Is your body controlling your mood?

February has been tough.

I don’t very often moan and I want to assure you that that isn’t what I’m doing now. What I want to do is to help you see that we all struggle sometimes. 

We do, it’s inevitable. 

No-one is happy and energised all the time. 

I spend a lot of time talking about helping to improve your mood and how easy it can be to change your mindset but sometimes it feels like too many factors are conspiring against you doesn’t it? It is all just too much.

Just before Christmas I went to see the nurse about my asthma. She was lovely and a little concerned about my breathing. It had been getting more difficult, despite being really strict about my diet and she prescribed a brown inhaler to be taken morning and night.

Now, as you may know if you have read some of my other blogs, my body does not react the same way as the average body. My acromegaly means that I deal with steroids differently to most people.

I had been feeling really tired since the start of the year. I convinced myself it was because my diet had been far from perfect and I had had an incredibly busy Autumn term. It wasn’t until I went to see my consultant that I realised that there was a reason I had been feeling so incredibly tired. 

While I had been gentle with myself, allowed myself more time that usual to rest and tried to get back to healthier eating habits, unbeknown to me my body had been sabotaging my efforts. 

I have carried a steroid card since I had my pituitary surgery but with so much information to take in at the time I couldn’t remember why. When I mentioned to the consultant that I was now using a brown inhaler (which incidentally has transformed my breathing) he asked how I had been feeling. I said I was fine, still not connecting the total exhaustion with anything external. He then went on to tell me that I could experience tiredness if I use a steroid based inhaler… oh, well, that joins a few dots! So now I need to go see the nurse and see if there is an alternative.

It got me thinking though, so many of us think that our mood is something purely cerebral but the reality is that our temperament is controlled by so many things, and our body and general health is a huge factor. 

For centuries we have understood that the stomach contributes to our mental health. Ancient Greeks believed that all thinking occurred in the stomach and that the head was just for cooling the blood.

We certainly experience emotions in the stomach. When we feel anxious the first reaction we notice is in the upper stomach not in the head usually.

That sick feeling or butterflies it’s all in the stomach. Scientists now refer to the gut as the second brain. This is a great article if you would like to read more on this subject.

The world is so much bigger and more interesting than we can see with our naked eyes. If we could, we could watch cells grow, morph, and split again over and over again on the backs of our own wrists—or the billions of foreign cells living in and among our own, forming what scientists are beginning to call our “second brain.

Richard E. Cytowic

Contributor Neurologist & Author, The Huffington Post

So next time you notice your mood slipping don’t assume that the world is getting on top of you think about this little checklist:

  • Have you been eating properly?
  • Have you been getting enough sleep?
  • Have there been any changes to your medication?
  • Are you getting enough exercise?
  • Have there been any other changes to your routine which could have affected your mood?
  • Are you getting Not all changes in temperament are caused by circumstances, sometimes it is our body giving us a warning sign.

Blue Monday

Blue Monday… today is apparently “Blue Monday”. Not a day to celebrate my favourite colour but a day when statistically more people feel depressed than any other day of the year.

The sparkles and decorations have been put away, the yummy Christmas food is finished and the resolutions are in full flow. More significantly though the credit card bills are arriving, it is cold, the next pay day is still a week away and most people are skint and regretting the extravagance of the festive period.

Hmmm, when you put it like that it does sound pretty depressing doesn’t it? 

Does it have to be this way though? Do we have to be feeling fed upend full of buyers remorse?

Well, the short answer is no. 

We have the quadruple financial threat of father in law’s birthday 3 days before Christmas, Christmas then my son and my husband’s birthdays at the start of January but I’m still smiling. Am I rolling in money, no but we have budgeted and we’re feeling pretty pleased with ourselves.

Have we eaten too much over Christmas?

Yes, definitely.

Are we all starting a sensible eating regime this week now that all the treats are finished from the birthday boys? Yes, we are.

Do I regret any decisions I have made? Nope!

 Have we eaten too much over Christmas?

Yes, definitely.

Are we all starting a sensible eating regime this week now that all the treats are finished from the birthday boys? Yes, we are.

Do I regret any decisions I have made? Nope!

Times are hard

Don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate how difficult life is for many people at the moment. Some of the stories I heard over Christmas about how some families were having to spend this “magical” time of year broke my heart. So many people are feeling the pinch. Families are spending money they don’t have to buy presents for their children that they don’t need, but everyone else has got one and they don’t want to be the only ones without the latest gadget. We see it all the time don’t we?

For many families the pressure to keep up appearances has been huge over the last few years and that is a very difficult position to be in. 

There has always been a strong correlation between financial security and stress levels but we have definitely seen this trend on a global scale over recent years. As life becomes less predictable and busier stress levels have gone through the roof. Children as young as 5 and 6 are now being diagnosed with stress and anxiety disorders.

