I’ve started reading a book titled ‘MoodMapping – Plot Your Way to Emotional Health and Happiness’ by Dr. Liz Miller (she appears in Stephen Fry’s documentary about Bipolar titled ‘The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive.’)
I have to confess, when I ordered this book from the library, I thought it was going to be all about doing mood charts. I was wrong. The tracking of your mood is only part the story. The message I am getting from the book so far is much more significant than just scoring your mood from -5 to 5. The message is that you can choose to take actions that make you feel better, or make you feel worse.
Personally, I had never realised this before. I thought moods were just the whim of the gods, and I had no choice as to whether I was in a low or a high mood. Certainly with having such regular manic and depression phases as I do, it’s easy to feel that you have absolutely no control over how your mood is.
The danger with this perspective is that you give up all responsibility in your actions affecting your moods. If you are destined to feel crappy today, then it doesn’t matter what you do today because you are going to feel bad anyway. Not true. Although there are general ups and down in mood that people with Bipolar can do nothing about, every little action you take affects your mood in some way also. Your choice in how you spend today affects your mood too. I have been carrying out actions that did no favours to my already suffering moods.
With this realisation, I drew up two lists. Actions that make me happy, actions that make me crappy.
The happy list is about what actions leave you feeling like you’ve achieved something, used your time wisely, you’ve become a better person for or the quality of your life has increased as a direct result of doing the action. The crappy list is about what actions leave you feeling like you’ve wasted your time, feeling tired and sluggish, like you were just passing the time away or make you feel like the quality of your life has decreased in some way.
The lists are not for blame games. You shouldn’t be blaming others or yourself for these actions, you need to just objectively identify actions that have a good or bad effect on your mood. It’s objectively identifying things that make you feel better so you can do more of them, and identifying what actions have negative effects on your mood so that you can do less of them.
My lists contained the following:
Actions that made me happy
- Reading good books
- Discussing with James
- Doing Yoga
- Eating healthy wholesome food
- Going outside and being in the sun
- Doing cultural things (like going to galleries, museums or attending talks)
- Doing my volunteer works
Actions that made me crappy
- Watching more than 1 hour of ‘TV’ a day
- Working/watching/reading beyond 10pm
- Eating breakfast in bed and continuing to work in bed
- Being in slouchy clothes all day
- Missing my yoga classes
- Consuming so much wheat, meat, dairy, coffee and tea
- Not spending time talking to James
- Not having time to think
- Staying up late
- Having to juggle several projects
(Ironically, I wrote this list at 11pm, whilst ignoring James… As I said, it’s not a blame game, it’s just owning up to the things you do to yourself that has negative effects on your moods.)
Once the lists are done, you can very easily see what changes you need to make in order to reduce the things that make you feel crappy, and increase the things that make you happy. If you’re anything like me, you will be wanting to get rid of negative things straight away. However, addressing them all in one go would not be a wise thing to do. For example, if I decide to cut out all the foods that are on the crappy list, it will be a huge shock to my system. More than likely, I’ll crash and burn. To begin with, it’ll be a much easier (and happier) journey to pick one or two to work on. Slowly, you can add further goals to actively reduce actions that make you crappy, so you can free up time to do more of the things that make you happy.
What’s on your happy/crappy lists?