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How to Make Your Mood Swing

Creative Commons LicensePhoto credit: gamenerd

Nothing helps a bad mood like spreading it around.

— Bill Watterson
author of Calvin and Hobbes

As part of the “new me” which will be arriving in 2011, I followed Martha Beck’s advice (via Ellie) about goal setting and I had one of those “Aha!” moments.  The idea of using adjectives to describe who I wanted to be had never occurred to me before, but once I read the article, it seemed so obvious.  How could I have missed it?  I don’t know, but I definitely did.

After my last post about creativity, I’m a little gun shy about just using what Beck had put in her article, but I liked her adjectives.  They resonated for me.  So, I’ve committed to putting myself on a path to being:

  • Strong – which for me includes building flexibility
  • Confident – the last year really took it out of me, so this year I’m going to get it back
  • Healthy – in body, mind and spirit

You notice how despite the fact that the adjectives resonated for me, I had to define them in my own way; that’s the creative part.

How Did I Get Here?

Since the beginning of the new year, a whole three weeks ago, I’ve been trying to get my mojo back.  It’s a little hard because I don’t know where it went, but I figure that it’s got to be out there somewhere, so I’ll just keep looking.

Last year I proudly wrote about how I was working my way up to an average number of steps per day that was over 8,000.  Let me tell you, that’s not easy.  I hadn’t realized just how hard it was until I fell off the wagon over the holidays.  Normally, the holidays are crazy but I manage to get my daily walk in – especially when I’m in a nice area for walking.

This holiday season, I arrived in Phoenix with a cold – not a bad one, but it hung on the whole time I was there.  Add to that, I just wasn’t sleeping well – probably a side effect of the cold.  Some nights I got only three hours of sleep.  So, when morning came, I wasn’t ready to go for a walk.  I was ready for a nap!  And as quick as that, I wasn’t walking every day.

When I came home, I continued to feel punk (probably more emotional than physical) and I really didn’t feel like walking… and then it rained… and there I was, in the new year and being lucky to walk 5,000 steps in a day.

And once I’d stopped walking, I really didn’t want to start again… which just goes to show you that even with a strongly ingrained habit, it’s easy to get lazy.

So, after the holidays, a little cold, and a little rain, I’d turned into a slug.

Wait – I’ve Seen This Movie Before

Unfortunately, I’m at that age where if I don’t keep moving, I get stuck in place.  So, when I didn’t walk as much, I got really, really SLOW!  And stiff… and achy… and feeling old and worst of all, I felt as if this were a permanent condition.  Again, it’s amazing to me just how quickly I can go from optimistic and energetic to depressed and old.

In Breaking the Patterns of Depression, Dr. Michael Yapko focuses on the repetitive nature of depression.  Building on the work of researchers like Dr. Martin Seligman, Yapko believes that managing depression is a skill that can be learned.  Yapko includes both the physical and emotional parts of depression, insisting that using both anti-depressants and appropriate types of therapy are essential to improve both skills and moods.

For the depressed person, the biggest risk is when they believe that how they feel today is permanent and when they have nothing that they are working towards.  Believing that nothing will change is so much easier than getting up and getting moving.  There’s no risk and no energy required.

For me, the less I moved, the less I wanted to move.  And the more I gave into the instinct to “cocoon” and just veg under a blanket with a book that distracted me from how old and achy and stiff and slow I’d become, the more my mindset became grayer and grayer (sort of like my hair).

But, I’ve seen this movie before.  And that’s where Dr. Yapko got my attention.  I can notice and recognize this old pattern.

Even though I’ve been walking daily for about eight years (minus the last two months), I’ve been sedentary for most of my life.  And given the opportunity to go back to its old patterns my brain said, “Yipee!  It’s too cold out there anyway.”  As quick as that, I’d given up what I knew was good for me and chosen the easy path.

Whether this mini-depression started with not walking or whether I stopped walking because I was depressed, it doesn’t matter.  I know the pattern and I know that I need to recreate a vision of myself as a person who walks every day and doesn’t let a temporary mood overcome my good sense.

So, I’ve recommitted to reaching for those 10,000 steps every day.  I know I won’t walk that far every day, but some days I’ll walk farther.  Already, I can feel the change.  After a couple of days of making myself go out and walk, I realize that however I felt when I left the house, I felt much better when I’d finished my walk.  And now, my vision includes me as a person with the power to recognize and avoid depression.  Maybe not every time, but this time.  And that’s enough.

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