How To… be rational, not rationalize.

In our home we often say humans are not rational creatures, we are rationalizing creatures. That is to say, we spend more time thinking about why we do what we do, explaining and justifying our actions, as well as those of others, than we do thinking through what we are about to do and planning ahead. There is a lot of research into why this is, but it boils down to:

  • most behaviour is driven by instincts and thus most processes begin before we start thinking
  • we are often stressed, which lets instincts run wild
  • we don’t actually think of our future selves as “us”
  • we want to feel good about things we have already done
  • we want to feel good about the people “in our tribe”

This is why your average person will see chocolate cake, feel hungry, eat it distractedly, feel briefly bad about it, then excuse it and seek validation from others for the excuses, even though it is not in their long-term interests to eat the cake. Quite simply, instincts and now won out over reason and the future. It is also why depressive cycles can be so strong, why we enjoy disassociative drugs, or why people with personality disorders often feel the best about themselves.

But there are ways to improve our ability to be rational, that is, to think about our actions in general, our future, and what we do… before we do it.

1. List your instincts and their intensity.

We all have three base instincts that give rise to other instinctive behaviours. Think of which apply to you, as you might find one or two do not, and think about how easy you find it to resist them.

1: Survive.

  • eat
  • hydrate
  • sleep
  • hide from danger

2: Reproduce.

  • partner
  • have sex
  • create safety
  • locate resources

3: Find worth.

  • relax
  • work at something you enjoy
  • feel pride
  • feel belonging

So, for example, I would say my drive to eat is very strong, whereas I can resist the need to drink or sleep for a while. I would also say my drive for sex is strong, but still far weaker than my drive to partner, and that my drive to partner comes before my drive to avoid danger or feel group belonging. This means I am very centered around what I eat and around Jon, and not easily swayed by groups or fear.

2. Consider the biological reasons for your instincts.

There is a biological reason for every instinct. Those you feel intensely are probably there for two reasons:

  1. They are hardwired in almost every human.
  2. They were reinforced during your childhood.

For instance, a childhood lacking much parental security, group solidarity and physical resources has made me very prone to disordered eating and eager to attach to one person very intensely. Both are at their core instinctive, but they were reinforced later on.

Likewise, your instincts will have a purpose.

3. List your life goals and how instinct may interfere with them.

But not all instinct is good nowadays. We have an instinctive urge to get fat, because at times of scarcity, we never got too fat, just about fat enough to keep us through a famine. But today there are no famines and the instinct doesn’t work. Likewise for every instinct. Fear becomes paranoia, sexual need becomes single motherhood or multiple child benefit claims, desire for pride becomes arrogance, desire to belong becomes dependence. They can all become dysfunctional when let run wild.

4. Whenever you feel an urge, ask if it is instinct.

Now you know what they are, when you feel a pull towards something, ask yourself what instinct it could be based on. The urge to buy the latest smartphone may be a need to belong, or a need for a partner, or a need for sex. The urge to eat the chocolate cake may be a need for food, or for drink, or for safety. The urge to slap someone may be a need for belonging, or a sense of fear, or a spike of pride. Every self-destructive knee-jerk is your instincts screaming in confusion at the modern world.

5. Whenever you identify an instinctive drive, think long term.

You won’t catch every instinct, but you need to think long term as soon as you spot one. Think about your bank, or future purchases, or the group you belong to before buying the smartphone. Think about your weight, your health, or bad habit cycles before eating the cake. Think about social and legal repercussions, loss of friendship or the risk of physical harm before slapping someone. Ask yourself where your actions will take you, and whether you really want to be there.

In summary:

1: Know yourself.

2: Know your body.

3: Know your priorities.

4: Identify your problems.

5: Plan ahead.

Because it may be easier to rationalize, but it does nothing to help you better yourself.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.
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10 Things In Defence Of Adult Colouring Books.

Adult colouring books are a surprisingly divisive topic. On the one hand their lovers declare they’re just a bit of harmless fun. On the other their opponents believe they’re a marker of how infantile their users and our society have become.

Generally I find myself siding with the less emotional argument. Which in this case is that they are an infantile pursuit. However, this time the less emotional argument still has an emotional foundation. What emotional foundation? That we should necessarily eschew things that are infantile in favour of more mature pursuits, and that we should have a lesser opinion of people whose pursuits are not highly intellectual or explicitly adult.

