Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Many shades of Blue"

It’s that time of year when the days are getting shorter and the skies get gray. You may be like many other people who find your energy level drops, your thoughts become sluggish and your mood feels depressed. You may have Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD.
The problem is the lack of exposure to sunlight. In earlier times, humans would wake at dawn. Sunlight hitting our eyelids and passing to our retinas triggers our brains to stop producing melatonin, the chemical which makes us sleepy, and to begin producing serotonin, the chemical that makes us feel good. But 20th Century humans have become disconnected from our ties to nature. We push our bodies to get out of bed in the dark; we surround ourselves with artificial lighting; we breathe re-circulated air. And we wonder what’s wrong with ourselves when we feel “blue”.

One treatment for SAD is light therapy. If you think you have SAD*, you can buy light therapy boxes online. Personally, I have found that exposure to bright light before I get out of bed has a profound effect upon my mood for the day. I have placed a small reading lamp on top of the headboard of my bed. I bought a full-spectrum light bulb (available at holistic health stores) and put the lamp on a timer. It clicks on an hour before I need to get out of bed. Rather than dragging myself out of bed in the dark, I feel rested and alert this way. I also have a full-spectrum light bulb in the lamp on my desk. If it is a particularly overcast day, I will shine the light upon my face for a few minutes in the early afternoon; this also energizes me.
Other ways to beat SAD is to get exercise and fresh air. Even a short walk around the block, particularly in the morning, can raise your serotonin levels. You may want to try it as a “science experiment” for one week – see if it makes a difference in your energy level and mood. Even in the winter, I now enjoy bundling up and going for a brisk walk with my dog every morning. It is amazing to me how beautiful the world can be in the quiet of the morning. If mornings are too hectic for you, get off the “L” one stop early and walk the extra two blocks to work.
Speaking of ‘Blue’… Anne Riley, an Art Therapy Practicum Student from the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago, has written a Blog article about ‘Blueness.’

Amy Grabowski, MA, LCPC

Many Shades of Blue
It’s been just “one of those days.” A blueness that has the ability to linger around, possibly couple days, weeks, months, or year. Whatever the length, sometimes we may just feel blue. Blue can be both dark and light, even with shades of grey. Our lives everyday can be a challenge on how we want to look at life; what outlook we have on events or experiences that bring us to that blueness.

The blueness or periods in our lives that aren’t filled with laughter and joy are often uncomfortable. The blue aura that seems to surround us can be far from pleasant and we may wonder with what to do next. Is music the answer? Maybe taking a walk and smiling at people we pass? How about reading a favorite quote or calling a friend? Still, sometimes nothing can shake the feeling of sadness. The question arises and is scary at that; will I ever feel happy again?

It is pertinent to experience life in all its hues, even the crummy, not so awesome curve balls that life throws in our direction. Many changes and decisions are made for us that lead us to this blue state. It isn’t always a matter of what we are faced with, but rather our reactions to negative experiences or a bad chain of circumstances. The options of how to respond are never written out for us in a book; there is no book that guides or leads us toward the end to this sadness.

The blue feeling hangs out, sticks around like it is going to stay and starts to camp out within our Self. What now? Remain in this poignant and uneasy state? We can stay in this condition and go through life sad, possibly angry, or we can hide the feelings altogether and “brush them under the rug.”

Some may find it easier to not look where the blue aura is stemming from. By sitting back and letting sadness fill our lives, anger has the strength to come in and alter our view towards life; the once sad time now somehow becomes bitter. Life being viewed in this way is rarely enjoyable. The “brushing it under the rug” tactic appears nice to those around you, but isn’t necessarily genuine. This too, doesn’t sit so well with us after a while.

Another alternative is choosing to be happy. Yes, this may seem far-fetched, but we can choose and seek out happiness. The option of happiness, true joy of looking at life with it’s fullest potential seems inconceivable when we are in our blue-grey stage, but it’s possible to obtain. The happiness will come. Like many things, it is a matter of time. It may only take just that single day to choose a happier lifestyle, but it can take a long time to figure what is really behind all of the sadness.

The process has no time limit and there is no race to the finish. We can go at our own pace; the important thing is to just wait, ponder, and accept that we have times in our lives when we are just going through a funk. An answer is never out there on a billboard or written in the advertisements on the bus; advice from people we trust isn’t always the key either.

The underlying truth to all the blueness may not have a definite starting point. The important thing is to just be and not rush the process. Instead validate that we have these gloomy feelings. Once we’ve sat with it, we then have a decision to make: wallow in our sadness, or find what makes us smile, makes us happy, makes us be Real and in our Self. When we find little things that tend to be positive, our attitude begins to shift and we’ve gotten back to where there is no blue aura around us and the glow that is in all of us really starts to shine again.

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances; if there is any reaction, both are transformed. -Carl Gustav Jung

Choosing happiness over sadness is a very conscious effort that we can make. Being happy and being sad hold great advantages in our lives. With the sadness, we can then appreciate the happy side of life that much more. We become more aware that it is a choice that we are granted. In choosing happiness, we gain fulfillment of life.

Anne Riley
During her internship at The Awakening Center, Anne leads an Expressive Therapy Group on Thursday evenings. If you would like explore the many colors of your Self using non-verbal forms of therapy, please call Anne at (773) 929-6262 x 13.

*If you suspect that you have SAD, we recommend you see a medical doctor before attempting to treat the condition yourself. The ideas in this article are merely suggestions, not medical advice.

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