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Moods, Thoughts, and the Body


I've noticed that sometimes my moods appear to have no rational or mental source. I'm full of energy, so I'm happy. Or, I feel tired and cranky, so I'm depressed.

Sometimes a good night's sleep is all we need to fix our moods ... especially in this sleep deprived American culture.

I also know from experience that caffeine use contributes to mood swings, for me. As does chocolate. The artificial chemical lift makes us feel good, that's why we drink the stuff. I presume the same applies to most other mood-altering substances, such as nicotine, alcohol, THC, MDMA, etc.

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Often, when we are in a chemically induced mood, we mistakenly attribute this mood to other things in our lives. We think ... while in this mood ... and by thinking we wrongly convince ourselves that we are happy because of [event X] or unhappy because of [event Y].

This can become a problem, especially when unhappy, because we can erroneously condition ourselves to feel unhappy whenever we think about [event Y]. Basic Pavlovian conditioning at work -- we find reasons for our bad mood, or justifications/rationalizations for our bad mood, and then whenever we think about those justifications we get upset again.

In this way, some people actually train themselves to become clinically depressed!

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That is also a hazard of keeping a Diary. Now, keeping a Diary can be helpful. But it can also feed an obsessive perfectionism. If we are relentlessly negative in our Diary, we are actually training ourselves to feel negative thoughts, to hold negative beliefs, to spread negative attitudes.

A Diary can also be used in a positive way, to record pleasant experiences, to exert a positive spin control over the events of our own lives.

One thing I've learned from keeping a Diary for several years is this: my moods tend to swing around regardless of my life circumstances. Yeah, certain stressful events can drag me down, but the static circumstances of my life (relationship quantity & quality, career status, income, exercise habits, etc.) do not guarantee that I'm always happy or always depressed.

Nobody lives a perfect life. Anybody can sit around and find things to criticize, things to "fix", ways to improve. If you use your imperfections as reasons for feeling down, then you will always have reasons to feel down! The same goes for other people, and the universe-at-large. You can always find something to criticize. Unfortunately, you can train yourself to be hypercritical and mad at yourself and the world around you, as your default mood.

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One of the efforts that Buddhists make is to practice acceptance of ourselves, and the world, as we are. This can be difficult, of course. As I said above, there are always imperfections. But, there are also always things to appreciate. And, regardless of whether we like or dislike something, as of right now that something is The Way It Is. We might be able to change, we might not be able to change, but as of right now ... we may as well accept that things are what they are.


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