And I don’t think that’s right. Because there are many reasons to engage in infantile habits and hobbies, some of them far more valid than attempting to maintain an appearance of maturity. So here are ten reasons why adult colouring books are beneficial, from least to most significant.

1: Fun.

Everyone likes to have fun in some way. The only people who avoid having fun to appear mature are those who never progressed beyond the teenage mentality that maturity is boring. Humans like to have fun. The sensation of “fun” is your body telling you that you are either learning a life skill (risky fun) or safe and secure (quiet fun). If it feels good, chances are it’s because on some level you need it. Not all good feels will be contextually appropriate, but not all of them are sinful or harmful either.

So before I address the other positive aspects of adult colouring books, I’d like to raise the first, most central point: there are many hobbies as pointless, unproductive, unintellectual and infantile as this. In fact, there are many that are moreso. If you see it as appropriate to attack colouring books, then you should probably also set your sights on video games, TV, chance-based board games, trash fiction, most films, shopping, casual blogging, social media, listening to music, etc.

2: Inexpensive.

Plus, something adult colouring has on most of those hobbies, is that it’s actually pretty cheap. The books are sometimes costly, but you can always buy printable versions or photocopy a book or find one on the cheap. And compared to a night out, a new DVD, a game, a restaurant meal or a cinema ticket, even the priciest colouring books are actually pretty cheap.

3: Motor function improvement.

In the modern world we often find ourselves engaging in repetitive motions at work. Typing, clicking, sorting, carrying, pressing buttons, steering. Most jobs are UNIT jobs, that basically means you are one tiny gear and your job is to turn clockwise until you sign off. This can actually affect your muscle memory, cause cramping of hand and arm muscles and mess with your coordination out of work, like the stereotypical powerlifter who doesn’t know his own strength. Like most fine-tuned activities, colouring improves your hand-eye coordination, your eye focus, your hand steadiness and your hand’s range of motion. You may not be an expert artist, but after a while you start using a variety of motions and techniques to get these tiny, precise patches coloured.

4: Attention span improvement.

With the nature of most modern work and entertainment, most people’s attention spans are awful. We’re used to immediate gratification, swapping from tab to tab, pausing our films and TV shows, checking social media every two minutes… Having something you can sit down to and immerse yourself in does wonders for patience, attention, comfort and general serenity.

5: Normalizes relaxation.

Between the flood of women entering the workforce, the decline in small business and the desperate need to compete in the market, political forces, companies and activists alike go on about the sanctity of work. From one extreme, where Marxists believe all your labour should be yours, to the other where Nationalists believe all your labour should serve your people; from feminists claiming that women need to work as many hours as men in the same roles, to anti-feminists claiming that women’s work is generally less useful than men’s, monetized work seems to be the only value anyone has any more.

Which means the pressure to work hard and never relax is immense. Taken to the extreme, we get the stereotypical Japanese businessman. It isn’t actually good. But most of our entertainment options are presented as social, energetic options by force. Go to a party, go hiking, do some networking, go dancing… Having a widely approved and supported hobby that is actually calm and quiet could do society wonders.

6: Brain-stimulating.

Believe it or not, your brain is very much active when you do things like colouring. By focusing on shapes, patterns and repetition we engage the part of our brains that deals with number and space problems. By indulging in bright colours we engage the part of our brains that gains pleasure from pretty things. By developing our motor skills we engage the part of the brain involved in proprioception and detailed work. By working through different colours and balancing them we engage the part of the brain that naturally leans toward creativity. Unlike zoning out to a screen or knee-jerk-arguing on facebook, colouring is actually very good for your mental functions as a whole.

7: Family oriented.

Again, a lot of modern hobbies fall short here. We live in a culture that worships the individual so much that few hobbies engage more than one or two people at a time. Reading, blogging and cooking are preferably solitary activities. Clubbing, social networking or watching TV are engaged in by everyone, but rarely together any more. Sports, shopping or games can be social but are usually only appreciated by one or two members of the family.

However colouring is actually pretty good for everyone. Those with artistic talent can draw. Those without can colour. Children get their colouring books. Adults get theirs. Sharing time and space like that, helping each other out and taking it easy could be just what your family needs on, for example, a Friday night.

8: Productivity.

I could easily list a large number of highly productive hobbies. But the most common relaxation habits among modern humans are not productive. Watching TV, social networking, playing simple games, reading trash and shopping are not productive, especially not in the way most people use them. However colouring, as we have seen, has many benefits. It is productive in that it’s actually good for you. And it’s productive in that at the end you have a completed object to show for it, which in and of itself is also rewarding.

