Days when we’re so gloomy…

How are you feeling today? Are you into the “pursuit of happiness”? Or are you maybe feeling miserable?gloomy-placid

Porfirio Barba Jacob, a Colombian poet who died in 1942, comes to mind. In his “Song of the Profound Life” he talks about how variable the human psyche is. Some days we’re full of joy, some other times we’re really mournful. And in any give day our mood could go from mournful to placid after just a few minutes of listening to children play and laugh. Minutia can also and, I’d say, inexplicably, spoil a whole day.

Here are some verses of Barba Jacob’s poem:

“… there are days when we’re so placid, so placid…
— Childhood at sunset, sapphire lagoons! —
That a verse, a trill, a hill, a passing bird,
And even one’s own sorrows make us smile.”

But…

“…there are days when we’re so gloomy, so gloomy,
Like in a gloomy night the crying of a pine grove.
The soul moans then with the pain of the world:
Perchance not even God himself can give us solace.”

Maybe our changing moods are just the expression of normal responses to life, to what we see, to what we eat, to what we breath, to what we hear, to a misunderstanding. Life is delightfully variable. Our variability could probably be explained as the reflection and result of the cycles that take place inside our bodies and might involve hormones and neurotransmitters. But – the egg of the chicken? – the release of our hormones and neurotransmitters are on turn prompted by mood and experience!

In a world with a pervasive “medical mentality” it looks like there will come a time where we will be all diagnosed with a mental illness. Gloomy easily becomes “depression” under the eyes of the psychiatrist and “placid” or even joyful might become “manic” under the eyes of the same physician who witnessed your sadness a few weeks before.

The new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM V) released this year, has relaxed the criteria used to diagnose certain conditions. The consequences?

As a rationale for the changes we hear the concern that many people are not properly or timely diagnosed and go on suffering for a long time without proper diagnosis and/or treatment. However, the of this “relaxed” criteria most often lead to abuse in the prescription of medications for symptoms that if not interfering with daily life functioning could be treated without invasive procedures.

Statistics tell us that Bipolar disorder affects every year approximately 5.7 million adults in the United States (about 2.6% of the population age 18 and older). Also, almost 15 million of adults are diagnosed with Major depressive disorder, with a higher prevalence among women older than 32. To this numbers add 3.3 million of people suffering from Dysthymic disorder (chronic, mild depression). And 40 million people suffering from anxiety.

Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys shows that  “Antidepressants were the third most common prescription drug taken by Americans of all ages in 2005–2008 and the most frequently used by persons aged 18–44 years. From 1988–1994 through 2005–2008, the rate of antidepressant use in the United States among all ages increased nearly 400%…. About one in 10 Americans aged 12 and over takes antidepressant medication.”

Are we trying to standardize a “normal” mood? Should all human beings behave the same, feel the same, deal with life in the same fashion? I wonder why aren’t we more focused on providing children with undivided attention, meaningful experiences, skills to face challenges, challenges to develop those skills… so that they grow up resilient and accepting of the variability of life.

We need not be concerned about gloomy days or despair if we don’t have placid ones. Life is variable!

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I give thanks for all of my blessings!

chemistry-of-love-heartTo continue with the principles set down by Reiki founder, Mikao Usui, I want to reflect about the benefits of being grateful. Neuroscientists tell us that having a disposition towards gratitude can increase our determination, focus, enthusiasm and energy.

I have experienced once and again these benefits. Since I have made of Usui’s five principles an important part of my daily life, I look for things to be grateful even in the midst of distressing times. I’ve seen the immediate results of  shifting from whining and self-pity to gratitude. It makes you feel fuller, happier. It helps you appreciate life.

But unfortunately we live in a world driven by greed… and not only corporate greed. And greed leave us feeling unfulfilled, incomplete and unhappy.

Have you tried to sit down and set up your basic, real, needs? If you haven’t, I urge you to make a list of the things that if you go without would make your life really difficult and miserable. My list is really short after food, shelter, and health. Awareness would be one of the things I would not want to relinquish by sure. But see? Awareness is not something that you possess, it’s something that you build with practice.

If you seriously think about it, most of the things we want or think we need are not essential for our well-being. In a consumer’s society, there came a point where corporations needed to create needs in the consumer to keep up the market going. Look at the TV commercials or Hollywood movies trying to buy a lifestyle that would “make you happy.”

So you buy the ipod, the iphone, the ipad, the mac and then you need cords, and covers to protect them and cases to carry them, and then you’re prompted to upgrade every year. And if you finally buy a home, you need to furnish and adorn and clean it with the latest products in the market and then upgrade the appliances every once in a while. It’s a never-ending process that keeps us working to exhaustion, compromising the really essential things like health and family.

If instead of being grateful for what we had, greed take over (this desire for wealth or possessions) our lives would be marked by constant worry, maybe envy of what others have achieved and competition instead of cooperation.

I have no doubt that at some point in history, when we had exhausted the Earth’s resources in this “having” madness, when we had killed each other for oil (already happening) or water (corporations are already taking over the water resources), there will be a STOP sign that would make us return to a more basic existence.

I truly believe that if we focused more on giving thanks for what we already have than in having some more, we would live happier. This is not wishful thinking. Studies have already shown that feelings of gratitude directly activate the production of the reward neurotransmitter dopamine, which is also the substance that motivate us to do things.

So let’s give thanks for the wonderful day out there and the endless opportunities life gives us to learn.