There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
August 5, 2013 8:18 PM   Subscribe

What are you tips/hacks for returning to playful, light energy after a bout of the heavier stuff? I had a rough start to the summer and things are looking up, with the help of new DBT skills, but that kind of extraverted, life-affirming energy is still hard to come by.

Snowflake details: Medicine has helped get me into a stabler place with my mood diagnosis. I know that DBT is all about regulating the oscillations that happen in mood naturally and getting through the extreme patches, rather than catapulting you into all positives all the time!!! However, now that I'm a little more mellowed out, and maybe 45% more insightful/skillful, I find that I have much less of that breezy, positive energy flowing through me. I'm much more irritable, it's harder to concentrate on the outside world. My "happy" default mark seems more like subdued contentment, and my silly switch seems impossibly high out of reach. Perhaps my meds need a little tinkering, but i'd also like to better understand what one can do to cultivate that lightness of energy. I'm actually fairly good at mindfulness when it comes to relaxing and minimal anchors, but what I'm talking about is more related to flow-type activities -- getting really immersed in something and losing myself. it's also just about being joyous and enjoying my life, versus feeling like a big part of it is out of my reach (my anxiety might be hurting things here as well..)

tldr: How do you thaw out from a low period and get that outward-looking, interested, engaged flow back? (Sheesh, I sound like I'm selling shampoo.)
posted by elephantsvanish to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I like to watch really funny tv shows or movies to add silliness to my life. Taking a drive somewhere beautiful also really helps put me in that outward looking, joyful, optimistic mood.
posted by entropyiswinning at 8:36 PM on August 5, 2013

This doesn't quite fit with "flow type activities," but at the end of each day I try to make a list that I call a Don't Forget (as in, Don't Forget How Great Your Life Is) list. Basically anything that stands out as wonderful or uplifting or your favorite part of the past day. I know, I sounds a little cheesy, but it works. It's about re-training your brain to see that light/beauty/buoyancy again, and making a practice or habit of it is useful until it becomes natural again. I find it also makes me pay better attention to my day to day as well.

For flow-type-activities - running, cycling, rock climbing, swimming, etc. have all always done wonders for my anxiety, and they get me out of the house (which is the first, and often most difficult, step).

Good luck!
posted by ekf at 8:36 PM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

It might be different for everyone, but I can tell you the two things that reliably do it for me:

1. Playing with silly dogs.
1b. Working with a scared/depressed/defensive/discouraged shelter dog and trying to raise his happy meter. When you see THOSE guys get silly for the first time, it's hard not to feel something. I remember with my own current dog, he almost bit my face when I tried to put him in my car, he stood rigid when I pet him, and he curled up alone to sleep in a corner of the room the first night. The first time I saw him take a running start towards me, do a weird skid/flop move to the ground at my feet, roll over with all four legs kicking in the air and his tongue hanging out of the corner of his mouth, so I could give him belly rubs... yeah, it gets you. It would be hard to give him a halfhearted pat after that performance.

2. Flirting with cute boys. Insert your gender of choice. It may sound incredibly vapid, but put a really cute guy in the room, who is being playful back, and that'll do it for me. I remember this one time a friend and I were out on the town and ran into this super cute guy we knew on the way to do something else. We talked to him and went on our way, as we left, I realized I had just giggled for the past 5 minutes straight. Normally, I am not a big-time giggler, but it's fun sometimes to get into that state.
posted by cairdeas at 8:41 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Singing songs to the cats in a kitty voice.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:08 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

^ Here's a song I suggest if you are going to take ottereroticist's advice.

Warning: If you listen to or sing that song enough times, you might end up unconsciously muttering "Cat, I'm a kitty cat" to yourself in an elevator, while everyone else gives you the side-eye...
posted by cairdeas at 10:37 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Hang out with kids. My five year old niece is just about the goofiest, silliest human being I know - it's impossible for me to feel down after spending time with her.
posted by deliciae at 10:53 PM on August 5, 2013

Hang out with those friends/family members/whoever with whom you tend to have a silly, fun good time with. Do something fun like go to a lighthearted movie. I find hanging out with people like that tends to give me that light, breezy energy that carries through the rest of the day.
posted by lunasol at 11:23 PM on August 5, 2013

I like to dance the night away at a really good club or at the show of a band I really like. Not drinking or whatever just dancing with abandon in an atmosphere that's encouraged. Just being around a bunch of people having a good time and letting go does wonders for my perspective. It also makes me feel like a teenager again which is always a good thing, right?
posted by fshgrl at 12:29 AM on August 6, 2013

Some things I find make me feel lighter and happier:

1. Going barefoot in the grass. I'm barefoot all the time in the house but somehow over the years I started wearing shoes outside and never thought to kick them off. Now I make it a point to and it takes me back to my childhood days where I ran barefoot outside all summer.

2. Swimming. I swim laps for exercise but sometimes it is nice to grab a pool noodle or a kickboard and just kind of bob around daydreaming.

3. Jumping/bouncing: a mini-trampoline is fairly inexpensive and a really fun way to get moving. There are workouts you can do on them or just put on some energetic music and jump up and down. This place also looks like a lot of fun if you have one nearby.

4. Kid's toys and games can be a lot of fun. Get some jacks, a pack of sidewalk chalk, some bubbles, a jump rope and go play!

5. Games to play with others: There is always a lot of laughter when we play Uno at family gatherings. Apples to Apples was fun too... basically anything fast-moving or with a humorous element can really get the hilarity going.

6. Play with animals: blow bubbles (in a room with a fan is especially fun). Throw a ball or frisbee for the dog. Get a laser pointer and lead the cat on a merry goose chase all over the room.

7. Do crafts. There are lots of easy things to make that will be engrossing and fun even if you don't have Pinterest-level skills. Google "easy crafts" and find a ton of ideas.

8. Color. Grab a kid's coloring book and crayons and enjoy playing with color without the effort and frustration of trying to make "art." There are coloring books for adults too if you'd rather do a lovely mandala or intricate paisley design. A nice set of Prismacolor artist-quality colored pencils are a more grown-up option than crayons if you prefer.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:34 AM on August 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Nthing the "play with dogs" suggestion, or at least watch videos/look at pictures of happy dogs or animals of your choice if you can't access them in person. I find it's hard to be un-engaged in the face of some unabashedly dorky beast galumphing around like everything is the best thing ever.

Additionally, while I'm not really an "exercise person" by any stretch of the imagination, I've noticed that my mood is more consistently elevated when I make sure to regularly get out and move. For me it's walking briskly for a few miles every day. Not only does the walk itself burn off any stress I may be feeling in the moment, but for whatever reason I just feel happier over a long-term basis when I'm getting my walks in. For bonus points, be sure to really pay attention to what you're walking past - holy cow, the flowers that are out at the moment are gorgeous, and make me even happier to be exactly where I am right now.
posted by DingoMutt at 6:29 AM on August 6, 2013

Improv! If you have an inkling of a desire to perform or try your hand at it, improv is AMAZING for exactly what you're talking about. It gets you into your reactive creative mind and body. If you take a class you'll spend hours every week laughing with others. And I have actually found a lot of resonance between my own mindfulness work and improv. Improv requires a presence of mind and body that totally stretches my mindfulness muscle.

I can't recommend it enough!
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:04 AM on August 6, 2013

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