9: Stress relief.

We’re all stressed. We work fast-paced, low-reward, high-contact, high-pressure jobs. Even if one trait is absent in your job, the other three are probably there. When we don’t work such jobs we feel stressed because we’re not doing enough. Stress relief is vital for humans to function. We’re not designed to be continually pumping adrenaline and epinephrine into our systems. We need to get some dopamine, serotonin and GABA in there as well. Otherwise you end up… well, like me. Except most people don’t need to be stuck in that sort of a loop.

By relieving stress with a simple, mentally stimulating, quiet, low-pressure activity you can make yourself better able to function at work, in your social circles and in life in general.

10: Natural creativity.

The big one. Humans are naturally creative. We want to create, to produce, to make marks and sounds and shapes. It’s what got us so far to begin with, combined with our deep curiosity.

But unless they are exceptionally talented or have the time to develop a skill, most people will never create wonderful art. There just isn’t the time, the financial incentive or the resources to make everyone a great artist. If we want to unleash our natural creativity we can write poems, compose story plots, doodle… and now we also have the option to do a colouring book page.

I personally have never had to use a colouring book. Not since I was very little, anyway. But I’m not some sort of a snob who thinks that just because someone can’t draw as well as me, they should miss out on the colouring. Colouring is fun. It’s relaxing. It’s productive and healthy and engaging. And if that’s how you want to let out some creativity, then by all means go ahead.

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

What do you think about adult colouring books? What do you do in your spare time? Do you think there is ever anything “too infantile” for an adult’s hobby, if the rest of their life is in order?

“Look at what we say, not what we do…”

Something I find odd when discussing human attraction is how many lies we tell. From the women who “don’t like bad boys” who seem to attract nothing but bad boys, to the men who “will take anything” who balk at the idea of a particularly ugly or old woman, humans claim to understand our own attraction and try and sugarcoat it or lie about it until the world believes us.

And one of these lies that is sorely unaddressed is this one: “I would rather be in a relationship with an emotionally, mentally healthy person. I can spot instability when I see it. I am not attracted to people with mental and personality disorders. I prefer someone with empathy, a gentle, humanitarian outlook and a predictable behavioural pattern.”

But, the fact of the matter is, we don’t.

Men need guides on how to avoid hystrionic, borderline and narcissistic women. Women continually fall for psychopaths and sociopaths. Men and women alike are drawn to people who have grown so comfortable with depression that it manifests daily, or people who are so unstable and unpredictable they’re treading the line between schizoid and schizophrenia.

Furthermore, we overplay the severity of mental disorders and underplay the disordered behaviour our partners have displayed. We assume that everyone on the bipolar spectrum acts like a person with borderline and, therefore, that our partner with bipolar II or cyclothymia is “just normal”. We assume psychopaths are all maniacal serial killers and that our partner with no empathy, extreme conceit and a coldly calculating manner is “just an ass”.

So look at what we do, not what we say.

Yeah, sure, we all insist we prefer someone “normal”. But in reality most people have dated, seriously fallen for or become obsessed with someone who was disordered.

And there are many biological reasons why mental disorders could benefit us and our future offspring. But we don’t need to go into that to see that we’re definitely attracted to them.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How To… identify and manage depressive cycles.

Everyone gets down once in a while. Everyone can feel sad, emotionally unbalanced, tired or anxious. But if you find yourself repeatedly in these states, often for no discernible reason or for unbelievably petty reasons, then you may have a depressive cycle condition.

1: Is this you?

One day you’re on top of the world, or at least feeling fine. You break your shoe, but march into a store and get a new pair. It cost a bit, but they would have needed replacing some time or another and you really like your new shoes anyway. You get to your lunch date a bit late but after explaining and showing the offending shoe all is well. You enjoy the date knowing that they aren’t too upset by your lateness, part on friendly terms and agree to have a second date.

The next morning you wake up suddenly at four am feeling incredibly anxious. You’re not sure if your date was actually OK with your reasoning. Maybe they think you’re the sort of person who carries around broken shoes just so you can excuse your lateness? And now you’re not sure you like those shoes any more anyway. You preferred the old ones. You can’t get back to sleep and drink some coffee to calm a strange shakiness and ache that has appeared in your fingers, probably from the stress. Trying to make breakfast a few minutes later, you drop a whole egg in the pan and, frustrated, throw all of it away. Making a new omelet feels like an incredibly difficult task and you feel suddenly very tired, despite just having had a coffee. You sit down and try and put the TV on, but can’t focus on it. It feels pointless and dumb to be watching TV and nothing is interesting on it. You feel helpless and break down crying.

