will change the way our brain functions and behaves, thus influencing processes like that of the MOR system in the research above. We should all therefore take care of our minds by encouraging good thought patterns and curtailing bad ones. It is also vital that we teach our children from a young age to care for their psychological well-being as conscientiously as they would their physical health.
I highly recommend watching the TED Talk below, by a psychologist who explains how to practise emotional first aid and why we should take our emotional hygiene seriously.