by Robert Holmes
In the last article, we looked at different ways internal state can be changed using physiology. Here we continue on with suggestions that were given to Paul, a client that suffers from long bouts of euphoria followed by long bouts of depression, an inability to connect with his emotions and low grade social anxiety.
5. Load up on neuropeptides
We looked at Paul’s diet. Foods are loaded with a cornucopia of the precursors of emotion – called neuropeptides. For example, Chocolate (anandamide), coffee (caffeine) and eggs (choline) all lift mood. Simple carbohydrates (cookies, candy, cake) take mood down.
6. Element deficiency
Depression and pessimism can be associated with low levels of Omega-3s (found in fish) and iron deficiency (iron rich foods include red meat and beans). Lack of thiamine has been linked to introversion, anxiety, fatigue and poor mood. Paul decided it was a good idea to get more cereal, grains and cauliflower into his diet!
The presence of yeast or an abundance of the wrong gut flora (bacteria) affect mood and state negatively. These can be dealt with using probiotics and a balanced diet. Disease can debilitate, cause fatigue and alter mood and perception. Doctors can prescribe antibiotics and other medications to treat disease. Paul scheduled a visit to his local GP for a full health check.
I also suggested that Paul review all his medications with his Doctor. Even something as simple as ibuprofen for headaches (originally designed for swelling) can affect mood when taken over the long term. Its side effects include nervousness, irritability, annoyance, anger and depression.
What a person believes radically affects their experience of life. According to Dr. Philip Zimbardo our view of time radically affects how we live and experience life. We looked at whether Paul was future-oriented – always waiting for his chance to come, past-orientated – living in the past, present-hedonistic – enjoying the now or present-fatalistic – simply putting up with what he has now.
We played with ways of altering Paul’s perceptions of his experience. You can try this too sometime. When you are speaking on the phone, see how slouching or standing affect your tone and mood, your sense of authority or ability to cut the call off when you are ready. Next time someone is going on and on at you over the phone, try turning it sideways, away from your ear, and simply let the words flow past you – not affecting you. You could also try simply standing up when you want the conversation to stop (as though you are getting ready to leave).
Our minds are not fixed but have infinite capacity to adjust, amend, learn and change. But our brains do tend to hardwire circuits that are used a lot. Neurons that fire together wire together, so to help Paul change his state and mood, we explored some strategies for thinking differently about things so he could wire in some new circuits.
12. The unconscious mind
As we grow, we all find ways to cope with life. Children throw temper tantrums, burst into tears or storm away to get what they want. Many of these behavioral response patterns become part of an unconscious way of dealing with things. Paul, like many adults, had given scarce consideration to these old, learned programs – ways of dealing with reality. It was time for a mental upgrade, and some new patterns for dealing with life.
As mentioned at the start, these are just some examples of ways to use physiology, biochemistry and neurology to manage state. It is not a 12 step program. I encourage you to explore the ideas for yourself. Try them out, see what works for you and share what you learn.