Recent research suggests that the biggest factor in childhood stress is whether the child’s parents do a job they enjoy.

You might question the logic of this statement but if you think about it, if you don’t enjoy your job you come home tired, stressed and agitated. Who do you take it out on? Your loved ones of course. Children are amazing bundles of joy but if you are tired and stressed they can be a walking talking trigger.

Why am I talking about this? 

Well, because I truly believe that a huge factor in my January happiness is the fact that I love my job. I don’t dread going back to work after the holidays because I am fired up and ready to implement all the ideas I have had while my brain has been resting. We live a modest life compared to many families, but we are surrounded by love and happiness and that is all we need.

Is life perfect?

No of course it isn’t? It would be pretty boring if it was. But we look for the positives in everything. Every night I write down ten things I am grateful for in my Gratitude Journal and as challenging as that can feel some days I always manage at least ten.

We spend our time doing things that make us happy; going for a walk, watching a film together, eating a nice meal. None of which have to cost any money if you don’t want them to. 

Sometimes we get sucked into seeing what someone else is doing or seeing something they have and feeling envious. We’re human. But we know deep down that we are very lucky to have the life we do. We have a warm, dry home, filled with people who love us, we have food on the table (well we do now I’ve been shopping!), we have clean running water that we can drink and wash in without worrying about disease, we have clothes to keep us warm in these freezing temperatures. If that was all we had that would be more than 35% of the world’s population.

We have all that and more though! We have a car to drive to go and. buy food from the shops and money to buy it, we have schools and hospitals and friends and a job and a tv to entertain us. We have mobile phones and laptops to help us keep in touch with our loved ones and the rest of the world. 

We really are fortunate.

 

I can’t help feeling a little cynical about the labelling of this day too. My inbox today has been full of “cheer yourself up on Blue Monday” offers! In a world where consumerism is rampant, we are constantly told that we need more, that we deserve to have these luxuries and we should expect to have them. The cynic in me wonders whether the fact that spending of course drops in January as people try to recoup a little of the excess that they spent in December whether we are being manipulated again.

Could it be that making a fuss about how depressed everyone is feeling on a particular day is even designed to make us spend money? It isn’t impossible. Retailers manipulate us all the time into believing that we need more stuff. Maybe that is why they have jumped on this bandwagon?

Interestingly the doctor who first coined the phrase “Blue Monday” has since said that he “didn’t mean it to be a sad day”. 

So, instead of sitting and feeling blue this “Blue Monday” why not sit and feel blessed. Maybe we could rename it “Blessed Monday”?

What do you think? 

To Infinity and Beyond!

Infinity is always a word that has fascinated me.

What does it mean?

How can anything keep going forever?

Even if it does, how can anyone ever prove it does?

That aside, it is a useful word and one which apparently gets its own national holiday on the 8th August? (8/8 I suppose that is the obvious choice!). Upon investigation I discovered that the first Infinity Day was celebrated in 1987, the year I started high school. It obviously isn’t widely celebrated given that I have only just become aware of it.

It is a day to celebrate philosophy and encourage discussion. This is definitely something I should have known about! There is nothing I love more than a good philosophical debate!

 

Don’t worry, I’m not going to launch into a philosophical debate…

Nor am I going to talk about this guy (although I do love Buzz Lightyear and his “can do” attitude!).

I’m not going to talk about Pi or the never ending universe.

No, I’m going to talk about infinity breathing, a very useful tool to have in your mindfulness toolkit.

That’s much easier to get your head round and since our breathing is infinite, well, as infinite as our life, it seems like a good thing to focus on on Infinity Day.

Infinity Breathing is a very simple breathing technique that I use with even very young children in schools. Imagine an infinity symbol (a relaxed 8!) and hold out either a hand or finger and draw round one loop as you breathe in and complete the symbol as you breathe out.

My friend Mojo can explain better:

 

So, tomorrow as you celebrate Infinity Day (It has an added 8 for good luck this year too 8/8/18!) why not try some infinity breathing and help your body really calm down so you can have a very calm and considered philosophical debate rather than getting all hot headed.

I do want to end on a slightly aspect of infinity.

We can love to infinity.

Love is definitely something I can understand being never ending.

I have been reminded of this a lot recently.

As I write this in my garden wearing my Grandma’s ring and smelling the beautiful rose my best friend bought me to remember my Grandma when she passed, I know that I will love her for infinity and she will definitely return that love infinitely.

I will love my children to infinity and beyond!

My beautiful best friend recently got married and her ring is an infinity symbol, completely beautiful and so appropriate.

Although our loved ones can’t always be with us, that love stays in our heart for infinity.

There is no more precious gift in the world than that of love and true love is always infinite.

Infinity might be a difficult concept to understand with our minds but our hearts it seems just get it!

5 Mindful Minutes

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