Mind & Body

Happy New You!

Bust out of the blues and infuse your life with joy. Let one (or all) of our healing exercises do the trick.

Happy New You!
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Happiness. If you’ve been feeling lonely or depressed, it might be the one gift you really want. And it’s a gift you can give yourself, says James S. Gordon, M.D., author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression (Penguin Press). “Depression is a sign that our lives are out of balance,” says Gordon, the founder and director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, D.C.

To get your spirit back on track, Gordon suggests a systematic approach using several healing strategies, including meditation, dancing, acupuncture, and therapy. If you suffer from more serious blues, see a psychotherapist, M.D., or naturopath. Otherwise, try one of our cloud-busting exercises.

1. CONFRONT NEGATIVE EMOTIONS. Feelings like guilt, pride, or resentment can thwart efforts to be happy. Face them head-on: Write down an imaginary exchange between you and one of these emotions. Take about ten minutes, write quickly, and don’t censor yourself. Ask the emotion why it’s there and what it hopes to gain. Accept whatever answers come and you may discover a deeper understanding of your issues.

2. POUND OUT UNHAPPINESS. Kneel in front of a few thick, fluffy pillows. Take a deep breath, think about what’s keeping you from being happy, and pound away for about five minutes. Afterward, write about the experience. What thoughts and images came up? Try it daily for several weeks or months as needed.

3. TAKE A WALK. Getting in motion can break up fixed patterns of depression and help you see the personal changes you need to make, says Gordon. Keep it simple: Begin with a ten-minute meditative stroll, alone or with others, and see where it takes you—both physically and emotionally.

4. DANCE. Burn off tension and lift feelings of discouragement with this easy exercise: Create a CD or iPod playlist of upbeat songs you love. Close your eyes and with the first note, start shaking your entire body. Keep going (even if you feel silly!) for five minutes. Relax for a moment and then dance or shake for another five to ten minutes.

5. FIND SUPPORT. Join a mind-body group—a safe haven that provides support for depression sufferers—led by a professional psychologist, social worker, or naturopath. (Find them at cmbm.org or through the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance at dbsalliance.org.)

6. LET GO OF GRUDGES. When we forgive others we can learn to forgive ourselves, says Gordon. Holding a grudge can worsen depression, and recent research suggests that forgiveness can boost heart health and your mood. Practice this simple meditation: Sit comfortably, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Picture a person who fuels your anger. Say, “I forgive you for whatever you may have done to harm me.”

7. STAY IN THE MOMENT. Happiness comes, Gordon says, when you find moment-tomoment awareness. It’s a matter of letting go of the past and enjoying all the present has to offer.

When Gordon uses supplements with his patients, these are his go-to choices:
MULTIVITAMINS. Look for a multi that’s high in B vitamins and depression relieving minerals like chromium, magnesium, and selenium.
OMEGA 3s. At doses of up to 3,000 mg per day, these fatty acids found in fish oil or flax can improve the functioning of all brain cells.
TRYPTOPHAN, 5HTP & SAM-e. These neurotransmitter boosters are for stubborn cases of depression and can increase the same positive brain chemicals as antidepressants with fewer side effects. These should be used with guidance from a physician, dietitian, or naturopath.