After crying you feel more steady. Your hands aren’t shaking and you have a little more energy. You still feel strangely empty and your joints have started hurting a bit again, but at least now you feel like making another omelet.

That is a fairly normal depressive episode following what may have been a normal mood or may have been very mild mania. Because you’ve lived with it most of your life, most people with this sort of cycle don’t really notice it as something that may be a problem.

2: Ups, downs or steady?

In terms of the type of cycle, there are three defining characteristics: what moods there are in the cycle, how long the cycle is and how intense the moods are.

Firstly we’ll look at the moods we have. There are three stages to a cycle. Most people will only experience two for any length of time and the other may not feature or may be very brief and mild.

-Depressive stage. The one we’re focusing on for this guide and the one that causes most people the biggest problem. You feel sad, angry or temperamental for no reason. You feel tired, lethargic, but also anxious and jumpy at once, you may have a very hard time sleeping despite feeling exhausted. You lose motivation and start having negative thought cycles.

-Manic stage. Can be a problem to some people but provides a welcome break for those with very mild mania. You feel on top of the world, excited and brimming with energy. Your outlook is optimistic and the silver linings seem very clear. You want to do everything at once and have a hard time stopping yourself from filling the calendar too much. You have a hard time focusing on any task at hand.

-Normal or flat stage. Not a problem in and of itself, but can make some people with depressive cycles feel worse about the depression.

If you have depressive and manic as your primary cycle, you could have: cyclothymia, bipolar I, borderline.

If you have depressive and flat as your primary cycle, you could have: dysthymia, bipolar II.

People with depressive and manic may find their lives are in more of a mess and others are more often hurt by their actions. People with depressive and flat may find themselves very alone and be at risk of self harm.

3: Serious or inconvenient?

The severity of the disorder depends on two things. Firstly, how intense the moods are. Depression can range from feeling a bit flat and sad to suicidal rage. Mania can range from feeling a bit lively and unfocused to impulsively buying an entire store and then burning it. The more destructive and hard to control the mood is, the more intense it is.

The second thing is how fast the cycle is. When the cycle is slow you can predict the buildup and get ready. When it’s fast your moods can flip uncomfortably.

In terms of severity, the mood disorders scale like this:

Borderline. Very sudden, unpredictable mood switches between full mania and clinical depression.

Bipolar I. Gradual, predictable mood switches between full mania and clinical depression.

Bipolar II. Gradual, predictable mood switches between hypomania and clinical depression.

Cyclothymia. Very sudden, predictable mood switches between hypomania and subclinical depression.

Dysthymia. Gradual, predictable mood switches between normal mood and subclinical depression.

Of course all of them vary a little from person to person, but in general that is the simplest way of explaining each of them.

And the main way of treating these episodes is to work out what exactly is going on. Not all depression is alike, so pinpointing the cause of an exact problem can help fix it.

4: Serotonin.

One cause of depression is when serotonin reuptake inhibitors stop working. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps relay messages around the brain. SRIs stop your body from absorbing too much serotonin. When they aren’t working we may end up with too little serotonin, which destabilizes our mood. On its own, this won’t always cause depression, but it leaves us vulnerable. Symptoms include:

-Difficulty sleeping.

-Irritability.

-Sudden urges to cry, laugh or crush things.

-Sensitivity to pain, normal touch feels uncomfortable.

Management includes:

-Meditation.

-Isolating yourself from others for a while.

-Engaging in calm and pleasurable activities, like watching TV, reading or listening to music.

-Asking your doctor about 5-HTP and SSRIs.

5: GABA.

GABA’s main role is helping us get into a nice deep sleep. When this sleep process is interrupted, for example by alcohol, REM sleep is worsened which can cause a downward spiral as though we weren’t sleeping at all. If you have poor GABA receptors you may suffer the same way someone suffers with a hangover. Symptoms include:

-Suddenly vivid and very memorable dreams.

-Anxious, edgy, twitchy.

-Panic and sickness at night.

-Turning to alcohol or drugs to get some sleep.

