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Get Out Of Depression, Get Into Your Senses

Replace the dullness of depression by stimulating your five senses.

Tonight is the opening in the Midwest of the movie, the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. While I suspect it won't rival the cleverness and poignancy of the original movie, I know I will spend a couple of hours cheerfully engaged by the wonderful cast.

I was mentioning this to a friend, which made me think about the first Exotic Marigold movie and what it had to say about depression. One of the catch phrases in that first film went something like, "Everything will be alright in the end. And if it is not alright, then it is not yet the end."

What a great concept to put into the mix of thoughts jostling around in a ruminative mind. The depressed mind is not as able to see positives, to move out of ruminating on personal worthlessness or inadequacy. If you are depressed you know things are not alright, but do not expect things will work out in the end. Depressed minds get stuck in circular patterns of hopeless and helpless thinking, which makes it hard to exit the pattern and find out what might happen next.

That stuckness is and outcome of the disorder. it isliterally hard to shift thinking out of the negative gear. And the neurochemistry of the disorder also makes it harder to see positives in life as senses are dulled. The focus is on the dark, dull and negative images.The film is a metaphor for those. The Marigold Hotel is a place of the unexpected, the colorful, the tasty, the vividness of life. To the older English men and women who came there, it was quite foreign (yes, literally as wellas figuratively.) I was struck by how accurately that group of people portrayed the qualities of the mind of depression. One character was stuck on guilt he could not shake off. Another believed she was helpless to take action and was frightened of all the noise and odd foods. Another believed her life was doomed to be miserable because she did not have the money she expected. Another feared she would never find love. When people are depressed, the ability to utilize their senses fully and respond to what they perceive is hampered by the depression. Food is less tasty, colors less bright, emotions are dulled, and generally there is less enthusiasm to encounter any thing at all that might raise them out of the gray, dull, sensory-deprived state of depression.

The first Exotic Marigold movie showed people encountering India - an extremely vivid world by comparison to the British one they left. The heat, the sensory stimulation, the newness of it all awakened the lot of them. It was a coming-out party - coming out of dullness into blindingly bright colors, tastes, sounds and emotions. But they did not come out of it easily. They came out gropingly, grudgingly, haltingly, and uncertainly. They needed a guide and they had one in the young owner of the hotel. It was he who told them at every twist and turn that it was not yet the end. He focused their attention on possibilities and re-directed them to see how they could have new experiences - and if it was not alright at the moment, there was more to come.

If you are suffering depression, you know first hand the sense of dullness that pervades each day. Often nothing seems exciting enough to get out of bed for. And when you are depressed, it is likely that you are restricting your connections to things that are new, interesting, bright or intense. Those qualities do not seem to draw you into experiences. You need a guide who will tell you that all will be well in the end, so get out and see what can happen between now and then. The process is easier said than done, because depression robs you of the energy to take the first step. That is where the right person as a guide can help to pull out out a little, until you get your own momentum going.

So, the first of the steps to get to the place where it is alright is to:

Find a guide. Get a therapist, get in touch with that friend who said she would love to help you, call the family member who is always (annoyingly) checking in on you, because those are the people who care about you and will go the extra mile with you to find the positives you can encounter.

Then you need to encounter the things that will give you a burst of sensory stimulation. Your therapist/friend/family member guiding you should know that you need to stimulate your senses. They can go along with you and encourage you to try some of these ideas:

Use Your Body. What can you do that if physically energizing? Can you go for a swim, take a zumba class, get yourself over to see what that rock-climbing wall is really like? Will you finally join the softball league this spring or maybe buy (and ride!) that motorcycle you have admired? What about just getting out into nature? Stroll through the park over your lunch hour or walk your dog for an extra 15 minutes. Maybe you just need to turn on the wii or take the clothes off the exercise bike and get riding. Moving your body takes energy but it gives you more energy than it expends. Exercise is the single best thing that will energize the depressed brain, but even if you won't exercise you can use your body in other ways.

If you do not want to start there, no problem. Getting some sensory stimulation is essential. Make a list with your guide of things you are willing and able to do that will stir up your dulled senses.

Taste your food. Is there a restaurant you have been waiting to try? Just start to imagine it by reading menus and thinking about how fun it would be to finally taste that food. Then make a reservation to anticipate going. Half the fun of an event is anticipation. But maybe you are not enthused about restaurants: go to the grocery and pick out something that you see that will taste good to you. Bake cookies with a child. Waking up your senses can start with your tastebuds.

Listen to great music. Pay attention to what you listen to. Often music can soothe or energize us. Deliberately put on music from a time in your life when you were happy. Listen to the classics. Great music can lift you up in ways that popular music cannot.

Take a sniff. What in your life smells fabulous? Do you own a cologne you love to wear or does someone around you have a scent that you love? Try to encounter that on them or carry a scented handkerchief.. How about just making sure there are good smells in your environment? Bring in some lilacs from the spring bushes, light a scented candle. Stimulate your sense of smell with brewing coffee or putting food in the slow cooker so that you walk into ah one in the evening that smells of dinner.

Feel your skin - let your skin feel something good. Buy and use some wonderfully scented hand lotion. Better still take turns with your significant other rubbing lotion on each others' hands or backs. Get a manicure or pedicure. Get a massage. Go for a swim and get in the sauna or the hot tub. Feel things you wear: soft, cuddly, warm, silky. Notice the textures.

Create sights for sore eyes. This can range from plucking a rose from the bush in your yard and putting it in a bud vase on your desk, to visiting an art museum, to looking at picture of your honey, your last vacation or getting those wedding pictures up on the wall. But it may be bigger: walk outside and really see what your are gazing at. By all means, get some sun on your face! Being in a natural setting is soothing and also stimulating - so get your self out somewhere where there is green and water. Try a walk in the botanical garden or around the landscaped retention pond outside your corporate building: you don't have to travel to Yellowstone to get a glimpse of the natural world. If you are not a nature person then go to the mall. You can cover all the senses there: using yor body as you stroll through it and smell, touch, see, and taste - it may not always be the best choice but it is certainly an easy way to get stimulated, as long as you don't make spending the goal of the sight-seeing.

This an an outside-in change as you wake up the brain that has become mired in gray and dull. you will choose to do something that will make you feel better rather than waiting to feel better before you enjoy something. I will act on that theory by going to see the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I know before I go that I will feel better after I see it.

I want to always remember the message of the first Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: awaken to the wonders around you rather than staying stuck in the muck of the depressed senses. As you stimulate your spirit you may find that everything will be alright in the end. And, if at this moment it is not alright, then it is not yet the end.

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