As winter descends we begin to feel the chill of shorter days and less sunlight. For many of us, less hours of light combined with colder temperatures results in us feel less light emotionally. For some of us, who actually have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) gloom really sets in. This gloom often has to be offset by either full spectrum lighting and/or various psychotropic medications.
For people with mild versions of feeling down or sad at this time of year, I’d like to suggest a way to lighten ourselves and bring more light back into our lives. My suggestion is the use of magic potions. Did I say “magic potions?” You thought I was a positive psychologist, not a magician or a medieval enchantress of some type! Yes, I said “magic potions” and yes, indeed, I am a positive psychologist. So what do I mean? Let me explain.
When I talk about magic potions–an expression I use to add drama and fire to our cold winter days–I am really talking about individual mental health formulas designed for each person. These are available in various sizes, shapes and compositions. Just like the old fashioned pharmacy where the pharmacist got out his mortar and pestle and mixed a compound for you when you didn’t feel well, our mental health magic potions are that unique, requiring individual mixing. In fact, a compound that agrees with me may not agree with you. So it is very important to take the time to mix exactly what each of us need. This is necessary for the full affect of joy and rejuvenation that each of us so deserve this holiday season.
Now let’s look at what makes a mental health potion real magic. The best way I can initially teach you about these magic potions is by example. For me, a magic potion this time of year is simply to walk outside of the house, as I did this morning to listen to a crow up in a tree calling its song. This ordinary bird, not usually sought after for its song, has always quickened my heart and unleashed a momentary but real sense of well-being.
For many, many years I’ve wondered why. The best I can determine is that I have memories, partially forgotten, which I call in my book, THE ENCHANTED SELF: A Positive Therapy, “shadow prints of the mind.”
These vague memories are without a clear storyline but do seem to take me back to my grandmother Rose Silverman that I loved so much. The crow’s call starts a memory trace that includes Rosen Road where my grandparents lived. I do not remember any crows calling, but I do remember lying in my bed and experiencing the wider world through an open window. I felt content lying there, enjoying the aromas of flowers and cooking, the street noises, including children’s voices laughing and shouting, cars and, of course, nature’s voice: the birds chirping, and the trees rustling. All of this made me feel so safe, drowsily content and anticipating what our adventures that day would be.
Perhaps I’d get to ride on the swan boats downtown at Boston Common, feed the pigeons and grandpa would buy me a balloon. Or maybe we would be going to visit a relative and I would be offered a wonderful box of chocolates from which to pick one or two special selections. Then I would get to dance and show off and receive some well appreciated praise.
How lovely to bring all that back in a flash! I want to thank the crow that was up in the tree today for being there and so exquisitely offering me the exact mental health potion that I needed to start my day.
Here’s another example of a simple, magical potion that compounds beautifully for me. This past Sunday was a lovely day but by 4:00 pm, shadows were already appearing suggesting the inevitable gloom I feel as sunlight disappears and dusk arrives by 4:30 or 4:45 pm. Rather than stay at home, perhaps even doing some necessary paperwork or even a more household-like chore such as tidying my front hall closet, I abandoned my house and took myself down to the boardwalk near where we live.
For an hour I went back and forth on this short boardwalk savoring the smells that still lingered from autumn, as well as the visionary experience of watching the sky slowly get darker. I enjoyed the extra light in the sky near the ocean, hearing the waves as I walked and occasionally sharing a friendly “hello” with another passerby.
Then, of course, I returned home to all the mundane chores–the first one being preparing dinner. However, I did have my magical potion still running through my body giving me an infusion that carried me through the rest of that night. Thus you see how magic can happen when we design mental health formulas designed for each person!
We’re going to continue to talk about mental health magical potions again in the next issue. Let’s stop for the time being so you can begin to prepare your individual mental health magical potion!
Mental Health Magical Potions: Suggestions to Consider in Creating Your Individual Compound
1. Stay alert to moments during the day that seem to please you or refresh you. I had to become alert to my responses to the call of a crow before I was able to realize that his call filled me with a sense of well being. There are probably sounds, aromas, visual scenery, or even certain people you see during the day that also arouse positive reactions in you. You may know exactly why, such as when I see Sally her smile is just like my Aunt Rose’s.
Or they may be vague (‘shadow prints’), such as the way I enjoy driving down this street more than that street but I don’t know why. It doesn’t matter. Look for your magical potions wherever you can find them during these dark days of winter.
2. Stay alert for magical potions that can help your body as well as your mind stay feeling good this season. Do you like to walk? If yes, it’s a really great idea to walk as much as possible this time of year. Are you more of a couch potato? Well, maybe there is still some enlivening things you can do, even moving your arms in various circles and motions as you sit watching television. Even that amount of exercise can help the mind/body connection stay in a more positive state.