Management includes:

-Meditation before bed to unwind.

-A mild sleeping pill to promote REM sleep.

-Supplemental GABA.

6: Dopamine.

Dopamine is the reward driver. Whenever you do something that results in a pleasant sensation, like eating good food, relaxing, having sex or playing, dopamine fires out to tell you what a good job you’re doing and to remind you to do that more often. When your dopamine receptors aren’t working properly there is nothing in your body to tell you that you did well at being a human. Symptoms include:

-No lust for life.

-Nothing feels rewarding, everything feels like it’s draining you, even things you used to like seem pointless.

-Low or absent concern even for people you loved.

-Things genuinely start looking dull, grey and uninviting.

Management includes:

-Going somewhere new and exciting.

-Overwhelming the senses.

-Exercise.

-Supplementing l-phenylalanine.

7: Norepinephrine.

Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter that is produced in response to stress. It is also a stress hormone, like cortisol or adrenaline. It increases the oxygen going to our brain, speeds up our heartrate and shuts down basic processes like digestion until the stress is gone. It helps send us into fight or flight. When the receptors aren’t working anxiety can build up, but the body becomes overwhelmed and has no energy to fight the stress. Symptoms include:

-Low energy for no reason.

-Poor motivation, persistence and focus.

-A desire to sleep for a long time.

-Boredom regardless of what you’re doing.

-Sudden spikes of anxiety, a feeling your existence is threatened.

Management includes:

-Exercise.

-A mild herbal antianxiety pill like valerian root.

-Caffeine to raise your energy through the day.

-Ask your doctor about SSRIs.

8: Hippocampus.

Many people with depression actually have a smaller than average hippocampus and long periods of depression can shrink it further. The hippocampus processes all your new memories and might play a role in deciding which ones are important to keep and which ones are for the short term. It also works with your spacial memory, helping you map your location and even remember what size your body is and what it’s doing. If your hippocampus is too small, it may become overwhelmed, causing poor memory function and proprioception. Symptoms include:

-Forgetting your daily plans.

-Forgetting what day it was, or things that happened in the past few days.

-Accidentally dropping or crushing things because you lost track of your hands.

Management includes:

-Mindfulness meditation.

-Keeping lists when you notice it happening.

9: The start and end.

Finally, you want to learn to predict when depression is creeping up on you, what type of depression it is and what the cycle usually involves. Keep a diary to find out what starts and ends your depressive cycles, what triggers an episode and what helps calm them preemptively.

And that’s how I manage depressive cycles. I hope that helps, or was at least informative if you don’t have depression.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

8 Ways To Find Beauty In Everything.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the world for what it is. Or for what it isn’t. Or basically to enjoy it for what it is, even if it isn’t perfect. It’s especially hard when you’re going through a rough patch or have depression in general. Existential misery, the feeling that everything is meaningless or the cloud to every silver lining will blind you to the positives and leave you feeling miserable. And when you’re in that sort of a place you can’t always feel better about it.

But there are some ways to lift yourself up when you’re down and to prevent yourself from being dragged down quite so harshly. Preventative medicine for the mind, or a supplement of happiness to tide you through, as it were.

1: Respect yourself.

It can be hard to do anything at all when you don’t respect yourself. To try and cultivate self-respect, remember to always make note and give thanks when you get things right, so that these become more memorable. Learn about your own flaws and work against them when they can be fixed and accept when they can’t. From time to time, try and think of yourself as a child or a pet. Would you treat a child or puppy with the amount of love, care and attention you treat yourself? Remember that you deserve to be happy, especially when it doesn’t cost anyone anything.

2: Respect others.

It is just as important to respect those around you. When you have no respect for yourself you will breed sadness, as you won’t be able to enjoy the fruits of your labour or the silver linings in life. But when you have no respect for others you will breed anger, as their flaws will routinely disappoint and offend you. Try and think about other people rationally. Look at their skills and flaws and ask yourself if your demands are reasonable. Remember that they may not be capable of what you expect of them, and that they have the free will to deal with their flaws or embrace them. You have no power over them.

3: Hone your senses.

Everything in life can be experienced through all the senses. We have the five main senses, of course, but we also have the surrounding senses, such as proprioception, time perception and intuition. Learn about all of them and from time to time use meditation to bring them all out. Try observing and painting every colour in a flower, or listening to every instrument in a piece of music. By working on your senses you can learn that some things may have an awful scent or colour, but a pleasant sound or atmosphere.

