By Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein
As winter descends we begin to feel the chill of shorter
less sunlight. For many of us, less hours of light combined with
colder temperatures results in us feel less light emotionally. For
some of us, who actually have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)
gloom really sets in. This gloom often has to be offset by either full
spectrum lighting and/or various psychotropic medications.
For people with mild versions of feeling down or sad at this time of
year, I'd like to suggest a way to lighten ourselves and bring more
light back into our lives. My suggestion is the use of magic potions.
Did I say "magic potions?" You thought I was a positive psychologist,
not a magician or a medieval enchantress of some type! Yes, I
said "magic potions" and yes, indeed, I am a positive psychologist.
So what do I mean? Let me explain.
When I talk about magic potions--an expression I use to add drama
and fire to our cold winter days--I am really talking about individual
mental health formulas designed for each person. These are
available in various sizes, shapes and compositions. Just like the
old fashioned pharmacy where the pharmacist got out his mortar
and pestle and mixed a compound for you when you didn't feel well,
our mental health magic potions are that unique, requiring individual
mixing. In fact, a compound that agrees with me may not agree with
you. So it is very important to take the time to mix exactly what each
of us need. This is necessary for the full affect of joy and rejuvenation
that each of us so deserve this holiday season.
Now let's look at what makes a mental health potion real magic. The
best way I can initially teach you about these magic potions is by
example. For me, a magic potion this time of year is simply to walk
outside of the house, as I did this morning to listen to a crow up in a
tree calling its song. This ordinary bird, not usually sought after for its
song, has always quickened my heart and unleashed a momentary but
real sense of well-being.
For many, many years I've wondered why. The best I can determine
is that I have memories, partially forgotten, which I call in my book, The
Enchanted Self: A Positive Therapy, "shadow prints
of the mind."
These vague memories are without a clear storyline but do seem to
take me back to my grandmother Rose Silverman that I loved so
much. The crow's call starts a memory trace that includes Rosen
Road where my grandparents lived. I do not remember any crows
calling, but I do remember lying in my bed and experiencing the
wider world through an open window. I felt content lying there,
enjoying the aromas of flowers and cooking, the street noises,
including children's voices laughing and shouting, cars and, of
course, nature's voice: the birds chirping, and the trees rustling.
All of this made me feel so safe, drowsily content and anticipating
what our adventures that day would be.
Perhaps I'd get to ride on the swan boats downtown at Boston
Common, feed the pigeons and grandpa would buy me a balloon.
Or maybe we would be going to visit a relative and I would be
offered a wonderful box of chocolates from which to pick one or
two special selections. Then I would get to dance and show off
and receive some well appreciated praise.
How lovely to bring all that back in a flash! I want to thank the
crow that was up in the tree today for being there and so exquisitely
offering me the exact mental health potion that I needed to start my
Here's another example of a simple, magical potion that compounds
beautifully for me. This past Sunday was a lovely day but by 4:00 pm,
shadows were already appearing suggesting the inevitable gloom I feel
as sunlight disappears and dusk arrives by 4:30 or 4:45 pm. Rather
than stay at home, perhaps even doing some necessary paperwork
or even a more household-like chore such as tidying my front hall
closet, I abandoned my house and took myself down to the
boardwalk near where we live.
For an hour I went back and forth on this short boardwalk savoring
the smells that still lingered from autumn, as well as the visionary
experience of watching the sky slowly get darker. I enjoyed the
extra light in the sky near the ocean, hearing the waves as I walked
and occasionally sharing a friendly "hello" with another passerby.
Then, of course, I returned home to all the mundane chores--the first
one being preparing dinner. However, I did have my magical potion
still running through my body giving me an infusion that carried me
through the rest of that night. Thus you see how magic can happen
when we design mental health formulas designed for each person!
We're going to continue to talk about mental health magical potions
again in the next issue. Let's stop for the time being so you can begin
to prepare your individual mental health magical potion!
Mental Health Magical Potions: Suggestions to Consider in
Creating Your Individual Compound
1. Stay alert to moments during the day that seem to please you or
refresh you. I had to become alert to my responses to the call of a
crow before I was able to realize that his call filled me with a sense
of well being. There are probably sounds, aromas, visual scenery,
or even certain people you see during the day that also arouse
positive reactions in you. You may know exactly why, such as
when I see Sally her smile is just like my Aunt Rose's.
Or they may be vague ('shadow prints'), such as the way I enjoy
driving down this street more than that street but I don't know why.
It doesn't matter. Look for your magical potions wherever you can
find them during these dark days of winter.
2. Stay alert for magical potions that can help your body as well as
your mind stay feeling good this season. Do you like to walk? If yes,
it's a really great idea to walk as much as possible this time of year.
Are you more of a couch potato? Well, maybe there is still some
enlivening things you can do, even moving your arms in various
circles and motions as you sit watching television. Even that amount
of exercise can help the mind/body connection stay in a more
Disorder Infocenter at Holisticonline.com for more details of SAD. and
commonsense ways to handle it.
Infocenter in Holisticonline.com more more information about depression
and treatment options.
Disorders Infocenter in Holisticonline.com for more information
about anxiety disorders and how to combat them.
Getting Through the Holidays with Chronic Illness
Instead of visions of Sugar Plums dancing in your head, the holidays
can be a time when feelings of dread, depression, sadness, loneliness,
and anxiety pervade. Having chronic illness can accentuate these
Overcoming Loneliness this Christmas
There are many people who will be alone on Christmas day, so
don't think that you are the only one, or that you are in any
way a failure if you find yourself without company at this time.
There are a number of things that you can do to make the day
more pleasant for yourself.