Nod if you’ve ever felt down. Emotional rollercoasters in the negative are philosophized to be good and even necessary for being able to appreciate and enjoy the peak experiences and moments of joy – pure or not. However, whenever those lows hit, the last thing in most of our minds is appreciating the different experience. Mostly we just react to our feelings and don’t even bother to think why exactly do we feel like that in this exact moment. Thinking about why you think or feel the way you do – metacognition – helps with this and can lead us to understanding what is beyond the lows in our emotions.
There are two topics I have experienced to affect me in a way that makes me think: “Holy ffff, why do I feel so bad? Why do I have these depressive thoughts in my head? I shouldn’t feel that way – there is nothing such happening with me these days that could make me feel like that, so why am I close to depression? Why do I suddenly lack motivation? Where is all this coming from?”
One of these I have found to be nutrition. Plain, simple, loved by all – food.
Some years ago I discovered myself feeling and thinking exactly as quoted above. I felt depressed, despite that I felt that there would be no objective reason to feel like that. I was sure it wasn’t depression, just the similar feelings involved. A few months of such confusion and I noticed my daily meal schedule – mostly snacking if at all, I didn’t feel hungry and if I did, I didn’t feel appetite – that meant I ate about twice a day. Definitely not enough. Definitely not enough.
I noticed it only after seeing a TED talk of a woman who played around with dosing her daily intake of brain chemicals – she had to take them in artificially, because she had had brain cancer so an important chemical-producing part of her brain was removed. (If only I could find this talk to link it for you!). It made me think that perhaps my eating habits were related to how I felt – hypothesizing that if there is not enough material to build those chemicals from, negative emotions arise. Funnily, eating different fats made me feel better. Now I stumbled upon a study that claims this hypothesis true: in a four year longitudinal study of psychological changes following weight loss by Jackson, Steptoe, Beeken, Kivimäki & Wardle (2014), “The proportion of participants with depressed mood increased more in the weight loss than weight stable or weight gain groups” – 289%, 86% and 62% respectively. Meaning in human language that out of the people whose mood was followed through the years, among those who were losing weight, shitloads became depressed over the time. They also measured triglycerides and the weight losers had less – that means there can be a correlation between how much fats you have eaten and how little or much depressed you are.
Back then I got rid of the bad moods by simply forcing myself to eat at least three times a day at regular intervals. At first it induced even worse feelings, but eventually brought me back on track.
The second thing is social deprivation. “Youhouu, meaningful conversations, where have you been in the past 24 hours?!” A day without a meaningful discussion, I have discovered, is enough to make me feel like crap.
Feeling depressed makes us afraid of socialization, so we get lost in our caves and isolate ourselves so we socialize even less, without realizing that not socializing is the reason we feel like that. Acknowledging that allows us to look past the feels and go push our limits and go vulnerable, go talk to someone, go ask a friend out we’re otherwise afraid they’re not interested in hearing about our worries or have better things to do than hang out with us. If social deprivation triggered depression-like behaviour in mice (Berry, et al., 2012), why not in people. I have understood that feeling shit is best relieved with some socialization; and people are mostly nice, especially when they are your friends, so why not reach out.
Sometimes, when we feel like we’re depressed, it is not because we have depression that we need to cure, but because we have some other things out of balance in life. Thinking about these things can help us understand that the thoughts we get are the result of these imbalances and we shouldn’t take these thoughts personally.
We feel like shit every once in a while because we are human, not because there’s something ultra wrong with us. Whenever you do feel like crap – have a bite of something fat and meet up with a friend or even a stranger – however afraid of meeting them you might be. Acknowledging your thoughts and the reason they occur may even help save lives.
Share your thoughts – what other things have an effect on your mood and thoughts?
Berry, A., Bellisario, V., Capoccia, S., Tirassa, P., Calza, A., Alleva, E., & Cirulli, F. (2012). Social deprivation stress is a triggering factor for the emergence of anxiety- and depression-like behaviours and leads to reduced brain BDNF levels in C57BL/6J mice. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 762—772.
Jackson, S. E., Steptoe, A., Beeken, R. J., Kivimäki, M., & Wardle, J. (6. August 2014. a.). Psychological Changes following Weight Loss in Overweight and Obese Adults: A Prospective Cohort Study. PLOS one, pgs 1-9.