4: Indulge your senses.

Once you have spent some time observing every sense, try and indulge or even overwhelm them. Listen to genres of music you’ve never heard before. Look at psychedelic art. Try eating high concentrations of foods that are often diluted, like saccharine, or low concentrations of foods that are often strong, like coffee. Push yourself to identify more elements of life. Try and meditate to speed up or slow down your perception of time. Try and feel every part of your body without touching it with your hands. Indulge every sense you can isolate.

5: Look for beauty.

And when you’re experiencing everything at least a little bit and striving to experience everything fully, you want to find beauty wherever you look. Maybe a tall tree in your neighbour’s garden is blocking the light from your own. But you can plant shade-loving plants beneath it and enjoy the shelter it gives from rain and sun. Maybe your child plays loud music in the afternoons. But the music may have agreeable qualities that you hadn’t noticed. Maybe chocolate tastes too sweet for you. But the bitter, astringent or spiced tastes that cocoa has shouldn’t be neglected. The beauty is there, if only you look for it carefully.

6: Protect yourself.

That said, be sure to guard yourself against things that have more harm than beauty in them. If chocolate is genuinely too unpleasant for you, then ensure you don’t have to eat it by warning people and learning to politely turn it down. If a certain type of music gives you migraines, makes you feel ill at ease or is simply irritating, explain this to anyone who plays it around you. You can’t control the actions of others, but you can take small steps to remove unnecessary harm from your life.  And these steps are entirely your own responsibility.

7: Disregard unharmful flaws.

However, some flaws are merely mild annoyances that cause no real harm. If a certain type of music annoys you and your neighbour insists on playing it, then there is nothing you can do. It is causing you no real harm, so learn to ignore these things. Inconvenient, annoying or frustrating things happen all the time. The world doesn’t care that your father died in a train derailment, that incense gives you headaches or that you take longer to cross a certain section of a road than others would. Trains, incense and crossings won’t stop existing just because they bother you. If the thing you perceive as a flaw causes you no harm, then learn to ignore it whenever you can’t avoid it.

8: Be honest about positives and negatives.

There are good sides and bad sides to life. Whatever your outlook, things will happen that will make you sad, hurt, angry or frustrated. Regarding these things, the only outlook that helps is acceptance. Sometimes you will find something that has no value to you. So accept them for what they are. Death is death. Devastation is devastation. Disease is disease. They may hold no reward for you, but they’re not meant to. They have their own role to play in life which, however harmful it is to you, is benefiting something, somewhere. Trying to deny their existence or the harm they cause you will only make you less happy. All you can do is accept that they’re there, accept that they play a part in this world and keep on going. After all, the pigs you eat for breakfast and the microorganisms you kill with antibiotics would have a hard time seeing the good in you too!

And those are eight ways to see the beauty in everything. If you make an effort, you will find that everything has something beautiful about it, even if that beauty is completely useless to you.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How To… prepare a “downer” kit.

Everyone gets a little down from time to time. Maybe you had a bad day, maybe you’re hormonal, maybe something serious happened or maybe you’re just born that way. And when you feel like that, there are things you want and need to help you feel better. As someone who lives with these feelings every few weeks and depressive bouts every month or so, I have more of less perfected the art of the “downer” kit. So here is how I make it.

This is part II of my ongoing “housekeeper’s kits” series. For part I, the household first aid kit, click here.

1: The container.

This is more important than it seems. You will need a moderately sized container, about as big as a large makeup bag or tiny backpack.

But it also has to have at least five compartments, if not more, be soft to touch, easy to open and in a soft, engaging colour like a pastel pink, yellow or green, bright white or something metallic. The reason for the compartments is so that it doesn’t need sorting, because the last thing you need is to dig through piles of things you don’t want looking for the one single thing you do want. The reason for the softness and easy-open is because when you are depressed your hormones are everywhere, which can cause crying (blurred vision and headaches) and wobbly hands (not best combined with fiddly clasps or sharp edges). And the reason for the colour is because you want something you can look at without hurting your eyes if you have a headache and that inspires energy and joy when you look at it.

2: Diet.

Far more important than you would guess. When you’re down you obviously crave certain comfort foods, but you also need to boost your micronutrients. Try keeping a balance of healthy snacks (dark chocolate, mixed nuts, Nakd bars, etc), healthy comfort food recipe alternatives (mac and cheese, pizza, meatloaf, spagbol, etc) and supplements known to help with depression (omega 3, vitamin B complex, St John’s Wort, evening primrose oil) in your bag at all times.

