San Francisco is a bipolar city; its unpredictable fog transforms its inhabitants from melancholy to ecstasy in a matter of minutes. When the dense blanket wraps itself around the hills, it drenches the population in a wet cold, making their bones shudder. The non-stop drizzle depresses and people slink around inside, lamenting their lives, cursing the city, unable to cope with the gray.
Luckily, the fog is a rather fickle creature and retreats as quickly as she arrived. The clouds lift and a bright orb emerges to radiate heat and light up the city’s canvas. The population’s depression shifts into mania. Everyone stops what they are doing to run outside and grin at the sun. People cheer, people run, people host impromptu barbeques seeking to maximize the day. Facebook and Twitter accounts are plastered with messages of ‘I love my life.’
For someone that embraces life’s rollercoaster, San Francisco couldn’t be a better place to reside. As I wrote in Metaphor Masturbation, I enjoy the indulgence of emotion. My reputation, for better or for worse, is one of a child; emotional, unrestrained, and sensitive to weather patterns. When it’s sunny, I’m annoying happy and have been called a ‘hyper active rabbit in a carrot garden.’ I smile at strangers, skip down the street, and fall in love with the foam on my cappuccino. However, even a rabbit can get down. Like everyone, I have undergone difficulties, becoming deeply saddened or annoyingly grumpy. During the foggier days I turn into a recluse. I question my purpose in life every half an hour. I become easily injured and beat myself to a pulp over my fallibility. I read tragic literature that brings tears to my eyes. As is San Francisco’s weather, I am anything but stable.
Luckily for me, my fog phase is short lived and the sun always comes out again. I realize that this isn’t true for other people. According to the National Institute of Mental Heath, mood disorders (depression, bipolar, etc) affect 9.5% of the US population. That means that one of our 10 friends is likely stuck in a nasty funk for much longer than the fog should last. One of my friends is in such a phase. She has tried everything including Prozac to keep her demons at bay. Tired of living her life through prescriptions she asked me, the rabbit, if I knew of any home remedies for happiness. Now, I am no expert when it comes to conditions of the brain. I cannot diagnose chemical imbalances nor assess medication need. However, if one is feeling only slightly imbalanced (and who isn’t from time to time) I do have a few household tricks when it comes to escaping that foggy funk. And no, I don’t mean scotch (not yet, anyway).
1. Embrace Melancholy
I do not mind being sad. Actually, I revel in it. There is nothing like pumping out the somber tunes of Morphine’s ‘Cure for Pain’ (check them out on your next depressed binge), smoking a cigarette, and feeling melodramatic for a night. In fact, I write some of my best lines during these times. After my heartfelt outpour onto paper, I am drained of emotion. The demons are gone. Exhausted, I fall asleep and wake up the next morning refreshed in new spirits, once again eager for my perfectly foamy cappuccino.
2. Transport Via Memories
Nostalgia is beautiful. Sometimes all we need to do to de-funk is to remember the positives in our lives. Everyone stalks others on Facebook, but have you ever stalked yourself? Have you gone back through your photo collections and reminisced about the amazing friends and amazing experiences you have had? I recently went back to photos of a trip to Brazil and smiled for hours. After all, the mind is nothing but memory and future projection of memory. We can impact our future by how we view the past.
3. Focus Outward
Our sadness often stems from spending too much time thinking about ourselves and our woeful existence. We are all guilty of self-absorption. Last year two traumatic events happened at the same time in my family. My brother tore his bicep and I…..well, I had large pimple. For some reason I was so overly focused on my ‘marred’ face that I lost perception and almost canceled all my weekend plans, including having dinner with my arm-slinged sibling. Thankfully, I left vanity for reality and had a marvelous meal. My brother, who had just lost use of an appendage, was in such high spirits he was able to laugh at my silliness.
In efforts to regularly get outside of myself, I now work with an organization called Refugee Transitions. Some of the people we help have spent their entire lives in refugee camps. A few do not know how a light bulb works. Overcoming abuse, starvation, and relocation, they push on eager for a better future. When you understand their past, an amazing wave of gratitude for your own rises up to carry you out of depression. In addition, by helping them adjust and settle, you get to transform with them, laughing at simple pleasures such as the insanity of English grammar or working a light switch.
4. Choose What You See
We all have a choice in how we view life. We can allow ourselves to be trapped in the fog, cursing its dampness. Or we can delight it its mystery, dance in its fleeting visit, knowing that the sunshine will be out soon enough. Rather than hunting for the negative, let us shift our lens and see a different spectrum of colors. Yes, perhaps your colleague really does have halitosis. But he may also have a very witty sense of humor, (provided he tells his jokes at arm’s length, of course). Remember, that for every person’s fault there is a positive. And for every terrible event there is a fantastic one. It’s our choice what we spend time thinking about. The more we focus on the positive, the more will come our way.
5. Move, Don’t Dwell
How many unhappy monks do you know? Right. Do you know how much time they spend doing menial tasks like wood chopping or gardening? Simple physical activities free the mind, bringing us to a meditative state. Running 5 miles, cutting vegetables for dinner, doing the dishes, even rearranging sock drawers are defogging activities. Anything that gives us a small purpose also calms us. If I am upset, I run and I run far. Not only does my mind lose all its negativity but I have also released endorphins giving me a delicious runner’s high, which I find to be the best sort of medication.
To appreciate the ups you must understand the downs. However, no one wants to spend too much time there. Life is too short to remain in the fog.
“It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.” –Dale Carnegie