How to Feel Better Fast
If you feel like you're going under for the last time or stuck down a black hole, this page is for you and it's intended to help you to come up smiling very quickly.
You'll find some practical suggestions that can help you to get back on top within a day or so, so don't ever let anyone sign you up for a hundred hours of counselling; get your running shoes on and forget about re-mortgaging your house to pay for their services.
Before you go to the helpful suggestions, I'm wondering, how are you sleeping at the moment? Here's some information you might find very interesting:
The Dreaming Brain
It has been known for a long time that people suffering from depression tend to dream more than people who are not depressed. During a typical night’s sleep, researchers found rapid eye movements, indicating dreaming, for a period of about twenty percent of that time in most people, whereas people who were depressed tended to dream for about eighty percent of their sleep time: a four–fold increase. It is easy to jump to the conclusion that depression causes excessive dreaming, but what if it’s the other way around, and depression is actually a result of excessive dreaming?
First of all, we need to ask the question, why do we dream? Recent research indicates that dreaming is a way of dealing with the stresses and strains of our daily life. If we have experienced some stressful event during the day and dealt with it at the time, (eg by stepping out of the way of an oncoming lorry), our mental state rapidly returns to normal, but if we are unable to fight or fly (eg, the boss is giving us a hard time and we have had to bite our tongue) the stress of the situation may continue to niggle at us and prey on our mind.
When we sleep, however, it appears that our dreaming brain, (which is like a kind of personal reality simulator), turns the situation into some kind of similar story that we can live through in our imagination and deal with on some level, so that when we wake up we feel better and can get on with our life. This may be one reason why it’s a good idea to “sleep on it” before you write an angry letter. Somehow we feel calmer, more rational and in control after a good night's sleep.
The Cycle of Depression
So far so good, so how can dreaming cause depression? Well supposing we have a setback or a prolonged source of worry and we begin to ruminate excessively about our problems. These thoughts can generate a lot of stress, continually turning on the fight or flight response. This is particularly likely if we also have a natural tendency to think in terms of worst case scenarios and also likely if our emotional needs are not currently being met.
The more emotionally aroused we become, the less we are able to use our rational brain and the more illogical and negative our thoughts tend to be, so that when we do eventually fall asleep, our dreaming brain really has its work cut out to try to deal with all that stress.
The reality simulator therefore goes into overdrive, often “burning itself out” by dreaming too much and, perhaps as a safety mechanism, it may then wake us up in the small hours. So we lay awake and worry some more, falling asleep just before the alarm goes off to tell us it’s time to get up. We wake up shattered, perhaps more exhausted than we were before we went to bed. Know the feeling?
A natural response would be to phone in sick, pull the covers over our head, shut out the world and go back to sleep, in the belief that more sleep will make us feel better. And of course we then dream some more and wake up with a bad head, disturbed sleep patterns and the firm conviction that life is a pile of pants and inherently unfair.
And so the cycle continues, driving us down until we end up very depressed or until something happens to get us out of that rut, whether that’s someone making us get out of bed or our own decision to take back control, perhaps by going on the internet and doing a search that leads us to a web page like this one that helps us get it all back into perspective.
The good news is that the cycle can be broken in the space of about twenty four hours if we know how to put a spanner in its works and send it into reverse mode.
It may come as a bit of a surprise to know that we are not innocent victims of our moods. In fact we can actively do a heck of a lot to change them. The popular myth that depression is a result of a chemical imbalance in the brain is another of those back-to-front notions that tend to perpetuate the problem. What if the chemical imbalance is actually triggered by the kind of thoughts we allow to go on in our heads and the way we choose to behave?
Now that’s an empowering idea!
If you want to change your life, change your mind.
You might like to look at the top tips to feel better now, if you haven't already. All the best!
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