3: Exercise.

Keeping active helps you elevate your mood and distract yourself from depression. But fighting the lethargy can be hard. Make sure to keep some light weights and hand grips for armchair exercise and a yoga video to watch, to help encourage you to do five or ten minutes here and there.

4: Soothing.

Sometimes you’re feeling very shaky and just need to calm down. No appetite, no energy, no drive at all. You’re not exactly miserable at this point. You just look it and feel very tired or anxious. For these times, you need a soothing set. Keep at least two CD mixes or mp3 playlists with the most calming and happy songs you can find or tolerate when depressed. Have some sunglasses in case you need to go outside and even a sleep mask for when you’re home. Keep a bath salt mix in case the urge to soak in the tub strikes you, but the idea of mixing one is overwhelming. An inflatable neck pillow and a small hot water bottle may also help relax you.

5: Mood elevation.

For when you’re on your way up and need something to help you along or when you’ve just got out of rock bottom and need some distraction, keep some entertaining, exciting things around. A short book of jokes, a comedy or action film or some more invigorating music will help.

6: Human contact.

When you’re depressed, depending on why you’re down and how you deal with it, at some point you may not want to be alone. Try and keep a phonebook with names, house, work and mobile numbers and good contact hours for everyone who could help you in your time of need. This is very useful if you ever feel alone, panicked or paranoid and aren’t sure who to call.

Also, if these bouts are regular, try and have someone as your designated “depression monitor”, to call when you’re scared of hitting rock bottom or finding it hard to get out of bed. This should be someone who can just be there for you, encourage you and perhaps drive you to a new and interesting place to help kick you out of the smaller slumps.

7: Pamper.

Finally, you want to have things to treat yourself with. Massage oils, makeup, a hair styling set, a manicure set and some of your favourite childhood sweets would all be good for this area. Anything small and hard to get your hands on when you don’t even want to leave the house.

And that is what to put into a kit to fight depression, whether you’re just feeling a little down because of the weather or so bad you can’t face the thought of leaving bed.

What would you put into your “downer” kit?

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

You’re Perfect… But Keep Going.

Dissatisfaction, always wanting the next thing up, is the human condition. So is a desire for perfection and an ego that, like glass, is apparently solid, totally transparent and shatters when hit hard enough. This much is self evident. You don’t need to look further than our consumerist culture and its quick spread to see these realities in action.

On the other hand, we are also wary of the extreme forms of either of these things. Excessive ego that is too solid troubles us, makes us question the egoist’s very humanity. A paper-thin ego makes us question their stability. Absolute perfectionism is seen as dangerous, the quest for the impossible. No drive to progress is understood to be a bane to society as much as to the individual.

And we often pair the extremes up a certain way. After all, the extreme egoist is often so proud, happy and comfortable that they stagnate. Their robust ego may be beneficial to them in terms of mental and emotional stability, but it creates the false impression that they have no work left to do. And the extreme perfectionist is often so focused, so obsessed, so needy that their ego wears thin. Their drive is beneficial in that they will often progress far beyond where anyone else could even imagine, but when they repeatedly fall short of their own standards their ego is wrecked.

However, I believe the best balance is actually not one of moderation, but a balance of the two more solid extremes. You need to be a perfectionist narcissist. This doesn’t really happen in nature. When your ego is that solid, you don’t want to carry on. When your standards are that high, your ego is hurt. But it can be encouraged and built through mindfulness.

You need to appreciate everything you do, admire everything you make, take pride in every achievement. You need to look at everything you are, physically, mentally, educationally, emotionally, and believe deep down that it is, brilliant, incredible, perfect.

But you also need to look at everything you make critically, analyze everything you do and move on from every milestone. You need to look at everything you could possibly become, physically, mentally, educationally, emotionally, and strive for it.

Push and pull. Push and pull. Until you’re sitting in the right place to carry on.

Depending on which way you already lean, you will need to work more on one than the other. Probably even depending on what you happen to be doing.

But whatever it is, when something is stressing you, getting you down, hurting you or annoying you, take action. Step back, analyze it, find what you need to fix, find what you can fix, find what you’re doing well and what you love. And then remind yourself…

“It’s perfect. But I have to keep going.”

 

TTFN and Happy Hunting.